During this interview with the ‘Voices of the Future Storytelling’ club teacher, Mrs. Debra Weller, I learned a lot about how she began a storytelling club. We met for this interview after a storytelling club meeting at Bathgate Elementary School.
ME: How and when did you become interested in becoming a professional storyteller?
MRS. WELLER: It started when I was a girl, and I got sent to my room when I was naughty. I would start making up stories with my dolls. When I was 14, I started teaching a class at my church for fourth graders, and I used stories to teach them. Finally when I was 26 years old- I had just given birth to my daughter- I met another woman who was going to take care of my daughter. She said, ‘You know, there may be something we can do together, because we want to stay home with our babies.’ We formed the Annie-Lynn Storytellers, and we performed for six years together.
ME: You wouldn’t be doing storytelling for so long if it didn’t benefit you. What benefit do you get from storytelling?
MRS. WELLER: I like using my music and telling serious stories. I like to teach adults how to be storytellers as well as children.The benefits for me are bringing a wholesome way of introducing many beautiful stories from around the world.
ME: Where did the tradition of Storytelling come from?
MRS. WELLER: It’s actually an ancient tradition. It started in many cultures probably 3,000 years ago. In the Kelti times, Shankes went from Irish village to village telling tales. In the Native American culture, Proquastraries explained things that happened in nature. Chinese, Indian, Japanese, South American, Africa, and the Medieval storytellers were quite active throughout the world.
ME: Are folk tales a more traditional type of story than any other type?
MRS. WELLER: Folk stories are probably the most traditional type of story to tell, because you don’t have to worry about copyright. They’re taken from the ancient traditions, like the Aesop’s Fables that have been around for 6,000 years.
ME: What do you think motivates kids to tell stories?
MRS. WELLER: Well, what I hope motivates them is to have fun. I hope they see it as a fun use of their imagination, and it helps them discover confidence to stand up in front of a crowd and continue to do that for the rest of their lives.
ME: I understand you enjoy helping other teachers with storytelling and teaching. How did your interest in that start?
MRS. WELLER: Well, I kind of think of it as a spiritual thing. If you are blessed with something, you should share it with other people. And I have found that I have been given a lot of talents I want to share with other people- both children and adults- and they can discover that they might have a talent, as well.
ME: What advice do you have in regard to public speaking if someone lacks talent in it?
MRS. WELLER: The most important thing you need to know is their success in the business world requires them to be a public speaker. And if you cannot communicate clearly, you will not be successful in your career.
ME: Is there a role model that you look up to for inspiration, or do you take inspiration from yourself to teach kids?
MRS. WELLER: I have some friends who do it, but I think that was just my calling in life. To teach and story tell, by watching them or by going to conferences with other storytellers, I want to learn all of the time.
ME: What is your vision for the future of storytelling?
MRS. WELLER: The future of storytelling, whether it’s the national storytelling network or the tradition, I hope that as the world gets crazier and crazier with computers that there still will be time to make eye contact, to speak to someone, and to actually hear a live person on stage telling a story.
-Maya S., 6th grade