Category Archives: Storytelling

The Heroics of Multiply Sam

Multiply Sam was the smartest, handsomest, most mathematical man in the state of New Jersey. He looked normal until you noticed his head. It was HUGE! Everyone for miles around knew Multiply Sam and loved to tell and retell of his amazing stories.

Now one day, Multiply Sam went to visit Fourth Grade Ninny. Fourth Grade Ninny had been having big problems learning her multiplication facts. Each day she would look at the squiggles and dreamed of having answers to them. All that ever came out was 49er.

Fourth Grade Ninny explained her problem. That was all it took!

Right away Multiply Sam squeezed 49 from Ninny’s body. He placed it in a bottle. “Only use this for 7 times 7,” Sam told her.

Then Sam climbed Schoolhouse Rock and chisled all the other products of basic multiplication facts. He made a deck (a BIG deck) of stone flashcards from the slabs of rock for Ninny to study.

With his incredible good looks, Multiply Sam attracted many pretty ladies to study with Ninny day and night and night and day until Ninny knew her facts.

After quizzing Ninny, Multiply Sam performed the greatest magic trick ever. He placed all the stone slabs on his head and then covered them with his hat. When he next removed his hat, the flashcards were gone.

What had happened to the slabs of stone? Multiply Sam absorbed them into his head.

“I thought his head was a bit bigger,” Ninny thought.

And just like that, Multiply Sam was off to help another. Now, where was the Nonsense Cowboy?

Toastmasters, A Few Years Later

Toastmaster Bob

Toastmasters changed its educational program a few years ago. The public speaking group did such a wonderful job that my district launched the new program for a couple weeks before I even knew.

Pathways was a move to re-brand the organization as a leadership group from a public speaking group. The influx of new members in Asia seems to be the population the organization is targeting.

As a DTM (distinguished toastmaster), I was in a state of trying to figure out my path forward. There were several paths for me to take.

  1. The resident expert at the club
  2. The contest Toastmaster
  3. Repeat a DTM
  4. Become a district leader
  5. Work on speaking skills at the club
  6. quit

I opted for #5. I had jumped through all the hoops to earn the DTM. I never had desire to practice leadership. Despite the Toastmasters script, leadership is not something I, an elementary school teacher who is at the end of his career seeks. I wanted to work on my storytelling. My plan was to take my turn in the rotation as a club leader and when I wasn’t speaking, serve in the roles that are needed to have a meeting. Eventually, I would complete speaking goals that would benefit the club only to repeat them again. I was fine with that.

But Pathways came. My hope was to find a path in which to enact the above plan. There wasn’t one I could find. Every path had mandatory leadership requirements. This is so not what I wanted.

I switched to #6. I quit.

A lot has happened since then. My life is situated that Toastmasters might be something that could be added back in. During the past week a former Toastmasters friend contacted me and sent me the above photograph from eight or nine years ago.

I began thinking a little about the organization. I looked online. It seems that seasoned Toastmasters are grumbling about Pathways saying much as I had when the program came to be. Nowhere am I seeing people speaking of the merits of the new program. Some do not dislike it like others, but no one seems to be singing its praises.

My brief look into things has squelched any enthusiasm that I may have had. Onward . . .

27th Annual New Jersey Storytelling Festival

19-09-14 27th Annual New Jersey Storytelling Festival

I’ve wanted to attend this festival for the last many years. I look at it, and it doesn’t happen. Last year I had even signed up for the story slam, but backed out the week before because of some conflict.

But with the clutter gone, it was easy to make this happen today.

I approached this festival differently than I do most things. I had been listening to some stocism podcasts on the way. Replete with “don’t worry about the things you can’t control” and “prepare yourself for things not going your way” mantras, I found myself smiling for several hours. Seriously. That is so good for me.

Normally, I would have soured quickly on what had happened as there were many things that weren’t quite right.

Morning Workshop
Like Judith Black, the leader of the morning workshop. She was so political! I was actually uncomfortable with the presentation. It’s funny how an uber-liberal presents as she wasn’t tolerant. She wasn’t fair. She wasn’t kind. But on top of it all, I couldn’t figure out what it had to do with storytelling. I guess I missed the line of the advertisement that said, “Mine personal stories and observations to address concerns about our stressed bio-sphere.”

I guess we did that.

I actually kind of liked the warm-up, which was much different than most. We first re-cast the chairs into a huge circle. Then we walked about the circle, changing direction often (Reminiscent of the “Dead Poets Society” scene at SAS). Next we paraded around and greeted each other with our eyes. After that we greeted each other by bumping our elbows. Then we had to greet one another with our name as we walked about. Then we had to greet one another with our name and where we were from. Then we greeted each other with our name and our favorite food. Then we greeted each other with our name and something that scares us.

