I began my storytelling career lying on bunks and sitting on couches with one or more children on my knee. Whenever my children couldn’t find the stories they wanted on our bookshelves or in the library- or if a particular character, in a favourite story, appealed to them- I would create a story to meet their requests. Sometimes we wrote these stories down and sometimes I just told them.
Later, after I began counselling, I spent many years listening to peoples’ life stories in a variety of settings and was amazed by the heroic qualities they displayed in their day to day lives. Joseph Campbell was right, he connected ancient stories to the emotional concerns of everyday life when he said: ‘The latest incarnation of ‘Oedipus’ and the continuing relationship of the ‘Beauty and The Beast’ stand this afternoon at the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue waiting for the lights to change.’ As I listened, I came to see how these ‘big’ stories relate to our personal stories and how healing it is to hear them and reflect on what they teach us about our own lives.
Soon I found myself looking for stories that would give new insights to people in therapy and to search out the places where my own story touched myths and narratives. These personal or autobiographical stories are what I love most to tell and to lace with humour, without losing their deeper meaning. A reviewer once said of me; ‘Sutton’s humour came from the language and phrasing itself. She can seemingly spin it into any tale whether it’s about trivia, triumph or tragedy. She massages the audience with such gentleness…and carries them every syllable of the way’ and I like to think that is some of what I do.
Story was our first education, it built communities of people, it comforted the downhearted and inspired people to endure their suffering. Story carried news of great deeds and small and most of all story has always been magical, exciting, fun.
I have enjoyed telling to audiences and at Festivals in New Zealand and overseas. I’d love to tell to you. Share your ideas about storytelling through my journal.