Friday, October 31, 2008

Carving Turnips for Halloween 2008

When I have the time, I like to stay with the old traditional idea of carving turnips and not pumpkins for Halloween. I had time this year.

Jack-O-Lanterns come from a traditional Irish legend using root vegetables instead of soft pumpkins.

Old Jack was a crab and generally nasty overall. If he could steal, he would steal instead of buy. If he could be lazy, he would be lazy instead of work. He would spirit away the money from the church collection plate and blame the boys sitting’ on either side of him. A nasty old man indeed, his heart as hard as the raw turnip, and his soul the color of burnt wood...

To carve turnips, we first needed to gather some turnips. It is hard to find large turnips in my local stores, so we use the rather simple variety you can find at the grocer.

Then, the tops of the turnips are lopped off to make a cap. Be forewarned, turnips are harder than potatoes, not soft like pumpkins. Generally, this is not a job for children, but with careful supervision, daughter #4 (aged 10) joined me.

Old Jack, when he grew very old, was visited by devil, to take him away to his death. After some smooth talking, Jack tricked the devil into climbing an apple tree to get Jack an apple, “for my one last pleasure on earth.” When the devil climbed the tree, Jack made crosses from the twigs and grasses and placed them at the bottom of the tree. Now trapped in the tree, the devil agreed to Jack’s conditions to be set free: The devil would never again try to take Jack away meaning that Jack would live forever.

After some time, Jack grew tired of living and made his way to the gates of heaven. Since he was so wicked and evil, God would not allow him in an sent him on to hell. The devil, remembering Jack’s trickery, told Jack that they had a bargain and that Jack would not even be allowed into hell itself. Jack pleaded, knowing that he would now be condemned to walk the earth forever…”

I sliced up the insides of the turnips with a sharp knife. Then, daughter and I scooped out the insides. Hard work that was. What pulp that didn’t hit the floor or flung out to hit the walls was saved in a big pot, to be boiled and eaten later. Yummy, if you cook them long enough and season them with garlic, lemon, salt and pepper.

Once the pulp is scooped out and we have developed new muscles, it’s time for the carving. There is much less space to work with on a turnip- so if you’re used to the large canvas to create on, this is the time to learn subtle interpretations to express your inner artist. Daughter created the middle carved turnip in the picture at the top of the post, drawing it first out on paper then taking the knife to the turnip. She said she wanted a turnip that had “eyelashes.”

With the face carved, we smoothed out the bottom of the inside of the turnip and added candles.

Jack asked the devil what he was going to do wandering the earth forever. He pleaded that his eyesight would fail and he would not even be able to see where he was walking. Hearing that plea, the devil picked up a burning ember and tossed it to Jack, telling him to use that to light his path. Jack returned to earth and stuck that ember into a stolen turnip he carved himself. And to this day, we carry these lit turnips around to remind us of the evil ways of the devil and Jack.

When night fell and the Treat Trickers descended on the neighborhodd, we lit the display of real jack-o-lanterns for all to see.

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

Halloween Video

A small Halloween tale for you. "Two Farthings" by the Brothers Grimm.

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

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Taking a Break from the Biz to Talk About the Fest

I'm taking a few days out of the corporate-storytelling, business-storytelling, artist-marketing, private-coaching world to participate in the Mesa Storytelling Festival 2008. Here are a few of my random, sorta-sentence-like random thoughts about days 1 and 2 out of 3. More later.

Random thoughts only, not using an real grammar or structure. I'll make a pretty post later.


Mesa Storytelling Festival (MSF) 2008

Day One: Thursday Random Thoughts.

Sandy Oglesby newest of the "featured tellers" doing a very nice job with a small room of school-children. When a teller finds their energy, their audience will go with them. Sandy starts rough and then, boom, she gets and the audience just falls right in with her. Well done.

Being out of the tents and into this modern, well-run facility has brought things to the next level.

Youth teller (she is a high-school freshman) for session in black-box theater tells very well. I hope she stays focused in the art.

