Being a storyteller means I am constantly searching out and writing new stories. As a result, over time my collection of tales has grown quite large (about 400 or so at last count). I have stories of every type and style for everyone from the very young to the very not so young. My stories cover a wide range of topics and themes. This means that no matter what type of event or classroom I am doing a show for, I have stories that will fit the bill. This fact serves me well when I am tasked to do a holiday event. I have stories for just about every holiday, from the high holidays to the manufactured ones (I’m looking at you Valentine’s Day!) and everything in between. I am also well versed on the traditions and celebrations of various religious groups, and I have stories that will do them justice.
Of course it wasn’t always that way. My first year as a storyteller, I didn’t have that many stories at my disposal. I knew a few basic tales (3 Pigs etc.) and wrote some stuff, but I didn’t have the number and type of stories to meet all the demands of my clients. To make matters worse, I had come from being a preschool teacher, so most of the stories in my collection were for that age level. Preschool shows were easy, but anything above that age level put me in a tough spot.
So I buckled down and started to add stories to my arsenal as quickly as I could. Time was passing, and December was coming up. I knew I had to have material to help carry me through that month of Holiday fun. I found some great Christmas stories and wrote a few others that I was very proud of. I tested them out, and I knew they would be a big hit. Finally I got my first chance to debut my new tales at a big party in Newton MA one week before Christmas. I was very excited and knew the stories would be a hit.
There were about 50 kids all ready to have a good time, and I was going to give it to them! I launched into my first tale, and while I expected to get some big cheers and laughs, I got a pretty tepid response. I went to my next story which was a fun tale about Santa and again the response was not what I had hoped. I threw everything at them, jingling bells, stockings hung by the chimney with care, flying reindeer, but nothing got more than a little bit of polite laughter.
I finished the show and felt horrible about myself. I began to doubt my skills as a storyteller and writer and began to think I wasn’t cut out to be a teller of tales. As I waded into the deep end of my self pity pool, my client came to talk to me, and threw me a life preserver of sorts. He shook my hand, thanked me, and said “Those stories were very nice, the thing is pretty much all of those kids are Orthodox Jewish.” I felt embarrassed and kind of stupid. He assured me it was okay, and when he paid me, he even gave me a tip. Of course the best tip I took from that show was that I needed to expand my horizons and find stories for every holiday, and not just the one that features a fat man in a red suit!
– Big Joe 🙂