My Betas a Thank You!

A writer’s and a storyteller’s journey will begin with story development through research. Then there is a first product and a joy at completing this piece of coalesced magic. Whether this is an oral performance piece or a book manuscript it is a story in its infancy. There is a moment of short-lived thrill that this story is born. The characters come alive; it breathes. Then the reality sets in, this is a rough, rough draft.

My first go through is to find the obvious errors. In telling the story this can be as simple as a scene out of sequence or a lack of introduction or description. In my writing it will be a collection of typos that the computer generously highlights. Then with a finer perception I look for the here that should be hear, the there that should be their. Those the computer only sees as spelled correctly but I look and say how far ahead was my mind that my fingers typed the wrong words unwittingly. You see I’m often several sentences ahead in plot from where I am in typing. My mind is racing about constructing the roads the story will go down.

Once I have made those corrections I am feeling satisfied. This has taken hours on a full manuscript. I’m not counting as that is too daunting to know in a factual form. Now there is a readable script of story. I savor sections and try new voices for oral performance. I may try walking through passages are the motions and facial expressions on cue?  When I’m relatively happy with the work I’ve done to smooth out the bumps in the road I’m ready to share.

This is where the Beta comes in. Some projects have one or two, others have several. I use a story beta that listens to oral performance and story betas to read manuscripts. Right here, right now I need to say thank you for your time and effort!!! Some of their help is the same for either an oral performance or a written piece. They listen and critique with where they were caught missing a thread of story. They comment on the f=voice of certain scenes and the placement. The beach is always referred to in the same place or the person is always the same height when I look to them. This invaluable feedback often comes with some handwritten notes. The written notes are especially important with a long manuscript. The fact that I am always working on multiple projects at once means the notes will bring me back to where I’m working, I can check them off as I go through the story and make changes. Betas are a God send!! Some ask questions which require me to think about my characters in a light I may not have. Did something precipitate that anger? Where is the parent in this scene? Have you considered having the character be less perfect, she might blow up at her frustration.? When I get questions, I take time to read passages and see how that comment was born and how I might rectify it. Of course, I don’t have to follow my Beta’s comments but most of the time I find them right on target.

How do I choose a Beta? First I ask myself; Do I need an expert’s opinion on any portion of this story? For example, in a manuscript I refer to a fish ladder and Salmon restocking. I sent that to a beta who read the fish sections for accuracy of description and detail. His background as the fish expert was invaluable. Not many people know the intricacies of that but if I was wrong misinformation is being spread and you just know some expert will read it and comment.  In another place in the manuscript I talk about having wills drawn up by a lawyer. You can be sure I asked a lawyer to read through that section. Business deals, historical facts, weather in a certain place, mechanical or some other specialty. Those are great places to use a field expert as a Beta Reader. Another Beta reader I had for a manuscript should be a writer. Your writer friends and critique group buddies are a good place to start to find someone with time and inclination to Beta read your work. The input of a writer can run the gamut from grammar to structure. They will ask the questions, seek plot holes and comment on where they need more depth to fully understand. Be prepared to offer some special thanks and return the favor one day.

My oral performance stories also use a beta listener. Sometimes they are written and can be read but for me more often the story is a collection of notes that grows and refines with each telling. Here I use Beta Listeners to hone my performance and respond to feedback given. I find them equally important in creating the final product of an oral piece as a written piece. The goal remains the same to convey a story to an appreciative audience and not lose them on the journey.

Here I am today saying a huge THANK YOU!!! To my Betas past and future you help me shine. What would my stories be with out you?

Coping in Covid19 Times

Covid19 – Corona Virus Isolation My heart feels gray. Seems a strange day, gray outside and a snowy start.  There is so much anxiety, stress and drama in the world. It is real and it permeates even the healthy with a pending sense of doom. When will the other shoe drop… I am trying to… Continue Reading

A Christmas Tree Story

Sharing a short fiction story for your reading pleasure and wishing you the best of the season. A Christmas Tree Story By: Carolyn Stearns The wind blew over the hill in bursts of violent cold. The snow was trampled along the paths, but between the rows of Christmas trees the snow lay deep and untouched.… Continue Reading

Day 15 NaNoWriMo 2019 Novel Challenge

Today is day fifteen. Yes, I’m fifteen days into a novel writing challenge. www.nanowrimo.org challenges writers each November (they have for 20 years) to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days! October I did a little preparation. That came in the form of making some character bios and thinking about my story line- the… Continue Reading

On the Hunt for Nature

                                                                    I hunt with a Samsung 8 android phone. My quarry a clandestine meeting with nature along a country road. I walk for health trying to keep in mind the goal of 10,000 steps a day for health and fitness. My usual course is on the road between my home and our family… Continue Reading

What’s This NaNoWriMo?

