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Where can storytellers turn for help?

In the worlds of drama and speaking, there are highly professional coaches. But they don't always understand storytelling. They also don't always understand how to lead people out of their confusion. The root of "educate" is "educare," which means to "lead people out."

Many of these people are useful when you have something perfected and want to know if there's anything wrong with it. But they are less likely to have the ability to help you take something that's not well formed yet and find the gem inside it. If you give them a polished gem, they'll be able to say, "There's a flaw here," or "Polish more here," or "Change the shape this way." That's useful!

But most of them are not so good at looking at a raw gem and seeing the facets that could be inside it - or, even more to the point, helping YOU see the gem more clearly that you are, however vaguely, imagining inside it.

This includes not just working on particular stories, but also working on your personal style - becoming the storyteller that you could be. You're not trying to become the storyteller that someone else imagines, not even the storyteller that your coach imagines. This is a particular problem with many theater and public speaking coaches and with many storytellers who coach, as well. They still see their job as "I do it better than you do, so I'll tell you how to do it my way."

Again, those people can be helpful. But if you're trying to be the very best teller you can be, there is still "some job left at the end of the coach." In other words, when you've gotten all you can from those people, there is still stuff you haven't yet been able to achieve.

Wheel-Spinning Time

You end up spinning your wheels. You get to a certain level of success, artistically, to be sure, and also financially and in terms of which venues you get chosen to tell in. You plateau, and you don't know what to do.

In the end, you give up in some way. Either you stop telling stories altogether, or you come to the conclusion, "I'm not good enough to earn my living through storytelling," so you put your energy somewhere else.

Storytelling Leaders Get Stuck, Too

This problem doesn't just affect individuals. It also affects our storytelling communities.

The people who aspire to mastery of the art often become leaders in their storytelling communities. But if the leaders get stuck, everyone else tends to get stuck, too.

People look around and say, "That teller started off great, got lots of work in the first few years, but hasn't gotten any better."

So people accept lack of progress as "normal", or they take it as a personal failure of the leaders and blame them.

Or they take it as a failure of the artform: "Storytelling isn't going anywhere. All these people keep doing the same thing over and over for years."

The whole artform suffers because of this.

As a result, new people coming up don't have the best help, because most tellers can only give help that's about 10% better than the help they got from others (unless they happen to be highly motivated to become a better helper and put substantial energy into finding what they didn't get for themselves). It's not easy to give help to others that's a lot better than what others modelled for you.

In the end, people need good help in order to get beyond a certain level in their storytelling. The lack of truly effective help has enormous consequences.

Storytellers Try and Try Again

To be sure, most people don't give up easily.

As a storyteller, you try the available coaches.

You read the books available. Unfortunately, most of the books available on how to tell stories are really "storytelling 101," written from different perspectives. That's not to say they're not valuable: each perspective is useful. But there's virtually nothing written for the advanced teller at all. You can search the world for instructional materials about storytelling - and find virtually nothing for the intermediate and advanced teller.

You tell a lot. This is a good strategy! Telling again and again is the best teacher there is. I highly recommend this strategy, regardless of what other strategies you also employ.

You Need Someone Who Can See...

But you will eventually find yourself in a place where you're doing something you're not aware of, something that's holding you back. You can't see it, but you're doing it over and over.

You need the perception of a coach who knows storytelling. AND who can see the diamond in the rough, the apple tree in the seed. AND who can see not just what you're doing wrong, but also who can help you understand how you got there - how you made an inadvertent wrong turn, so that you can correct it.

Imagine that you're trying to get to the post office and you find yourself at the grocery store. The first time, it's useful to hear someone say, "This is NOT the post office!" But if you try again and again and keep ending up at the grocery store, you need a different type of help. You need someone who can say, "Tell me how you got here. I'll help you figure out where you made the wrong turn."

This kind of help can be frustratingly hard to get. You keep looking for it and not getting it.

Besides, how much can you get from a book? There are limits to what you can learn from reading, as valuable as it can be.

Who Can Solve This Problem?

As someone who has made my living not just as a professional storyteller but also as a teacher and coach of storytelling, I've grappled with this problem again and again.

This is not a problem that can be solved by one or even a small group of excellent coaches, even highly energetic ones constantly travelling the globe. There just isn't enough time in a lifetime to help all those who need it.

