Thursday, January 7, 2010

Storytelling with Elaine Muray

I've been having a tempermental internet connection all week, so if you have sent an email, I have hopefully received it and will reply in the next few days. Never hurts to try to send it to me again either.

Today I share an article about a storyteller in Ventura County, California: A tale to tell Local performance artist is building a community one story at a time by Michel Cicero. Primarily about Elaine Muray and her Ventura Village Voices Adult Storytelling Series, I am quoting the passages about story and narrative that are well-shared in the middle of the article. I used to live near the edge of Ventura County and this is one of those opportunities that makes me wistful about living there. Although I really can't complain since I'm just a few hours away from the National Storytelling Festival.

Scientific studies have confirmed what lovers of storytelling have always known: The human brain utilizes information more effectively when it’s received in narrative form. Much the same way it’s easier to remember information in verse, story form allows for better retention and comprehension. Muray even uses it as a trick to help with mundane tasks like remembering a day’s worth of errands. “I make a little story out of it, and I remember it all.” She says.

“People connect more to narrative than facts. We are hardwired for it.”

In some ways storytelling is as unlikely as likely a pursuit for Muray given the complete absence of it from her childhood — she wasn’t read to as a child. “A lot of storytellers have a vast foundation in stories that I didn’t have so I have to spend time at the library.” One such visit, she had a half hour to kill so she picked up a Chinese folk tale about a girl that was so small her father never noticed her. “I started to get teary eyed,” she recalled. “That simple folk tale resonated with me and my life, so sometimes people can’t hear when they are given facts . . . Grimm’s fairy tales are all about teaching safety.”

While she works with children and believes strongly in the benefits of narrative for learning comprehension and appreciation for reading, she says it’s the adults who must pave the way. “A lot of people think of storytelling as being for kids, but some of the best I’ve heard is geared toward adults. I think adults have to catch the fire in order to take their kids to events,” she says.

I always enjoy hearing stories of which tales resonate with readers and listeners and why, if they are able to explain why.

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