Special Spotlight: Behind the Scenes with Professional Storyteller Geraldine Buckley
I had the rich pleasure of diving deep into the storytelling process as Geraldine Buckley shares more about the craft and her personal journey as a storyteller.
How is storytelling a “living gift?” Explain.
Storytelling has a way of bypassing all the filters we have in our heads and goes straight into our hearts. That is why when you hear someone’s story you feel an identification, an understanding on a deep level, and you can’t look at them in the same way again. For fine, moving examples of this go to humansofnewyork.com. They are bonding the world together one story at a time.
(See more on the "living gift" explaination on the first page of her website, geraldinebuckley.com. )
The images in storytelling seem to have a life of their own. A well told story will go deep into the subconscious and arise when you need strength, solace, or wisdom. They truly are a living gift.
Tell us about your most recent travels and one thing that you won’t forget on those travels.
In the past year I have driven thousands of miles telling stories and teaching storytelling workshops. I had never been to Kansas before 2016 and in the last twelve months I have driven there three times from Frederick, Maryland, well over 2,500 miles each trip. I have been in Utah, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC, and all the states in between. Everywhere I have met with incredible kindness and generosity. And not just among storytellers, although that is a deep, overflowing, genuine pool, for which I am incredibly grateful. Everywhere. From an owner of a road side eatery insisting on giving me the gift of fixing my car when he saw it was overheating in Kansas City; to a friend providing
me a bagful of oranges straight from her tree in Florida: to another stranger taking a scarf she had made from her neck and putting it around me – a gift of kindness, indeed tenderness.
I travel alone usually, but I am never alone. Everywhere I go I see every day acts of kindness, selflessness, love. Mini- stories enacted right before my eyes. The giving and receiving of contact and affirmation. It gives me hope that despite the seeming turmoil of our current world, genuine goodness abounds. Seeing that I know that in a very real way, everything will be all right.
Have you been to any other prisons on your travels? What did you learn from those places?
In 2013 I was invited to tell stories in New Zealand and went into men’s prisons in Ivercargill on the South Island and Rimutaka on the North Island. Rimutaka is the largest men’s prison in New Zealand and I did two storytelling workshops there. I wanted to put a writing element into the creating story segment and was assured that it would go over well as New Zealand has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. It did. The officers were amazed at how the men threw themselves into the exercise. They said it was the only time they had ever heard silence on the tiers. (The men’s living quarters.)
At the end of the day the men surprised me. As a parting gift they did a haka for me. This is a ceremonial Maori dance, used for several things, including injecting fear into opposing teams at All Blacks’ international rugby games. It was as though they were saying, “you have shared your gifts and creativity with us. Now let us do the same for you.” It was an incredibly moving moment. I learned, once again, that underneath we are all the same. We all want to be loved, understood, and respected.
What three pieces of advice do you have for someone who says, “My story is not worth sharing.”
a. Everyone has a story that is worth sharing. You just have to find the right audience. It might help someone that you bump into in the supermarket that is having a bad day and needs to hear your insights, or it might be destined for the stage. Who is to say in the light of eternity which is the most important?
b. Polish your story until you feel it is worth sharing to a larger audience. That means taking the main premise and make sure that it has an arc – a beginning, a middle, and an end where something happens that changes the course of the story. Make sure that you are ready to tell the story, do any grief work necessary, for example, if it is a personal story that has deeply impacted you. Never use a stage as an excuse for a personal therapy session. Make sure your story has vivid images that paint a picture in your audience's mind. Avoid clichés.
c. Tell your story as often as possible to as many different audiences as possible. Really listen to the audience’s reaction. See what part of your story works and doesn’t work. Adjust accordingly!
What is your ritual in preparing for a story?
I pray. One word usually. Help! Then I ask myself why am I telling this story? And what effect to I want it to have on my audience? That has a way of adjusting my thinking and stops me being the hero of the story. Usually!
Silly Question: If you had to tell to a room full of ducks, what would you tell and how would you prepare them?
I would feed them delicious duck food to relax them and raise their blood sugar levels, and then I’d tell them the story of The Ugly Duckling.
Thank you Geraldine for the rich gift of your stories and your journey. Cheers. Be sure to have Geraldine come tell or present for your neighborhood, contact her at www.geraldinebuckley.com
If you have a resource, book, CD, or even person that needs a spotlight, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will check the line-up on the schedule. Your recommendation may be the next person’s work we visit. (Feel free to self-recommend.)