Once upon a time, children sat at grandpaâ€™s knee and listened intently to the wonderful stories that had been creatively told through the generations. Children were also encouraged to tell their own stories. In fact, storytelling was a form of sharing, of communication, of entertainment and education. It was through oral family histories that children learned about their roots. When children know about their ancestors, they feel more connectedâ€”they have more of a sense of belonging. And when families share through story, their bonds grow deeper.
I grew up with radio. Families during the 1940s gathered around the RCA or the Motorola for their entertainment and their connection to the world and each other. In the early 1950s, many homes also had TVs. We no longer relied on one another for our entertainment; now we turned to the â€œset.â€ But TV programming was not a 24-hour-per-day 300-channel proposition. Families ate dinner together and then assembled around the TV for their favorite evening show.
Today, we have home entertainment centers, computers and other electronic gadgetry designed to separate family members in many creative ways for even longer periods of time. We come home only to go our separate ways in order to experience our individual mode of entertainment. When traveling or even on short errand jaunts, each family member has his own electronic device designed to hold his attention. Mom is talking on her cell phone, sis is text messaging, brother is engrossed in sounds coming from his iPod and Dad is working on his laptop. Where has our need and our opportunity for personal communication gone? What has happened to our human (let alone family) togetherness? Is the lovely art and tradition of storytellingâ€”the activity that once built strong bondsâ€”a thing of the past?
I donâ€™t think so. Although storytelling is fading as an oral tradition in households, it is alive and well among this countryâ€™s writers. Sure, establishing family togetherness is a challenge today, but I urge parents and kids to make family time a priority and to use that time to relate, support and share.
There is an enormous upsurge in the number of authors emerging in America today.
Of course, part of the reason that so many more people are writing books is because they canâ€”because technology has made it possible. But many of them are also writing because they have stories to tellâ€”stories of their struggles, stories of their ancestors, stories theyâ€™ve made up in their heads. Storytelling is back, baby and in a big way.
Writing is the new storytelling. Since people no longer have the time to sit and listen to our stories, we are writing them down and seeking large audiences. We are disconnecting from people in order to write in solitary. Ironically, it is because we want to be heard. We want to make an impressionâ€”to make a difference. We want to touch people emotionallyâ€”to make them think, cry and laugh.
Yes, once upon a time, children and adults were treated to stories handed down through the generations and told by a beloved family member. Today, our stories come in book form. Writing is the new storytelling. And being a writer, I certainly support the buying of books. But maybe we should concentrate on sharing these stories. Letâ€™s bring back a greater sense of family and make reading a togetherness activity. How?
â€¢ Parents read to your young children and read with your older kids.
â€¢ Grandparents, mentors, teachers and others, buy the children on your gift list interactive books and books with messages or educational themes. Take time to explore the books together.
â€¢ Start a book discussion group through your church, office, neighborhood or family, for example. Have everyone read good, controversial or thought-provoking books and then meet to discuss them.
â€¢ Act out a book. Bring readers together for an evening of fun reenacting a story theater style. Or have everyone come to a dinner party masquerading as a character from your book-of-the-month.
â€¢ Launch a mother-daughter, father-son or couples book discussion group.
â€¢ Form a club for readers. Invite authors to speak to the group once a month or so.
â€¢ Set up a circulating library related to your interests. Pool books with others who have the same reading, hobby or work interest. This could be a fiction library or a reference book library for folks who are interested in writing/publishing, crafts, gardening, marketing/promotion, mechanics, woodworking, photography or raising Abyssinian cats, for example.
â€¢ Challenge every family member to read a book each week and then have an informal gathering during which each reader must report on the book. Encourage creativity. This might be a good extended family activity.
â€¢ Volunteer as a family to read to kids in a homeless shelter or take books to a shelter and encourage the parents to read to their children.
â€¢ Likewise, read to a shut-in neighbor or someone who resides in a nursing home. Even older folks like to hear a good story.
While I am a strong advocate of the written word and I love it when people buy and read my books, I also believe deeply in the importance of togetherness. Use some of the ideas above to come up with creative ideas of your own to encourage and to initiate methods of using books and reading to connect with others. Reach out. Draw people in. The old tradition of storytelling may be lost in many families, but let writing be your new storytelling tradition. Use books to come back together in a meaningful way.
If you are planning to write a book or you are in the process of writing a book, you really should read my latest book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book. I sat at a book festival yesterday among several authors who had purchased and read this book and who found it to be extremely valuable in their understanding of the publishing industry and the options available to them. Most said they only wish they had read this book earlier in the process of producing their books. They are convinced that they would not have made some rather expensive mistakes, had they studied this book first. Other authors say this book has been a huge help in their promotional efforts and in setting up distribution and so forth.
Order your copy at http://www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html