Chaos Attraction

Sierra Storytelling Festival 2019, Day 1

2019-07-19, 8:17 p.m.

It’s Sierra Storytelling Festival time again!

On the way up there, I found out that the festival had been having some issues. Mary (the friend we stay with) frequently makes a quilt to donate to the raffle, and another lady makes wooden bowls. Well, someone had a giant fuckup this year and didn’t get a permit for the raffle, so they couldn’t actually do it. (They tried to just sell both items for a lot of money, which of course did not happen.) Also, the tapestry project Mary works on, along with lots of others, was actually going to be on display in the schoolhouse this year. Dawn originally told me that nobody was going to be able to work on the tapestry this year because they’d be on display and I was all, “No raffle and no tapestries? What the heck am I supposed to DO here this weekend? Oh, right, go to storytelling events and stuff like that.”

It turned out that we could work on a tapestry this time--11 of the 12 were on walls and the one that was closest to being finished was on a frame inside the schoolhouse to work on, so that did happen. Dawn worked on animals and I worked on snow, which turned out to be more complicated than I expected because Mary wanted it to be multiple tones and colors of blue and/or white.

We went up there and I went into a workshop with Tim Tingle while Dawn and Mary worked on the tapestry. It was...different...from the usual. The last few years have been actual workshops, but Tim instead did about 50 minutes of lecture, followed by “ask me questions!” and a lot of derailing and getting into storytelling. This was interesting, mind you, but not exactly what I expected. (Dawn was all, glad I didn’t pay for that one.)

The last couple of years, Dawn and I have not been thrilled with the Native American storytellers, who have been very....low energy. Tim, I am happy to say, is not. Tim is feisty and lively and tells more stories about the Choctaw and other Native Americans in modern times rather than more old stories about Coyote. So yay for Tim there. Let’s feature people who are still alive on the bulletin boards.

Notes from the workshop:

“Stop laughing at his dumb jokes to get a laugh!” -what Tim says his deceased mother would say to this.

1. Write what you know. If you want to write about a place, go there. Tell what you known. Have a reason for telling that story. No one can tell like you do. Your stories have a power and there’s a reason it needs to be in there. Tell what moves you, what no one else could tell.

2. Good always wins, even if bad things happen.

He tells his stories first, writes them down later, writes the final scene first. If you tell it 50 times, you know the story. He thinks you need to be able to improvise and mentioned a friend of his who winged it well every time a train interrupted him while telling at Jonesboro (I guess that happens a lot) and would then suddenly claim there was thunder going on or something. When you hear something that gets in the way of the story, tie it in, everyone’s hearing it anyway.

He also mentioned another friend who told a kid who was objecting that there was going to be a story about a rabbit with a machine gun, which shut the kid up until the story finished and he realized there wasn’t one. “Anyone who can improvise like that can make it.”

Every Shakespeare tragedy has a comedic character in it. (Every comedy is “bad things happen and then everyone gets married.”)

The power of music- opens up minds and memory in a way that nothing else does. Tim says he doesn’t have a good singing voice but it doesn’t mean you can’t sing. Just create a character that can’t sing (he says he learned that from Gay Ducey). He noted that the story may or may not relate to the song, like movie soundtracks may have more cheerful music to a depressing story. It adds to the power of the tragedy. He suggests figuring out a way to add simple music, like a little line from a song.

If listening to a traditional story, pick a character in the story that you want to be to get into it. He tries to put things into modern context.

He got into storytelling by telling the truth to kids in schools.

Writing and storytelling are totally different art forms.

“I promise not to do a story about every question.” (Uh...really pretty much did!)

The first draft is vomit on the page and then you begin writing.
But with an oral story-record it and then type it up word for word. Read it over a few times- that’s his version of “vomit on the page.”
Add more description in writing because in a written piece you can’t see where.
Type it down exactly how you would tell it.
Have to start with a good visual description.
He spends more time on the opening paragraph.

Write a story you never told before that you know.

F O S = funny only sometimes.

A story begins with trouble.
and gets resolved.
and has characters in it.
builds up conflict
go down one road or another.
contains close
beginning, middle, end, trouble.

Tell kids to come up with a trouble that’s been solved. A trouble you’ve gone through and experienced.

Actual conversation:
“This is a really quick question.”
“Define quick.”
“Yes or no.” Lady and Tim
Followed by her asking something about blood and then ... “I knew it was a racist question.”
“Thank you for asking a racist question!”

Show your vulnerability.
Oral has a power that written doesn’t have
Written has a longetivity that oral doesn’t touch

Show your vulnerability in writing through voice and characters

“The conundrum is your conflict.”
Tell your truth--what do I do with this?

His dilemma: hired to talk about history on military bases, should he be honest about what the US govt. did to Native Americans? He told about the Trail of Tears and got a standing O from the teaching staff for his honesty. “We want to know the truth and we know only you people can tell us,” but no one had and they wanted to hear what’s not in history.

“Meet them on the bridge they cross over.” Meet people where they are.

“It’s funny all the way through until it actually happens.” -this was referring to a lady hitting a guy with her fake leg. I guess this was a running joke thing until she actually ended up doing it....

Someone in class brought up someone called “The Great Peacemaker” (he refused to give the actual name but said this was around the 1100’s and involved Iroquois) and said, “he made peace between the cannibal cult and the people they were EATING.” Whatever this story is, that’s enough there, isn’t it?

Be aware of the risk you’re taking and the consequences and make your choice. (This is an issue for me right now....)

Quote from a guy in class: “That spark that happens between 2 hearts.”

What listeners need to hear: “This awakens something in me that I think might be of benefit to you.”

How much can you tell them?

Vulnerability hangover.

Tim: “I didn’t have a drinking problem because I had all the money to drink the beer I wanted.” This led to him having a heart attack/near death experience and giving up booze. During the NDR his dead relatives and dead mentor visited him and he said, “Dr. Ferguson, I don’t know what to do.” “About dying? Stop your drinking.” “I don’t mean about my drinking, I mean my writing.” Same thing!

One lady asked about how to tell some emotional story that made her cry and she said, “Listening to you, your heart is right there.” He says if it doesn’t make him cry the first time, it’s not where it needs to be. But you keep the tears inside. Keep practicing and you won’t cry outside.

Learn the story but do not memorize. Improvising is critical.

“Why that story picked me to tell.” -lady
“The stories choose us.”

Speak from your scars, not your wounds.

We’re gonna carry a whole lot of perspectives on these answers.

“I want good to win.”

Women only stay with abusers because they think no one else will have them. (True.)

If you’re into the arts, more than one medium is going to call for you.

“Once you’ve met a person, you’ve never met them for the last time.”

“In stories and life, trouble comes.”

On to the nighttime...

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