What’s this NaNoWriMo?   I’m back! After a long hiatus from my blog I am returning to bring you interesting articles and a glimpse at my view of the world. If you are looking for storytelling, after-school, family fun, agriculture or animals they are lurking here within my posts old and new. You could get… Continue Reading

My Roots Are Showing; Collecting and Telling Historical Family Stories

July 21-24, 2016 The National Storytelling Conference will be held in Kansas City MO.  The host organization is the National Storytelling Network. www.storynet.org their twitter handle is @nsnstorycon  There will be a steady update of happenings from the National Conference where storytellers from around the country and even a few from around the world will… Continue Reading

3 Reasons to Attend Connecticut Storytelling Festival

Only three reasons? It is hard for me to choose three reasons to attend the Connecticut Storytelling Festival, but here I go. http://www.connstorycenter.org/festival.htm 1.) 2016 Festival Headliner Tim Lowry; is funny, interesting, educational, and a general character, a historical speaker bringing history to life! http://www.storytellertimlowry.com/ Well that is a mouthful, but you will see Tim… Continue Reading

Power In the Classroom – Storytelling Ellis Island

The room hushed, eyes all looked expectantly toward the guest. She stood at the front of the classroom, took a deep breath and held the trance a few extra seconds. Her words spilled out. At first the words came in a soft trickle then stronger as the story grew. The story character climbed the gang plank… Continue Reading

Fiona’s Viral Post

      Her name is Fiona, she is one of many beautiful calves at Mountain Dairy in Storrs/Mansfield Connecticut. www.mountaindairy.com  What is so special about her has been the reaction a photo of her received on Facebook. Mountain Dairy is our family farm. My grandchildren are the 11th generation. I take care of social media for… Continue Reading

Take Back Childhood

Can you count 10 moments in childhood that you remember as being near perfect? Here are some of mine. These memories have a new job…. #1) Lazy summer days, no agenda, just staying outside all day! #2) Ice Cream Cones – take it back tonight, go out for ice cream! #3) Swimming, the Beach or… Continue Reading

Fair Season, I Have The Story

Children grow up! One minute you are wrapped up in a whirlwind life filled with kids. The next minute you sit back and watch other people working with their kids, and it’s too quiet.          No time of year makes me realize that more, than fair season. We were one of those families who brought… Continue Reading

Prompt July 4 Family Stories

 July 4th and you are planning a picnic. Nothing newsworthy just some family and friends coming over. This year make it special,  collect a few memories from your guests. Ask ahead for a couple of favorite recipes to prepare and share. Be sure everyone gets a copy of the recipe to take home. Then ask for the story behind… Continue Reading

50 Objects 50 Stories, Connecticut Historical Society

  Connecticut Historical Society had a great idea! They have a new exhibit that highlights 50 varied objects from Connecticut, along with the story of the object. The objects themselves are a varied lot, they range from a Space Suit to a Revolutionary period diary of State Hero Nathan Hale and on to a Pepe’s… Continue Reading

Ancestors at Sea

Did your ancestors work  the sea? What immigrant ship did your ancestors arrive on?  Tell family stories with accuracy to detail, with a visit to a nautical museum or website. Here are some places to begin your voyage of discovery, the family stories from the sea. The whale boat above, is an image from Mystic Seaport,… Continue Reading

5 Ways to Preserve Family Stories

The teen sat on the park bench, hungry, tired, jobless, a boy of New Haven, Connecticut. He wondered what the world would hold for him. He sat staring into space, after awhile his focus landed on a beautiful girl across the street, near the corner of Church and Chapel Streets. She was made of wood! It was… Continue Reading

