Posts Tagged ‘santa fe writing’

Barbara’s Path to Authorhood, Part 2 – Improv Storytelling

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
Writing prompts are everywhere.

Writing prompts are everywhere.

The house where the improvisational storytellers meet is built into the side of a mountain, eight slow minutes from the Santa Fe plaza, down a washboard dirt road.

At 3 p.m. on my first Wednesday, eight normal-looking, mature women showed up. Snacky food was set out. We each took a seat around the coffee table in the cozy, rustic living room. I was introduced. Welcomed with reserve. The process was explained to me and we began.

Here are the Rules and Guidelines for Improvisational Storytelling:

  1. The Designated Prompter reveals what she has brought as prompts for the day. (Photos, oddball toys, stones, rocks, sticks, seashells, the contents of a junk drawer, empty candy wrappers…)
  2. Everyone has 30 seconds to choose an object with which to jump into the abyss.
  3. The group splits into partners. Two by two, move through the house to find a quiet place and sit opposite each other.
  4. Set the oven timer for three minutes. It’s loud enough to be heard in every room.
  5. The first teller begins a tale inspired by some aspect of the prompt she chose. There is no “figuring it out”. Allow the first few words to fall out of your mouth and watch as a story is born on the spot. OMG!!!
  6. When the timer sounds, the listener has one minute to praise what she liked about the newborn story: any detail, name, fragment that held her attention.
  7. Reset the timer and switch. The listener allows her story to happen out loud for three minutes, and her partner then offers her appreciations.
  8. Everyone returns to the circle and it’s time to tell the stories again. One by one each story is retold to the group. Something happens between the first and second telling. I can’t explain it. Just go with it.
  9. Sit there and listen. Be amazed, enthralled and enchanted.
  10. Come back in a week and do it all again.

On the day when I told my first story out of thin air, I was hooked and have stayed hooked. I don’t remember my first prompt or the story I told, but I do remember sitting in a straight-backed chair feeling like I was sky-diving.

That day I heard one lovely, gutsy, outrageous, untidy tale after another. Stories I didn’t want to end. And after each story, the praising comments were made. I liked that newborn creations were not hit with bats in this group; newborns were encouraged to grow.

At the end of the meeting, the leader shared a bit about how the group was started, and about how stories are upstream from everything, and about their motto: Tell Me a Story I Won’t Forget.

After several years of listening and telling in the sacred space of the group, stories in the voice of a little girl started happening for me. I liked these stories so much I did the unthinkable in an improv group: before driving back out of the canyon, I sat in my car and wrote the stories down.

Later, I had the dream where Mrs. Iptweet came to me in a bus and spelled her name.  And so those first-person stories in the voice of a nine-year-old became The Magical Mrs. Iptweet and Me and I added Author to my list of life adventures.

Ursula and I still meet regularly and do improv storytelling together.

Thank you, Ursula.

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