Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Stories and Storytelling

I came across the following quote on ther importance of stories and stoytelling recently. It was used to introduce a Chapter on Children's Literature by Russell Jones in a book called Childhood Studies, An Introduction, edited by Dominic Wyse. It was so good I just had to share it, so here it is:

Storytelling weaves a spell that binds us all into one world community. We enter the world where eveything is possible, to think, to feel and to grow together. Our stories help create an sustain our society. They help to shape and fashion who we are, and help us to know and feel what is right and what is wrong. Stories should cherish the human spirit and as such should be a central part of every child's upbringing.   (Corbett, P, Tales, Myths and Legends, Page 5)

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Bottle by Kirsten Lepore

There are many ways to tell a story. If you click on the video link at the top right hand side of my blog roll you will be able to watch a beautiful story told without words by animator  Kirsten Lepore. I discovered it on Facebook where it had been posted by the author, Philip Adargh. Philip said he had a tear in his eye at the end and I can see why. But it also made me smile and laugh too. Stories can move us in many ways and the best stories take us through a whole range of emotions. Bottle is a fine example of how a story told simply, without undue embellishment, can be so effective.

Monday, 20 September 2010

An artist who tells stories

While browsing Jurgen Wolff's Time to Write blog I discovered the following post on Portugese artist, Paula Rego:
Paula Rego's paintings always suggest a story--often a dark story. It was interesting to read what her daughter said about her mother's process in an article in the London Sunday Times magazine some time ago:

"Pivotal to her work was storytelling, and inspiration would come from everywhere: nursery rhymes, poetry, plays, novels..She also addressed issues that were close to her heart, like abortion and the political oppression she'd grown up with in Portugal. Her work has always been visceral, symbolic; a world where humans often end up as animals--dogs, rabbits, bears, monkeys. It's all about the joy and pain of the human condition."

Because her style was different, Rego struggled for years to get recognition. But she was compulsive about creating and eventually she broke through. Just looking at her paintings is a great stimulus for any storyteller.

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Intrigued by Jurgen's post, I googled Paula Rego and found some fascinating paintings by Paula and another interesting blog post telling of the link between her art and storytelling which I have copied below:

 Paula Rego is not only a leading contemporary female artist, but also a wonderful story teller. All of her paintings are narratives, based on literature, observation, experience, or imagination. Looking Out is the story of a woman who wastes her entire days looking out her window hoping to catch a glimpse of the priest with whom she had an affair. The Jane Eyre lithographs were inspired by the novel The Wild Sargasso Sea, which is about Bertha, a character in Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece Jane Eyre. In addition, The Maids is an account based on Jean Genet’s play in which two sisters kill the woman they work for and try on her clothes.

While Rego’s primary goal may be to entertain viewers through the art of storytelling, as a woman painting women it is impossible for her messages to be completely separated from gender. As I see it, most of her works including the ones mentioned above serve as a commentary on the position of women in society. The woman in Looking Out has been condemned to a life of isolation and imprisonment because she got pregnant by a priest. Meanwhile, the man walks free without sharing the blame and continues his life like nothing ever happened. The Jane Eyre lithographs, on the other hand, portray a strong, brave, admirable character to which the entire female gender can look for inspiration. Meanwhile The maids is a psychologically intriguing depiction of women which gives some insight into the complexity of the female mind and emotions.

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I have used paintings to stimulate writing for myself and in my creating writing classes. Later this week I'll post an exercise using Impressionist paintings. In the meantime you might like to search the web for paintings which inspire you. Do let me know what you find! If there's any Paula Rego fans reading this, please tell me your favourites.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Stories Wanted for Two North East Festivals

This month's New Writing North newsletter has details of not one but two opportunities for short story writers. The Pursuit of Happiness is a competition launched by New Writing North themselves. Details  below:

In his 1693 work, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, philosopher John Locke wrote that the “the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness”.

The 2010 BBC Free Thinking Festival takes place at The Sage Gateshead on 6 and 7 November this year. The festival will bring together leading thinkers, writers and commentators and will be exploring a number of themes, including the pursuit of happiness. As part of the festival, New Writing North will be hosting a Listening Salon, where festival attendees can relax between events. To support the event we are launching a new short story competition on the theme of The Pursuit of Happiness.

We are inviting North East writers to submit stories on this theme that are no longer than 1,000 words. Winning and shortlisted writers will be invited to perform their work, or hear it read by performers during the festival weekend. Winning stories will also be profiled on New Writing North’s website. The writer of the winning story, as chosen by New Writing North, will receive £500. Entries should be submitted to the following address by Friday 8 October:

Short Story Competition
New Writing North
PO Box 1277
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE99 5BP

Please note: entries cannot be submitted by email.

The second opportunity includes plays, poems and short stories too!

Ink Festival, Newcastle

Submissions of poetry, plays and short stories are welcome for the fast-approaching Ink Festival, which is scheduled for 18-19 November, when the winning entries will be read out or performed. Entries should be sent to Deadline for submissions is 3 October, and entries must not have been published or performed before.

