In researching the history of storytelling in modern Oklahoma it has become clear that the term "storytelling" has been a fluid term and used interchangeably to represent reading to children, orally telling a story, writing a story, and making visual a story (via cinema or art). This has led to more than one misconception in the mind of journalists and programmers as to what constitutes "storytelling". Indeed, in one newspaper article from 1995 a storyteller was described by the journalist as intending to "read to children."
Several myths that emerged have included:
Storytelling is for children
Storytelling means reading to children
Storytelling is theatrical
Storytelling must have a purpose
The misconceptions have colored how news media interpreted press releases, how editors relegated space to the teller or the event, how program planners approached hiring and use of storytelling talent, how educators have handled storytelling, and ultimately, how storytelling has been valued within the state.
Storytelling appears to be the only art form where local artists are regularly ignored in favor of artists from elsewhere. Indeed, Peter Dolese when he filled the roster of talent for the 1st "WinterTales" established the principle of always bringing in those for whom Oklahoma was a new experience. These were tellers whose styles and presentations would serve to set the model of what "storytelling" had to be. As a result there developed a dearth of support for local artists (storytellers) unless they emerged from ethnic groups. In comparison other states had storytellers who covered a broad range of styles from homespun folk tellers to highly stylized theatrical tellers. The breadth of storytelling styles would greatly add to building a storytelling listening base that encompassed wide socio-economic segments leading to better support for the art form in those regions. An honest intent to inject new views, voices, and perceptions into the developing Oklahoma cultural ethos also set in place an elitism, and an artistically stifling atmosphere and marginalization of many Oklahoma voices.
Education also served to limit storytelling, as it has often done with reading, to the formula of read-hear and then analyze the story until all appreciation or joy is removed from the initial experience. This ultra-conservative attitude that all activity had to have a purpose or a rationale served to move storytelling from the motivation-art appreciation camp into the story-analysis-test paradigm. Storytelling was viewed, as most arts and music, but seldom sports, as a fringe component that had little impact on student learning and therefore could not be part of the school year. This served to remove the imaginative element from many schools and created a cold and uninspiring classroom.
The loss of the "folk artist" was most probably related to the low self-esteem most Oklahomans experienced in the post-Depression years. Those "cracker-barrell tellers" with their stories of hard times and little education often were simply not what the state wanted mirrored to them in stories. They were economically growing, becoming more sophisticated, "catching up" with the other, longer established, states and wanted to shed those times like a child seeking to grow-up too fast. This meant that many local tellers of the traditions, lore, and vales of the state were sorely under appreciated and much distinctly Oklahoma folklore was lost as a result.
In moving a fundamentally intimate art form on to the large stage there has been a loss of appreciation for the intimacy of storytelling. The larger-than-life theatrical movements required by many event planners has set in stone the public precept ion of what "storytelling", especially with children. The belief is that those stylings are required to attract and keep the attention of youth raised on 60-second sound bites. The truth is that a good storyteller can style hook their listener and get them focused on the story without a lot of physicality or histrionics. They achieve this through the ability - despite the venue - of creating intimacy with their audience and drawing them into the story.



In the past the term has been used to refer to "once upon a time" tales....to bald face lying that would end with a trip to the "woodshed" where discipline was swift and sure.

Today, the term is used to refer to everything from film to graphic novels to a rock group. The simple and traditional use of the term has been lost for many.

Types of Storytelling:

Traditional, Oral. This form is defined as the small group gathered in an intimate environment where a story of moral, imaginative, or educational value is shared by a person. This is the primarily and historically the place where folklore, heroes, myths, and legends are passed along to new listeners and preserved for the generations. Although, it can occur in larger venues - many feel that the larger the audience the less impact the stories have. Some traditions required the storyteller to not move or make only limited gestures as they shared a tale.

Nontraditional, Oral. This form is best defined by the Garrison Keillor approach but also includes storytellers who incorporate objects, costumes, movement and more theatrical elements into their stories. This form may incorporate more animated telling styles with gestures, movement, and audience participation.

Digital. Stories created, passed on, and preserved in digital formats as video, animation, or audio forms, most often online.

Visual. This form includes the use of film, cinematography, photographs to "tell a story". The narrative structure of story is translated into a almost entirely visual format in this medium. As with many art forms this one requires the audience to bring with it their own experiences and emotions as a vehicle for the telling of the story.

Book sharing. This is one of the most common uses of storytelling with children. Librarians and parents and teachers all read a book to children to share the experience through followup instruction, interaction, participation, role playing, puppets, and art. Although a viable vehicle for adults and teens, it does require some preparation for reading pace, intonation, volume, and presentational skills and is sometimes most useful as a "teaser" rather than a real reading of an entire teen or adult book. Many librarians and teachers have found, however, that some picture books are really written on a higher level. This makes the useful for older people because they are visually interesting and contain more mature themes, vocabulary or ideas.

Writing. The marriage of the written word and the oral tradition has tremendously benefited modern storytelling. Although two different mediums with differing requirements they can be used collaboratively since all storytellers need writers to provide material and inspiration and all writers need audiences and contact with natural forms of verbal and non-verbal communications.

Performance based. A merger between the modes and values of theater with the stage production of storytelling. Professional storytellers often benefit from classes on how to move, to speech, and express emotion in a natural, artistic, or entertaining manner.

