I was invited by my friend Loise Wagner to attend a workshop about storytelling. I wasn’t really sure about attending as I didn’t see how it could relate to my writing, but when Loise insisted, I gave in. The workshop was ran by Anna Fancett, an English literature lecturer in SQU and a professional storyteller.
Anna had an impressive resume that included conducting many storytelling workshops around the world including folklore — and working with a range of ages from pre-schoolers to geriatrics with early dementia.
Other than Loise and myself, the workshop had different people interested in storytelling. From a business woman who thought that she could use storytelling skills to promote her health products to a young mother who had already started a storytelling group for children of different ages.
The workshop started with an ice breaker for the group to get to know each other — and memorise each other’s names! — before moving to the main topic of storytelling.
Anna started the workshop by telling us a story using her body language — different body movements and voice ranges — that made it really easy to get into the story. Then, she discussed breaking the story into different even parts to make it easier for the listener to follow.
Later, she divided us into pairs and made us choose a children’s book from the collection she had or to simply use a story of our own. I was paired with a lovely lady called Bel who chose the Sleeping Beauty book. While she flipped the book, she mumbled something about not remembering it being that way. I’m not a fan of Sleeping Beauty either, and had never watched Disney’s version of it. Yet, we decided to take up the challenge and apply what was just discussed.
Trust me, it wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. We ended up breaking the story into six parts (we weren’t sure whether to include the wicked fairy wishes with the good ones or separate her from the rest).
Finally, we kept her in as we didn’t want to increase the number of parts. Anna gave instructions on using different methods to remind ourselves of the story flow such as drawing a storyboard or creating a story stick. Not being a crafts person at all, I went for the storyboard while Bel was happy to glue different materials on her stick — including sparkly stars and colourful buttons.
We both dreaded the idea of having to present our story in front of the others. I was overly self-conscious about the idea of having to act out the voice of the wicked fairy or silly princess Aurora — who managed to prick herself with a spinning wheel and send the whole castle into a hundred years of hibernation.
Sensing the whole class’s hesitation in presenting their stories, Anna decided to perform another warm up activity. We had to clap and use different voice ranges and tones while repeating things like: Fi Fo Fum! Then we got up and acted diverse moods such as the haughty king and a roaring lion (how could actors go through this uncomfortableness? I wonder!).
Afterwards, we were put in different groups to tell our stories to a new audience. Being the lousiest storyteller ever, I managed to finish mine in less than five minutes (pointing out the storyboard with minimum eye contact and display of emotions!).
The others did far better than me. In the cacophony of different tales, I heard Loise exclaim: “your voice gave me goose bumps!”. The storytellers surrounding me were filling the air with magic.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of:
The World According to Bahja.