5 Tips for Memorial Day Family Stories

Memorial Day 2015  Who in your family has a story that needs to be collected before it’s too late? How did they serve our nation? Where were they sent in the service? What branch of the military were they in? My father; the late Herman F. Marshall, a member of the U.S. Army, during WWII.… Continue Reading

A Fairy Tale from a Family Story

You finally have the kids bathed and in bed. They have had a glass of water, you read a story and they still won’t sleep. Don’t despair they need a family story from the best storyteller in the world – YOU! HOW? What Fairy Tale, Aesop Fable or Mother Goose story  or folk tale are… Continue Reading

Family Recipes, 5 Questions for Family Stories

  Food and Family, the two can hardly be separated.  Family events and every day suppers hold lots of food memories and they are a good place to start collecting family stories too. Everyone has a food story to share! Are you ready to collect a family story? You can ask your kids your elders… Continue Reading

A World of Storytelling Radio

A World of Storytelling Radio

      I need a little company when I’m in the office for extended hours. I tune into “A World of Storytelling Radio”, you can too, just click here: http://www.live365.com/stations/storytellingradio   WHY?  It’s simple, we all need a story, a little something that speaks to our common humanity. You may tune in when a poignant love story… Continue Reading

What Does Your Family Sound Like?

Every family has a certain playlist. That constant background music or noise that is seldom acknowledged. When I was a teen I babysat for a family, it was a no TV house, the constant background there was classical music piped softly to every room. It was a serene household, but I always had to fight… Continue Reading

Ties to a Shipyard Story

Allen, that is a family name, my Paternal Grandmother was Pauline Allen Marshall. She was from Port Greville, Nova Scotia Canada.  Here she is as a young woman in Rye New Hampshire.   She came to the United States as a young teen to work in the Amoskeag Mills in Manchester, NH. Allen is an… Continue Reading

Revolutionary Family Stories

From “The British are coming , the British are coming”, to  “We the people”, the time of the American Revolution spun a great many family stories. Some of the names, faces and characters are well known from our history lessons. Many are unknown and buried in  a couple of centuries of dust.      To unearth… Continue Reading

The Button Box – Focus on Family Stories

        I have my Grandmother’s button box. Most women saved buttons back in the day, back when people counted every penny and certainly didn’t want to spend any extra on something like a button. Buttons were salvaged from clothes going to rags, buttons found, buttons saved when a coat made shorter, buttons for shirts and… Continue Reading

Archaeology and Family Stories

  It was as if I entered a portal to time and crossed over to the American Revolution. Was this a table in the offices of Archaeological and Historical Services, Inc or my great, great, great, great- Grandmothers kitchen table?     http://www.ahs-inc.biz/mainpage.html   While researching a family story online I found an archaeological report… Continue Reading

A-MAZE-ING If You Give A Donkey an Ice Crea Cone

A-MAZE-ING If You Give A Donkey an Ice Crea Cone

How 2 donkeys helped me promote an event! Summer on Blue Hill had become sooooo boring, event the grass was short. Tobasco wished for an adventure. Tobasco told his friend Jassper about his wish and Jassper wished too! Could they have a DAYCATION? PLEASE! See how I used story to promote an event I was… Continue Reading

The Patriot Gave Everything – Focus on Family Stories

Are you aware of the thousands who died for the cause of America, not in battles of our Revolution, but as prisoners of war held by the British under the most horrific of conditions. Their story is mostly forgotten, their lives given to the new nation undervalued by history, unserved by classroom text. The stories of… Continue Reading

What is Wikipedia saying about your Storytelling Festival? NOTHING! Unless YOU change that!

Shared from the National Storytelling Network blog, co-authored by Norah Dooley and Carolyn Stearns   http://blog.storynet.org/what-is-wikipedia-saying-about-your-storytelling-festival-nothing-unless-you-change-that     What is Wikipedia saying about your Storytelling Festival? NOTHING! Unless YOU change that!. Continue Reading

Weathervane Story Resources; Everythings Ducky

Weathervane Story Resources; Everythings Ducky

A Duck in flight tops this building at a fair and tells us which way the wind blows. I love the artistry of the wings, very close to life like. Our foul friends show up in stories let’s see what we can find!   Let’s start our duck resource list with a Russian Folk Tale… Continue Reading

Where do Fish Stories Come From?

