Tel: 07796 296387
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Prepping for a storytelling cabaret
at Beyond the Border 2014
"I loved the skilful way you teased "the
storyteller within" out to be released
on the Great British Public!"
"Feeling on top of the world after a day's advanced storytelling with Sophie Snell.
I am looking forward to telling my stories
at the library - I can hardly wait to
"I like the imagery of the "dominos" of
the story falling down as each part of
the story was told. I had a terrific day
and ended up with a new interest."
Feedback from participants of Only
Words Aloud and More Words Aloud
workshops, summer and autumn 2012.
Pete Davis 1950 - 2014
"Absolutely fab! Thank you for such
vivid and amusing stories. Food
for the soul."
"My friends saw your show at Whittlesey
yesterday and were blown away! They
were full of praise for you!"
Straw Bear Festival, January 2013.
"We really can't tell you how much we
enjoyed your storytelling. We can't be
the first to congratulate you on your
amazing talent, but it really takes
someone very special to hold the
of 60 odd Morris dancers
musicians, most of whom had drunk
more than was good for them. We
dine out on those pauses, when you
every one of us in the palm of your
hand and you could have heard a pin
drop. Unheard of in Morris circles!"
Ken & Kathy Trimmer, participants
Ravenglass Folk Meet, Cumbria,
This is my page of news to keep you in touch with what I am up to. It is really helpful to have any comments or suggestions on the work I do and I welcome any enquiries or commissions. So please email me at: email@example.com or Tel 01332 840007.
The last year has been a funny old year - with some ups and some downs. The big "up" was the completion of my first full-length work of fiction, The Raven Stones. The "down" was the loss of a good friend and storytelling colleague to cancer.
I guess the most exciting thing for me has been the completion of the book. It has dominated my life for the last year and is tentatively called "The Raven Stones" - a fantasy novel for young adults. So where you see in my diary a reference to the "Stones Project" - that was where I snuck off for a week or so at various critical points to go hide in the wilds somewhere and crack on with the book. It's hard sometimes to find a block of time to just concentrate on a project like that whilst juggling performances, school bookings and family life (three growing boys - say no more!).
I have written a lot over the years - short stories, poems, reports, research documents etc, as well as developing the traditional storytelling repertoire and shows which I perform. But writing and "telling" are two quite different things, as I often have to explain when people ask me if I "read" when I am storytelling. As a storytelller I don't work off scripts or make it up as I go along, or read from a book - I "tell" using the traditional techniques of oral storytelling - telling fairy tales and folk tales, myths and legends - well-honed, highly visual tales handed down by word of mouth. Developing that repertoire inevitably involves a lot of research, thinking, constructing, reviewing and trying stuff out (and re-thinking). So turning to writing has been - not something new - but certainly a variation on what I do, and the book was a long held ambition. The first draft is finished - well it's on about draft 4 by now - but it's feels complete - and so I face the long haul of agent submissions, or considering self-publishing - or the shelf. We'll see. It is all very exciting. Having experienced a bit of reader feedback through the response to my audio book CD's (see Shop), I am hopeful - you have to be!
What is the book about? Well raven stones are the calcified eyeballs eaten by ravens feasting upon a hanged body. But they were also believed to be magical thieves lights, and the catalyst for a curse, triggered when the stones fall into your lap. This bit of folklore inspired all sorts of ideas, and Grip, Sam and Eadie were born - three characters whose complicated lives form a triangle of choice, consequence and revenge, entangled with the Rift Machine, a strange phenomenon that dominates a divided world. "Open lock, to the dead man's knock." The book is infused with local folklore, references to balladry and myths, as I guess you'd expect from a storyteller, but there's a wonderful mischief character embedded in the whole thing and I had great fun teasing the strands together and weaving one hook into the next. There's a second book blossoming in my head already, much to my middle son's delight...
One of the outcomes of all this is that I am now offering specific creative writing workshops to schools, based around my experience of writing The Raven Stones. How to conceive and develop ideas, playing with structure, perspective and character, language play, style, finding your "voice", combined with the performance of one of the folktales I used and illustrative readings from the book itself. I have already done a few of these workshops in schools and it is going down a treat. If you are interested, do please get in touch (but bear in mind the book isn't available to buy yet - working on that!).
In the last year I have also been developing my storytelling training workshops, Only Words Aloud (beginners) and More Words Aloud (improvers). These are one-day workshops, usually held at my home, for a small group, developing their storytelling, presentation and spoken word skills. I have had some lovely groups, who often progress from OWA to MWA and start telling at the club I run, and it has been a delight to make new friends and watch their confidence grow. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing both young and old find their voice.
