Six Ways to help Listeners ‘twig’ to your Telling.

Storytellers work at many levels

1. Be clear on the setting of the tale. (Map out the story, search images or info online.)

2. See the action in your imagination. Dwell on your favourite scene – the one that hooked you in the first place. Can you make it more alive?

3. Clear up any details or facts in the plot you’re not sure of.

4. Include listeners in the story. Ask them a question or wonder aloud yourself. Make them curious about the outcome.

5. Add fun where possible. This is entertainment!

6. Feel the emotions as they occur, as the story carries you along.

……………………………

Remember that a story told is a give-away, a gift that you hope is passed on.

See if you can find the ways I’ve tried to do this in a story I’m learning to tell.

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Here’s my written version of an Xmas story I’ve adapted from a 1992 adaption of The Mice and the Christmas Tree by Pat Thomson in A Stocking Full of Christmas Stories, which is a 1956 adaption of the story in the collection Little Old Mrs Pepperpot, which Alf Proysen expanded on from his carol Musevisa (Mouse Song) he composed in 1946. He was one of  Norway’s most famous writers, poets and playwrights. The song has since become part of their Jul tradition.

The Christmas Tree Mice. Adapted by M.Philp 2018

Long ago and far away, in a village in the heart of Norway, lived a family of house mice. There was Ma, Pa, Grandma Mouse and seven mousekins, all snug in their home in the pantry wall of an old red house. Each winter the mice celebrated Yuletide just like people did. They got their home ready for Christmas Eve, swept the dust out using their tails, put out good food, got dressed in their best, gave presents and sang around the tree.

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At a nod from Ma, Pa Mouse would roll in an old pine-cone and decorate it with cobwebs. The mouse-children then lined up in beside their tree and Ma presented each of them with a nut. Then, as a special treat, she went down the line, holding a piece of dark chocolate under each nose, so they each had a good long sniff at heaven.

Next, the mice all caught hold of each other’s tail and circled their tree, dancing and singing all the songs they knew. After that, they played Blind Man’s Bluff until ‘Lights out’ and time for bed.

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But one year, the youngest child squeaked into the dark “No! No! We don’t’ want to go!”

“Don’t be silly,” replied both parents. “We’ve all had our Good Jul. Now off you go to sleep, the lot of you!”

The eldest child refused and explained that they all wanted to dance around that really big tree in the front room of the house. Only yesterday he’d seen it through a crack in the skirting board and had told the others how beautiful it looked.

Ma Mouse choked and coughed. She reminded them how dangerous it was to go into those giant rooms.

“Not … if they’re fast asleep!” stressed the littlest mouse, looking at Pa with shining eyes.

“Oh well, … it is Christmas,” declared Pa looking at  Ma. “Follow me, children!” Off they set. Ma brought up the rear, calling “Mind you go carefully and very quietly.” Grandma decided to stay behind and finish knitting her scarf.

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One after the other they quickly crept along, inside the walls of the house till they emerged from the crack in the skirting board. There was the tree reaching to the rafters. “Ooh … aah” they sighed. “Oh, it’s lovely … and so tall! ”

“That’s a Norwegian Spruce for you!” announced Pa. The mischief of mice then skittered by the wall till they sat beneath the wondrous tree. The littlest mouse whimpered to the eldest “But … where are the stars you saw? You said there were lots of sparkling stars all over.”

Meanwhile, Ma Mouse had arrived at last at the opening but couldn’t get through because of her big tummy. She was breathless and grabbed a cord to steady herself. Suddenly, the tree lit up with twinkling stars.

The rest of the family crept around the tree admiring those magic lights, the tinsel; the strings of flags. They even clambered among the pile of boxes underneath. I don’t know who it was found the truck first, but soon all the children were in the back and Pa was in the cab. Imagine their squeals of delight when it started to move and Pa drove them across the room to Ma who pleaded “Children. Not so much noise! Someone will hear!”

They all waved to Ma as the truck went past and then squealed at it veered towards the door, which suddenly clicked open. Each mousekin jumped and clung to their neighbour. As the truck swerved away, a fat brown cat walked in, carrying its tail high.

