the living art of storytelling in Massachusetts

Landmarks and Milestones along the way

It can be very difficult to get somewhere when you are not sure where you are going.

As storytellers, as creative artists, we are always learning and growing- for as long as we live. We are *always* on the journey. In the truest sense, there is never a moment that we can be said to have "Arrived". And yet, as we travel this path, it helps to have something definite and concrete to aim for. I can say that I aspire to become a Master Storyteller; but what does that mean, exactly? What steps does one take to get there? And how do I know when I have achieved it?

This is the question I have been wrestling with in the last few years, as I have begun to take my 'call' to storytelling far more seriously than I had previously been willing to. My short-term goals and next-steps are fairly clear: actively work on learning new stories and expanding my repertoire. Tell at every chance I get- open mikes, swaps, potlucks. Go to performances and LISTEN to other Tellers, learn from them. Participate in programs and courses that will develop and hone my skills. Keep my eyes open for a good mentor, a Master to apprentice to. All this I have been doing.

But beyond this, my way forward is not so plainly marked. At what point do I stop thinking of myself as an amateur or "emerging" artist, and confidently claim the title of Storyteller?
Any thoughts on long-term goalsetting from those farther along on this journey than myself?

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Comment by Norah Dooley on November 11, 2009 at 5:09pm
I realize that you asked this a year ago - it has been the most difficult year of my life. But I am now able to give you an answer. Of sorts.
It is frustrating to get started but I am going to try and help by giving you some very specific advice. All the things I will suggest are free, doable and necessary ( except for business cards which are quite cheap).

You will need to create some opportunities for yourself - but first you need to create a stronger online presence: Great that you have LinkedIn and Facebook but you and everyone need more!

where are you listed as a storyteller for hire? some suggestions -

where can people find samples of your work online? you must do this!

where is your website?
Okay, not enough money or time to create a website ? fair enough BUT then you must start a blog or a free website at google with your name in the url - eg
go to:

First -- All of the above can be done at
and when I went to your massmouth profile and many others ( hello people?) I see you need to add some contact info: tel # and email at the least.

I strongly suggest you think of your repertoire and work up a few program ideas: eg off the top of my head
1. stories from the great traditions of.... China? literature? whatever you wish -
2. stories from the bible for - kids? for holidays ? for particular christian themes?

Then, list these programs online with possible story titles.

Then make business cards with links to where your programs are listed.

Go to librarians, when they are not too busy and tell them about what you do.Give them your cards. Do at least a few free gigs and you will get known. Librarians are the traditional storyteller's friend! They have SMALL budgets BUT they are frequently on committees and local arts council boards. Start at libraries but go every where - local schools - private schools public, after schools, preschools, find churches of your denomination that want a storyteller and community events that would be good for storytelling - get out there! Do some of these 1st gigs for free or an honorarium ( under $100). Once you do a few successful library performances add some quotes and written recommendations to your online presence. Then make a list of phone references that you can send/email to prospective clients.

What a new teller needs more than anything is to tell -
And to lots of audiences and lots of places ! And not only at a friendly " open mic like a mouthoff or Blues. Nothing builds a career like performances. Nothing builds your artistry like performance. Use a tiny bit of your money and a lot of your energy on the list above and set as your goal to earn the $$ to get coached from telling. then use only 1/2 of what you earn from telling to pay for coaching.

Lets say you decided to do a program of stories on dragons. You could market the program as Dragons!
or maybe "Chinese New Year Stories " and get libraries to hire you for FEB vacation 2010. Then by next fall you could write LCC / Local Arts Council Grants to pay for you to do the same program all over the state! You should charge from $125 - $300 sliding scale fee for 1 hour of stories - always include some interactive component - games for audience or craft that you teach.

I hope can you take this in the spirit given ? I admire your work and want it to be known. You cannot become a professional $$charging teller all at once. A career is built, stone by stone. Like a cathedral, it takes time. But if you create a list of projects from this list and steps for each one ? You could work away at this and in a year you would be making some serious head way towards "master story teller".


Grand Prize for South Shore Grand Slam Story Slam generously donated by Nicolette Heavey and Stories In The Streets (A Maine Get Away)

Stories in the Streets in an outreach literacy program that focuses on families in at-risk areas and fosters community engagement in storytelling by: 1) Creating opportunities for public storytelling wherever families gather — a farmer’s market, laundromat, or food line; and, 2) Offering storytelling workshops that raise family engagement in literacy, cultural awareness and community understanding.  The program is currently active in Lawrence, Brockton and Randolph.


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