Monday, March 31, 2014

Producing a Storytelling Conference

Two years ago in January, I stepped forward and said, “I’ll do it, if I have help.”  This was during a meeting of the Rocky Mountain Storytelling Board.  I was new.

Ann Harding and John Stansfield enjoy a captivating moment.

What I said “Yes” to was producing the annual conference which is held the end of April or the beginning of May.  I’d never done anything like this before.  I lived 4.5 hours away from where the conference was held.  So I needed help.  Help with deciding who, what, when, where.  The rest of the board stepped in to help.  We pulled it off.

January is a bit late to plan a May conference, but we did it.  And I along with everyone else learned lots.

Things we learned that helped with the 2013 Conference:
Kendall Haven talks about the Power of Story.

  • Start early
    • We started planning at our June Retreat.
    • We chose a Featured Teller early.
  • Find a venue that is easily located.
    • Close to where people from out of town could stay.
  • Network
    • Use social Media
    • Promote at other conferences and events
  • Put out the Call for Proposals and have a committee help select the presenters.
    • Because of networking we received proposals from around Colorado as well as out of state.
    • A great group of people stepped forward to help select presenters.
  • Learn from the Masters of Production
    • I spoke with others who had produced conferences.
    • A good laugh is always fun!
      Loren Neimi gave me some mentoring time, and I read the on-line PRO-SIG guide.
  • Coordinate
  • Stretch and Grow
    • Don’t be afraid to try something new.
    • Be willing to chuck what doesn’t work and keep what does.

We tried a new venue – many years ago the conference was always held at a hotel.  So we looked for a hotel and found one.  We came up with a workable format.  More people stepped in to help with registration, on-site legwork, providing needed equipment…. 

Workshop on Telling Poetry
The 2013 Conference was better attended than the 2012 Conference.  We more than doubled the number of workshops.  We offered Continuing Education Credit as well as Graduate Credit through Adams State University.  We added a Friday night concert and a Saturday evening Salon where we discussed Story, storytelling and swapped a few stories.  Not everything was perfect by any means, but we were on the right track.

Most of the pictures throughout this blog are from the 2013 Conference. 

The 2014 Rocky Mountain Storytelling Conference is coming up May 2 and 3.  We have interesting workshops planned, and Elizabeth Ellis is our feature Teller.  We’ve worked hard to make this a fun learning experience for Conference goers.  We’ve kept the things that worked – the format, the Concert, the Salon, Credit – both continuing education and graduate.  We’ve tried to correct those things which were not right last year.  We’ve added a Resource Area where members of Rocky Mountain Storytelling will have the ability to sell their CD’s and books.  Kevin Cordi has agreed to stay an extra day and help 15 people Play with Story.  We’d love to see you there!

Elizabeth Ellis and her Frog Prince (or maybe just a frog).
This year’s Conference is being held at the Clayton Learning Center in Denver, CO.  Information about the Clayton Center and the Best Western nearby (which offered us a good deal on lodging) is on Rocky Mountain Storytelling’s web page.

Join us if you can!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Learning from the Littlest Ones

Teaching Storytelling to Early Childhood Educators

3 Year Olds Enjoy a Story

As a storyteller I have worked periodically with preschoolers.  As a mom and grandma I have dealt with infancy through the preschool years.  However, this is not my area of expertise.

In May, 2013, the Lt. Governor of Colorado, Joe Garcia, whose interests lie with Early Childhood Education and Higher Education, visited the San Luis Valley where I lived.  He came to speak publicly about his interests.  Jackie Merrill, National Chair of Spellbinders®, urged me to go to the public meeting to discuss storytelling as a means of engaging the Littlest Ones.  She even put me in touch with the people in his office who could make this happen.

Through a series of emails, I was granted three minutes to talk in an open forum about Storytelling and Early Childhood Education.  I knew I did not have the background necessary to make the pitch; so I asked the Storytelling Community for help.  My help came mainly from Nicolette Heavey, who sent information and listened to my “speech.”  

Together we decided I would tell a teaser line of a story, give him printed data about everyone’s “story mind” and finish with the suggestion that all Early Childhood Educators have access to a class/workshop to enhance their storytelling skills.

Thus armed I went to the meeting with a friend.  Lt. Governor Garcia listened and so did the audience.  In the audience was the director of the Early Childhood Council of the San Luis Valley.  She called me in June to arrange a speaking engagement for their Annual Meeting in August.  I needed to be more prepared; so at the National Storytelling Network Conference I attended Mij Byram’s workshop “Telling Little Ones and I Don’t Mean Lies.”  Mij also said she would help me prepare for the keynote speech.  But I fell and broke my foot and was in the hospital at the time of the meeting.

 That did not stop the director.  She then asked if I would teach a Continuing Education Class through Adams State University for Early Childhood Workers in the San Luis Valley.  I agreed; then got busy.  Busy reading what others said.  Busy talking again with both Nicolette and Mij.  By October 24, the date of the first class I was ready, and I was able to walk without the awkward boot on my foot.  The class was a success.  I believe I learned as much from my students and their students as they did from me.

Some of the things I learned: All children love listening to stories, participating in stories and telling their own stories.  Babies will listen to stories.  (That’s something I wish I’d discovered 36 years ago so my babies could have heard me tell them stories.)  Little Ones are enthusiastic story lovers!  It’s always good to stretch and grow.

The Call for Proposals came from the Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference to be held in March, 2014, during this time.  My friend and fellow storyteller, Kate Lutz, urged me to send in a proposal.  I reduced the 15 hour class I was teaching to its core and sent in a proposal which was accepted.

The Conference was this past weekend.  The Workshop was an overwhelming success.  Most of the 90 seats in the room were full.  The comments afterward were positive.  I fervently hope those who attended have a new resolve to use storytelling more often in their work.  And I thank all those who helped me learn my lessons from the Littlest Ones among us.  It’s been a gratifying journey, one I am glad I agreed to undertake.
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