Pa drove straight back behind the tree. When they came round the other side, there sat the cat on the mat. Pa turned the wheel hard round and drove faster. The wheel stuck there!  Each time the truck came round the tree, the cat made swipes with his paw as it zoomed past. The mice froze with fear in the back.

Oh no! The truck began to slow down! Pa drove in among the boxes. As soon as it came to a stop, he yelled “Everybody out! Up the tree!” Little grey bodies scampered up the trunk and hung on to the highest branches for dear life.

Cat Below pulled at the mat with her claws and squinted up. “Come on down,”she sighed impatiently. “Tonight is not the time for catching.”

“Oh no, we won’t!” shouted the eldest mouse, clinging to a star. “You’ll pounce on us and torment us. We know what cats do.”

“Not tonight!” sighed the cat, looking at her clean claws and then up at these new ornaments. “Christmas Eve is the only time I’m kind to mice!”

The mice froze again as she slowly stretched and got up, walked to the door and called back, “Better watch out … if I see you tomorrow … !” The mice held their breath. Then the door closed and she was gone.

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When the family were safely back in their little home, Ma Mouse made all the children promise not to go up to the big house again, to always do as they were told and never to give cheek to the cat. They promised, with their front paws crossed behind their back.

Then one by one, each mousekin took from their pocket, some little strips of tinsel, or a Norwegian flag, wisps of wool, snippets of ribbon and thin silver stars. These they proudly hung on their own cone tree.

And so it was from that night on and ever after, the mice had a fine Yule tree and a  happy story to tell their own children every Merry Christmas.

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[Dedicated to LC, my Lucky Cat]

All text and photos by Meg. Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Sources

‘The Mice & the Christmas Tree’ by Alf Proysen (adapted) in A Stocking Full of Christmas Stories collected by Pat Thomson. London, Transworld, 1993. pp109 -118.

[Pat Thomson has written over 50 books, great to read aloud. Look out for them in libraries]

Mice Word list

I learned a lot about mice here! A collection of mice can be a trip, horde or a mischief!

Alf Proysen: Norwegian poet, playwright, musician, author & songwriter

Mrs Pepperpot stories

Christmas in Norway (includes choir singing Proysen’s song (Musevisa)

PS. Spot the mistake in one of the photos. Happy Days!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Windows: Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #14

Taking a good photo is a challenge. Sometimes I see things that aren’t there.

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Image taken Balmerino Abbey ruins, one grey day.

This abbey has been in ruins since the Reformation in the 16th Century.  First it was the English who attacked the monastery, then it was the Scottish Protestants.

 I heard  Judy Small sing her ‘Walls and Windows” in Brisbane years ago.  She wrote great songs but gave up folksinging and is now a judge in the Family Law Court.

Here’s the last verse from that song-

Oh may we live to see the day when walls of words and fear
No longer stand between the truth and dreams
When walls of windows rise into the darkness and we dare
To look into the mirror and see peace.
   from Judy Small's song "Walls and Windows"

All text (except quote) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

Tiny Miracles — Writing Between the Lines

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As a follow-up to my last post, here’s friend Naomi’s experience and recount of her visit to Vilnius, Lithuania the same year I was in France.

Originally posted on Writing Between the Lines:

I have been out in the world again. All the stories I’ve seen and heard and lived have been patiently but eagerly contained, just waiting to be told.

In Poland and Lithuania, where we were traveling, World War II still casts a long shadow over the land. That is…

Please see the rest of her post and great photos here Tiny Miracles — Writing Between the Lines

In Perigord : Lens-Artist Photo Challenge: #13 Look Up.

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Travelling through Perigord / Dordogne a couple of years back,  I loved the wide-open countryside.  There were lots of quaint buildings in walled, medieval towns with few people around.

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Wild thyme grew in the walls.

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 There were careful renovations.

