Daniel Morden discusses the art of storytelling

Posted: April 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

Good clip of Daniel Morden and Sarah Moody!


“It’s a sort of cinema of the mind.” Gorgeous stuff! And he’s a very fine gentleman as well.

One hundred sestinas

Posted: April 15th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

Sarah Thomasin is writing a hundred sestinas in a hundred days. It’s no mean feat!

You can read the progress here.

Being paid to tell stories, 2009-2010

Posted: April 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

I have a day job. It’s an in-the-office, 9-5, pay-the-rent, J-O-B job. (Thanks to Dovie Thomasin for drawing that distinction!) And, like so many people right now, my position has been classified as “at risk” and I may be facing unemployment in the next few months.

It’s not a particularly surprising situation, I don’t think anyone’s job is secure in the current economic climate. What has surprised me is the number of people who have said that this may be my chance to “go pro” and try and make my living working as a full time storyteller. I even had another teller, one who does use storytelling as their principle income, explain to me that I was working in some very prestigious, very highly paid circles, and that I should surely be able to make a modest living doing the work I do.

A full time storyteller, living by my wits and skill! It’s a glorious dream. And maybe, in future decades, it’s something that I might be able to pull off, but it’s not really an option right now. What I thought I’d do here is unpack the misconception about the world of performance storytelling, which accounts for the majority of work that I do.

Coincidentally, we’ve just passed the end of the tax year. I’ve finished up my books for the year 2010/2011, and I’m quite happy to share that information here.

I received a little over £2,000, in total, over the course of the year, from telling stories. I work hard and I take just about every offer that comes my way. However, I also paid out a lot in travel, I did a lot of work for free, and have a whole heap of other expenses as well. So overall, I probably made closer to £900 in profit. I’ll be declaring even less than that to the tax man, because of the deductions for using my home as an office.

I was walking back through London a few weeks ago with Suresh Ariaratnam. I’d just been telling some stories at Rich Mix as part of a night of Mad March Hare stories with Jan Blake and Hugh Lupton. And as we were chatting away I described storytelling as “my hobby.”

Suresh seemed a little taken aback by that statement and challenged me on it. I didn’t mean to say that I don’t take Storytelling very seriously. It is my passion. I put my all into my performances, and I work in service of the artform. I dedicate many, many hours of my free time to composing, to developing my skills. Being on stage with Hugh and Jan? That’s an honour, the culmination of a childhood dream, and I appreciate how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing.

But it’s not my livelihood, and it’s not my profession.

That’s no bad thing! Hey, my hobby pays for itself. It pays enough for me to travel the country, for me to keep a simple website, to buy a book here and there, to see other people’s shows. That’s fantastic, and it’s a constant incentive to grow, to put the work in.

Maybe it’ll be more that a hobby one day. But right now? I am more than content to enjoy what I’m doing without any illusions.

The Allegorical Village, (1/3)

Posted: March 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

I feel very strongly that storytellers need to be ambassadors, pioneers. It is such a niche practice that most people in this country do not know what storytelling is. They imagine it’s reading or that it’s something for children. I’ve seen people, exposed to storytelling for the first time as adults, who find the experience magical, cathartic, transportive. Likewise, I’ve seen people who find the experience quaint, silly or even boring. It’s part of our job to ensure that potential new listeners get the former experience rather than the latter!

In order to understand our obligations to storytelling as an artform, we need to understand the context in which we tell stories. We need to look frankly at the British storytelling scene, the community of tellers and listeners, and come to understand where we are and where we’re going.

Firstly, I and my generation sit in the lucky position of having grown up in a culture with a storytelling scene, a community. It exists online, in the network of clubs, in the Young Storyteller of the Year competition, in the festivals and so on. It’s limited, it’s a medley, most people living in this country won’t even be aware of it. But it is no longer entirely true to say, as Marion Bloch did at the inaugural Gathering of the Society for Storytelling that we are a people “orphaned to tradition.” Now you can argue that this scene is evidence of an uninterrupted folk tradition that has been preserved, perhaps through rural or travelling communities, for generations, supported by the written word of those who went out to collect and preserve our native heritage. Or you can view it as a new creation, either born off the back of the folk revival or cobbled together in the 80s as a parallel of foreign storytelling cultures. But either way, it makes very little difference to what we have today; you can call it a resurgence, a resurrection, whatever, the fact it that a tradition exists. There are Storytellers performing in theatres, on railway station platforms, at music and spoken word festivals. There is an established common repertoire that is being passed back and forth. There are networks of people involved in the scene, in how the money moves, in organising and promoting gigs. There are crowds of people gathering to listen with up turned faces and high expectations.

