Friday, July 3, 2009

Story Café - The Stories Keep Percolating!

In January of 2009 I wrote a post about my new adventure, the Story Cafe. Recently, I was asked to contribute an article about the venue to the summer issue of the National Storytelling Magazine. They also asked other tellers to share their storytelling outreach work as well. There is great work being done around the globe!

If you do not receive the magazine, and would like a copy, go to . The magazine is one of the great perks of membership in the National Storytelling Network.

Since space constraints in the magazine did not allow room for my entire article, I offer it below.

Almost a century ago, my grandfather stood under the graceful brick archways that adorned the main room of the Mason Guild in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He arrived from Ireland carrying a mason’s trowel and went to work building the textile mills that revitalized the city as it transitioned from the whaling industry. Life has an odd way of bringing you back full circle. Now his granddaughter stands under those same brick archways as she introduces storytelling to a brand new audience each month.

The building is now home to ArtWorks, an eclectic art gallery that also houses classrooms, a ceramic studio and teen arts center. Their goal is to “create an accessible environment which promotes participation in the arts…” Through the years, I attended art openings there and always marveled at the archways adorning the space – a silent homage to the structures past life. I thought the gallery would be a spectacular space for storytelling.

Last summer, through a business contact, I was introduced to Irene Buck, the director of ArtWorks. She confessed she loved storytelling and as our conversation progressed, the Story Café was born. The space is superbly conducive to storytelling, quiet, intimate, yet large enough to accommodate the audience. In December of 2008 the series premiered and has continued every month. Following an 'open mic,' we present a featured storyteller for one hour.

In January, the Story Café was front page news in the events section of the city paper and our attendance surged! We have been honored to host nationally known storytellers who are diverse in their telling styles, offering the audiences a tasty assortment of stories and techniques. During the ‘open mic’ session others are stepping up to the microphone for the first time in their lives, finding their voices as well.

Consistent public relations and effective networking has kept our audiences returning. They bring friends and family members, exposing new listeners to storytelling. It takes work to keep the event in the public eye and we utilize an assortment of marketing tools to spread the word. In our area there are online calendars where you may post events for free. There is also a university campus close by and we use their network, as well as listservs, press releases and ArtWorks’ emailing list. The key is to get the word out early and often!

We are already scheduling our programs for 2010. If you live in New England or plan to visit, please join us and share your voice!

Below you will find some pictures of our performers from December 2008 - June 2009. My sincerest thanks to all who took a leap of faith and joined us on this new journey!

Michael Anderson, storyteller and First Amendment lawyer who kicked off the Story Cafe in style in December of 2008! Thank you Michael!

January brought us the colorful stylings of Bob Reiser and Red Diaper Baby Blues! The audience was with him from beginning to end as we went Up, Up and Away!

We were warmed by the stories of teller Meg Gilman
in February who shared her adapted folktales, including her very funny New Hampshire version of The Man With No Story. Not to be missed!

March brought Norah Dooley to grace our stage, sharing Irish folktales to put us in fine spirits for St. Patrick's Day!

We proved we were no fools in April by inviting the always entertaining and energetic, Tony "you never know what he is going to say" Toledo!

May brought us the 'fall of your chair' true stories from Andrea "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Lovett!

June gave us the incredibly multi-talented Bill Harley, fresh off of his second Grammy win! Bill was trying out some brand new stories, fine tuning them for the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN this October. His show, Risk Is Not For Lovers brought the house down! The local newspaper offered us front page coverage on Bill's show in the Arts and Entertainment section, for which we were very grateful, but Bill's name alone carries enough cache to fill the room...and he did!

All of our talented tellers have been a delight to work with and have brought the audience stories to fill their hearts and minds, and of course, much laughter along the way. And we surely need more laughter in the world! I invite you to join us for one or more of our upcoming Story Cafe evenings at ArtWorks in New Bedford, MA. Certainly, if you are a lover of story you won't be disappointed with the array of talent coming our way.

