Thursday, February 28, 2008

Such Fun at the Marketing Boot Camp

A good time is being had by all that the very first Outside In Storytelling Marketing Boot Camp. And a very complex, head spinning, fast paced information feeding frenzy is also being had. You can see pictures of day 1 here and pictures of day 2 here. Soon, day three will be posted. Wow. What an experience. Some very dedicated artists at this event.
The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The First Marketing Boot Camp Kicks Off!

It's here, the newest workshop, the ::: Outside In Storytelling Marketing Boot Camp.::: 15 participants from all over the United States will be learning about and growing their work as artists. We are happy to present this event. We’ll be posting updates as we go along, so watch this space over the next few days. And to all our guests, welcome to Arizona!

Missed this camp? The next camp is August 15-17, 2008 (Fri-Sun) right here in Avondale/Phoenix again. Registration will open soon for that event.

The official blog for
K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Something's Cooking with Storytelling on Video and New Media

::facetious on::

Silly Tim. You can’t put storytelling on video and new media. “Everybody” knows that.

You know how I know? I look at the miserable failure of COOOKING on TV and the new media. Just like storytelling, audiences must be right there in the kitchenwhen cooking is happening. Just like audiences must be sitting in the tents when storytelling is happening.

Who in their right mind would put something like cooking on TV? For one thing, the audience can’t get the nuances. You can’t smell cooking on video. You can’t even TASTE the food on television. No one would be interested in that: pictures of cooking?

Oh sure, you could see and hear the cooking of great chefs, but you can’t really tell the exact way the cook holds the handles of the utensils or the fancy way they wiggle their eyebrows as they turn the stove fires higher. And, if the camera, moves away at the wrong moment, then you miss things. Cooking is all about spontaneity! If cooks planned when to look at the camera or to which camera they would be looking at, then it wouldn’t be real cooking any more, it would be some type of empty pie-shell of what real cooking is. Video would ruin cooking forever.

Besides, my grandmother used to cook like an angel. You didn’t see her doing cooking on television. Heck, she didn’t even own a TV and her cooking was just fine, thank you. Although, sometimes I wish I had her recipe for making polish sausages. You know, it was the kind made from scratch, ground right there in the kitchen, that only she could do? But she never documented how she did it. Nobody has the recipe.

And your foolish dreams continue- storytelling on video? Let’s think more about FOOD. NETWORK people don’t want to do cooking on TV, there is no money in it. Like a whole TV channel could be about food? The network would have videos and DVD’s for sale? Maybe the authors and cooks would have their own shows? What are you smoking..a turkey? Do you expect that maybe they’d sell more books or get more live appearances, maybe even sponsors? Would more people would start cooking and taking classes just because they saw it on this newfangled new media? Of course not!

Crazy talk, lad. Crazy talk.

I bet you think they should let just anybody watch their TV cooking programs, (where you can’t even smell or taste the food) and maybe even make copies of the shows they didn’t pay for? Downloading their recipes? Tim, stop this silliness. Those chefs would be so broke if they gave it all away.

And even if they were successful, they would tarnish their cooking with all that filthy money they made. And tarnish with with success...and with being able to make a living...and with being able to have a car that works...And with being able to do something about hunger.

If you put storytelling on TV and video, you’d have all kinds of problems. First off, you’d lose all the nuances and the spontaneity of storytelling.

And on this video and new media, how do we know they’d actually be doing Real Storytelling(tm) as officially sanctioned by the Dragon Tellers(tm) of America (tm)? Have you seen what skateboarders do with video? What would happen if kids could just record storytelling and start posting it? It would be like The Moth to the flame, I tell you!Dangerous.

And then, if people could see storytelling on video, they’d download all the stories in the world and then no one would come to any live storytelling events, let alone pay for any live storytelling. There would be no interest in live storytelling because they saw it all on TV. Just like cooking shows would be the end of cooking, storytelling shows would be the end of storytelling. And the end of making any living at storytelling.

But that is okay, because we are artistes! Money is dirty and marketing is only for the
selfish, crazy used-car-sales-like storytellers who use Email (and BLOGS!) to promote themselves. 30 years ago no storytellers even had Email or Blogs. All they had was hay! It is important that folks who like storytelling go back and touch that original hay ‘cuz that is where real storytelling started.

