The first time I did my Saturday storytelling session at the Downsview Public Library I did it in the children’s section because I thought the kids would gravitate over and listen.

Two kids did, and their mother sat with them and one person peeked at me around a bookcase, from where she was sitting, so I counted her too.

The other people in the area basically ignored me, the intrusion, and I felt like a fool.

Thing is, in this business, you will feel like a fool, often.

It’s got a very humbling aspect to it.

And that’s going to be true no matter what, because basically you’re putting yourself out there. And when you put yourself out there, you risk getting ignored and basically feeling like a fool.

Luckily though, the feeling doesn’t last long.

I think it comes down to the ‘stigma’ of libraries. People really do think if it’s free, it can’t be very good.

Not realizing that no, my programs are not free. I’m getting paid for them, and I’m getting paid well.

And yet I still feel almost guilty when no one turns up.

So yesterday, when I showed up early for the Saturday storytelling again, I went into the office and made the announcement that the storytelling was going to start myself. I used my sunniest voice, and I told them that I’d be in the program room, (no more trying to make myself heard in the children’s section) and then I went into the program room and I waited for anyone to show up. Unfortunately they did not.

So I spent the time working on a picture book idea that’s been niggling at me for a long time.

At least until the kids in the writing program showed up.

This time we tackled a ‘real’ story, not a ‘magic mittens’ type of fantasy. I asked the kids what they were afraid of and one of them said snakes, so we began an adventure story where he went to Africa, Egypt to be exact, because he wanted to ride camels and then a spitting cobra showed up.

I took a few moments to explain that Egyptian spitting cobras are extremely aggressive and will attack you even if  you leave them alone, spitting venom in your eyes to blind you.

So the boy decided that the spitting cobra bit his camel and it fell and died, and he landed underneath it, trapped and calling for help.

I started the exercise with the one boy who arrived first and as three other girls arrived, I added them to the story.

The biggest lesson they got from the exercise was that any story has to make sense.

Two of the girls were going to try to distract the spitting cobra and we decided they’d brought swim goggles because they were going to go swimming later, but when one of the girl’s wanted not only to put on the swim goggles but to change into her swimming suit I said, “Wait a minute! That doesn’t make sense.”

And she said, “But we’re going swimming later.”

I said, “But you’ve got … (the boy character) stuck under this dead camel calling for help, and this spitting cobra coming at you, are you really going to take the time to change into a swim suit? And,” I added, “How are you going to change out in the open like that? You going to let … (the boy character) see you change?”

She said, “He’s under the camel, on the other side.”

I said, “Nope, you still have to make it make sense.”

It was pretty funny when the same girl said they’d taunt the cobra to get him to chase them by saying, “Cobra! Cobra–Obra!!!”

These kids! They’re so funny!

So we finished up the story and it came out pretty well. The boy did complain a bit about being stuck under the camel for so long, but all in all, it was an enlightening exercise.

When the other kids showed up for the public speaking it was almost crowded with seven of them.

We didn’t even have time to hear all of their stories, so it occurred to me maybe it is better if there are fewer.

I had them practice telling their stories with ‘microphones’. I explained the difference between universal and directional mics and I gave them two different types of markers to represent each kind of mic.

When they lowered the mics or didn’t pay attention to them, I’d call out, “I can’t hear you!” And they’d immediately fix the mic position.

I think next week I’m going to give them the assignment to bring in a factual presentation, like a power point about anything they find interesting. During one of the public speaking sessions, I ended up telling scientific ‘stories’ of how the universe formed to the two kids who attended. I was priming the kids for just such a presentation.

Oh they had so many questions! I could barely tell them how stars would burn out and if they were large enough they’d collapse upon themselves and turn into supernovas and when the supernovas exploded they created all the heavier elements and caused the dust that we’re all made of, before they had other questions.

I want to make sure that the kids can not just tell stories up on a stage, but rather they can deliver informative presentations too.

The sessions go for about eight to ten weeks but I’m starting to wonder if that’s going to be enough time!

There’s so much to cover!

I can only do my best, but with the erratic attendance, I find myself repeating myself a lot.

Again, it’s all very humbling. But fun! Lots of fun!