Storytelling Workshop in a Box pictureThat's why I've created some unique teaching resources, like the Leading Story Monthly, my online courses, and the Storytelling Workshop in a Box™. They don't rely simply on written transmission, since they all utilize audio in conjunction with reading and interaction.

In particular, the Storytelling Workshop in a Box™ is an attempt to solve this problem by giving people the fundamental perspectives they need in order to be excellent storytellers.

Thirty-Seven Topics

It covers 37 different, essential topics:

  1. The hidden 50% of storytelling: secrets of listening
  2. What do they expect: navigating through your listeners’ unspoken expectations
  3. The easiest way to learn a story. (Do you know what it is?)
  4. Storytelling as a dangerous adventure. (Don’t let them fool you. Storytelling is powerful - and sometimes frightening. Be ready!)
  5. The "most important thing"–a tool for shaping, creating, and telling
  6. The art of appreciations: how to speed up your development–of stories, and as a storyteller.
  7. Unlocking the power of oral language
  8. How to be at your peak with a story in time to tell it - without wasting effort or worry.
  9. The art of making suggestions - and how to train your helpers to give you the helpful prodding you need
  10. Is storytelling irrational and based solely on feelings? Learn how storytelling is actually a form of thinking - and the implications for learning and telling
  11. Using your body and voice for characterization
  12. How to be clear about what storytelling is - and when and how to stretch the limits of the art form.
  13. How do you find or create a story from a concept?
  14. How do you find your own style?
  15. Imagining: the key skill in storytelling. What techniques can help you imagine more fully?
  16. Understanding your role with respect to your listeners. How do you create clarity and avoid disappointment, no matter how convoluted the circumstances?
  17. How to "be present" in the moment of telling. What can you do, to reliably "enter the flow" that leads to your best telling?
  18. How to Choose a Story - and why there are no sure-fire steps to follow to choose one.
  19. Showing vs. Telling: the continuum of ways to present information.
  20. Using helpers - for learning stories, processing emotions, keeping projects on track, and more.
  21. How to fine-tune your characters by harnessing the hidden powers of oral language.
  22. Do you have storytelling talent? Before you try to answer, learn the hidden biases in the question that steer us away from the true strength of our art.
  23. The moral of the story? When should you state what a story means?
  24. How do you entrance your listeners - and when shouldn't you try?
  25. How to Integrate Your Emotions Into Your Storytelling, part 1.
  26. How to Integrate Your Emotions Into Your Storytelling, part 2.
  27. How to Elicit Stories from Others.
  28. How to Show Transformation in a Story.
  29. How Am I Doing? Evaluating Your Storytelling.
  30. How to Make a Scene Dramatic.
  31. Storytelling Obstacles and How to Overcome Them—Part 1
  32. Making Your Story Fresh and Alive.
  33. Overcoming Obstacles, Part 2: The Categories of Obstacles
  34. Should You Use Other Art Forms with Your Storytelling?
  35. How to Guide Your Audience: the stages of a relationship-based performance
  36. How to Improve Your Storytelling: the essential for long-term growth.
  37. Putting It All Together: The Four Legs of Your Storytelling Table

Connie Dodge


"This is a monumental work. It lays the groundwork for excellence in this generation of storytellers and for generations to come."
—Jay O'Callahan, Marshfield, MA (Winner, Storytelling Circle of Excellence Award)

Learning the Frameworks That Empower You

For each topic, the approach is not "here is the way to do it." Rather, it says, "Here is a framework from which you can understand the choices that you, as an excellent storyteller will be forced to make.

With this understanding, you can learn the tradeoffs involved in each choice, so that you'll be able to make those choices dynamically at the moment of telling. Only in this way will you be able to succeed with each unique set of listeners.

Furthermore, these frameworks are presented in audio form, so you can take it in through your ears. That's an essential way of taking in storytelling: you must become a listener, not just a reader.

A Treasury of Stories, Too

The Storytelling Workshop in a Box™ is liberally sprinkled with 140 stories threaded through the 37 topics, ranging from folk and spiritual tales, to historical stories, to personal experience stories of failing, learning, and succeeding in real storytelling situations.