Please, Tim, stop all this dreaming. Cooking and Storytelling just aren’t meant for video and all this new media.

::/facetious off::

Image courtesy of Jacci Howard Bear
::The official blog of Storyteller K. Sean Buvala::

Crazy Jack

In my research today, I just found another version of Lazy Jack. Let me share it with you:

"Now Jack," said his Momma, "you just let me know what the farmer pays you with next time and I will you how you should carry it home."

And so Jack, after having completed his workaday in the hot southwest sun, asked the farmer for his wages.

"Jack, I want to pay you with this cat. You to take this little cat home and give it a place to stay. He'll hunt mice and be nice to pet. Take care of him now. Here's a little box to carry him home in. And you can keep the box."

"Well, no thank you, Mr. Farmer. That box sounds like a good idea and makes sense to me, but Momma said I had to ask her what to do. She has more wisdom than me. I'll come right back after she gives me her answer."

As Jack approached his home, Momma saw him and ran screaming out to him. "Jack, why don't you have any wages? You know how bad we need them."

"Well, Momma, I can bring the kitty in that little twenty-inch box the farmer had for me, but you said to check with you first. So, here I am. Momma, what should I do to get that kitty home?"

"Good boy," said Jack's Momma, "you were so smart to seek me out. Now, listen up. You ask the farmer for a five-foot-five length of rope as one kitty is not enough wages. Then, put the kitty in the box and wrap the rope around the box."

"Isn't that a lot of work, Momma, for a kitty?" asked Jack.

"Hush, young one. Listen to me. Take the kitty-filled box, with the rope, and drag it down the dry river bed back to our house," said Momma with an air of authority.

Jack thought about that river. It had once been dry, back when Momma was young. All the townsfolk did use that river bed for all kinds of good things. But now, the river was wet, wild and hard to cross. The rules about river use were very different now with all that water just flowing freely and fast.

"Momma, the river is full of water and the cat will drown, or at least tear me up something fierce when I drag it in the water. Momma, are you sure that's what you want?"

His Momma was angry. "Jack, are you back talking me? That's the second time this month I had to tell you to just ignore them rumors about there being water in the river. Dragging things down the riverbed is the way we have always done things. Jack, hush your rumor-mongering mouth! Go get that cat!"

And with that, Jack's Momma went into their little house, closed the door and wouldn't let Jack say another single word.

So, Jack dutifully dragged that kitty down the river, getting all scratched and bitten along the way. But at least now, Momma had a five-foot-five length of rope. She used that rope to hang up a sign that read, "Jack is a Bad Boy for Spreading Rumors."

And Jack wasn't sure if he really wanted to bring home his next day's wage.

And here is one more little story. When Jack got the kitty home, he named it "Pyxidis." When he told his Momma that this was the Latin word for "box," she grew very angry. She told him to just call the animal "kitty" and would never let Jack name another animal again without her approval.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Price

One of the guru guys I have followed says, "The Price of Clarity is the Risk of Offense."

Lovers of our art, we can't keep talking without saying anything. It's okay if you don't do what I do. Do what you do. That's what I want for us to do. But, gosh, say *something* about what you do. Pablum is for infants, not storytellers. Take a risk. Sign your name. Have an opinion. Or wave to the folks as they watch you in the rear-view mirror.

I care about you and yours. Really.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

RoadBlock #10: Too Many Personal Stories

In a previous posting, I made a list of ten “Roadblocks to Your Success” for the professional storyteller. With this article, I am starting to explore those statements more in depth.

I wrote that number ten was: “Especially for U.S. and Canadian tellers, you are telling too many disconnected and without-context personal stories.”

I believe that when we say “storyteller,” the general public usually thinks of either a children’s entertainer or a stand-up comedian.

So, what does the average stand-up comedian do? They tell stories about the people they know, the situations they have been in. Most of them are funny, some of them a little touching. A comedian interacts with the audience, without the fourth wall, talking right to them and sometimes using what the audience says as part of the things the comedian says on stage. Sometimes they use “naughty words” that offend anyone over 21 but those words are part of the culture the comedian comes from and it is to that culture they want to speak. Maybe when the comedian uses those words, someone from outside that culture will gain knowledge about another way of thinking.

