Category Archives: storytelling basics

Grow Your Story

Grow Your Story

“Grow Your Story”, the words came leaping off the page of Doug Lipman’s book, Improving Your Storytelling – Beyond the Basics For All Who Tell Stories in Work or Play. ( August House Publishers, Atlanta, 2009, pg 86)  Growing that is something I know a lot about. The concept of growing my story tickles the brain and is an easy way to see the  life of a story.

We need a climate that nurtures the growth of stories. Unlike food and flowers we can have a year round climate for stories, the climate needs careful attention and cultivation just as the soil does for the farmer. Here on the farm spring initiates our growing season as the frost lets go her grip of the earth we begin to prepare it. Layers of fertilizing manure are tilled into the soil to enrich it for the season. So it is we enrich the fabric of storytelling by adding enrichment, music, reading, theatre, conversation, travel they all feed the common ground of story growth.


Planting seeds is well under way on the dairy now that June is here. We race to get all the acres planted and begin the harvest of our hay,  before its seeds drop. The seed of a story can look and sound like many things just as the seeds of plants are as varied as the  bloom they produce. Same for the wide variety of ways we come to acquire the seeds of story. A simple phrase could ignite the imagination to develop a story, or an incident. I particularly liked Doug Lipman’s tale of becoming lodged on a rock in a canoe in high water. It was a seed experience related in the book and its growth as a story chronicled. A couple of my favorite stories grew from a similar seed of experience. On a trip to the battlefield and National Park at Gettysburg,Pa. my son and I rented horses and rode the bridle path of Pickett’s charge from the wood line to the base of Little Round Top. This was a sensory explosion to me as I could so easily imagine the days of the battle. Coupled with a visit to he 4th of July reenactment my stories of the Civil War era have come to life from the seeds planted on that trip.

Many times people have commented after hearing one of my horse stories about the realism and  mental image of the horses. As I tell those stories my thousands of hours spent in the care and  nurturing of horses come out.  As I tell of the sweat dripping from the arched neck, the veins bulging and quivering in the exertion, the wild white of the eye piercing the handler.  I am there in the moment on the other end of that rope. My reality  of horses is the reality brought into my stories. I know this is one of the strengths that these stories have.  I have learned from telling these stories how to nurture the fledgling tale even when it is not a first hand experience.

One evening at a tavern telling I told an old folktale of which there are many versions, in essence it is about an old man being charged for inhaling the smell of fresh bread. In my version it is set in a European valley with a castle at one end. I shared the story fleshing out the details and finished just as the waitresses brought out maple glazed hot popovers, there was never a more fitting end to a tale.  After the dinner performance ended I stopped at each table and thanked the guests for attending. An old woman grabbed my hand and squeezed. In her thick European accent she declared I had been to her home village so far away?  I smiled and replied no. She was adamant that the description of it was perfect. I told her the story was of pictures in my brain and she made them fit the pictures in hers I was glad I could take her home for a few minutes. Those pictures in my brain came from a few places. Google Images was one and  Google Earth. I also did a google search of European villages and castles. At the library I paged through several over sized picture books of Europe and castles and  medieval settings. With all these mental images as seeds I could create my conglomerate image for the story. I never imagined it would work so well!

It is almost summer I have several projects planned. A nautical epic is in seed form ready to plant and nurture to bloom. I have a few programs to prep and will immerse myself in in the days prior to the sharing. I will be telling bits of stories and trying out different wordings until I find a comfortable version, a working storyline that will grow and evolve much like the crop of corn recently planted here on the hill. Grow Your Story a wonderful way to think about the summer.