Amy Crane photo

"Each month…I can't wait to listen to it!"
—Amy Crane, Norcross, LA

"It’s wonderful! I look forward to its arrival each month and can’t wait to get in the car by myself so I can listen to it–usually several times.

"There is not a strong storytelling community here and I feel very alone sometimes. The Workshops in a Box help me feel connected to a community of tellers in a 21st century sort of way. Thank you!"–Amy Crane, Norcross, LA

The Online Interactive Version

The original Storytelling Workshop in a Box™ consisted primarily of recordings and printed matter. Then I made all of that available online, along with some basic, interactive forums. Now, however, I have translated the entire system into online course software (used by large universities) so that there can be a maximum of interactivity.

Best of all, I have recently made the exercises themselves more interactive. To be sure, you still need to read the instructions and try them out. But now you can report your experiences and results directly on the web - and read the response of others.

Not only that, you can ask questions online and have other workshop members respond. (I will continue to respond, as well.) In other words, you now have an online community:

You can seek out practice partners on the Buddy Board, see other people's answers and responses, and get their comments on your own.

Is this really as good as a live workshop?

Of course not! Face-to-face learning can never be replaced by a long-distance program, even one that includes recordings, written materials, electronic interaction, and telephone coaching.

Nothing can fully substitute for a series of live, multi-day workshops.

That said, most storytellers don't have the option of learning all this in-person. Compared to not having access to all this essential storytelling information, the choice is quite different: this provides the essentials you need to know if you are serious about pursuing the art and craft of storytelling.


Nancy Duncan photo

"It helps me work on the important tasks of storytelling!"
—Nancy Duncan, Omaha, NE

"I drive a lot to gigs and the tapes make good traveling companions. Unlike a book, the Storytelling Workshop in a Box does not come all at once, it builds and there is time to process between the lessons. That’s good! It helps me work on the important tasks of storytelling, defining them and providing questions and exercises to practice the issues and skills." - Nancy Duncan, storyteller, festival organizer, Omaha, NE (Charter Member)

Will This Really Help My Storytelling?

If any one of these 37 components is what you're missing in your storytelling, then the Storytelling Workshop in a Box will definitely make the difference in getting you unstuck and moving your storytelling to a higher level of mastery.


Patricia Ridge


"I find the lessons enjoyable, insightful and helpful!"—Jay Held , Professor of Communication, Multnomah Bible College, Portland, OR


Inaugurating the New Online Version

What's new about the new online version? The previous online versions included the same written instructions for exercises as were included in the paper-and-CD version.

Now, however, I have translated the exercises into a true interactive format. (Actually, the first nine lessons have been translated, with more each week. If you start now, you'll never catch up to me!) The new exercises are both more convenient and more interactive.

Don’t miss this chance. The Storytelling Workshop in a Box™ is something inexpensive–and essential–that the artist in you needs. Why miss it?

Yours in storytelling,

doug_sig picture


P.S., I am so confident that you'll find the Storytelling Workshop in a Box™ to be the best investment you ever made in your storytelling, that I guarantee it 100%! That's right: try it out. Listen to the lessons, try the exercises, join the online community. If you're not completely satisfied, I'll refund every penny!


Marni Gillard photo

They have been of great value to me as I continue to build layers of understanding about storytelling and all it can do for us as human beings. - Marni Gillard, Schenectady, NY

P.S., I guarantee the Storytelling Workshop in a Box™ unconditionally. Cancel at any time! Listen to any three lessons and, if you’re not convinced this is the best, most useful tool for advancing your storytelling, return everything for a full refund. And keep all $715 worth of the free coupons–even the Brain Picking ($595 value) and Free Coaching ($110 value) certificates!

Here’s how to get all the member benefits and keep your storytelling moving:

Use the easy, secure, online order form (pay by credit card, bank account withdrawal, check, or money order).

Click for order form for the Storytelling Workshop in a Box

If you prefer, you can also:

1. Fax your information, including your payment info, to (405) 340-3264, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

2. Call my office 781-837-1940 .



Doug Lipman

152 Wenonah Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106 U.S.A.
Phone: (781) 837-1940
Alternate Phone (rings the same line): (413) 754-6728
Fax (toll-free): (888) 300-6665

This page was last updated on November 1, 2011 Copyright©2001-2007 Doug Lipman