Do you smell a story?

Writer and teacher Michael Burns talks about hosting storytelling workshops and how the storytelling scene in the country needs to evolve.

Michael Burns regularly conducts storytelling workshops. When he asks the audience if they know what a story is, he is met with furrowed eyebrows and a confused look. “The audience thinks they know what a story is, but the truth is, they don’t,” explains Michael.

He finds it both funny and interesting how a lot of people today want to learn more about the art that storytelling is. “Have you noticed how storytelling is all over the place?” he questions us casually. Without waiting for an answer, he continues, “We have grown up, but our concept of what a story is, hasn’t. When we were young, we used to read simple stories and they made sense to us.”

He is currently preparing to host a workshop called Develop a Nose for Storytelling.

In the masterclass, Bombay Perfumery’s eight signature scents will form an intrinsic part of this writing session with him. Michael will walk the audience through the dynamics of a story, and how you can find inspiration and creativity from your senses. “There is a lot of enthusiasm for storytelling, but the tools are missing. Through the fragrances, the writers will tell their stories — what makes the environment come alive, what makes their characters come alive,” he smiles.

Michael started Tall Tales Storytelling roughly four and a half year ago, to tell stories written by strangers to strangers. The project showcases first person, non-fiction stories from anywhere across the country. Aspiring writers send their stories to Tall Tales Storytelling and they edit it (just enough that it still belongs to the writer) and then host events around the city where they are narrated live. “These stories are presented with raw honesty, and vulnerability — you can’t imagine how true these stories are because people write them from their hearts,” Michael passionately explains. “In the past couple of years, we received a lot of entries. People were enthusiastic about receiving feedback for their stories but we simply couldn’t do that. And hence, live shows gave birth to workshops,” he recalls.

A regular workshop with Tall Tales Storytelling lasts about 15 hours, where Michael sets to teach the audience about telling tales. When asked about what’s the most difficult part of writing a story, he says it is getting the reader to imagine your character’s world. “If you can get your reader to step into your character’s shoes, you have achieved a lot,” he admits.

Michael had visited India for a short period of time, but stayed on longer for the love of the country. For the last six years, he’s also done volunteer work at a shelter for former street children at Juhu Beach. “I came here to do volunteer work, but stayed on because I love it here. I love the enthusiasm for writing and storytelling. It’s a good fit for a person like me who enjoys helping other people find and nurture the stories inside them,” he says.

The writer believes there are quite a few things wrong with today’s storytelling scene. He adds that to create a story, patience is key. “We want to be able to do something in ten seconds or not at all. And if we can’t do it in ten seconds than we come to the wild conclusion that it’s taking too much time, or that he or she isn’t very good at it. Both of these assumptions are totally erroneous and should immediately be thrown out. Stories require digging. Digging takes time. Talent evaluation requires digging and also practice. Practice also takes time. There are no shortcuts,” he concludes decidedly.

On December 10, 10.30 am to 1 pm, At G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, Laxmi Mills Compound, Lower Parel.
Contact: 24909393.
Tickets: Rs 900.

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