Where do Fish Stories Come From?

         Where do fish stories come from? How do we find the vehicle to tell a story and make it compelling for the listening experience.  I am a performance storyteller for all ages, my current project is for a curriculum guided school based program. Whose voice should the story represent and what message do I need… Continue Reading

Chalk It Up to Hans Christian Andersen

Chalk It Up to Hans Christian Andersen

                                         The Flying Trunk – A Fairytale in Chalk    Hans Christian Andersen penned the fairy tale “The Flying Trunk” The tale was first published in 1839. I chose it for a project at the after school I work in because of its relation to flying.  For the month of April the theme at after… Continue Reading

I’m Leaving You

I’m Leaving You

    My close friends won’t be surprised by my declaration of independence. My neighbors won’t hold any grudge although some will miss socializing with “us” as a couple. I will learn to be social without the pain of the long tenuous relationship.    We set out in our relationship so many years ago. We had the… Continue Reading

The Birth of an Audio CD

The Birth of an Audio CD

         How many hours, how many emails, how many years? Yes, years from start of the CD  idea to CD in hand.  In order to make the best CD, I needed to be ready, and so did the material. This is a storytelling CD, but the same could be said for music, you have to… Continue Reading

Snow Day…Again

Snow Day…Again

      Another Connecticut snow day has me locked away in my home office. I had work to get done, but since I was up early my long day included some arts.         I had a fun time exploring the new set of watercolors, they are fancy, in little aluminum tubes. I painted  this Cod, that… Continue Reading

A Paper City

A Paper City

    The after school program I work at has been making little paper houses, bigger paper churches and more. The Paper City Project introduces maps in a 3D lesson on the students home town. The cold winter days lent themselves to  coloring tiny buildings and cutting them out. From a simple hand drawn pattern the basic houses were crafted… Continue Reading

8 Things to Do When it is Wicked Cold

8 Things to Do When it is Wicked Cold

                                   I don’t know about you but I am ready for spring! It won’t be here for awhile yet in Connecticut and even longer if you live north of this latitude. So I gathered some ideas for things to do when the North wind blows and the snow piles up and the little red line… Continue Reading

2013 National Storytelling Festival

2013 National Storytelling Festival

The National Storytelling Festival       What an adventure it is to attend the National Storytelling Festival! I was invited by my friend Norah Dooley www.norahdooley.com who would be telling in the Exchange Place. I have wanted to go to the festival for a long time and 2013 with Norah’s invite, I finally made it there. We’ve travelled… Continue Reading

Hands Wide Open; Reviewed

Hands Wide Open; Reviewed

Hands Wide Open a CD by Ms. Sheila Arnold Storyteller          Oh! Ms. Sheila what a collection of stories to touch the heart and warm the soul! I was swept away and lingered in the car listening to the last, not yet ready to leave your rich voice and soothing words. The opening story, Weeping Willow… Continue Reading

Launch of a Great Ship- The Charles W. Morgan

Launch of a Great Ship- The Charles W. Morgan

        The Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling ship of a bygone era went back into the water on July 21,2013. Her maiden launch was on July 21, 1841 at New Bedford, Ma. Through the talents of countless craftsman and steadfast fundraisers the iconic ship was carefully restored and readied for a launch. Towering over… Continue Reading

Singing the Chesapeake

Singing the Chesapeake

      When we teach children  to love, honor and respect the rivers and streams that lead down to great bays and the sea we have taken them on a journey to save the Earth.       The message is often lost in the abundant activities crammed into an annual vacation adventure. Music has the power to get the… Continue Reading

Chalk Up Student Fairy Tales

Chalk Up Student Fairy Tales

         What do kids know and understand of fairy tales? How do they interpret them? I, as a storyteller, was wondering and used sidewalk chalk as a way to begin exploration of the questions.      I work in an after school program and thought the kids would enjoy a spring afternoon with sidewalk chalk. I began… Continue Reading

