Writing my recent post for Novelistas Ink on using storytelling as inspiration led me to think again about the time I earned my living from running storytelling and puppet-making workshops.
As with my more recent work as a writing tutor, I found I learnt as much from the sessions as the children and adults taking part. One of my greatest lessons from the puppet storytelling was spontaneity. I love the fact that I studied English at University, but it also made me excruciatingly analytical and feeling that my own writing needed to be of Deep Significance to Future Generations. Something I rather suspect was the last thing on Mr Dickens’ mind as he beavered away to hit the next deadline for his magazine serial and pay the bills.
Working with children – some of whom had been through some horrendous experiences – brought back the playfulness and the delight in creating that had overwhelmed me as a child and sent me writing endless stories (and one or two novels) in a completely unselfconscious manner. If in doubt, throw on more sequins!
Working with ancient myths, from King Arthur to Japanese folk tales, was also a reminder that even the simplest of tales can hold the deepest truths and touch the heart. It’s still there in ‘Shrek’ and ‘Despicable Me’ – simple tales that look like ‘children’s stories’ but still contain morality tales and poke fun at cultural assumptions. And children’s stories are never simple – the puppet plays revealed emotional conflicts beneath the surface that surprised us all. It didn’t have to be an extreme – one story was of two princesses working out where they were going to live when the kind and queen separated, as two sisters were absorbed for hours in this safe reflection of the intricacies of their own parents’ divorce.
I suppose what I learnt most from the puppet storytelling was to let go and to have faith in my story. Simply write from the heart and the things that resonate deeply inside. It makes you vulnerable – like the two princesses, the deepest truths that you wouldn’t reveal in an ordinary conversation tend to slip out. But then we are all vulnerable. It’s our fears, our dreads, our strengths and our weaknesses – and yes, our vulnerability as human beings, both emotionally and physically – that storytelling is all about. And, looking back, it’s perhaps no surprise that my first novel for Honno Press, Eden’s Garden, was inspired by the ancient Welsh myth of Blodeuwedd, the woman made of flowers who didn’t remain the passive creature of sugar and spice she was supposed to be …
You can read my post for the Novelistas HERE