I do seek out training for myself too - and this year I was very lucky to get to train with Abbi Patrix, who runs the Compagnie du Cercle in Paris. It was an amazing week, looking at the stagecraft of the storyteller and working with others (something relatively unsual since storytellers are necessarily lonely birds!). It was followed by a fantastic weekend at Beyond the Border watching some very innovative approaches to tradtional storytelling and working with music. Lots to think about, and very pertinent to me at the moment as in the last year I have been working a lot on combining song and story.
But the year has brought sadness too - with the loss of my good friend and storytelling colleague, Pete Davis. Pete ran the Storytellers of Nottingham for many years - and in fact allowed me to tell my first hesitant story in public (at the Trip to Jerusalem pub in Nottingham). Pete was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about a year ago, and we all thought he would defy the doctors prognosis, he was such a fit and energetic man - and a wonderful comedic storyteller. But last month he took a sudden turn for the worse and after a short spell back in hospital, he died on 4th August. Pete was an inspiration to many, generous, funny and warm-hearted. He will be very much missed.
One of the consequences of this is that just before he died, Pete asked me to take over the care of what was the Storytellers of Nottingham. The club itself was going to fold, so another good storytelling friend, Mel Bhavsar and I decided to combine it with our existing Derby club (the Flying Donkeys) and create a new club that will host events at both Derby and Nottingham - Tales from Two Cities. We will run monthly on the 4th wednesday of each month, alternating between the Voicebox in Derby and the Lord Roberts pub in Hockley in Nottingham. More info is on our new website: www.talesfromtwocities.co.uk.
Another new venture last September was the creation of Hill Top Tales - a small-scale storytelling festival on the Derbyshire / Staffordshire borders. It was a tempting combination of storytelling workshops, jamming, stories round the fire and scrumptious afternoon tea all set in a glorious private campsite alongside a wildflower meadow - all my favourite things! We had a fantastic weekend and I am looking forward very much to hosting another one hopefully next September. To follow our plans do please sign up to our Hill Top Tales Facebook page.
As autumn approaches (hard to imagine as I type in such warm sunshine), there is much to look forward to. I have a flurry of events at Halloween, as ever, including the very popular storywalks in Allestree Park. Last year, after missing a year, we had an overwhelming response, so this year I am running several different slots so we can have smaller groups, to make it easier to manage. Shortly before I will be running a taster workshop on storytelling for the Lyric Lounge at the Nottingham Contemporary on Thurs 16th October. This is followed by a day of stories in a special marquee on the market square in Nottingham on Sunday 19th October as part of Nottingham's Festival of Words, to include 2 performances from myself but also open slots and storytelling games for anyone who wants to have a go.
Another job I am looking forward to is the commissioning of stories relating to World War I as experienced by animals. This is part of a wider heritage project and will include a visit to a primary school to deliver the stories and use them as a spring board for creative writing. Having already started to research ideas I realise there are so many moving real life tales of animals at war - from carrier pigeons, dogs and horses to donkeys, camels and even an elephant. We decided it was a great way to access the realities of war for younger children,without all the heavy statistics and brutal facts, and it is lovely to be commissioned to prepare new stories like this.
I have been doing quite a few social groups this year - the U3A, arts, health and church groups, elderly groups, the WI and other organisations that like to have guest speakers and something a bit different. I always love doing this kind of gig so do please get in touch, it's a real pleasure to meet everyone and entertain.
Bookings are already coming in for National Storytelling Week (beginning 31st January 2015) and the week of World Book Day (Thurs 5th March 2015) which is very popular with schools. My storytelling bell tent is proving a hit too and if you would like to host an event with that, again do ring. It's 5m in diameter, so bear in mind it needs a bit of room for the guide ropes and has to be on grass. It makes an excellent, intimate and cosy space for listening to stories and families love it at festivals or parks and the like. It's a two man/woman job putting it up though, so typically my husband, Rob comes too - handy though as he can then accompany me on the guitar.
Finally just to add (as I do get asked) I really do travel all over the place. Over the last year I have worked in Norfolk, Dorset, Oxfordshire, London, Devon, as well as most of the counties north of Watford Gap. As long as I can physically get there, that's my job - it's the fate of an itinerant storyteller to go whereever the stories take me - and half the fun too!
Do sign up for my Facebook page - Increasingly I use this to post upcoming dates and workshops, photographs and news, as well as other interesting snippets and links related to storytelling, writing and crafting a story.
Sophie Snell Storyteller on Facebook.