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A glowing stone memorial in a small park in  the town of Sarlat stopped me in my tracks.IMG_4438

Now here’s the thing. Just the other day, I happened upon a French movie on TV here at home.  I’d caught the word “Sarlat ” in passing and so sat down to watch.

That 2012 film, ‘Ici-bas’ or ‘Here Below,’ was set in Perigord in 1944 and directed by Jean-Pierre Denis. He said it was a fictional portrayal of actual events which culminated in the militia and German soldiers besieging a group of Resistance on 16 February 1944. Thirty-four Resistance fighters were executed. Then, on 27 February 1944, using Radio Paris, propagandist / spokesman for the Vichy government in exile, Philippe Henriot denounced the “Communists” who had “killed the saint.”

I looked up more info about WW 2 in the Sarlat district and found this from a local contributor, in Trip Advisor  (I’ve edited grammar.)

… In Sarlat, a plaque on the wall on Boulevard Nessman tells of Victor Nessman, a doctor and Resistance leader, who was arrested in his surgery and taken to Limoges to be tortured to death. This was the same Victor Nessman who had worked with Albert Schweitzer in the leper colonies of the Congo. The village of Rouffignac, now a drab village just north west of Sarlat, was razed to the ground by Nazis as a reprisal. The only clue there is the war memorial which lists five deaths yet gives no details about the events of 31 March 1944. The world’s biggest ever bullion and cash heist was effected by the Resistance in St. Astier, just outside Perigueux. The money, which was en route to the Germans in Bordeux , simply disappeared …

There were concentration camps in the area too, holding mainly Jewish French before onward shipment to the eastern death camps in Austria and Poland.

Little of all this exists in tourist museums. It needs to be researched from little clues dotted about the countryside. It seems that the jury is still out on the Resistance as to whether they were truly heroes or simply renegades who would jeopardise the lives of innocent villagers, as in Oradour sur Glane….

Sarlat Resistance 1944

They added that “It all sounds a bit morbid, but it has a compulsive fascination for most of us, as it all happened in our fathers’ lifetime.”

What terrible times.

 I wish I’d read some of that history before I visited Sarlat-la-Caneda.

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I think walls bear witness and hold memories of the past.

‘Lest we forget’ as Life moves on.

Sources

“Here Below”  Wikipedia. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ici-bas. Downloaded 2 October 2018.

“Phillipe Henriot” Wikiwand. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Philippe_Henriot. Downloaded 2 October 2018.

“World War 1 and World War 2 sites around the Dorgdogne.” Comment by Salandaise1 in Trip Advisor.

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All photos and text (apart from quotes) by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Finding Your Treasure

Searching for stories that appeal and that I’d want to tell is like hunting for treasure. Lately, I’ve been searching for stories and images about treasure.

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I’ve had loan of a carefully wrapped 1919 collection of Hindu tales that Anne’s mother used to read aloud to her sister and she. They would talk about every story afterwards.

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This one is about a Brahmin, a much- revered holy beggar, who hoards the money and jewels he is given and then, to keep it safe, buries it all in the forest. When he discovers it’s been stolen, he announces he will starve himself to death, unless his treasure is returned! His treasure is returned when the king of that district cleverly finds the thief, whom he then pardons but whom the Brahmin will not. The story sets up the need to talk about it more by ending thus –

Every one who has read this wonderful story would, of course, want to know what became of him after that, but nothing more is told about him.

Stories need to be talked through, mulled over, repeated and given to someone else.

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Many a good story is shared over a cuppa. What a pot! There is a story there.

As I was walking a treasure to school on Wednesday, she talked about how, as part of Book Week celebrations,  a teacher had come dressed as a pirate. “She had lots of gold in a box, “she said. “Of course, it wasn’t real,” she added, sounding a bit disappointed.

Remember being excited as a kid by the notion of a treat kept in a special place you weren’t allowed to go?

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I used to be impressed by these cars … never drove one!

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A ‘Leaper’ bonnet mascot from an older Jaguar car.