It was during this set that I realized I was among people who were exuding their liberalism. “Sustainable foods” and other malarky were told to me as their favorite foods. Really? When I greeted Ms. Black and stated ribeye was my favorite food, she responded, “Good for the tummy but not the planet.” Several people introduced themselves to me that they were scared of intolerance to the planet in some fashion. Kind of a downer, methinks. I said, “haunted houses.”

From there we had to identify a personal story that launched our concern for the environment. Huh? I was becoming quite concerned. I played this out in my head: I am going to have to present a story orally to this group about this and I don’t have an agenda like the rest seemed to.

I opted for the horeshoe crab/red knot issue down here bayside. That seemed to work. It certainly worked better than the other stories I was hearing. My main partner was a young minister. He spoke to me (we had lots of share-out sessions) regarding his concern about environmental issues. It was all quite superficial; stuff that had no science to back it up (there are fewer animals now. Huh?). It would not hold up well. All the while Ms. Black made disparaging comment after comment to the group. “There’s no debate about global warming.” “I don’t even consider the global warming deniers.” Others got in the act too. Someone even evoked Fox News. Sigh . . .

Fortunately, the way the workshop went, we didn’t really have to present our story to the group. And I will say I did come up with a good image for a story. I don’t have the story down, but I see Albert getting out of an old beat-up pick-up at the beach wehre we used to do the oyster shells. It’s cloudy. He walks along the beach looking at the horseshoe crabs laying their eggs on the very small beach. He rights one or two that have turned over. He is wistful for the family fishing business he once had but had to abandon because the regulations on horseshoe crab being used as bait. He now mows lawns. That is where he came from and he is dirty from that job as he strolls the beach, caught between the water of where he wants to be and land where he has to be to pay the bills. Down one or two beaches at the same time is Larry Niles’s group banding the birds. That intersects the images of Albert strolling.

There’s a story there, but I don’t have it just yet. Good image though.

Story Slam
With the workshop over, it was time to leave the center and head out to the farm. The Howell Living History Farm is very nice! I strolled out to the forge to see the story slam. It was here that I realized we would be sitting on hay bales all day. Denise McCormack, the slam’s leader, was kind enough to offer a towel/blanket for me to sit on. Lots were provided at the various locations throughout the day. Nice!

The theme of the slam was “Hog Wild”. I had considered participating, but I didn’t have story that I thought fit. Not quite knowing the group and level of storytelling, I decided to be a spectator. I should have participated. Very few were really on-topic. One lady re-told Animal Farm. My skills and abilities fit right in with the tellers I heard.

I liked the event.

After that there were four sessions of storytelling at various locations on the farm (the willow tree, ice house, forge, and threshing floor). Each hour new tellers would present for 50 minutes. Some sessions had two tellers.

Hearing the story slam influenced which speakers I sought to listen. Based on who and what I could discern from the title of the speeches, I opted for the following presentations:

  1. G.K. Jayaram: Once Upon a Place
  2. Shirley Johnson: Hens and Roosters; MaryAnn & Maria: Last Minute Pranks
  3. Maria LoBiondo: Devil in the Details; MaryAnn Paterniti: Witchful Thinking
  4. Joey Novick: Road Kills; Denise McCormack: TBD

Jayaram told three stories at the ice house. He is Indian. The first was about his pet elephant growing up. It was a cute story. I enjoyed it. The second story did not do much for me. The third was quite interesting as he told a story about how he finds/helps his wife find her fallen contact lens and the troubles they encounter now that they are older. The ending didn’t quite work as he cut it off without providing the lesson he has learned about pleasing a wife. I think he was going for a funny moment there, but I believe it was lost upon the audience.

Shirley Johnson was good. She told children’s stories. There were children present. She had animals/props on painter’s sticks for the children to hold up during one of the stories. It was one where the rooster ended up with shit on his beak on his way to a wedding. He wanted the daisy to wipe it off, but she refused. So he tried to get a sheep to eat the daisy since it wouldn’t help. But it didn’t. There was a cat to bite the sheep. Then the dog was to chase the cat, a stick to beat the dog, a fire to burn the stick, water to put out the fire, and the sun to dry up the water. The sun said he would if the rooster would promise to cock-a-doodle doo thrice each mornig to wake up the sun since he had a tendancy to sleep in. Cute story. She also told an urban version of Chicken Little. I enjoyed that too!

MaryAnn & Maria were Maria LoBiondo and MaryAnn Paterniti. They alternated their stories. They were good, with LoBiondo presenting herself very well, I thought.

I then realized that my next session was going to be LoBiondo and Paterniti again. I hadn’t really put that together. There were other options, but I liked the idea of scary stories.

