The end is in sight.

These last weeks have been insanely busy.

But of all the days I was dreading, today topped the list.

I had to shoot my storytelling DVD’s today.

My anxiety levels have gone through the roof!

It was SO outside my comfort zone–it aint funny!

But alhamdu lillah, it’s done.

Two storytelling DVD’s filmed at a small inner city school with a variety of children from the ages of seven to about eleven years of age.

The seven to eight year olds were remarkable. So excited! I guess because they were missing out on school! And oh, how they eyed the fruit snacks and juice drinks we’d bought them.

I prepared the children by psyching them up, just before lunch while the film crew took out-take shots.

The kids had probably never seen video production equipment before.

All the cameras and wires and sound equipment were quite intimidating.

The little ones kept glancing at the boom mic.

It’s funny how quickly you can get used to all that stuff.

I’ve been on T.V. I think about twelve to fifteen times–I’ve lost count. I’ve become adept at clipping the mic pack to my wasteband and threading the wire in through my clothes.

My biggest fear is sounding natural and not stuttering while I’m storytelling.

That involves taking deep breaths and ironically, pausing!

One of the most obvious signs of an amateur storyteller is the use of the ‘um’.

People use ‘um’ as a place holder. It basically signifies to the listener that you’re not done speaking. At least that’s what it probably started out as.

Listen carefully to politicians speak, and you’ll often hear it so constantly that it comes across as a verbal tick.

I might be giving away trade secrets here, but what the heck. It’s very important, when speaking, to edit your words as you would edit them when writing.

It’s the sign of a true storyteller.

Never say ‘um’.

You’d never write it for goodness sakes!

So don’t say it!

Instead of saying ‘um’ pause, collect your thoughts, and say what you mean to say instead. You don’t need to ‘hold’ your place. You’ve got the floor!

Speak clearly, enunciate, and make sure you vary the tone of your voice to heighten the tension, to punctuate the emotion of the story, just as you’d vary your syntax to create ambience in your writing.

I even change the character of my voice to reflect the character of the person in the folktale who is speaking: ie a dopey voice for the criminal who’s going to be judged before Khan Bolotbek in my version of the Kirgyz folktale The Clever Wife. And I put on the facial expression that the dopey character would use while he’s talking!

(Hence no botox! You can’t look like a Stepford wife and be an effective storyteller at the same time! Not that I’d use botox anyway, but hey, this is an added incentive.)

Proper storytelling involves the voice, the hands, and definitely facial expressions!

It’s a multi-pronged approach to an ancient art and done properly it can compete even today with any video game in terms of intensity of enjoyment.

You know how you can tell if you’ve done well?

It’s not just by the level of applause you receive.

The best testament of how well you’ve told your story is how stiff your young audience is at the end of the session because they’ve forgotten to move!

Mwa ha ha!

The power of holding an audience immobile! It tingles through your veins!

Out of both the audiences, I think it was the second group that was the most stiff. The 9-11 year olds!

One of the cameramen said he was surprised at how still they sat considering how hot and muggy the room was!

It was the MOST DIFFICULT storytelling session I’ve EVER performed!

But alhamdu lillah it’s done. I did it.

I’m exhausted, but I did it.

And now the DVD is out of my hands, and into the hands of the producer who’ll work his post-production skullduggery on it!

I’ve seen lots of storytelling videos on youtube, and they are universally horrible.

Somehow the power of storytelling does not translate well to the video screen.

I know I wouldn’t buy those youtube videos!

But here I was trying to make a video I’d actually fork over money for.

And I’m quite frugal.

I only buy something if it’s really worth it.

I put my original version of Big Red Lollipop on the first DVD (for younger kids). I think that story alone is worth the price I’m planning on charging.

And the other video has four of my favourite stories in there, including The Clever Wife.

Well, we’ll see what happens.

Insha Allah it’s good, and if the recording contains even half of the effect of my in-person telling, then I will be satisfied.

The most important thing though, is I can get back to the revisions of my Hajj novel tomorrow.

And back to the other things I have to get done by the end of this month insha Allah.