A 13th century poet, Rumi, told of a poor man of Baghdad who had the same dream on several nights, telling him to go to Cairo where he would find treasure in a certain quarter, at a certain spot. He followed that dream, made the long journey, only to be captured by the night patrol while begging for food. He confessed to his captor why he had come to Cairo, who then admitted he’d had ignored a similar dream. His dream had told of treasure buried in Baghdad, in a certain street, in a particular house yard. As he listened, the captive realised it was in  his garden! As soon as he was set free, the poor man hurried home to find his treasure. What did he find?

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Plovers’ eggs which did eventually hatch, grow and fly the nest in a local park.

There’s a more recent (2007) Palestinian version of that ancient story called The Farmer Who Followed His Dream in a children’s collection by Sonia Nimr.   (I included this map of it in my last post.)

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It was when I told my version of the story again to a live, adult audience that the ending changed. A stranger came up and said how much they liked it. A regular  grinned and whispered across to me as I sat down, “Vintage Meg!”

The meaning made hangs on the storyteller’s intonation.

Without changing the final words,  I’d said them differently, for I was feeling and seeing what his treasure truly was when he reached home – family and children.

Treasure, for me, is the same  … and includes my extended family – the dear people I have as friends.

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A new grandson for a longtime friend.

References:

In Cairo Dreaming of  Baghdad, In Baghdad Dreaming of Cairo in Delicious Laughter: Rambunctious Teaching Stories from the Mathnawi of Jelaluddin Rumi. Versions by Coleman Barks. Athens, Georgia. Maypop Books, 1990.

A Royal Thief-Catcher in MITRA, S.M. (trans) Hindu Tales from the Sanskrit. Adapted by Mrs Arthur Bell. London Macmillan, 1919. pp 30 – 45.

The Farmer Who Followed his Dream in NIMR, Sonia. Ghadder the Ghoul and Other Palestinian Stories. London, Francis Lincoln, 2007. pp23 – 27.

All text and photos (except last one) by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

 

 

 

Story Maps and Spirals: Retelling

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During my last storytelling session at a local school, teachers were keen for me to show the students the maps I draw to help me retell a story.

These are working documents. The first map is for a Palestinian story. Like many folk tales, the protagonist leaves home on a quest. They solve their problem and return home with new understanding, having learned from their experience.

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In more complicated stories, I find drawing spiral maps helpful. This story map is about the break-up of a friendship,

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In retelling, I need the routine to make a stable base for the story. Tone of voice is crucial to set the mood for a good story and for the suspense that will come. When we’re introduced to a character and nothing out of the ordinary happens, then they’re stuck in a same old routine – not much of a story.

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Jack Maguire in his book ‘Creative Storytelling’ said it this way .

“Another fundamental of a good children’s story is that the plot revolves around an element of tension.” (1985:51)

A good story spirals into action, moving from ‘The Way it Was’ to ‘The Way it is Now’

Life can go up or down in half a second. Often a trigger / jolt / problem shifts characters out of their ordinary ways. Then more problems and possibilities arise.

Characters’ actions and speech build the tension either up to a better, satisfactory, resolution or down to an unhappy, unsatisfying one.

The ending must pull everything together.

Sometimes a story spiralling upward is funny. Moving this spiral clearly shows how the teller has been ‘winding up’ the audience, especially when kids don’t get the punch line of the joke, at first. ‘Shaggy Dog’ stories are a classic of this type.

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Source of quote

Jack Maguire. 1985 Creative Storytelling: choosing, inventing and sharing tales for children. New York, McGraw-Hill.

All text (except quote) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is  Copyright © under Australian Law.

Hydrangea: Cee’s Flower of the Day

A  friend’s woodland garden in NZ has lots of different types of hydrangeas.

Where did they originate? Here’s a potted history.

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Blue lace-cap variety

Of the 75 species in the genus, most hydrangeas grow naturally in Asian countries like Japan, China, Korea, while there are several species native to the US.

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A mop-cap variety

In 1730, North American farmer and plant hunter, John Bartram sent hydrangeas to Europe. He, and his son William, later discovered an oak-leaved native species (Hydrangea Quercifolia) in Georgia.

