Great telling, great writing
It’s a well known adage that writers have to read. The advice is indispensable. There’s a corollary: if you want to write well, read what’s well-written. By analogy, a storyteller needs to listen to stories – and if you want to tell well, listen to stories that are well-told.
I’ve been persuaded to enter another short story competition. Since we’re much closer to the submission deadline that I’d wish I’ve had to rush the writing – not something I’d choose to do – so I fear the product isn’t my best. However, perhaps my fear is exaggerated. I’m being more self-critical than usual because in addition to reading novels by the brilliant Ian McEwan and Rose Tremain I’ve now started one to Julian Barnes – the first Barnes I’ve read for a while – so my mind is awash with prose fiction of the very highest quality. Who knows whether this exposure to top-rate literature has raised the quality of my short story, hurry notwithstanding – as well as making me suspect that, relatively speaking, it’s tripe?
Several storytelling commitments lie ahead – I seem to be booked for storytelling on at least four successive days in early April – and a recent experience has made me doubt my skill as a teller but at the same time inspired the urge to improve. Two evenings ago (March 14th) I took three other members of our creative writing group to hear a performance by Hugh Lupton. He told a collection of Russian fairy-tales, and then he recounted the escape from the newly-formed Soviet Union, in 1919, of the journalist and folktale collector Arthur Rackham (perhaps better known for his children’s stories such as Swallows and Amazons and for his illustrations of story collections). Arthur Rackham was Hugh Lupton’s great-great-uncle. Hugh made the tale of the escape (a true historical account) sound exactly like another fairy-story; but by the same token, he convinced much of his audience that each fairy-tale he told was true!
Like Julian Barnes’s novels, Hugh Lupton’s storytelling performances set a very high bar at which to aim. There’s no chance of my making the height, either as writer or as teller, but the attempt is going to be an enjoyable as it is challenging!