Lyn Ford Writes…
“Breaking” into storytelling isn’t quite the description that fits the beginnings of my career. It was more like leaping off the edge of a cliff, with all the materials to build a strong glider that would carry me wherever I should go, but no blueprint or directions on how to build the thing. I had to trust that I would create both the blueprint and the directions, and be able to make the glider, as I headed toward solid ground. Scary, exciting, and very educational!
My mind and heart were filled with stories from my family’s oral tradition, but storytelling as a career hadn’t occurred to me. Our kids, now grown, volunteered my stories in their classrooms (bless their little hearts!); the experience helped me know my audiences and recognize my skills. The word-of-mouth advertising from teachers, who shared my name with their peers, brought me opportunities to do more storytelling. But, if I was going to develop a career by sharing the gifts of the oral tradition, I needed to find more work.
I attended local arts festivals, where I observed storytellers’ performances in order to evaluate my own programs and find out how to get selected for this venue. Conversations led me to our local and state arts councils, and to a local storytelling organization, the Storytellers of Central Ohio. Many members of SOCO were also members of the state organization, O.O.P.S!, the Ohio Order for the Preservation of Storytelling; O.O.P.S! held an annual conference where national-level storytellers and experienced regional tellers shared their knowledge in workshops. Research at the library, networking at SOCO meetings and O.O.P.S! workshops, and publications from the National Storytelling Network (which was then called the National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling, or NAPPS) helped me gain information on storytelling venues and the business aspects of storytelling. And, after I completed their application process, the Greater Columbus Arts Council helped me find work through showcases as an artist in the schools. I also did library showcases (very short performances), which got me into summer reading programs and other library events. I’m now listed in local, state, regional, and national storytelling and arts directories, and in Internet directories, too. But word of mouth still brings me most of my work, and networking at storytelling conferences and festivals is still very important. No matter how much I know, there is always more to learn.
Nowadays, I tell at many national festivals, and I find a little more work as an Ohio teaching artist, providing professional development workshops to educators; I’ve also been published in storytelling magazines and anthologies. My career is very satisfying, but I feel the urge to take another leap of faith. I’m looking for opportunities to do more programs for adult audiences–I’m exploring performances at fringe festivals, coffee houses, and other spoken word venues. I don’t know where the flight will take me, but I’m working on the blueprint and the glider is under construction.