Our upcoming shows:

July 18, 2009 - Regi Carpenter
August 8, 2009 - Lani Peterson
September 26, 2009 - Simon Brooks
October 17, 2009 - Carolyn Martino
November 7, 2009 - Michael Anderson (encore!) Michael will perform at ArtWorks "Off the Wall Ball" instead of the usual Story Cafe. Tickets will be required for this event.
December - No Story Cafe
January 2, 2010 - Jackson Gillman
February 13, 2010 - Leeny Del Seamonds
March 6, 2010 - Marni Gillard

You can even sign up for your own ten minute turn at the mic with song, story, music or poetry. If that doesn't suit you, then pull up a chair, turn down the cacophony of noise life bombards us with every day and turn up your imagination! It will be an evening you won't forget.

TIME: 7:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M. (Open mic from 7:00 - 7:45. Feature begins at 8:00 P.M.)
LOCATION: Artworks, 384 Acushnet Avenue, New Bedford, MA
ADMISSION: FREE (pass the hat for the featured performer)
AUDIENCE: 18 and older
Come to New Bedford early and explore downtown or enjoy dinner before the show. For information on historic New Bedford go to:

Coffee photo courtesy of:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reach for the Stars!

The Summer Reading Program theme for the 2009 Massachusetts Library System is Spaceship Adventure. While putting my Reach for the Stars storytelling program together to complement the theme, I decided to rewrite a well-known story stretch.

If you are not familiar with the term it is a call and response chant, usually used about halfway through a storytelling program to get the children up, and the wiggles out!

Get everyone up on their feet and tell them they will repeat the words, and the actions, after you. Keep adding the actions, don't stop the previous ones until everyone looks pretty silly and is laughing. You are welcome to use it in your programs, please just give me attribution. Have fun!

My Aunt Came Back From the Milky Way

Karen Chace © 2009

My aunt came back from Milky Way and brought to me some drums to play. (Drum with the one hand.)

My aunt came back from Jupiter and brought to me some soup to stir. (Stir with the other hand.)

My aunt came back from Saturn’s rings and brought to me some bells to ring (Rock your body front to back as if you are a  ringing bell.)

My aunt came back from the planet Mars and brought to a real fast car! (Move side to side as if you were going around corners a bit too fast.)

My aunt came back from the hot bright Sun and brought to me some bubblegum. (Begin to chew in a VERY exaggerated and noisy manner.)

My aunt came back from the shining Moon and said to me this song is doomed! (Say this last line with silly gusto!)

Karen Chace 2009 ©
This blog post was researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at Of course, if you wish to link to my blog via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Business Side of Storytelling

Running your own business can be liberating but it can also resemble running through a maze, constantly trying to catch up, find your way, peek over the next short, being your own boss can be exhausting!

Storytelling is magical, yet the work can be extremely solitary when we are out of the 'spotlight.' Taking care of your own business requires long hours and is very different than working for a boss who has control over everything, both good and bad.

I came across this article by Will Spencer. While it seems to be written primarily about businesses that are unreleated to those of us in the genre of performance art, his words are wise and can easily be applied to our passion as well.

by Will Spencer

1. Humility

Every morning say this affirmation to yourself: "I am a complete idiot. I am a complete idiot. I am a complete idiot." The learning process can only take place by first accepting that you do not know.

2. Study Like You Have Never Studied Before
There is an enormous amount of literature in the field of business. Read it. Read lots of it. 90% of it is complete tripe. Read it anyway. Sifting through the bad is the price you pay for the 10% that makes the effort worthwhile.

3. Listen Twice as Much as You Talk
Everyone you run into will have some piece of the puzzle you are trying to solve. Some will have big pieces, some will have small pieces. You need all the pieces to finish the puzzle.

4. There Is A Reason Major Corporations Have A Board of Directors
GE and IBM are run by very smart people. Those people maintain the Board of Directors as a council of trusted advisors. Maintain your own council of trusted advisors. On important decisions, never ever listen to just one advisor. Listen to as many trusted advisors as will speak with you. Pick your trusted advisors carefully, and then evaluate everything they say carefully. No one is right so often that their input should not be carefully analyzed.

5. If Your Advisors Are Agreeing With You; Get New Advisors
Yes men don't add value; Get rid of them. Advisors don't have to argue with you constantly -- but they should add content that you have not considered to 90% of the discussions you engage in. If not, get new trusted advisors.