Storytellers are quick to point out that we’re not stand-up comedians.

So, what does the average storyteller do? They tell stories about the people they know, the situations they have been in. Most of them are funny, some of them a little touching. A storyteller interacts with the audience, without the fourth wall, talking right to them and sometimes using what the audience says as part of the things the storyteller says on stage. Sometimes they make cultural references that are lost on anyone under 21 but those references are part of the culture the teller comes from and it is to that culture they want to speak. Maybe when the storyteller uses those references, someone from outside that culture will gain knowledge about another way of thinking.

Oops. Perhaps those two careers are not so different. When I speak in some “Storytelling 101" classes at community colleges, every student in those rooms want to be a comedian, so they take the storyteller class. They hope I can teach them how to “make it” as a comedian. Why? For them, the choice between storyteller and comedian is this: one pays better than the other and will get you famous while the other will give you warm fuzzy feelings and get you booked at birthday parties for children. We have so much work to do in educating people about our craft. To do so, we must be categorically different than other performing arts. At the moment, we are not.

What’s wrong with telling personal tales?

In the U.S. in particular, too many professional storytellers are telling too many personal tales and further blurring the line between our art form and the work of comedians. If storytelling continues on this path of telling personal tales over the classic tales of myth, legend, tall tale and fairy tales (aka world tales), we are going to see our art form continue to slide off the radar. If storytelling and comedy were to arm wrestle right now, they would appear evenly matched to the storytelling community. But, an audience-centered art form is not about what we want or what we see. Due to the way the world moves, comedy is going to win that arm-wrestling match and be the most-listened to voice while deep, rich world-tale storytelling will go and join the broom makers at the “Old Tyme Country Renaissance Faire.”

Why the over abundance of personal tales? From my couple of decades experience, I see several reasons:

First, some storytellers are fearful or just don’t want to work hard on their stories. Perhaps they are simply uneducated in how to adapt a world tale. So, they are abandoning classic world tales because they are afraid of violating someone else’s copyright. And so they should be wary. But, if you are doing the work of storytelling and building your own versions of world tales, then you have nothing be worried about. Are you doing the work of storytelling or are you echoing the style and choices of storytellers you have seen?

Second, personal tales do take some work to dredge up but overall are easy to tell. I know this will cause some to sputter, but personal stories are easier to tell as the audience has no benchmark against your experiences. If you tell “Beauty and the Beast,” that will elicit comparisons to other versions. That is scary for some tellers. However, who can benchmark your story of “Uncle Ted and the Big Green Snake?” I think the proliferation of storytellers who have invented family members and stories who then use them as the basis for their presentations speaks to the general ease of developing personal tales and the ease of telling them to modern audiences.

Third, some storytellers are seeking therapy in telling personal tales. I’ve been in discussions where storytellers talk about “clearing out their emotions” through personal tales. Sounds great for therapy or for support groups and visits to your shrink, but it’s wrong to do that to your general audiences or otherwise force support-group status on the unsuspecting.

Should we tell personal tales?

Yes, we should. There is a place for personal tales. An occasional tale in the midst of other world tales is a good break and can create an affinity between audience and teller.
It is also possible to interweave personal and world tales in the same telling. This creates the same stand-up sense that audiences flock to but also gives the audience an exposure to the greater gifts of the story and storyteller. Some personal tales are for used for historical purposes and education. Again another valid use in the correct setting. What better way is there to teach the culture of the “old southwest” than a family story passed down from storyteller to audience?

So, I suggest the following for the working storyteller:

Research, learn to tell and use at least one world tale for every personal tale you develop.

Tell your world tales to an audience that is not composed of children locked into a school classroom, a public library or to an audience of just your storytelling groupies. So, find some 19-30 year olds and start telling.

Develop one interlocking world tale and personal story and tell those stories as a singular experience. I am not talking here about framing: “My Uncle Ted once was bitten by a snake so that is why I am telling you now about the story of the Snake Leaves.” Go beyond framing and interweave the stories. You’ll learn more about both stories in the process.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

New Video: The Demon Cat

Just added a new video over on the YouTube Oral Storytelling Group. Recorded live at the 2007 TalkStory festival mainstage. Come enjoy. YouTube usually just shreds videos but the quality on this one is pretty good. Go here now.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.