Kala JoJo abandons his plans to do Kora music and instead stays focused on the needs and energy of the audience of kids in front of him. Fantastic. I need to invent an award for when storytellers
put their audience first. Way to go, Kala.

Feels to me like Sheila is distracted today.

I know by lunchtime today that this event is very well organized- can not be said about all major events.

Hospitality crew for the tellers is doing a fine job. Lunches were very good.

Did not attend workshops, but was told they were very good, with Donald Davis being most-attended event.

Evening event with "best of the west" tellers goes very well. Interesting mix of very experienced as well as very new. Large crowd for a Thursday night in October.

Doug Bland is, as always, one of the best MC's in our communities.

I am very happy with my new version of "Silence: The Beasts and Beauty."

I had great conversations with several audience members who talk to me after the evening concert, several of which have never been to any type of
storytelling event like this...ever. They are hooked after the "best of the west" event.

Day Two: Friday Random Thoughts

Today is the day when thousands of school children attend vs. Thursday's several hundred.

This was the first time I was in the three-tier major theater at the Mesa Arts Center. WOW! I did not know this facility was so diverse. I am very impressed.

Session with 1500 school children, in one theater, becomes a WORLD CLASS event. AMAZING work from Donald Davis, Willy Claflin, Charlotte Blake Alston and Olga Loya. MC's were me and Marilyn Torres. Two eighth-grade girls were youth tellers for within this two-hour block. Honestly, this should have been video-taped for future DVD release or major event for television. All factors, from building to kids to staff to performers pull each factor up to a new level. Reminds me of why I love this art. so. very. much.

Over lunch with Antonio and Willy, talking about the use of storytelling within adult events. I will try to pick up some of this in interviews with tellers on Saturday.

Spent some time coaching another teller on her sets for this weekend. How much fun it was to have a theater to ourselves while we worked. Giggle.

Evening concert with Willy, Olga, Sandy and Kala is fun and feels welcoming and casual. Smaller audience than last night, but very responsive. Liz Warren, MSF director, gets to be MC and as typical for her, finds just the right words to say to bring on tellers. She also is genuine and compelling as she talks about the major sponsors for the event. Four very different types of telling tonight from these featured performers.

Presented the first-time "adult only" late-night concert in the black-box theater. Filled the room, 100-ish people. 94 more people than I expected. Stories told by Harriet Cole, Kindra Gayle, me and Antonio Sacre. Great stories, not vulgar. The few adult-language words were placed well in context and illustrated instead of just being used for shock value. Very pro and yet something new for this event. Stories included personal tales from Kindra and Antonio, the "Porter and the Three Ladies" from Harriet and a quick lascivious-wolf version of Little Red Riding Hood from me. I am amazed at how many of the featured tellers make the time to be at the late-night event.

This festival has a great mix of featured tellers, "best of the west" tellers and local tellers blending together for sessions. I am very pleased with the attempts to go beyond labels at this event and asking people to play to and with their highest strengths.

Hats off to the staff and crew of the Mesa Arts Center. Seamless work, great attention to detail, cooperative, hospitable and professional. Great leadership from Randy Vogel of the MAC.

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

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Adapting a World Tale for Corporate Storytelling

You are not limited to the personal stories of yourself and others in corporate storytelling. Why not call upon the power contained in a few centuries worth of stories?

When you speak in public, you want your audience to be immersed in your subject and able to hold on to your message well after you finish speaking. This desire and need actually applies to storytelling in nearly any situation, from classroom to boardroom to sanctuary to platform.

Mixing in some good myths, legends, fables or fairytales into your public speaking can enhance the character of your presentation. In addition, with this business storytelling technique, you will connect at a much deeper level with your audience than you can when you use personal stories alone.

I call these types of stories “world tales.” However, it is hard to just pick one up from any source and use it. It takes some adjusting, rewriting and customizing. Let me give you an example.

I recently had the chance to coach a client who wanted to add more storytelling to her presentation. She knew that she already had enough personal stories, but wanted “something more” to round out her presentation.

