Monday, February 3, 2014

The Art of Storytelling - A Review

The Art of Storytelling

John Walsh

A Review

I have found that the reprints of books that I missed the first time can be a real eye-opener.  Such is the case of this book, originally published in 2003 and republished in 2014.  I was introduced to “speech” writing during my senior year of high school.  Three years later, my college degree also required a course in speech.  I actually took two - one on the theory of communication and the second a more traditional speech course.  We were required to present our in class speeches without notes - an exercise I hated at the time.  My opinion changed the next summer when I was asked to tell a bit of my life story to a group of 100 peers - except when I got to the front of the group, I had forgotten my notes.  I have always wished I had gone back and told my speech teacher “Thank You.”  I did not - perhaps this review can serve as a virtual “Thank You” to that experience.

My education in speech writing was not over - homiletics (sermon preparation) was a requirement as part of my seminary education.  With four courses under my belt, I figured my education was over.  At least until I stumbled upon John Walsh’s book The Art of Storytelling.  None of my education had taught me to prepare a story for presentation.  John Walsh had now done that.

In more recent years the use of the “Narrative Sermon” has made the art of storytelling an increasingly important skill for the person serving in the pulpit.  

The Art of Storytelling is as much book about storytelling as it is a textbook - including step by step by step instructions and practical exercises throughout for the student, whether in the classroom or as an independent learner, to experience each of the 13/14 steps outlined in the book.    

The steps are divided into three parts:
  1. Steps to Crafting A Captivating Story
  2. Tools for Presenting A Captivating Story
  3. Bible Telling

Each steps includes three kinds of instruction.  They begin with the principles - some with more details than others, but specific guidance is provided in carrying out each step.  This is followed by an example illustrating how the author has applied the principles of the step - including the occasional misstep that he found in preparing the story for presentation.  The author follows the preparation of a single story throughout the book.  Finally, a number of practical exercises complete each chapter, as mentioned earlier - practical exercises that can be used by the teacher in a formal classroom or by the independent learner of the storytelling experience.
I would like to see this book be adopted as a required ancillary text in the seminary homiletics classroom - where each student must prepare at least one narrative sermon.  I would require the book as part of the education of every student in a speech course as well.  Storytelling is not just a formal activity for the professional speaker, but a skill that would be of use to every parent, grandparent, aunt, and uncle.  

As the reader might perceive, I enjoyed my walk through this book.  The author’s own testimony  demonstrates its usefulness in the formal classroom; my own experience testifies to its usefulness for the independent learner.  Each of us can become a better storyteller - allow John Walsh to guide you on that experience.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.  

No comments: