4th to 6th November 2011

It says a lot about the lovely group of people on this course that our second weekend together begins with a friendly buzz of conversation and greetings. The strong sense of being part of a supportive group is very quickly there. We miss Beatrice, and when she arrives, late, after a horrendous journey from Gatwick Airport, there’s a warm welcome and an almost audible sigh of relief, that now we are all gathered. 


It also says a lot about the place of Emerson College (which we now see in its autumn colours), and the way it helps to build relationships. We have Bonfire Night to observe, and emails have been flying around with plans for a Saturday night bonfire storytelling social. Even so, I have come feeling a little low, with my familiar companions of worry pressing in on me.

Worries surround me. Will fire’s warmth and bright flames dispel fear’s embrace?

This weekend we are looking at wonder tales. As the name implies, they are strange and wonder-ful. With our story partners we share our initial work on the story we have been given, including the many questions we have – lots of why’s? We are invited to name our questions and to sleep on them… for the morning is wiser. 

A range of characters inhabit wonder tales, and so this weekend we work on the differentiation of character and on voice production. We are given a daily practice, a voice gym, to do which exercises vowels (a ‘caveman’-like stream of sounds) and consonants (sounds a bit like a Robert de Niro gangster speech – Don’t to-fu me ba-boo shish!). As storytellers, we are using our voice:

  • to articulate, to communicate words clearly
  • serving pictures and images to our listeners
  • to convey emotions, colouring words with different moods and feelings

Exploring the characters in our stories, we do some work on body posture and what happens when we shift our balance, move forward, backward, or put some emphasis into a particular part of our bodies. It is amazing how a small movement, gesture, or change of posture can create a new character. We have the opportunity to try things out in front of the whole group and receive some coaching. I am very hesitant – I’ve never felt comfortable being story characters with very different voices and posture. So it is a great relief to learn that less is more.



On Saturday evening we gather around a well-constructed and tended fire in the grounds, built near one of the outdoor visual arts workshops. The evening unfolds into a wonderful time together, with such a rich and amazing menu of dark, scary, passionate, and funny stories. Around us fireworks light up the sky and punctuate the tales told. Some of the students from the three month storytelling course join us and we get a glimpse of some very tasty sagas and myths. We toast marshmallows and share some ‘firewater’. I finally feel worries loosen their grip, and enjoy telling a tale of moose hunting in Sweden!


The next day is time to share our stories, to wonder together about the meaning of strange tests, of hidden identities and times of unveiling, of creatures who reveal a different sort of wisdom.

Here’s the story I worked on, The Twelve Huntsmen, from the Grimm Brothers:

We learn together and individually, and see how we are developing and discovering some of the gifts that story can offer: gifts of playfulness, attention to the present moment, revelation of truth to teller and listener.