Why Storytelling Matters: A Pre-Conference Workshop Preview and Q&A with Jim Breslin

jim-breslinCreative nonfiction writers, like all wordsmiths, are often expected to stand and deliver their work. But many of us are shy or feel uncomfortable addressing crowds–especially when we have to talk about deeply personal experiences. The good news for HippoCamp 2016 attendees is that Terry Heyman and Jim Breslin are here to help.

Terry and Jim will be hosting a pre-conference workshop, Storytelling for Creative Nonfiction Writers, on August 12. Whether planning a book tour, preparing for interviews, or attending a story slam in your hometown, this workshop will help you stand out on the stage.

We talked to Jim Breslin about how this session will help develop a writer’s storytelling skills.

Hippocampus: What led you to lead the workshop? 

Jim: We first developed the storytelling workshop for those who were interested in telling a story at one of the local story slams, but were nervous. I realized early on that storytelling is a type of cross-training for writers. Many writers don’t enjoy speaking in front of a live audience but it’s an important skill.

 “Many writers don’t enjoy speaking in front of a live audience but it’s an important skill.” – Breslin

How can storytelling improve author readings?

When we’re reading from our work, our eyes are down and we lose some of that connection with the audience. Being able to tell stories — whether we mix in short segments between readings or discuss the origins of the writing — engages the audience. I recall seeing the author Tim O’Brien speak recently at West Chester University. He told a story that was in his classic collection The Things They Carried. He did this without notes, so it was not verbatim as much of a retelling of the story, and it was powerful. O’Brien then discussed how the story was based on a real life experience though many details in the written story differed.

Why should writers take your workshop?

No matter what path a writer is taking in their journey, being able to stand in front of an audience and tell their story in a compelling way is helpful. Agents want to know if perspective writers are able to hold the attention of an audience. If someone is working on their memoir, it will be helpful to be able to tell short segments from their writing in a casual way while reading at a bookshop, giving a keynote at a conference, or speaking to a local Rotary club.

What can workshop participants expect? 

Participants can expect to learn basic storytelling structure, use of creative language, and other presentation tips.
If stage fright has been holding you back or you’re finally ready to get serious about taking your work to a larger audience, this workshop is the perfect introduction to presenting yourself and your work beyond the written word. A few seats are still open for the Storytelling for Creative Nonfiction Writers workshop, so register today before all the spots are taken!