When people ask me "So, what do you do for a living?" and I answer "I'm a storyteller," there is a whole scale of reactions that can be expected from any given conversation partner, ranging from awkward confused silence all the way to "That is SO COOL!" Like many other people with unusual jobs, us storytellers also hear many comments and questions repeated over and over again, and while some of them are endearing and intelligent, others kind of grate on our nerves. In order to make everyone feel better, here are some things you should and should not say next time you meet someone who identifies as a storyteller:
Negative Top 5: Na-ah you did NOT!
1. Can you actually make money with that?
Apart from being a rude question to ask anyone in any field, it is also kind of ignorant. If I'm a professional storyteller, I am obviously making money from it. How much is none of your business.
2. So you are a politician? Ha-ha-ha!
Ha. Ha. Ha.
No, my stories are good.
3. Wow, you must be a very good liar.
Again, rude! Calling anyone a liar is not a good start for a conversation. Also, stories are by far not the same as lies. I believe in every story I choose to tell.
(And, for the record, I am a terrible, terrible liar)
4. So, what books do you read from?
Wanna see a storyteller fume? This is the question that'll do it. Even some people who have seen me tell on stage, and without a book in sight, congratulated me after for "reading" great stories. No, we don't read. We tell. By heart.
5. Can you do some stories for us for free?
Sure, can you clean my house for free? How about doing my taxes for free? Storytelling is a profession and a performing art form. If you wouldn't ask a musician or a stand-up comedian to perform for free, don't ask a storyteller either. And if you would, shame on you.
Positive Top 5: That's a great question!
1. What kinds of stories do you tell?
We love stories and we love talking about them! Also, by asking you avoid making assumptions about what we do as a storyteller. Also, note that "tell" is better than "read."
2. Are you performing in the area?
As performers, we are likely to travel a lot for gigs. If you are really interested, feel free to ask where our next show will be, and maybe you'll hear something cool!
3. Do you know any good stories about...?
Yes. Yes we do. And if not, we love to look for them. Ask about something you are interested in, and let us help you track down the tales you need!
4. What kinds of audiences do you work with?
Instead of asking flat-out if we would do your daughter's birthday party for free, find out what we like to work with. Some storytellers happily tell to anyone between the ages of 0 and 100, while others prefer a specific group such as elementary schools, teenagers (my personal favorite), or museum visitors.
5. That sound cool! Where can I find out more about it?
Storytelling events and organizations are all over the place. It is likely that there is one in your neighborhood too! And if not, there are multiple online communities. If you really want to find out more about what storytellers do, don't be shy to ask!
Generally, storytellers love talking about stories, and love talking about what we do. No one goes into storytelling for riches and fame - we do it as a passion. If you know the right questions to ask, you will learn about great things!
You can find Csenge (@TarkabarkaHolgy) at
The Multicolored Diary - Adventures in Storytelling
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