I was there early. There were photographs being taken of the previous tellers. As people stammered in, I listened to some of the patter. The photographer knew someone who came in. He said something along the line that he came to hear Maria. Then he re-positioned to where I could see him. When Maria showed up she acknowledge him with “Charlie”. I looked at him at that point and realized it was Charlie Stile.

The ladies presented. LoBiondo was very good. I liked Paterniti as well. She mentioned a book that she had found that she got one of the stories from that sounded promising. After the session I approached Charlie and introduced myself. I explained that I was from Cape May and knew his brother. We chatted some. That is when LoBiondo came over and joined the conversation. She and Stile are married! Wow! When she asked where I was from, she said she was from there too. She asked if I knew someone, whom I didn’t but offered that I knew Fran. Her SIL. Small world! Charlie took a photograph of me to send to John.

The last session was back at the ice house. There were only three sessions to select from. I think I would have liked hearing Rachael Harrington and Ingrid Bohn. Instead I heard Novick tell his Jewish humor stories. They were all right. McCormack was the one who had interested me. Unfortunately, I was not taken with her story. It was long and I lost interest early on. Then I realized I really didn’t know what the story was about so continued daydreaming.

While I spotted things that I would have done differently, etc., I was positive today. It was a good event. I know these are my people, even if they are so far away. This is the kind of storytelling I have wanted to do.

Back at the interpretive center, there was a culminating round-robin of 12 short stories told by 12 different tellers, pretty much the featured tellers of the day. Most of the stories were good.

I would be more than willing to return to this festival. I think I shall participate in the slam, if I do.

I Killed My Mother

Honey Pot, 11 October 2011

Project 4: The Touching Story

Tonight, I killed my mother. I am so sorry for this.

It will certainly come as a surprise to her, but ’tis true.

I delivered the fourth speech in the Storytelling manual at Toastmasters. The speech was to elicit emotion from the audience. It was to be a “touching speech”. To that end, I crafted a realistic fiction story. I ensured my evaluator, who introduced me (as is the custom in this club), stated that this was indeed a fictional story. In my research over the past year, I have read that some Toastmasters have taken exception when a speaker purposely yanks at the heartstrings without disclosing the speech is fictional.

This speech is one I like. The recording does not reflect the tone in the room. About a third of the way through, I knew I had hooked the audience. As I practiced the speech, I knew I needed to drive home the close. I found that when I became choked up, I felt better about the end. I was able to get there live. I killed my mother for dramatic effect. Several Toastmasters mentioned that my quavering voice was effective.

Unfortunately, I really hooked a few in the audience. While that meant I met my speech objective, it was apparent the Toastmaster of the evening fell totally for it. I cut off the recording early in the after speech discussion, but you can tell she (and she was not alone) truly believed my mother died last week.

I felt pretty good about my delivery. I once again spoke more quickly than I practiced. It was decent, but not as good as rehearsal. Also, I do not like this recording. Perhaps the distance between the mic and me accounts for it, but the expression didn’t come through in the audio. Several members mentioned they thought I should deliver this for the International Speech contest next spring. Perhaps. The speech needs work, but rather than beat myself up over it, I’ll just let it stand for itself.

11-10-11 I Killed My Mother

Hank and the Princess

Project 3: The Moral of the Story

After stalling with my public speaking in late summer, I am back on the circuit, or so it seems. I set a goal of completing my Advanced Communicator Bronze program by 17 October. I had three more speeches to complete to accomplish that. Tonight I delivered an original story that had a moral.

Hank and The Princess was structured to highlight the lesson of “If you expect to rate as a gentleman, you will not expectorate on the floor.” Back in my adolescence, my mother sent me a cartoon (The New Yorker, I think) that had that as a caption. That always stood out. This past August marked the decade anniversary of when I last dipped tobacco. No more cuspidors for me.

So Hank was a country boy who loved baseball. I had him play for the Pirates. When he and his teammates were in the Big Apple, Hank saw the most beautiful woman he ever saw. When he approached her, the princess’s aide butted in to inform Hank he couldn’t just approach the princess, he needed to leave a calling card.

The next time the Pirates were in town, Hank had a calling card. When he was to meet the princess, once again the aide stepped in. This time she told him he wasn’t dressed properly. He needed a suit, a tie, to comb his hair, etc.

Hank took this to heart (I worked in the word of the day here: assiduous). When the Pirates returned the following season, Hank had his calling card, a new suit, a silk tie, a haircut, etc. He waited for the princess, who was running late. He began to pace. Then he pulled out his tin of tobacco, to help him cool his nerves. There were no cuspidors in the hotel, so Hank spat in the corner each time he walked the length of the lobby. The princess finally arrives, sees this and then leaves. I had the aide deliver the moral.