Job Posting: Troll Caretaker

Job Posting: Troll Caretaker

                                Caretaker Wanted: for single male troll        Person of interest in employment as Troll Caretaker should apply by visiting the realty site and arrange a tour of the home. The  current troll keepers are moving on. The well established and low maintenance troll wishes new caretaker to be easy going and patient with troll like behaviors. New… Continue Reading

Why I Tried Out for America’s Got Talent

Why I Tried Out for America’s Got Talent

  “You went to New York City for the America’s Got Talent T.V. Show auditions …….Really? Why, How ? What was it like? Tell me more!” I’ve heard that a lot in the last week! Imagine this scenario:“Hello CBS Broadcasting how much is a 2 minute commercial?                                        A few questions, of course, yes, Prime Time,… Continue Reading

Social Media  “You Can’t Make Me”

Social Media “You Can’t Make Me”

 “You can’t make me!”, a childhood declaration en route to the unwanted bath, or the dreaded family event, it is a classic line of resistance. Often the phrase is a playground recourse to a dare or command to adhere to some childhood standard.  We learn this early in life and wear the moments proudly in memory. The time… Continue Reading

I Was Absent, But I Produced…

I Was Absent, But I Produced…

       I was absent from my blog.Was there homework? Is there a new assignment?  I took a hiatus from writing and posting, chasing articles and images, I just took a break.  I believe in the power of my blog to reach people and to get information I feel relevant, collected and redistributed. A little bit… Continue Reading

Students Caught Eating Curriculum

Students Caught Eating Curriculum

Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math curriculum must be delicious, students at my workshops thought so!    The workshop and demonstration S.T.E.A.M. Ice Cream  is rocking the schools with excitement and creating buzz at expos and fair type outings.  S.T.E.A.M. Ice Cream uses alternative energy to make 5 gallons of delicious ice cream. Students don’t think twice… Continue Reading

Weather Vanes  Fox Story Resource

Weather Vanes Fox Story Resource

Weather vanes story resources is an occasionally recurring series in my blog. Each weather vane highlights particular subjects with links and anecdotal information to help create a living story from material on the web. Elusive and wily the fox in story and in the wild represents a character of resource and cunning. Brer Fox is… Continue Reading

100 Day Journey to Mustang Makeover

100 Day Journey to Mustang Makeover

100 days ago he was nothing, no… he was a bit of wind and plains trapped temporarily in horsehide. The BLM ( Bureau of Land Management) round up, brought him in and he was put with a shipment headed east to TN. There he ran through chutes and into the waiting  trailer of trainer Geoff… Continue Reading

Wed. Word Wisdom – Hand

Wednesday Word Wisdom with Carolyn Stearns StorytellerHand; it’s not what you think it is really so much more. As an equine reference point it is a fun word to define. Hand:   a unit of length measurement equalling four inches, used for measuring the height of horses, usually from the front hoof to the withers… Continue Reading

Wed. Word Wisdom – Sheepishly

Wednesday Word Wisdom highlights a different word each week. Many will have agricultural backgrounds. Can you use my word of the week during your week? I think kids would have fun finding ways to make a movie of a definition, I sure am! Sheepishly; This flock at The University of Connecticut, College of Agriculture is… Continue Reading

Wed. Word Wisdom – Ruminate

                       Wednesday Word Wisdom   from  Carolyn Stearns Storyteller Ruminate to meditate and  ponder…. We all do it a little, but I thought the time to get back to our roots was now. The roots of our language are based in agriculture at times, especially this word!                                                                       Ruminate              Don’t you feel better knowing we have a… Continue Reading

Rape of the Sea – Book Review “Cod”

Rape of the Sea – Book Review “Cod”

Cod   by Mark Kurlansky A Cod fish, seems innocent enough, yet has created international fighting, gunshots,  territorial wars and innovations that have indeed raped the sea.  This book is a incredible cross curriculum look at what on the surface is simple, in realityis a complex issue stemming from centuries old fishing practices to politics of today.… Continue Reading

History 300 & Coventry Farmers Market

History 300 & Coventry Farmers Market

     Adventuring in local history I find a web of connections to the state, nation and world. No historical event is singular, each is a domino, or a thread, like I found today in Coventry, CT. This web between historic headstones is an example of how the story and history of one connects to the next. I found… Continue Reading