Group or team. A sub group that is very ancient and often found in team or duo exchange storytelling. George Burns & Gracie Allen perfected a comedic form of this style and provide a model for the timing and artistry required to team tell effectively.

Musically embedded storytelling. Using music or instruments in the telling of a tale or as filler between tales.


Spirit of Oklahoma - 1st Annual Storytelling Festival


Storytelling Festival set June 1-2

SEMINOLE — At least 30 tellers — and probably many, many more listeners — will take part in the first Spirit of Oklahoma Storytelling Festival, set for June 1-2 in Seminole.
The event, sponsored by the Oklahoma Territory Tellers in conjunction with Seminole State College, will be held on and around the college campus. The festival is planned to commemorate the state's Centennial but also as a first annual event, said Jeanette Harjo, festival chairwoman.

Featured during the two days will be storytelling in various categories — with subjects including American Indians, the Old West, family memories, the state's history in general and even ghost stories — the “swapping” of stories, a children's matinee and visits to the nearby historic Mekusukey Mission.

An overall festival pass of $20 is meant to help cover expenses, or smaller fees are available for individual events. The festival will begin on Friday evening with stories by three “featured tellers,” Lynn Moroney of Oklahoma City; Jerry Young of Mesquite, Texas, originally of the Oklahoma City and Mustang areas; and Steve Kardaleff of Lawton. Both tellers and fanciers of word-of-mouth stories are expected from throughout Oklahoma and even other states, said Harjo, a resident of Maud and a retired library media specialist - as well as a storyteller, too, who calls herself “country through and through.”

In connection with some of the festival events, college credit is offered through Seminole State, added Harjo, who will teach Storytelling 101 in conjunction with the festival. Bonnie Smith of Paden, Territory Tellers president, said all the stories told during the festival - those both true and untrue - will somehow portray both the history and culture of Oklahoma. Smith, a retired Prague teacher, said her organization created the festival “as a special way to commemorate the state's Centennial - with the telling covering everything from the oil fields to cultural activities.

”She also expressed the belief that all state storytellers share her sentiments: “I'm very proud to say 'I'm an Okie'!”

Molly Lemmons of Mustang, a writer who is retired from Mustang Schools, agreed that all stories planned for the festival “portray the character of Oklahoma.” She is among seven women who will tell stories based on family backgrounds in a session called “History from the Heart.” Chester Weems of Yukon, a retired school administrator and a native of Seiling, will tell stories based on the history of his family, who settled in present-day western Oklahoma in the 1890s. However, he said, while the yarns he spins are based on fact, “I don't always let the truth get in the way.”

Contacts:Jeanette Harjo, (405) 398-4310; jmharjo@hotmail.com;Bonnie Smith, (405) 932-5406


This was found in a book, typed onto a few sheets that appeared to be a class or workshop handout on storytelling. Yes, they were "typed" as in the old hunt and peck form of writing with ribbon and paper. I would love to find out who the author is....or if there is one.....

I am a Story.
I am your Great Opportunity.
I make you Think.
I make you Imagine many things.
I am the Spoken Word.
I am Eternal.
I lived in the beginning and I shall endure to the End of Time.

The Blind may not read,
The young cannot Read
The Stupid will not Read –
But all can hear my Message.

I bring memories of “Once Upon A Time”.
I am Castles in the Air.
I can show you the Road to Laughter Town.
I make life a Great Adventure—
Seven Stories High!
--Let me know! Marilyn A. Hudson

Territory Tellers - The Statewide Storytelling Organization of Oklahoma

The ONLY state-wide organization for storytelling in the state of Oklahoma, Territory Tellers was organized in the 1980's to encourage storytellers, introduce stories to a wide audience and to keep alive the rich storytelling tradition that was already alive and vital by 1907 statehood.
The logo is blending of the outline of the fair state of Oklahoma and the Native American dreamcatcher. So in that logo are the rich native traditions and stories of the states strong Native American heritage and added are all the ethnic groups and cultural heritages who have also made this land their home. As Oklahoma storytellers we share a rich and wise corpus of stories and motifs bringing color and flavor to the traditional tales we love and the perosnal experience tales we share.
For more information, or if you want to join this non-profit group, visit their website at www.territorytellers.org
  • Ardmore: Word Weavers [SOUTH CENTRAL]
    Meetings: as called.Contact Valerie Kimble, vtkimble@brightok.net, 580-226-3980
  • Bartlesville: Tallgrass Tellers [NORTHEAST]
    Contact Fran Stallings
  • Lawton/Apache: [WEST CENTRAL]
    Irregular times for concerts.Contact Steve and Pat Kardaleff or Sam McMichael, chessam@pldi.net
  • City: Boomer Storytellers Toastmasters [CENTRAL]
    Meetings: first and third Mondays, 7:00 PM (dinner at 6:00 PM)Aloha Gardens, I-240 and S. PennContact Don Dillon, 405-354-7447, or Marge Smith, 405-685-9884
  • Tulsa: Tulsey Town Yarnspinners [NORTHEAST]
    Meetings: first Monday 7 p.m. Biscotti's Coffee House 28 E. Broadway, Sand Springs.Contact Darla L'Allier or tulseyty@yahoo.com NEW INFO: Tulsa: Tulsey Town Yarnspinners Sept. 30 & Nov 4, 2008 @ Zarrow Regional Library Tulsa, OK 6PMContact Connie Fisher at 918-241-9859