I worried that the word expectorate might not be understood. I think it was 50/50 on that front. The manner in which I delivered the moral was a bit abrupt. If one ever reads Aesop’s Fables, the moral is separate from the story. That is somewhat how I did this. If I were to deliver this speech again, I would re-work the delivery of the moral. I still think expectorate is not widely understood. It’s risky, but I liked it. So did the group as I was bestowed with the best speaker honors for the evening.

Now to get cracking on the next two speeches to complete this . . .

Yeah, I forgot to record this one. Darn!

11-10-04 Hank and the Princess

Storytelling Step by Step

Storytelling Step by StepStorytelling Step by Step by Marsh Cassady
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alas! After a decade of owning this book, I completed it today. 🙂

Once upon a time I thought I might like to be a professional storyteller, hence why I purchased it. I am not certain that is a goal any longer, but I love telling stories. Presently, I am delivering speeches from the Storytelling manual at Toastmasters. That has rekindled my interest in this. That and the fact this book sits in the big pile of To-Read in the basement.

What is noted is that Cassady has included a wealth of good stories. Almost all included I could see retelling myself.

Each chapter provides tips and other things to concentrate upon while speaking, writing a speech, or preparing for a speech. Much of it reinforces what Toastmasters teaches. A couple things are at odds with what I have been taught; thanking the audience, for instance.

Overall, I think this is a good book. I felt some topics, notably the end where delivery was addressed, received short-shrift. It is always difficult when writing comprehensively to do everything well. There’s more to say, I feel, than one paragraph about enunciation.

Anyhow, if you re looking for a good book about storytelling, I would recommend this one.

View all my reviews

Speak E-Z Blahs

In the Days of King Adobe, 7 July 2011

Project 1: The Folk Tale

Tonight was the first meeting of the Speak EZ Toastmasters Club for TI-year 2011-12. I was speaker #1. I gave the first speech in the Storytelling manual, which was to tell a folk tale. I selected In the Days of King Adobe. This is a cute tale we read in the classroom.

I practiced all afternoon and had a good presentation down. There were a couple things I would have improved if I worked on this longer, but it was well-developed.

As always, I had a Kretschmer evaluate me. Tonight it was Richard. Either he or his brother Michael evaluate most of my speeches. I could have told you he would mention my hands before I left home. Sure enough, he did. The Kretschmers always critique the speaker’s hand gestures. I think a speaker without hands would still get comments about hands. It’s as though it’s the same evaluation every time . . . even if they are evaluating someone else.

I was pretty solid. I had the audience’s attention. Even the sleeping ladies woke up to listen. What a dreadful venue (nursing home lobby) for speakers.

Many comments tonight spoke of Stephen Lochner’s prowess for winning the speech contests. The boy speaks pretty well, but he isn’t great. He spoke tonight. I thought he fell flat. He had a humorous angle to his persuasive speech in which he tried to convince us that Superman wasn’t as representative of truth, justice, and the American way as his nemesis Lex Luther was.

I voted for Bruce Cooper instead (I never vote for myself). Yeah, Bruce won. His speech was better than Stephen’s, but I didn’t think it was as good as mine. After winning once or twice early on here, I haven’t won squat since. I think that for whatever reason, my speaking style isn’t as appreciated in this club as it is in others.

Richard’s evaluation was dreadful. He was woefully over the time limit. He spent so much time in the beginning asking me who the target audience was. He admitted that he hadn’t paid attention to the introduction. Nice touch, Mr. Area Governor. He stammered along. His suggestion for improvement was for me to wear a hat to indicate when each person spoke. Of course, he demonstrated he had no clue about the speech requirements with that suggestion given I was not to perform the speech, but to interpret it.

Yeah, I am down on this club. It is so haphazardly put together. The meeting place sucks. There seems to be no professionalism at all. I am going to adjust my approach for the next six months. I will deliver my two speeches I need for the ALB and then just evaluate. I am not going to continue delivering speeches here as I am going to miss half the meetings due to the BOE (St. Mary Magdalen School) work I do. Rather than use the club to help pick up the pace elsewhere, I am going to re-adjust and concentrate my focus differently.


Project 1: Read a Story
Interpretive Reading

Tonight I delivered my first speech from an advanced manual. Silly me, I did not record it.

I hadn’t practiced as much as I would have liked. Even so, it went pretty well. I had viewed a YouTube video of Sandra Cisneros (the author) reading her own story. That got me in the frame of reading this as a fragile young girl. Personally, I liked it. Some of the comments indicated it was a bit soft and not quite as dynamic. ‘Tis true, but I think it interpreted well for the character.

I think some do not understand that as an interpretive reading, I have different goals than the other speeches have. I suspect I will never win a speech contest as long as it is a reading. That may have merit.

11-05-12 Eleven