Thursday, May 05, 2005

The storytelling consultant/ A story about Owl

I want Cathyrn Wellner's job. She is a storytelling consultant. As I was looking for the full-text of Diane Wolkstein's "Owl" to link, I came across Wellner's essay about storytelling for teens on her Finding Voices website. There are a lot of good things to read in this essay, but I will just quote the section on the appearance of failure:

...On those days when I have tried my best and still feel as if I have failed, I recall the experience of Jay O'Callahan, one of America's best-known storytellers. He told "Raspberries," a marvelous 45-minute tale he created, to a school assembly. The crowded auditorium held hundreds of young people from ages twelve to fifteen. In the back of the room, two boys danced around during the whole session, never once looking at Jay.

Although he had caught everyone else's attention, Jay could not stop thinking about those two boys. He left feeling discouraged and unhappy. The next day, the school principal called. The two dancers had repeated the entire 45-minute story to an enthralled group of their classmates. What one couldn't remember, the other one did.

We never know what effect the stories are having on the people who hear them. Concentrate on those whose interest shows on their faces. Their nonverbal encouragement will help you to do your best. Beyond that, trust in the stories you have chosen with such care.

The story of "Owl" for which I was looking is one that you can read at this link (scroll down to page 4). The first paragraph:

Owl thought he was very ugly. But one evening he met a girl and talked with her and she liked him. “If it had been day,” Owl thought, “and she had seen my face, she never would have liked me.” But still she had liked him.

"Owl" is definitely a young adult story. It ends with poignancy and regret. I was going to tell this story at a storytelling festival in Maryland, but conflicts with the venue led to the festival's cancellation for that year. The next year, I was no longer a Maryland storyteller. "Owl" never made it into my regular repertoire, but like the girl in the story, I sometimes think of Owl and wonder how he is.

P.S. J.K. Rowling asks people to refrain from their desires to keep owls as pets.

An owl puppet might be a good compromise. 


galetea said...

We stayed in a B&B once where the owners had a very miserable looking owl in a very small cage in the backyard. Had I not been suffering from food poisioning at the time, I would seriously have considered sneaking out in the middle of the night and opening the cage!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Poor owl!

I think the singlemost reason why I have never had birds as pets is that I don't like to keep pets in cages. I have a friend who keeps birds, but she lets them fly around the house all the time. Parakeets are one thing, but owls are another... or are they all the same?

galetea said...

Before I came along, my parents had a lovely parakeet called Fritz that had free run of the house and liked to perch on my mother's hornrim glasses. :)

Catholic Library Association of Washington DC said...

A shy owl came to stay with me several years ago after introductions from Reynard to Fox. Alas! he has been so doleful the past year and a half, as he is hibernating in a cheerful, yet small room since we lost our privileges to work in a library. But, all is not yet complete. Even as I blog, the universe is working to restore both of us to our, if not rightful, certainly blissful domain...a library. More may follow.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

I really hope that Reynard is not responsible for your having lost privileges. I'm sorry your little owl is doleful, and hope he finds his right and proper niche soon.