The allegorical village, as a model of the British storytelling scene, is one that came up in conversation on Cybermouth in response to a question asked by Umi Sinha. I replied like this:

“Storytellers are like a village. We just haven’t noticed the social and physical geography that actually separates us. It can seem like everyone knows everyone. It can seem like everyone has an opinion on everyone else’s business. We compete for limited funding and gig opportunities in an environment where there aren’t enough resources for everyone to grow fat and content. We hunger for new stories, we scavenge other material that we hear along the way. Many of us are lean, hungry, and two steps away from professional cannibalism. (Okay, the metaphor breaks down a bit there! Maybe we’re a village with a dark wendigo curse?)

But the support that storytellers give each other is phenomenal. I’ve never been short of a place to stay on my travels. I’ve had some wonderful conversations until the early hours of the morning with people who, up to hours before, were little more than strangers to me. There’s a genuine love of storytelling as an artform, and people will do what they feel is right to support the art and share that love. And that seems to be on a very deep level, almost unconscious, I find it very moving.”

Which brings me to the point in this post, the purpose of The Room Behind the Bookcase. I want to share what I’m learning as a person who is growing as a storyteller. I want to put up here, on this site, a series of simple free lessons, maybe some recordings of stories, maybe some interviews, maybe some critical reviews, anything that I feel serves to nourish the village. I don’t pretend to be a master yet, but hopefully some of what I say will be of interest or use to someone, and if all it does is serve to start a bit of a dialogue then that’s enough for me.



Posted: January 24th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

Vincent Baker has had a massive impact on how I think about narrative, structure, conflict, escalation, resolution and all manner of other vital aspects of story. He’s an RPG designer, and hopefully I’ll be chatting more about roleplay gaming and collaborative storytelling here in the future. In the mean time, you can check out Vincent’s Blog here.

The Story Forge

Posted: January 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | 7 Comments »
“The tongue is like a red headed match. We strike it, “Ta-Dah-Dy” on the rough roof of the mouth and with that spark we light a flame. And then? Then the lungs are bellows and these words melt in the crucible of the ear, cold-black, red-warm, white-hot and we forge dreams.”

Upcoming events and details on facebook.

A little post, all about The Story Forge!

What? The Story Forge is an open mic Storytelling club based around tales from the floor with guest spots every other month. Come along with a tale to share or just to sup good beer in fine company and listen to the glorious cascade of words. Folk tales, urban myths, riddles, the odd song and poem, it’s a verbal banquet in narrative hot sauce. When we have a guest along we ask you to throw £4 in the tin as it comes around, on open floor nights £3 a piece is plenty, or whatever you can afford.

Where? Our regular venue is upstairs in The Fat Cat, on Alma Street, Kelham Island. More about them here: http://www.thefatcat.co.uk/location/location.htm The pub is a short meander from the Shalesmoor Tram Stop, with parking in the pub car park.

When? Third Tuesday of the month! (Except for December, when things get a little mixed up.) You can get reminders by joining The Story Forge Facebook group, or by asking me to add you to the mailing list. We aim to start at 8.00pm, so turn up a little before that. Tim and David will be taking turns to MC, and we should be eager to sign you up for a spot to tell in. There may be cake. There may be cats.

Who? You, me and all our favourite people! Tales from regulars, beginners, strangers and friends. Can you dare to miss out? Check the home page for details of upcoming guest artists.

Sage Tyrtle telling at the MothUP, Toronto

Posted: December 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

This is worth seeing,  it’s Sage Tyrtle telling live at MothUP, a satellite to the longer established The Moth. I worked with Sage pretty closely on the editing and delivery of this piece, and I’ll probably end up using it as an example in a slightly longer post on contracts with the audience.

However, while the site continues to be pulled together by degrees, you should go and watch it for no better reason than that it’s quality storytelling. The QN podcast is at quirkynomads.com/wp/ if you want more!

Lancaster Lit Fest

Posted: October 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

I performed The Court of The Queen of Claywood Flats as part of Lancaster Lit Fest on Wednesday of this week. Their blog carried a transcript of a sort of radio press release I gave earlier in the day.

The link is here. I’m quite happy with how it sounds! It was a great night, very receptive audience, I’m proud to have been a part of their programme.

Under construction

Posted: August 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Eventually, Tim’s “The Room Behind the Bookcase” will be situated here, with storytelling podcasts, essays and reviews. Until then, you can hear some of Tim’s early recordings at: