Monthly Archives: February 2014

Listen UP! Listen WELL!

Sorry I am one day late with this. We got back from Florida yesterday and with laundry et all, my blog post took a back seat. But I don’t want you to miss the wisdom of my guest blogger or wait another week for it, so….

I meant to be only one day late, but then got caught up with deciding how to change my blog. I think I am going to concentrate on the writing and performing and do the occasional Wednesday food blog still–I love writing about food!!!
The occasional book review will be posted on Tuesday or Thursday as before, but now I need to decide–Monday or Friday for the blog update?
Since I am so behind on my posting of Kim Ellis’ wisdom on listening for those of us who spew out words on stage or page, I am going ahead and sending it in today.
So, Listen up! Listen Well!

Who she is
My name is Kim Ellis. Hi. I live in Concord, NC and work as a billing clerk in Charlotte, NC. I am also a part-time professional actress on all levels, mostly improvisation and storytelling at different places. I occasionally perform in plays in and around the Charlotte and Concord area. I hope to re-hone my skills soon with theater and film through classes because I took a long break from it with improv.
My theatrical experience started early in junior high when I was in an 8th grade harvest festival at school. I was the mummy in this little mini horror play and my binding came undone. I was scaring people anyway and thought, “Hey, I like this.” I wasn’t in my first play until 10th grade, however and that was Agatha Christie’s “The Uninvited Guest”. I played what was originally a male role-Jan Warwick. The applause was addictive. I was hooked! I found I liked performing different personalities and it appealed to my schizophrenic nature. (Just kidding) I liked how I could bring a character to life from the playwright’s vision. I didn’t understand completely how this all worked but I knew performing gave me a rush I couldn’t get anywhere else.
How she started in Performing
I started performing for improv venues when I auditioned and landed a role as a street performer for the Carolina Renaissance Festival. What I like about improv is that you can play any character in the moment. Nothing is the same. It is different every performance. Now, in this case it was the same character but different things happened to this character every weekend day. Take my Apothecary for instance. She could be extracting a tooth from a royal guardsman one moment and the next running a debate with the patrons as to whether to leech a person or just merely remove a vexing organ from the body. When I was on stage with the Pink Turtles or the Chuckleheads, audience suggestion dictated how my character would speak, move and act with my scene partner. It is never boring. My training in improv can be traced to my 15 years with the festival and Scott Pacitti’s workshops for the Turtles and Chuckleheads. I have now taken quite a few of those characters and have them as storytelling characters. Improvisation has taught me how to incorporate voice, dialect and movement into my stories. It brings the character off the page or from my own created stories and makes them three dimensional.
Diving into story performance
I became a story performer when I was invited to attend the Charlotte Storyteller’s Guild Meeting. At the time I was already performing my unicorn character, Beatrice at Carolina Renaissance Festival. I started telling unicorn tales at the meetings and thought this would be something I would like to do and I could take the stories to the festival as a way for my unicorn character to expand and I had a little success with it.
I would say that storytelling and improvisation are similar due to the nature of being in the moment. A story can be embellished differently every time you tell it. You might find on a story you have told needs a different twist, a connection to another event and it presents itself in such a way where the audience feels they are right there in the moment-a moment in a story’s history is replayed as if it is happening for the first time. Improv Theater is much the same way. An example would be a character you play every chance you get like my Chinese cleaning lady. I would recall her for a scene in one show where she is the center of a huge murder investigation or in another show where she falls in love with the sanitation guy. It depends upon the improv scene and audience suggestion. You tell a story with your scene.
Listening, the importance of!
Listening is so important in improvisation. Listening is the key to moving a scene forward. It dictates what will happen in the scene from moment to moment. Not listening to your scene partner creates mistrust and can crash a scene in a blink of an eye. What if your scene partner throws you a nugget like a quirk they have and you miss it because you have your own agenda-oh no, you can’t speak now because what I have planned for us is sooo much better! No, it is usually not and you make yourself look stupid and selfish. Make your scene partner look good by listening and reacting to what they say is good improv.
I think listening is important in the world of storytelling. In listening we develop skill. We learn what works and what doesn’t by our exposure to other tellers. As far as an audience goes we need the feedback. Andy most recently told us it was laughter for him. It acknowledges for him that they are listening and he is doing his job in delivering the story to others. Some of that is stopping and listening for laughter, a grunt, a sigh, a comment, etc. that would indicate the audience is enjoying themselves and being entertained by your story.
I am fairly new to this art form and I hope to learn more. Definitely my theatrical experience has helped me with the confidence and skill in delivery that I need.
Contact information for Kim
Kim Ellis
719 Summerlake Dr. SW, Concord, NC 28025
My storytelling characters: Chin Tang Tang (stories from Chinese fortune cookie fortunes), Fiona the Wise(Irish folk tales, fairy tales, ghost tales, Celtic legend, Aesop’s fables), Beatrice the Unicorn(uses Fiona’s tales and some from Fairy, her homeland), Kiliope Kilpatrick (Captain Kiliope’s girl pirate adventures) and I tell my own stories about my family and growing up in SC.

Blog Tour!

Blog Tour!.

Blog Tour!

Just got word that my interview about Giulia Goes to War has been posted on Lena Dooley’s blog–check it out and register to win a copy of the book!
www.lenanelsondooley.com TBCN Readers Choice 2013 Blog of the Year


Well, followers, what do you think? I am planning some changes here at the blog–moving to eliminate the Monday Parenting segment and the leaving only the Wednesday and Friday segments. Last week I was out of town and missed all blogging , then was sick on Sunday so I missed the Monday blog while recovering. Friday will continue to offer aid for those who are interested in performing and writing and I hope to possibly list more resources in the future.


No Monday, No ,Wednesday this week

and Friday, Valentine’s Day may be late. I have some assignments to finish that may take over my days. So, in the world of blog, Monday and Wednesday will be eliminated


Learn from a Master!

I follow several people who are masters of my two crafts (writing and story performing). From time to time, I am particularly blessed by advice they offer and I want to share it with you, my followers, as well as introducing you to these Masters of the craft. Often what they say is useful for both writing and performing! Not so strange that those would be the posts that resonate most deeply with me. This one comes just as I am struggling with the structure for my fourth book in the Legacy of Honor series.

Enjoy these words of advice today from Doug Lipman whose website is full of good things. He is a major talent and  exceedingly generous in sharing them on his website and in allowing me to share this with you today. Thank you, Doug.

I encourage all of  you to sign up for his newsletter and follow him where you can–two links are right here


I copied the material (with his permission) directly from the newsletter with all of his links intact, I hope . Please notice the copyright on his newsletter and do not repost without his permission.


Plot Confusion?

As a long-time professional storyteller, I have led workshops in many elements of storytelling, including character and place. But I have never led a workshop in plot.

Why not plot? The simple truth is that I’ve never been able to make sense of it. In particular, the various theories of plot have seemed interesting—but neither convincing nor especially useful.

Aristotle’s idea of “beginning, middle and end,” for example, makes a kind of intuitive sense, but it also seems to apply equally well to a doctor’s appointment and to washing a load of laundry.

Well, In Theory…

Then there are the theories like “the hero’s journey” and Freytag’s “exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement.” These seem closer to my sense of the word “plot,” but also seem specific to certain kinds of stories.

For example, it’s hard to apply this kind of theory to any very brief stories. But doesn’t a 3-minute story have a plot, too? Yes, you can force the brief story into the theory, but that doesn’t mean the theory can help you shape the story.

As a result, in my absence of a general understanding of “plot,” I have mostly kept silent about it. Until recently.

Now I have had a flash of insight that shone through the mists of my plot confusion. Perhaps it will help you, too.

What Do You Mean By Plot?

The flash of insight came after a coaching client, Sharon Livingston, recommended a particular book on plot. A short way into the book, I discovered that the author’s concept of “plot” was broader than mine.

Suddenly, I saw part of my problem with plot: there are, in fact, three main meanings—or levels—referred to by the word “plot.” Separating them, at last, has opened the gates to increased clarity. (In this article, I’ll focus on these three levels of plot. Elswehere, I’ll talk more about how the three levels relate—and how to build and shape each level.)

Plot Level #1: Chronology

The first level of plot can be called “chronology”: what happens, in what order. This is something like what novelist E.M. Forster calls “story.” In a simple story, the chronology might include something like this:

  1. The queen announces to the world that she seeks a husband.
  2. Numerous suitors apply.
  3. The queen chooses a suitor.
  4. The suitor marries the queen, becoming king.

The Chronology doesn’t include why things happen or what they mean to the characters or to the storyteller. It doesn’t allow for flashbacks and the like. It consists of only two kinds of information:

  • The events;
  • The order in which the events happen.

Simply said, the Chronology is a list of events, put into chronological order.

Obvious—Or Not?

In most stories, the list of what happens is evident to all, as is the order in which things happen. In such cases, there is no controversy about a story’s chronology. In fact, multiple versions of a story—each with a sharply different central meaning—might even share a common chronology.

Still, the choice of which events you include in your story is always an artistic choice. It’s probably true that the queen chose a herald to carry her announcement from town to town on horseback, for example, but the storyteller must make an artistic decision about whether her choice of herald—or the herald’s method of transportation—matters.

Plot Level #2: Causality

The second level of plot adds the element of causal connections: what causes the events to happen? How does one event lead to the next? More broadly, once the causal relationships between events are agreed on, what is the significance of the sequence of events? In other words, what do these events mean?

This is the level that E.M. Forster calls “plot,” as in his famous dictum:

“The king died and the queen died” is story. “The king died and the queen died of grief” is plot.

So Forster calls my Chronology level “story” and my Causality level “plot.” Elizabeth Ellis, on the other hand, in her excellent book From Plot to Narrative, calls the Chronology level “plot” and the Causality level “narrative.” Confused yet?

Causes and Meanings

In the case of an actual king and queen, for instance, historians (not to mention historical novelists) might not all agree about why the queen died. Was it because she was consumed with guilt for killing the king? Or was she subtly poisoned by the same third party who had poisoned the king? Or was she so relieved to be free from the king’s harsh domination that she went on a binge of eating and merry-making that led directly to her death?

Until the storyteller has come to a personal understanding of the causal connections between the story’s events, it’s not possible to create meaning for the story. Is the story about the effects of grief? About guilt? About possible responses to liberation from constraints?

The meaning assigned to events, therefore, builds on the teller’s understanding of the chain of causation. Further, if you change your understanding of the chain of causation, the meaning will likely also change. For this reason, I include both “causal connections” and “meaning” in this second level of plot.

Plot Level #3: Presentation

The third level of plot adds the order in which the story is told. No matter which events you include in your story and what causal connections and meaning you give to those events, you still have many options for the order in which you will tell them.

For instance, you could tell the queen’s story beginning with her decision to seek a suitor, then continue to proceed in chronological order. Alternatively, you could start with the queen’s death and then fill in the previous events. Almost every mystery story holds back at least some of the key events until late in the presentation of the story.

This third level, which also includes important devices like point of view, sensory descrptions and much more, is what Ronald B. Tobias calls “plot”. Forster doesn’t seem to have a name for this. Others just lump this with the second level.

Plot Finally Stops Thickening

Once we can clarify which of these three levels we mean when we say “plot,” then we can finally begin clear and helpful discussions about each level.

To aid in those ongoing discussions, I suggest that we not redefine, yet again, the familiar terms “plot,” “narrative,” and “story.”

Instead, let’s just divide “plot” into three strands, give those strands helpful terms (I nominate “Chronology,” “Causality” and “Presentation” but welcome other suggestions), and then begin to ask the important, practical questions we need answered:

  • What matters about each level?
  • How can the work at each level be improved?
  • How do decisions at one level affect decisions at another?
  • How can the levels work together to engage our listeners in any desired way?

Those are questions for later articles—questions that can only be answered well when our basic “plot confusion” has been cleared up.

Yours in storytelling,








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Storytelling coach Doug Lipman is the creator of the acclaimed Storytelling Workshop in a Box — the one-of-a-kind, 37-lesson, comprehensive, audio-plus-print storytelling workshop that comes to you!

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Entering contests and winning is part of the fun of writing–a challenge to hone one’s work to get it out to readers.

I preach this but maybe you don’t know that I practice it as well!

Here is the result of my entry (more than one story can be submitted as one entry) into the Intergeneration Contest I have placed before with them, but this is the best I have done.

Here is the letter:

Hello Joan.


I am happy to inform you that your story, “Red Apron” has been selected for a Cash Prize of $100 for our 2013 Intergeneration Storytelling Contest.

Also, your story “Rings” has been selected for a Certificate of Distinction for our 2013 Intergeneration Storytelling Contest. Way to go!

You can see the announcement on our website at, and on our Facebook page, Intergeneration Month. Also, we will be putting all the winning stories on our website for readers’ enjoyment, but will not disclose addresses, just names and City/State.

 And, on behalf of Intergeneration Foundation, thank you for your wonderful entry, hoping you look for our next Storytelling Contest announcement and join in again.

Cydney Campbell, Executive Director

Intergeneration Foundation

Wednesday is food day

So, Tuesday Feb 4 we were in Wilmington getting our car serviced. Wilmington NC has a number of great places to have lunch–several of them near our dealer. Liz Biro, food maven of Wilmington, has recommended several I want to try. Unfortunately, we cannot get past Taste of Italy. We absolutely love the specialty  sandwiches there and the small deli and the wonderful homey atmosphere that reminds us both of childhood places –for Joe in upstate NY, for me, in Pittsburgh. I always order the pepper and egg wedge–he always orders the Italian beef wedge.

We can only eat half–we save the second half for the next day–but wow–such excellence. I guess I would have to be in Wilmington several days in a row to make it out to another lunch spot.

In the meantime, Taste of Italy calls my name.

No more snow?

Well, at least not here. So today, for the first time in five days, children went back into classrooms.

Getting back to a project after a long layoff is hard–for everyone, adults and children alike.

This is why certain skills need to be turned into daily habits to keep them active–communicating, telling someone we love them, prayer and meditation, and learning a language (or renewing language skills).


Practice daily what you want to perfect