Simon on Storytelling

Jenny made telling stories feel like an easy and natural extension of conversation. Sat in a circle, she quietly shared with us some experiences and thoughts about storytelling, with a perpetual focus on openness and finding what works for each teller and telling.

She told us stories, with moments that still stay with me, as she embodied the fear and hope of her figures. And then, alarmingly, she asked us to do the same: what seemed so natural to her, she asked us to do. The first stories we told, we told in pairs: weirdly, I still feel a bond with the person I spoke to as we sat on the floor, cross-legged like five year olds, struggling for words. I was taught to be a teacher more than ten years ago, and this had the same sense of crushing embarrassment, pushing through the pain.

But, based on what we had seen and what Jenny had said, there were little moments ‘where every word was at home, / taking its place to support the others, / the word neither diffident nor ostentatious, / an easy commerce of the old and the new.’ And then at those moments, it felt like telling stories might just be something natural and real: I felt free: like the moment when Harry first rides a broomstick in The Philosopher’s Stone, it ‘was easy; it was fun’.

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