An estimated 3,500 people around the country call themselves storytellers. The basic requirements are that they can either remember a story or make one up as they go along, and that somebody enjoys listening to them.
More formal training involves changing voices and using mime, gestures, posture, and facial expressions to depict characters. East Tennessee State University, the only school that offers a master's degree in storytelling, is developing a course specifically on dialects.
"There are different styles: Some prefer a conversational style, and others have a theater background and go more dramatic with it," says Delanna Reed, instructor of storytelling at ETSU in Johnson City.
Stories can be folk tales, urban legends, straight fiction, personal experience, or what Ms. Reed calls "autobiographical but not really true," such as fisherman tales in which the quarry gets bigger with each retelling.
Professional storytellers are supported by grants and commissions (see story), are hired to tell stories at libraries, museums, theaters, and schools, and also lead workshops for others interested in storytelling.
To locate a storyteller in your area, contact the National Storytelling Network, 800-525-4514, or online at www.storynet.org. Also check local listings for story hours for adults and performances of monologues.
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