Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Are you sitting comfortably?


Ever wondered how you become a professional storyteller? In this post, 'big fibber' George Kirk, shares her journey from chatty baby through to a sought-after teller of tales.





“Yes I’ll write you an article about being a story teller.” That’s what I said and that’s how it began- the gnawing doubt!

I mean I call myself a story teller but I can’t recite the whole of the Odyssey by heart, I don’t know hundreds of traditional and obscure oral tales and I am in no way mystical or mysterious rather manic and messy.

So am I a story teller or am I just a big fat (post Christmas) fibber?

Then I remembered something. I spoke my first word at four months old.

Would I fib to you?

Okay I don’t ACTUALLY remember that moment, but my mum does and she says I have not shut up since. Then I realised, the reason I spoke so soon was because I had stories to tell.

I spent my whole childhood telling stories. Stories to my friends, stories to my parents, stories to my teachers (okay I know it was supposed to be my weekend news but this story is much more exciting). In secondary school I started writing plays for my friends to be in which we performed during lunch in the school theatre to packed houses (I still can’t think of ‘Og the Librarian’ without getting all misty eyed).

Taking my education seriously
I left uni with a degree in English and Drama and was drawn into primary teaching. How else was I going to keep on telling stories in my adult life? I told stories at the end of the day in story time, when I was teaching literacy, when I was teaching Tudors in history or Lichtenstein in art or fractions in maths! You name it, I had a story for it.

The only problem was for a long time I was so busy doing this that I wasn’t writing my stories down. In fact it took two children to bring me to my senses- my own. Now teaching part time and two bundles of inspiration at home I had just enough space, and energy to begin to actually write my stories.

But writing them down was not enough, it had never been enough, I needed to tell them to an audience. No problem, with my background in teaching and a bargain rate (free in the early days), schools were quick to agree to let me come and try out my stories on their classes. A lot of good stories were shot down in flames. Never mind, you need a lot of ashes for a phoenix to rise.

My first ever public story telling was at my son’s nursery
While I was honing my own craft at the chalk face, I was also popping along to my local library to read stories as part of their holiday activities. This was an opportunity to share and perform some of my favourite published children’s books with an ever enthusiastic audience.


“George is a fantastic story teller who captivates any child who listens, her interactive sessions are amazing.” Kathy Young Library Manager

Children in Need story marathon
It was at one of these events that it happened, someone approached me to ask how much I charged, they wanted to book me for a local summer festival. Now I had to take all I had learned over the years and decide what kind of story teller I actually was. I quickly decided that I was the kind of story teller that arrives with a picnic, or at least a picnic basket.

What I keep in my picnic basket
Before long I started to get other invitations too, including festivals, in fact I actually had to turn some work away because my diary was too full.

Preparing for these events was hard work. I always like to know my material by heart so that I can tell stories directly to my audience. I love books but they can be a barrier. You need to make a connection with your audience to really take them with you, you need eye contact. This does mean that when I am preparing for a larger event I spend weeks walking round constantly muttering under my breath or listening to myself through my MP3 player.

A very packed schedule
It does pay off though. Getting that connection between yourself and your audience is such a buzz. At the Wellington Literary Festival I had a whole day and five separate sessions planned. One family enjoyed the first session so much that the children begged their parent to be allowed to wait through my breaks to stay for the second, the third and the fourth eventually having to be hauled away for physical sustenance when the poor parent started to feel faint from lack of food.

‘George enthralled her audience (both children, adults, and the library staff), and engaged them fully. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend George Kirk, a fabulous, multi-talented storyteller.’ Catherine Cooper ~ children's author and festival committee member.

So am I a story teller or a big fat fibber?

Both! After all what are stories except very brazen fibs. I’ve been a story teller since I spoke my first word and now seem to taking my early steps into the world of professional story telling. I hope it is a long and interesting journey, maybe by the end of it I’ll be magical and mystical and know the Odyssey by heart?...

NAH!


So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin...



@GeorgeKirk2
George Kirk, hat wearer extraordinaire, has taught in primary education for eighteen long and fruitful years! She has taught most age groups and currently resides in a Year 1 class where she cohobates alongside the natives quite peaceably playing her ukulele and telling stories with some rather unruly characters.

Five years ago she started trying to pin her characters down onto paper. They objected, so she joined SCBWI and began writing about them instead. Since then she has been longlisted for the Undiscovered Voices competition, shortlisted for the Commonword Children’s Diversity Writing Prize and was outright winner of the Brit Writers’ Award.

A hopeless romantic, she believes that one day her publisher will come. In the meantime she writes ridiculous poetry for The Funeverse and promotes literacy for fun in her school, library, local community and anywhere else she can get away with.

8 comments:

  1. That made me chuckle George! Great to see how you got into stories. You can read to me anytime!

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  2. George, that was so funny, really enjoyed looking at you playing away. Can't get over how you tell the stories by heart! I feel I know you a bit more now, not just a name on our on-line writing group. May publishers come knocking at your door soon. :) Cheers!, Frances.

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  3. This was a lovely read. I can see why you are so popular!

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  4. Brilliant! May your fibs grow and grow :)

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  5. Great. I'd love to see you in action some time, George!x

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  6. Thanks guys, it's a lot of fun and got me doing things I never thought I could. I'm hopeless at music but I learned the ukulele especially to help with my story telling

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  7. You certainly made a huge impression at the Literary Festival last year... you're going to be a hard act to follow for this year's Children's Day. We all loved you.

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