6. All Good Business Deals Are Win-Win
If you approach a business deal thinking "How can I get over on this guy?" you will never ever succeed in business. You may make one or two deals, but you will never succeed in the long term. Business success is built upon successful relationships. Successful relationships are built upon trust and openness. If you make it your task to ensure that you succeed, you will fail. If you make it your task to ensure that your clients and partners succeed, they will make it their take to ensure that you succeed. If your clients and partners do not reciprocate -- get new clients and partners. Do not hesitate; These are not the people you want to surround yourself with.

Before getting involved in a deal, define each entity involved in the deal. Define what they put into the deal and what they get out of the deal. If you can not define, for every entity involved, how they are getting out more than they are putting in - keep working the deal until you can. If any single entity in the deal is putting in more than they are getting out -- they may choose to withdraw from the deal at any time. Where is your deal now?

7. Honesty Hurts
The kind of honesty that really hurts is when you have to seriously injure someone's ego -- someone you care about. This is the burden of being in-charge, telling people you love that they are full of shit. Learn to deal with the pain.

8. Greed Is A Success Killer
Before entering into a business deal, always remember the saying "You can't cheat an honest man." If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The way people get you involved in bad deals is by promising you the earth and the sky. Avoid those people like the plague.

9. Good Deals Are Simple

Examine every deal before you enter into it. Do you understand the deal? If not, run like hell. Complex deals are less stable than simple deals. Do not wager your future on a house of cards.

10. Be Prepared To Work Hard
The people who think "I will be in charge and I will make everyone else work and I will slack off" will never ever succeed. Study after study shows that executives put in more hours than any other category of employee. If you manage five people, you are the steward for the careers of five people. If you manage fifty people, you are the steward for the careers of fifty people. You are responsible for very important things - slacking is unacceptable. When you hear the term "manager" or "boss", mentally convert that into "servant" before digesting it. That will give you a much truer picture of reality.

By Jessie Wilcox-Smith
Like Jack's beanstalk we are always growing. To help my own business expand, in November of 2008 I began publishing a monthly, online newsletter for storytellers, teachers and librarians. There are story sites, lesson plans, crafts, etc., and of course, sites to help your business grow! I have compiled those business sites below, along with my written synopses. You may download the full newsletter issues here, which offer other resources on storytelling and education for free here:

3 Types of Marketing to Make Your Business Grow - Effective “attraction tactics” to help your business soar!

3 Things to Never Do With Your Social Networking Profile
by Michele Pariza Wacek - "I'm sure you've heard of it. You might even be doing it. But the real question is, are you doing it right?"

12 Ways to Attract Clients with Your Business Card – by Bill Lampton, Ph.D. Twelve ways to assure that prospects will read your card, and will become more likely to do business with you.

Business Know-How-10 Ways to Make your Flyer Stand Out in the Crowd

Business Blogging Benefits and Risks – “Some experts say that Twitter is replacing blogs, but …there are many blog functions that Tweets can’t perform – such as any kind of meaningful discussion about anything.”

How to Become Fearless Business Owners in Uncertain Times. Seven great tips from author Robin Fisher-Roffer.

Karen’s Whimsy- Add some interest and excitement to your brochures, publicity flyers, or website with these beautiful public domain selections of clip art.

Seven Tax Tips for Businesses and the Self Employed

Six Advantages to Virtual Trade Shows by Susan A.Friedmann, CSP - "A virtual trade show is a cross between a webcast meeting and a video game. And it's the next big trend in trade shows. Although a mere 1% of all trade shows are now held online, industry experts expect that by 2015, more than 25% of trade shows will be conducted in virtual environments. That's a market you can't afford to ignore."

Slideshare - Upload your presentations and share them with others. There are thousands of presentations to download, and edit for your use.

Ten Ways to Make Your Flyer Stand Out In a Crowd - ´ A flyer is an inexpensive and highly effective way to grab attention in a very busy marketplace. How do you make your flyer stand out in the crowd? Here are some techniques that professional designers use to make flyers "pop." - Please visit my Business of Storytelling page at my website for many more links to help your business grow!

If you wish to use any of the above sites from my newsletter, and accompanying synopses, please contact me for permission at

The maze picture at the beginning of the blog is courtesy of: