Saturday, September 14, 2013

Once Upon a Time....

What do you associate with the word storytelling?  What comes to mind visually when you think of the word?

When I think of storytelling, the first thing that comes to mind is my grandmother's Curio Cabinet.  For as long as I can remember, when I would visit, we would spend one afternoon cleaning the cabinet in which she placed her treasures from around the world.  Since she was Russian, many of the objects came from her mother prior to the Revolution.  We would take each object out, clean it and she would tell me its story.

For me, storytelling embodies voice, emotion and  connection.

The cadence of one's voice is a critical component of storytelling.  When I worked as a Librarian is the Aspen Middle School, I loved to read stories to the kids.  It was my voice that made the story come alive.  I do one helluva "Wicked Witch of the West."  But, I am just an amateur.  Listen to some Cowboy Poetry, or the poems of Sarah Kay to hear how voice makes for a compelling story.

Stories are powerful when you are connected to them emotionally.  A great memory I have of storytelling are the stories told 'round the campfire.'  When I was young, I went to camp in Vermont.  The all girls camp had an affiliate boy's camp and several times during the summer, we would go to Camp Norway to sit round their large campfire.  We would listen to stories, sing songs, and play games.  I can still retell one of those stories that I heard over 45 years ago.

Our culture is based on stories.  Whether it is the Creation Story of the Bible,
the constant battle of Good vs. Evil in fairy tales,

or the subtle imagery of nursery rhymes,

most of us remember these stories from our childhood.  They are the remnants of the oral tradition, the way that wisdom and learning was passed from one generation to the next before the invention of writing.

How does Digital Storytelling change the way we tell stories.  I will never forget the time I visited my grandmother with my MAC Laptop and a camera shaped like a ball that connected to the computer (can't for the life of me remember the name), and we documented the Curio Cabinet together with a cassette tape recorder and camera.  I transcribed her words and printed a booklet for her.  I only wish I hadn't lost the original file, because now, I would be able to post this online.  What a treasure.  Fortunately I still have the printed version.

Digital storytelling is about sharing.  It is about extending your story beyond your horizons.  Gardner Campbell tells us of a boy from Africa who contacted him because he read a story that was posted by Gardner for one of his students.  This boy contacted Gardner because he HAD to contact the student who had written about Tupac Shakur.  There was a shared CONNECTION.

Storytelling for me is about voice, emotion and connection.  Without the story of my grandmother's Curio Cabinet, I would never have created one of my own.  Oh, and the stories it could tell.



  1. I looked at this and previous posts whilst resting from too much Zombie game on Twitter. You seem to have a gift to weave image and words, your images speak and your words create mental pictures that is true #talkingheadless106

  2. Thanks for your feedback +Mariana. Most of my writing has been technical writing, so to get the feel of storytelling, I have been using images to convey ideas. It works pretty well while I am learning to be more descriptive in my narration.

  3. Oh wow Cathleen this post was so touching. Your story reminded me of my own grandparents and how they used to do the same thing...use family heirlooms to share stories I wanted to hear over and over again. I loved it when you said you do a helluva Wicked Witch! I bet the kids loved that! Voice is everything when you're telling kids stories. They have a ball and we as the storytellers do too! I used to even read aloud in different voices to my 9th and10th graders. No matter what age one is, everyone enjoys hearing the voice of characters come to life, as you say the cadence is critical. I am so happy that you still have the written version of your grandmother's stories. That is a true family treasure so many generations will enjoy. It's interesting to think how we are leaving behind our voice through these blogs and wonder if someday our grandkids will look at them and see what we were like. Beautiful story! (by the way I somehow missed this post when you first shared it...saw it's dated the 14th.)

    1. Ary. Thank you for your comments. I treasure the stories of family, and DS106 has reawakened the storyteller in me. I may even have to bring out the Wicked Witch for an audio debut! I remember doing a integrated project with a 5th grade class on Fairy Tales. They had to write their own. It was amazing. Stories and storytelling is such a great educational tool. DS106 is helping bring our stories to life, as you said on your post that our individual stories are making up the DS106 story. Exactly!