(Not sure about this one)

Back in the 1690’s, Engelbert Kaempfer a German physician and explorer worked for the Dutch East India company in Japan and had discovered mop-head and lace-cap hydrangeas there. Japan, at that time, was closed to trade with the outside world … so it was more than 150 years later that an English botanist Charles Maries was able to take samples of Hydrangea Macrophylla and Hydrangea Serrate to Europe.

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Many modern varieties have been bred and propagated for their gorgeous colours and size.

Sources of info.

Plants of Japan in Illustrated Books and Prints To be Featured in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library At The New York Botanical Garden October 20, 2007–January 13, 2008

Glyn Church, Hydrangea expert interviewed by BUCKWELL, Carol, “Hello Again, Hydrangeas” in New Zealand Gardener, Auckland, Nov 2017.

See Also

CHURCH, Glyn. Hydrangeas. 2001.

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and also Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

‘Flower’ of the Day: Cee’s OBC

What colour! Last week I took this photo in the warmth of the Fitzroy Gardens Conservatory, Melbourne.

I’ll submit it as part of Cee’s Photo Challenge but that glorious pink is the plants’ bracts, not the flowers of the poinsettia.

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       It was a cool afternoon in June with occasional sun … great for some of us to stroll in the park and enjoy these Autumn avenues.

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I sought out a special ‘Fairies Tree‘ in the park. The sun came out again.

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First carved  in the 1930’s by Ola Cohn who wanted children and those people who believe in fairies to know there was a sanctuary for them, here. It was restored in the 1970’s and is such delightful whimsy …

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…. with lots of talking points and stories here.

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All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

Cee’s Odd Ball Challenge: Strange Fruit

I’ve been wondering what to post since the WPC Weekly Photo Challenge ended in May. So, I’m hoping for inclusion in another (Cee’s) photo challenge. Over this last month I’ve been fascinated by the blossoming of this particular tree … and thinking about fruits and seeds

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Such a glorious velvet red!

Telling a story is like sowing a seed – you always hope you see it become a beautiful tree, with firm roots and branches that soar up. But it is a peculiar sowing, for you will never know whether your seed sprouts or dies.” Michael Montoure in his book ‘Slices.’

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These odd little balls are fruits/seed cases clamouring to be attractive to birds so they can be dispersed far from the tree. Perhaps someone knows what kind of tree this is?

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A change in colour after rain

Seeds are powerhouses in stories as in life.  They can be magical and send you to sleep like Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dream or they can provide opportunity, health and wealth.

Now they’re turning brown.

This month I’ve been retelling the Asian folktale Aina-Kizz and the Black-Bearded Bai. I first told it more than twenty years ago. The trickiest part of the retelling is the pivotal liar’s competition, demanded by the Bai ( a local official) when this woodcutter’s daughter outwits him in public and the judge fines him. The first one to call out “That’s a lie!” loses their bet.

[It’s hard work lying consistently. If the reteller misses some details out, the ending won’t work!]

The Bai began by saying that he found 3 ears of wheat in his pocket, one day before he was born. These he threw nonchalantly out of the window. When he next looked out, the crop was so vast his horsemen took ten days to get to the end of it … (and he brags on about his workers, the crop …  goes on more about his power)

The girl in her turn calmly claimed she found one cotton seed.  The bush that grew from it reached the clouds and she picked and cleaned the full bolls herself. She made made enough money at market to buy 40 camels laden with silks … sent her brother off to trade these in Samarkand … (and goes on more about her family)…

Her intelligence triumphs over his brute force.

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All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

All-Time Favourites:

My friend Naomi takes great photos.

 She got me blogging and suggested I join the weekly Photo Challenge. This opened up a whole new way of joining in online, looking at stories.

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My most popular shot for “Transitions” was such a sneaky one.

Thank you all for the journey thus far. You’ve been great company.

Time to catch the next storytelling train and keep on the Story Twigs Imagination Line!

All-Time Favorites     Text and photos by Meg, except the first shot.

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp copyright © under Australian Law.