Storyteller Harlynne Geisler
Storytelling Professionally; The Nuts and Bolts of a Working Performer
Whether you tell stories occasionally or as a full-time profession, Harlynne Geisler's volume is a treasure-trove of advice, hints, and practical tips on organizing your storytelling life. She covers all aspects of the "business" of storytelling from how to organize your office and paperwork to how to cope with performer burnout and the sticky questions of "controversial" topics in folklore. A chapter titled "Only You Can Answer" includes advice on how to handle some of the difficult questions regarding copyright law, finding your own voice, researching stories from other cultures, and respecting the material of other storytellers (summarized in a Storytelling Etiquette Statement). A valuable appendix gives tips on how to host a freelance storyteller in a school or library. Harlynne has given permission for this to be rewritten and distributed to potential bookers. She also includes information on booking conferences, mailing list companies, and national organizations that may hire storytellers. Even if you are not a full-time teller, her advice on setting a scene, controlling an audience, and using movement, props and music will help to improve the quality of any performance. A thoroughly valuable resource.
Connie Rockman HearSay; The Connecticut Storytelling Center Newsletter
Whether you're a seasoned teller or a novice, a full-time freelancer or just trying to fit storytelling gigs around your other job, you'll find lots of useful information in Harlynne Geisler's book, Storytelling Professionally; the Nuts and Bolts of a Working Performer. Her bright, clear style makes this an enjoyable read straight through, but it's real value is as a reference tool. No matter what your question, consult the detailed table of contents and an answer is there. Challenges, such as how to write a contract, set your fees, deal with censorship, promote yourself, design and rehearse a program, and more. For greater depth, each chapter ends with a list of sources for further information. A professional, by one definition, is someone who makes a living from an activity. By another, it is someone who operates under high standards of quality. This book shows how to be both. I highly recommend it. Editor's note: Josephine Pedersen called and said, "You have to get Harlynne's new book. Everything you want to know about storytelling is in it!"
Leslie Slape, Mount Tahoma Storytelling Guild newsletter, Rainer, Oregon
San Diego storyteller and author Harlynne Geisler covers just about everything you can imagine and a lot beyond, in this advice-and-resource-packed book. From identifying oneself as a professional to getting the world to agree with and financially support that view of oneself, she charts a course for performers of all types. A believer in organization, Geisler gives advice on how to get a LOT done, and how to be efficient in each new situation.
No magical secret to success is presented except diligence, a positive attitude and a great deal of hard work. This includes learning from other performers, from the audience and from the people who hire a performer. Sometimes these are hard lessons, and Geisler shares funny and poignant stories about her experiences and the experiences of other performers.
Beyond the logistics of storytelling as a business enterprise, Geisler adds her own common-sense advice about ethics issues involved in storytelling. She presents a well-written credo of common respect for the works of others, as a means of protecting individual rights and enriching the storytelling community. You will also find a number of excellent organizational statements and essays in support of the art of storytelling included in the book.
Although the title suggests this book is written only for full-time professional performers, it offers much more. A wealth of organizational information can be found in Storytelling Professionally for people who have either careers, and for those who try to balance storytelling within a busy life. Useful information is presented as well for producers of storytelling events.
Barb Stevens-Newcomb, Stretching the Truth; A Quarterly newsletter of Northwest Storytelling, Eugene OR
At first glance you might wonder why I'm reviewing a book like this in MLS. But I can assure you that it is not only relevant, but that it is a delightful read that's full of great information.
Story times are probably some of the most popular and most prevalent programs in public and school libraries today. Compared to other programming efforts, they are relatively simple, inexpensive, and easy to prepare for. They are a great way to keep people coming into your library, and they provide a good excuse for periodically sending out announcements, printing flyers, or contacting your local newspaper. Story hours are simple good ways to help market libraries.
Storytelling Professionally; the Nuts and Bolts of a Working Performer has good information for you no matter where your library is in the storytelling arena. If one of your staff members does these programs, there are tips for them from professional tellers. If you're looking to hire someone from outside your library, there's a how-to section for that. If you've never done a program like this before, this book will walk you through each step. And if you're a storyteller yourself, then you will definitely love every page.
Author Harlynne Geisler is well-qualified to write this book: Not only has she been a professional storyteller for 17 years, but she also has spent 14 years as a school and public librarian. Additionally she is the editor of The Story Bag; A National Storytelling Newsletter. Her writing is clear, concise, easy to understand, and, as I imagine her stories would be, enjoyable.
The book's press release says, "Advising storytellers of the importance of marketing and public relations, Geisler describes how to sell yourself to schools, libraries, museums, and other organizations through brochures, business cards, press releases, flyers, mailings, showcases, performer lists, and giveaways." So readers will learn plenty of marketing tips that they can use in other situations as well. The publicity also says that teachers, librarians, and puppeteers will benefit from this book. I have to agree.
The softback book is divided into four parts each of which has several sections: 1) THE STORYTELLING PROFESSION (Performing, Being Professional), 2 TAPPING THE MARKETS (Becoming Known, Getting Hired), 3) THE BUSINESS OF STORYTELLING (Money, Contracts), and 4) SITUATIONS REQUIRING SPECIAL ATTENTION (Preventing and Solving Problems, When It's Your Fault).
Two appendices follow. Luckily for MLS readers, Appendix A is called "Hire the Pros: How to Host a Freelance Storyteller at Your School or Library." It's short and sweet but wonderfully complete, answering all these questions and more: What is a storyteller? and Where do I find one? What should I ask before hiring someone? How much do I pay them? Do I need to provide lunch? May I tape the presentations? How do I prepare my space for the event?