My first coaching comment for her was that it was good for her to recognize that there can be too many personal stories in a presentation. It was also good for her to recognize that stories need depth. It is hard to have depth when you are telling many stories of other people. Those stories of others are more anecdotes than they are storytelling. Therefore, she was well on her way to making a solid presentation with a solid use of personal storytelling balanced with a few “world tales.”

She was looking for a story that demonstrated the dangers of staying in the same old place, staying in the same old rut. She had a very specific audience in mind and was finding it hard to get just the right story.

After listening to her, I started to research stories. Research is one of my corporate-storytelling coaching duties. I found for her a perfect Aesop Fable. In one of its original complex-language forms, it appears like this:

TWO FROGS were neighbors. One inhabited a deep pond, far removed from public view; the other lived in a gully containing little water, and traversed by a country road.

The Frog that lived in the pond warned his friend to change his residence and entreated him to come and live with him, saying that he would enjoy greater safety from danger and food that is more abundant. The other refused, saying that he felt it so very hard to leave a place to which he had become accustomed.

A few days afterwards, a heavy wagon passed through the gully and crushed him to death under its wheels.

When I suggested this tale to my coaching client, she shot back with some measure of repulsion. “There is no way I could use a story like that. They will never get over the frog being ‘crushed to death’ in the story. I don’t think you understand what I need.”

Already rather sure of what she would say, I asked her if the message of the story worked for her presentation. “Of course it would. It would do that, but I can’t talk about dead frogs!”

I suggested to her that one of the keys to using world tales is the ability to adapt a story to fit your presentation. I told my client that I would adapt this story for her as part of our coaching time. She agreed.

In about an hour, I adapted the story for her specific needs. The first draft of the new version looked like this:

Once, there were two frogs. One lived out in the country in a clear, clean pond and had everything that she wanted. She was so happy to be in the outdoors. Her sister, however, lived in the big city in a little canal by the side of the road- where it was busy and dangerous.

One day the country frog visited her sister in the city. The city frog complained about how noisy it was in the city and how hard it was to see the moon at night because of all the tall buildings.

The country frog then told her, "It sure is dangerous here. Why don’t you come out to the country with me and live free and happy? I can see the moon anytime I want."

"No," said the frog that lived in the city, "I heard there are many snakes out there, and there’s all that mud, and besides, it takes so much energy to move out from my home. I’ll just stay here; at least the canal always has water in it."

The country frog returned to her home, where she was always happy and free. The next day, the city frog was caught up in a net by a small child, who took her home and put her in a big jar where she was kept with water and fed every day. There the frog remained for the rest of her life, never seeing the moon again, but she did have a never-ending supply of dead flies.

You will notice that I took the essential “core” of the story and adapted it to fit the needs of my client and her audience. I kept the essential concept of taking the safe path vs. risk taking, keeping the idea of staying in a canal/rut/gully to fit well into her need to talk about “getting out of your rut” in her upcoming presentation.

I also had to address her concern about her perception of the violence in the story while still keeping the idea that the frog’s failure to break free of the “rut” would result in frustration and death. I substituted the finality and violent image of a squished frog to that of a captured frog. Who knows, perhaps some day the captured frog could be freed?

I have not shared with you the final version of the story as my client further adapted my first draft to fit her audience. Once she saw that she was not limited to the version she did not like, she quickly used my draft to develop a story that she loved and would be unique to her individual presentation.

When a person objects to a “world tale” in their work, it is most likely because they object to the single version of the story they have discovered. Although it may take some time to develop a new version of a story from the base idea of the tale, it is well worth it. “World tales” allow you, as the speaker and presenter, to tap into the deeper meanings that have made such stories a staple for many different cultures for many centuries.

Take a chance with stories! In the end, do you want your audience to feel connected to you, to have the “aha!” moment that such stories create? Mix in and explore the power of the “world tale” to magnetically attract your audience to your message.

To learn more about creating stories such as the world tales, attend our “Ancient Secret of Public Speaking” workshop. For information, visit

C.2008 The official blog for K. Sean Buvala, storyteller and storytelling coach. Photo used under CC license from this site.