Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Storyteller

Ever since I was very young, I knew I wanted to be a writer of stories. The term 'author' was not one I thought about. It was 'writer of stories.' I was not always fascinated with words, with rhythm, with grammar...(nor did I ever use the hated ellipses. I HATE ellipses), no. I didn't really much care about how a thing was written. The point was that it was written. What I loved as a little kid were stories.

Last semester in the Writing Kiddie Lit. class (not to be confused with just plain Kiddie Lit, which I also took), the teacher brought in a speaker and he asked us to raise our hands if our parents read to us a lot as kids. Mostly everyone raised her hand. Then he asked us to raise our hands if our parents told us stories more than they read to us.

I was the only one.

This shocked me completely. I couldn't understand how other people's parents did not tell them stories. Those were my favorite kinds of stories as a kid. Granted, I liked it when I was read to, as well, especially since I would memorize the books and I'm convinced that's what taught me to read, but being told a story is what I loved most of all. You never knew what you were going to get, and my dad (who was the designated storyteller in the house) would put my siblings and I into his stories and also the friends of our choice and our favorite book or TV characters (batman made frequent appearances, as did my favorite stuffed animal, Yellow Doggie) and those stories would go on forever. My dad usually fell asleep while telling them and we'd have to wake him up (my siblings and I), and sometimes it would be hours before my mom would call up, "what's going on in there? You went to put them to bed two hours ago."

The thing about being told stories is that it allows so much room for imagining the details and what places and people look like, and anticipation for what will come next. It was my first experience with stories without pictures. And I liked stories without pictures. They allowed me to imagine whatever pictures I wanted to be there.

I truly do believe that being told stories is what created that imaginative spark inside me to want to come up with my own stories. After all, if my dad could do it, why couldn't I?

I remember thinking this way one day as I was in my room, looking at all my books. I think I might have been organizing them. I remember thinking that I wanted to be a storyteller when I grew up and just make up stories all day long. But I soon realized that that's not a very practical thing to be doing and I didn't want to spend my life entertaining little kids at birthday parties or something (even though, at the time that I was thinking this, I was a little kid. I think I was about seven or eight). So then I thought, maybe I'll be an actress. Then I could play my imagination games (of which I had many) forever. But no, I checked myself on that, too, and realized that as a Religious Jewish girl, aspirations for being an actress would not really go anywhere past school plays. So that's when, glancing at all my books, it came to me.

Of course! I would write stories! After all, all these authors did it, and as far as I was concerned, my dad was just as good as any of those authors and all he had to do was write down what he told us at night and then he could be on a bookshelf, too! So why not me? I was good at coming up with my own stories. I sometimes imagined my books having different details or I would create back-stories for the characters because I decided I wanted things to happen precisely that way and it was my imagination, after all, and my book (I was very possessive over these things. It didn't occur to me much that zillions of other people were enjoying the same books as me. I always felt that they were mine and only mine). And so it was settled. I was going to write stories. The end.

I'm not sure why I'm thinking about all this now. It might be because recently in one of my classes, we were talking about books on tape, and also recently, a friend gave me Wuthering Heights on CD to listen to. I think it's important for kids to be told stories, as well as read them. They both serve their purposes, but I just remember my shock at being the only one to raise my hand about having my parents tell me stories more than they read to me. Telling stories is also so much more interactive for the kids listening. I've told my siblings stories when I was older, and I've told kids in summer camp stories, and seriously, it's the most fun thing you can do during a rest-ish time and it's a great way to connect. And basically, it's the best exercise for the imagination you can have.

So, yes, everyone should tell stories!


Ezzie said...

That was a great story. :)

Princess said...

I think it's interesting that you can connect the fact that you want to write stories to the fact that as a child, you were told stories.
I think whether or not parents tell their kids stories depends on their personality and how creative and imaginative they are.