The Art of Storytelling
Storytelling has been around since the beginning of our existence. In ancient days, you huddled around a twig-fed fire, telling stories of a recent hunt to the people gathered around you. You told stories to your children to calm their fears while wild animals howled outside. These stories of heroic events and tales filled with magic and mystery commanded the respect of your clan.
No one really knows when the first story was told, but the best stories—the truly epic tales—were passed down from one generation to the next, and were eventually recorded on clay tablets, papyrus, and paper as gifts from our ancestors. For writers, storytelling is just as important to us now as it was in ancient times, although the stories have changed. Today’s stories reflect what’s going on in modern society and how open we’ve become to talking about issues that were previously taboo. Now we have books about multicultural issues, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and GLBT issues. We have stories written by people outside of their gender and ethnicity. We write stories to attract publicity, and we tell stories that captivate an audience of book lovers. These are just some of the stories and storytelling methods you’ll learn in this issue.
I’m always fascinated by how all the components in an issue come together to create one cohesive thread. It really reflects the current pulse of writers on a certain topic. When we put out the call for articles on storytelling, I thought we were going to get pitches on the craft of writing fiction, but it turned out to be something much more enthralling. This issue will open you up to new ways of thinking about the power and purpose of story.
A big, warm thank you goes to our freelancers and staff members:
We welcome back Kathy Higgs-Coulthard and thank her for her interview with literary agent Regina Brooks of Serendipity Literary Agency LLC. This lively discussion is a great introduction to the issue because these two ladies seem to cover many of the topics we explore in The Art of Storytelling! Kathy caught up with Regina over a cup of tea at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ 2012 winter conference to discuss storytelling in young adult literature and memoir. They discuss writing cross-culturally; how the topics, theme, and content are different than the books we read as young people; and so much more. Regina is also the current guest judge for our Spring Flash Fiction Contest; so if you’re considering entering, be sure to check out this interview to find out what makes her tick!
So, what if you want to write about a character from a culture outside your own—such as a Korean heroine from another era or a young Afghan protagonist in the throes of war? We welcome back BJ Marshall and thank her for her fantastic feature article, When Worlds Collide: An Outsider’s Guide to Writing Multicultural Fiction. BJ chats with five incredible authors, editors, and agents who share their best tips on creating multicultural characters that capture the hearts of readers. A big thank you also goes to her guests: literary agent Elise Capron, editor Marilyn Brigham, and authors Gayle Brandeis, Caren McNelly McCormack, and Lisa See.
And that’s not all! When conducting interviews for this article, BJ received an exclusive with an author/editor duo that she couldn’t bear to break up. We’re proud to present you with, Words in the Dust: A Case Study in Writing Multicultural Fiction with Author Trent Reedy and Editor Cheryl Klein. Before Trent Reedy finished his tour of duty in Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Army, he made a promise to a young Afghan girl to tell her story. Trent, a white man from Iowa, writes in first-person as a thirteen-year-old girl; and Cheryl, an editor at Scholastic, tells us what attracted her to Trent’s story and what made his manuscript stand out. She also shares what other writers can do to bring authentic multicultural characters to life.
If you’re interested in writing multicultural fiction, don’t miss this two-part feature!
What happens when you’ve taken the time to create well-rounded characters and a vibrant setting, but readers still fail to connect with your story? What have you done wrong? You probably forgot to build a bridge. We welcome back Sue Bradford Edwards and thank her for her eye-opening article, Build the Bridges that Let Readers Access Your Story. Sue shows you how to figure out what you’re missing in your story and how to fix character and setting problems that will help your reader span the gap.
When I asked WOW’s editor, Margo L. Dill, to write an article on historical fiction, I had no idea that several of the experts in the issue would point to historical fiction as a storytelling method for use in other genres. In It’s Not Easy Being a Historical Fiction Writer: Experts’ Insight Into the Genre, Margo interviews five ladies, who have all succeeded in the genre from middle grade to adult, about what it’s like to write these novels, how much research it takes, finding your voice, and some of the challenges unique to this genre. A big thank you goes to her expert authors: Darci Hannah, Adrienne Sharp, Karen Kondazian, Beverly Patt, and Clara Gillow Clark.
Good storytelling isn’t just limited to fiction writing. Memoir writers have an even bigger challenge spinning their true tales into compelling stories. And if they’re writing about personal subject matter—such as alcoholism, homosexuality, or eating disorders—it can be even tougher finding the universal experience that connects reader with storyteller. A big thank you goes to WOW! columnist Chynna Laird for her feature, Talking Taboo with Style in Memoir Writing. She interviews four authors—Michelle O’Neil, Jill Talbot, Lisa Vaughn, and Nicole Johns—who share their best tips on how to talk about those taboo subjects while still telling an engaging story that will make you laugh, cry, and cheer.
What about telling the short, short story? Just because the word count is small doesn’t mean the story should suffer. There is definitely an art to flash fiction storytelling. We welcome back Suzanne Kamata and thank her for her article, Not a Flash in the Pan: Flash Fiction Storytelling. Suzanne talks to four experts, including literary agent Andrea Hurst, Tara Masih, Stefanie Freele, and Meg Pokrass, to find out what’s happening in the world of flash fiction. These ladies share some tips for writing award-winning flash, as well as a bunch of must-read flash collections to add to your library!
One thing that hasn’t changed since ancient times is the love of listening to a good story. It doesn’t matter if the story is told around a crackling fire or in a large auditorium—the ability to spin a good yarn is a gift in itself. A blessed few are born with this gift, while most have to learn how to master it. A big thank you goes to Cathy C. Hall for her insightful and entertaining article, Falling for the Storyteller: Tips for Public Speaking. Cathy admits that when authors come to town, telling their stories, she’s buying their books. If you’re a writer, chances are, someday you’ll be standing with your book in hand before a crowd. Learn how to get your crowd to swoon and sell books, too! Thanks to authors Sally Apokedak, Elizabeth Dulemba, Janice Hardy, Donny Seagraves, and Jo Kittinger for their advice!
If you’re an author looking to promote her book, you know the old methods don’t work anymore—things like talking about your book and the content of the story. Ho-hum. It seems like everyone has a book these days, so how can you stand apart from the pack? Tell a compelling personal story that captures an audience’s attention—whether it’s in an interview, blog post, speaking engagement, TV spot, or mingling at a book signing. But what kinds of stories should you be telling? A big thank you goes to Darcy Pattison for this issue’s How2 column, How to Tell Stories that Draw Publicity. Darcy shares six types of stories you can tell to garner media attention and provides you with personal story examples!
Are you ready for some inspiration? We have a very special treat for you! WOW! columnist LuAnn Schindler interviews Kate White, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and author of the Bailey Weggins mystery series. Kate may not have an S on her favorite blue shirt, but this modern-day Superwoman has found the magic formula for balancing life as a mother, editor, and writer of both fiction and nonfiction books. She shares the story of how she worked her way up in the magazine industry—from Glamour to Cosmo—and what it’s like to be at the helm. She talks about her latest book in the Bailey Weggins series, So Pretty It Hurts, and shares her best writing tips, otherwise known as her “writer’s cocktail.” She is amazing!
And last, but certainly not least, I’d like to thank WOW’s editor, Margo L. Dill, for making this issue a joy to read!
So, go on already, tell your stories. We’re listening!