Friday, February 15, 2008

We Join Orville Fisk as He Buys a Camera.

Orry, knowing that many cameras are good for those who love photography, seeks out a new camera. We join the conversation between O.F. and Them:

OF: I would like to buy this camera you are selling for $85.

T: No, you have it wrong. That camera is only $20!

OF: That is a great deal! It’s a nice camera and even does some things the other camera does not do.

T: I am glad you like it and it is a good deal.

OF: Okay, here is my $20. When will I get my camera?

T: Right after you pay the store membership fee of $65 dollars.

OF: Wait you said it was only $20.

T: Right, it is. Just $20.

OF: So, just take my $20 then.

T: No, pay the $65 store fee first.

OF: But, wait, I asked you for this camera at $85 and you just said it was $20. I am confused.

T: Oh, nasty rumor. See, the camera is just $20 but you have to be a member of our store to get that.

OF: So, it’s $85 for me to have this camera right now.

T: No, you are not listening. It’s only $20.

OF: So, then what happens to my $65?

T: We send you a guidebook a few times a year with articles about taking pictures. And you get a discount when you come to the picture-taking convention with the folks who invented photography.

U: But, I can get those articles online for free. And some of those inventors don’t use digital cameras.I just wanted the $20 camera.

T: Now wait, you’re not one of them go-it-aloners are you? If you are not with us, then you must be the problem. We have to keep this pretty store open. You are a Trouble Maker, Mr. Orville Fisk!

OF: Ugg, okay. Here is $85. May I please have my camera now?

T: Yes, here it is, your $20 camera.

OF: It’s a nice camera! Now, since this is digital, then I will see my pictures right away, right?

T: No, we have to approve the pictures you are taking. That takes about 24 hours.

OF: Why do you have to approve my pictures?

T: Because someone once took a picture of some Latin words scribbled on a wall. And many people don’t understand how to take pictures. We have to help them.

OF: What?

T: Never mind, you wouldn’t understand. We’re a big giant store and you are just a big giant individual and they wouldn’t send pictures of Latin words to you.

OF: I am confused.

T: Don’t worry about it. Just enjoy your $20 camera. Here is your receipt.

OF: It reads "$85."

T: You must be reading it wrong, you paid $20 and $65, not $85. And don’t believe those nasty rumors.

The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach. Typos included at no additional charge!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Teenage Guys: The Long Thinkers

Working with audiences of all adolescent boys can be very challenging. Long-term programs, where you work with the same boys at length are great and the best choice, but most of us as storytellers have short-term contacts with our audiences.

I had a group of more than 40 boys in Baltimore on Saturday. This boys-only event was typical of and reminded me of the many boys-only events I have done. During the event, it was hard to get a real word or real answer from them. Occasionally, one of the boys would break the
"boy code" and give a real answer, but for the most part, it was a room full of 40 boys all keeping the code and posturing.

This last Tuesday, the director of the program Emailed to tell me, "I did get some great feedback from the guys..So I think that a lot of them got it...just didn't show it (on Saturday)...very typical."

"Long Thinkers" is what I call these types of boys who eventually tell you what they are thinking. Eventually.

The "long thinkers" can and will answer your questions, it just takes them longer to put the answer into words. I've had many of these long thinkers in my gender-based groups. Just ask Steven any question and he will slowly rub his forehead every time, as if he is wiping mental perspiration from the brow of his brain while he retorts "I just don't think very often about the questions you ask." Jacob will join in the conversations of story, essence and spirit only "after you guys start talking for a while so my mind can get the words for what I am thinking."

Long-thinkers do try to make sense of the stories and the questions they raise. They sometimes answer in stilted, formal sentences as if almost to ask, "Is this what I am supposed to say?" One of the boys in a book I worked on wrote, "We have too much going through our minds at once and we get frustrated mentally and lose track of our thoughts. Either we are not completely sure what to think or we will feel forced to say something."

Do you have long-thinkers in your life, programs, classroooms, audiences or even your families? "Long thinking" is not just limited to boys, but I see it mostly in boys groups. If you are working with boys, keep this thought in mind: if you are good at your work and clearly understand how to tell to boys, they will get it.

They just might not
tell you for many days.

>>The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach.<<