Susan Perrow’s Storytelling Workshop in Singapore
The workshop was kick-started, or rather getting the ball to roll by Susan throwing a yarn ball to one of the participants in the big circle that we formed. (This activity is a good icebreaker even for younger children. Instead of throwing and catching, try rolling the ball to the receiver or catcher.) As in any other activities, Susan, the person who introduced the game, was the last one to introduce herself. An Australian who spent quite an amount of time in Africa training teachers, a Master holder who proposed her own topic on Storytelling and pioneered the subject Storytelling techniques in one of the university courses, a founder of Steiner’s kindergarten in Australia and a mother of three grown-up children, whom she talked fondly about throughout the course.
Susan described ‘therapeutic stories’ as stories that help the process of bringing an out-of-balance behavior (situation) back into wholeness or balance. She reminded us again and again that the stories do not cure the child’s emotional /mental disease but rather heal by giving the child a starting or reference point which gives the child the strength to recover, rejuvenate and re-live again.
Susan highlighted a couple of prominent speakers on storytelling: Dr. Anita Johnson, a Hawaiian psychiatrist who wrote ‘Eating in the Light of the Mirror’ for teenagers with eating disorders, and Dr. David Suzuki, a Canadian Japanese proponent of the environment.
The process or the secret of writing stories given by Susan was pretty simple, being categorized and drawn into 3 columns of a table: Props/Metaphor, Journey and Resolution. We were given three stories and were asked to dissect the stories as to able to identify the three tools mentioned above. Towards the end of the evening, each participant was required to produce a story that conceded with the challenging behavior suggested by a few, and to present it in front of the audience. Before commencing on this Herculean task, Susan gave us a few pointers to be considered when plunging into the world of stories:
a) consider child’s stages of development and age
b) family background
c) biological disorders
d) health/physical problem (hungry)
e) direct discipline
f) No mixed messages
I was amazed by the many talented writers in this workshop, whether as group members or as individuals, who not only produced stories with excellent storyline but also able to release rhymes in a mere duration of less than an hour. Imagine having all these budding writers publishing their own books. I guess writing is not only about talent and luck, but more of discipline and hard work of drafts and drafts. 99% discipline and 1% talent wishful thinking muse!!!
Oh, I forget to mention that Lee Ean and I were the only Malaysians in that workshop, and we received a very warm welcome and buckets of curiosity from everyone there! It was also a good time to promote Lee Ean’s school and learn a little bit on how they run the kindergarten there. I wished I had more time to inquire more about Steiner’s background from Susan herself.
If you are interested in writing therapeutic stories, visit Susan’s website at www.healingthroughstories.com for more insight.