I write a bunch of different things, in a bunch of different styles: sketch comedy, articles for business magazines, interviews etc. But my favorite thing is writing about my own life either in essays or as stories I tell on stage.
I love to talk about storytelling! I think it’s an incredibly powerful art form and a skill that can make positive social change, improve relationships, empower people and so much more. I’ve seen people tell stories that made people who saw each other as enemies begin to connect in a way neither side thought possible. It’s like magic, and I get to experience it all the time. Pretty amazing, right?
I also love to listen about storytelling. One of my favorite things is hearing people’s personal stories, it’s often the best way to get to know people.
What I don’t super love is the reaction that I get from a lot of people when I talk about storytelling.
- It’s an easy mistake to make, but I don’t write stories for children. There are a lot of people who do that and do an AMAZING job. However, I don’t, and automatically assuming that’s the work I do makes things feel a bit weird. Also, people who write children’s books don’t have a “cute job”. They work hard and create amazing (and, okay, sometimes crappy) work. It is weird to have to both explain what I do and also semi-lecture people when they express relief that I don’t write for kids. It’s a long convo and takes both of us away from the best part of a party: filling up on the cheese tray.
- Please don’t say that I “must be such a narcissist”.
- No, seriously, don’t do that. People think that they are being fun, but it turns into this weird black hole in the conversation where they realize that they insinuated that a stranger is abusive and it makes things so awkward that they find themselves blurting out strange truths just to take the edge off. How awkward? Let’s just say I’ve found out about several people’s past affairs within 5-10 minutes of meeting them (so, like, really awkward).
Here are some things I would love to hear:
- Where can I see you tell a story?
Literally every performer is THRILLED to hear this. Even if you are never going to actually come to a show (I get it shows involve leaving the house, and home is where my pyjamas live) just pretend, and suddenly even the most awkward conversation is back on track.
- Who is your favorite storyteller and why?
Oh buddy, I can talk about stories AND introduce you to an artist you’re going to love? That warms my nerdy little heart
Also, I want to ask YOU questions.
I can’t speak for everyone that does what I do, but I LOVE asking people questions. People are fascinating and often questions lead people to share a really interesting (or weird, or both) anecdote or story and that is the BEST!
I don’t know if it’s a Toronto thing, but I find people get very suspicious of questions that aren’t “what’s your job”. Maybe they are just shy, but also it seems that people are worried that I am making fun of them somehow.
I hate the thought of people feeling uncomfortable. But also, you know what makes for the boring small talk everyone hates? Not asking questions! Just asking about someone’s job is boring. Try other questions, like my friend Marsha Shandur’s amazing suggestion of asking “what’s your favorite thing you did today”. I’ll ask you something, you’ll ask me something, we’ll start telling each other stories, it’ll be fun (or at least, not terrible).
Listen, we both put on pants and decided to do something social. Let’s figure out how to have a good time (hint: asking interesting questions and not saying someone is a narcissist is more likely to result in fun times).
Now point me in the direction of that cheese tray!
Erin Rodgers is a storyteller, writer, and lover of cat videos. You can check out her bi-monthly show at the Social Capital Theatre the second Tuesday of every other month. Find out more and read interviews with storytellers from around the world at storystarshow.com!