The deadlines are looming so you'll have to be quick!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

An Amazing True Story

I watched Who do you Think you Are? on Monday evening and as I did, one of the most amazing stories I've ever heard began to unfold. Hollywood actor, Alan Cumming, discovers the truth about the amazing life of his war hero grandfather, Lance Corporal Tom Darling and his untimely death in Malaysia at the age of 35. Don't miss this inspiring story! Watch it on bbc iplayer by clicking on the link below:

Monday, 6 September 2010

You Are Not Your Story

I wanted to share this thought-provoking post on our personal stories from Karl Moore's blog: This came to me via Inscribe your Life facilitator, Chris Cade's newsletter. You can find my favourite of Chris's inspirational videos at the foot of my blog.

"You Are Not Your Story" – Karl Moore

For thousands of years, human beings have been wonderful story tellers.

There's a built-in yearning to get sucked into a story, to get lost in the drama of the moment, to orate and share your own tales with the world.

Modern story tellers include movie producers and politicians, actors and artists, mothers and fathers. As a society, we respect and admire great story tellers. It's the reason films and television shows have become so immensely popular. They tell stories.

We each love our own stories, too.

I have a wonderful ghost story about a house I once lived in, which gets spookier and more intricate every time I tell it. It's guaranteed to make your hairs stand on end, and I revel in telling it.

But by far and away our most common types of story are the stories about ourselves.

We're great at sport. We're pretty good at karaoke, but get nervous if singing in front of family. We love tomatoes, but they really need to be cored - or they make us feel a bit sick. We keep falling back into abusive relationships, no matter how hard we try not to.

These are our own "mini-stories." And often, they're harmless enough.

It's when our stories start to hold us back that they become an issue...

"My name is Michael - and I'm an alcoholic."

"I'm Jason - and I'm a failed father, and drug addict."

"Yes, I'm Kyle - and I'm a homosexual with intimacy problems."

Sometimes, our stories restrict us.

They define us as a very particular type of person, and ensure that we're kept locked in our own self-created prison. Our stories pigeon-hole us.

Not only that, we also build on them - much like I do with my ghost story. We make them bigger and badder with each telling. We give the stories more power. Soon, our original stories become irrelevant - and our new stories take on a life of their own.

They eventually start to lead us, cripple us.

We carry the weight of our stories around with us each day. They stop us from achieving true freedom, they limit us to working a particular way - and yet we continue with the stories.

To use an Eastern term, our stories are our attachments.

However, not everyone lives like this.

Those that enjoy true freedom, individuals that are genuinely self-developed, know this simple fact:

You are not your story.

You're not!

Whatever amazing story you can tell about your terrible past, how you've always failed time and time again, how life has dealt you an unfair hand, how things were just plain wrong, how you can't break the addiction - you are still NOT your story.

Past results are not indicative of future performance.

What you were is not what you are.

It's just what happened to you. It's not YOU.

You are not your story. You are not your emotions. You are not your past.

And if you could just learn to let go of your story - you'd instantly release all of your baggage, and you could start today the way that you would like. Without limitation. Without issues. Without attachments. Without unwanted stories.

To some degree, our stories provide us with comfort. It's the devil you know. The sick safety blanket. They enable us to indulge in self-pity, and enjoy a little sympathetic attention. But it's pointless holding on to the story, because it's limiting you today.

So, make a decision right now to be the change you wish to see you in your life.

Let me repeat that, because it's exceptionally important:

Right now, make the decision to be the change you wish to see it your life.

Sit back and think of the stories you have formed about your life. All those great stories you have about how your marriage started falling apart in the early days, and how you've been rescuing it ever since. Great stories about the time you were bullied, and how it made you feel suicidal. Fantastic stories about how life sometimes stinks. Especially yours.

Think about one of your stories.

Then ask yourself: "Can I let this story go?"

Can I drop this story? (Even if it's a good one?) Can I release this story? Can I unclench the tight fist I have around this story? Can I let go of desperately holding on to it, and making it part of "me"?

And, if you can, just do it. Let go. Breathe out - and release. Feel it drop away.

Don't go into it. Don't try to analyze the details. Don't dig around to figure out the "hidden lesson." Just ask yourself if you can drop the story. And if you can, do it.

Because your story, really, is ultimately just that. A story.

People cling to stories because they think they give their life meaning.


Life doesn't have meaning.

The meaning of life is the meaning you bring to life.

What meaning would you like your life to have?

Make a decision to shape your own story, starting today - and you'll discover a true freedom and happiness uncovering itself in your own wonderful life.

– Karl Moore

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Free copies of Stories for Children Magazine

Kathy Stemke features an in-depth interview with VS Grenier, children's author and editor-in-chief of Stories for Children Magazine, on her blog: 

Grenier told Kathy, "I would like to offer your readers 2 free back issues of Stories for Children Magazine along with the educators' pages that go with them."

Check out the offer and learn more by clicking on the link above and following the instructions given.

VS Grenier is an Award-winning author & editor with over 30 short stories, articles, and crafts for children along with newsletter articles for writers. She also has multiple titles published in the Best of Stories for Children Magazine Volume 1 anthology. She learned how to hone her writing skills at the Institute of Children’s Literature. She’s also the Editor-in-Chief of Stories for Children Magazine.
In the interview Grenier talks about her life and her publications, the inception of the magazine and gives tips on how adults can share their love of reading with children.  If you'd like to learn more about the magazine and/or are interested in submitting or subscribing, you might like to sign up for the regular Stories for Children newsletter.