Yesterday, as the sun slipped behind the trees, I took the enchanted pup running in a park filled with children playing soccer. My decrepit running shoes plodded along to sounds of slobbery puppy pants and cheering soccer families. Then, after four laps around the park, a gang of bored soccer siblings ambushed the enchanted pup with hugs and handfuls of weeds. I believe it is the enchanted pup’s enormous dangly tongue that attracts children (not to mention, it is her tongue that has parents cringing and reaching for hand-sanitizing potions).
After introductions, a boy, with what appeared to be purple jam smeared across his forehead, got into my face and yelled, “WHAT DO YOU DO? ARE YOU A LAWYER?”
“I’m a storyteller,” I replied.
“WELL, TELL A STORY THEN!” another child snapped.
When disclosing my profession to a child or an adult, this is the most common response. And I typically oblige due to my rule to accept every storytelling opportunity offered. (Even when panting, sweating and wearing worn out jogging shorts and a t-shirt covered with neon sheepies circa 1993).
“What type of story would you like to hear?” I asked as the gang of sticky and sugar-fuelled children and I made our way over to the rusty bleachers.
Noting the female to male ratio, I was expecting to hear the usual cliché answers (princesses, princess fairy tales, Disney princesses and fairy princesses or even Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez and Bella Swan). But then a pig-tailed four-year-old girl rolling on top of the enchanted pup yelled at the top of her lungs, “DEMON SLIME BABIES!”
“Ah, yes, demon slime babies. Great idea! Well, I could tell a story about demon slime babies or I could tell you the story of a magical little creature who lives in the forest right over there.”
She pushed my pointer finger down and said, “NO! DEMON SLIME BABIES!”
“What about the story of a peculiar little girl who finds a magical stalk of broccoli that…”
Whilst lifting his eyelids with his fingers until only the whites showed, a boy shouted, “WHAT?! MAGICAL BROCCOLI IS BORING, LADY! TELL A STORY ABOUT…ABOUT…*achoo*…PIZZAS!”
He proceeded to wipe nose sludge onto his bare arm and kneecap. ”Sneeze pizzas?” I asked.
The children giggled and burst into the chant, “DEMON SLIME BABIES! DEMON SLIME BABIES! DEMON SLIME BABIES!”
Several parents joined the crowd upon hearing their children shout these words at a complete stranger. Knowing I had no stories about demon slime babies or sneeze pizzas in my repertoire, I looked at the growing audience of parents, curious joggers and chanting children and made a rash decision. “Okay,” I squeaked. “A story about demon slime babies and sneeze pizzas it is.”
“AND IT BETTER BE A GOOD ONE!” a child shouted.
This is why I love working with children. They they don’t hold back their thoughts and they give instant feedback. Since I identified myself as a storyteller, they expected me to tell an award-winning story about demon slime babies on the spot. And if I so much as failed to entertain or if I allowed one single mind to wander, the children would not only blatantly deliver harsh criticism, but they would walk away.
I was both excited and terrified. On the one hand, storytelling to children of mixed ages in a location where they normally run wild without rules is an ultimate challenge. On the other hand, spontaneously writing and performing a story in front of a large group of potential clients in a brand new market is risky.
The only way to improve my skills as a storyteller is to do uncomfortable things and take risks.
To my relief, I whipped out a story (complete with audience participation) that engaged the children. (Phew!) I know my story about demon slime babies and sneeze pizzas was not my best. However, as the children’s faces lit up and smiles crossed their lips, I saw that this storytelling experience was magical to them (and as I floated away on a cloud of accomplishment, I realized that this storytelling experience was equally magical to me.)
The seed of this tale is that you must take risks in order to spread magic and feel magical! Are you taking enough risks in your life?