Appendix B contains resource lists of addresses and contacts for conference organizers and appropriate organizations. There is also a handy index and an author biography.
The text is organized in logical order. Geisler starts the book with tips to helps storytellers learn how to "Be the Best they Can Be." She continues with discussions of show organization, building a repertoire, setting the stage, getting props, etc.
After this introductory materials, she moves into marketing discussions. There are subsections on selling your craft, establishing Your Niche, getting promotional Materials (stationary, brochures, signs), dealing with The Media, and finding Audiences. And the rules she mentions here are basically the same as those for other types of marketing and publicity, so they make a good primer or review. After that section the author goes back to the material that is of more interest to the professional teller, like getting hired, planning bookings, doing workshops, making tapes, etc. All his is good material, but is of less interest to you as MLS subscriber.
Later in the book, though, there is actually a small section called "telling in libraries" (p. 104). It discusses use of space, working in small areas, and asking a library staff member to stay around during the show to handle restless children or people who start talking too loudly. Then, however, she jumps on our marketing bandwagon, writing "The greatest challenge facing America's libraries (and those of us who wish to perform in them) is a decreasing funding base. Join your local friends of the Library group and help them raise money. Be sure to write letters to your politicians and to get out and vote whenever library funding is an issue. I still give the libraries in my county the best deal in price because I value libraries and their services. " Way to go, Harlynne!
So, if you're looking to hire a storyteller, to become one, or just to do a few programs in your own library, Storytelling Professionally; the Nuts and Bolts of a Working Performer is an invaluable book. Order a copy today.
Kathy Miller, MLS (Marketing Library Services) magazine, June, 1997
Those tellers who are selling their services will want to get their hands on Storytelling Professionally; the Nuts and Bolts of a Working Performer by Harlynne Geisler (Libraries Unlimited, 1997). Drawn from her own experiences as a professional storyteller, Harlynne makes useful suggestions about setting fees, promoting yourself, handling difficult audiences, and much more. She includes good bibliographies for further information on all topics too. This is an excellent tool for the teller who is interested in making a business of story.
Margaret Read MacDonald, In the Wind; Seattle Storytellers' Guild newsletter, Summer, 1997
Harlynne Geisler has drawn from her nearly two decades of and her editing a national storytelling newsletter to write this guide for storytellers. Although the book is directed primarily to those who have dreamed about becoming professional tellers, it is also written for professional tellers who will find themselves nodding in agreement with Geisler 's witty insights and practicality.
Storytelling Professionally is an easy to read, detailed reference divided into four parts and fourteen chapters. Each chapter ends with a list of resources, and, at the end of the book, Appendix A, "Hire the Pros," discusses how to hire and host a storyteller while Appendix B, "Resources," lists booking conventions, performance organizations, and potential clients. Throughout, Geisler includes stories and anecdotes to entertain while she illustrates her points.
The book begins with a definition and discussion of storytelling and how to get started. It moves on to the performance and covers how to build a repertoire, an audience, and how to use voice, props, and other stage devices. This section ends with how to be professional and offers advice on rehearsing, on being "on," and on being on time.
The second part details marketing storytelling (especially to schools and libraries). It emphasizes business cards, stationary, brochures, and in-person promotions. Here, Geisler includes examples of fliers and press releases as models, and she cautions against amateurish brochures and photos. Chapter 6, "Getting Hired," offers valuable information on how to get booked for performances. Geisler suggests that tellers compare themselves with their competition (by viewing the competition), and she offers suggestions for those who think they fall short of the competition. Very sensible advice follows on turning down bookings that are inappropriate for the teller. Details on school bookings (complete with information on school packets, workshops, concerts, and classes) follow.
Part Three, "The Business of Storytelling," is eye opening, even for seasoned tellers. Geisler discusses fees and reprints an article by Chris Holder, "Set Your Fees for...the Decent Buck." Holder points out that fees must cover expenses, health and disability insurance, retirement, and taxes. Contracts are next (they prevent serious performance and payment problems) followed by how to handle video and audio taping requests. A sample contract and a video tape agreement are included. "Organizing Your Time, Your Office, and Your Research" ends this section by examining ways to keep calendars, files, handouts, books, and research organized. This chapter begins with "We all get 24 hours in a day and have our own priorities for how we use that time." In the rest of the chapter, Geisler suggests ways she and other tellers manage their time.
The final section (chapters 12-14), covers how to prevent and solve problems including burnout, being late for a performance, and handling sensitive issues of cultural diversity, male/female stereotyping, and copyrighting.
Storytelling Professionally is a manual, but it is not just a how-to; it offers advice but allows personal decisions. It is a must for those who want to become professional storytellers (it will provide a center), and it is also a must for those who are already professional tellers (they'll say, "Been there, done that," but they'll also say, "I wish I'd done that)."
Joy Pennington, Tale Trader newsletter, May 1997
Harlynne Geisler: Storytelling Professionally; the Nuts and Bolts of a Working Performer [Libraries Unlimited] is now available. It is the most complete manual for the professional storyteller I have seen to date, from how [and why] you get started to handling regular and irregular problems that are bound to come up.
Kate Frankel, Storyline; Publication of The Storytelling Association of Alta California. Summer, 1997
Table of Contents of Storytelling Professionally
Description of Storytelling Professionally
ORDERING INFORMATION for Storytelling Professionally
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