Here's how I came to work as a storyteller—both how I got there and where it has lead.
The journeys of good reading have always fired my blood from childhood to the present. And in college I pursued an interest in writing. But it wasn't until the early 1980's when my friend Ellen Munds listened to me read a story that storytelling bsecame a possibility. A children's librarian at the time, she knew about storytellers. After listening to me read she said—"The story was just O.K. But the way you read it was great. Maybe you should be a storyteller. Come to my library and hear a professional storyteller next week." After hearing him at work I thought I might have found a calling. The power of the spoken word set me on a track I've been following since then.
I work where I live—Indiana. I'm the fourth generation of my family to live not just in Indiana but also in the same city—Indianapolis. My kids make the fifth. From Indiana's geologic beginnings to its native inhabitants, the days of settlement to the Great Depression: History figures prominently in my storytelling. And yet I started out telling the stories that first drew me to this profession—folktales from around the world. Hearing them again as an adult they reminded me all over again how much I had loved those stories as a kid. Now I get to love them again—still for their power and mystery—but for other reasons also: As bridges to other cultures; as doors to the past; as tools for understanding deeper ideas embedded in the simple narratives.
Today my storytelling programs offer a little of everything: History (with a capitol "H"); history, as in family stories; and folktales.
Along the way I helped co-found an arts organization—Storytelling Arts of Indiana. Each year this organization brings the best storytellers locally, regionally and nationally to our community for an annual festival, a six-month series, and several special events. Additionally, Storytelling Arts promotes the art and use of storytelling in a variety of other venues—from helping elders learn to tell their life experiences, to providing entertainment and comfort to children recovering from health problems.
I've likewise been blessed with numerous opportunities and recognition for my work over the years: Commissioned stories for Storytelling Arts of Indiana, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, General Electric, RCI, The Indiana Humanities Council, the Indiana Historical Society, and Public Radio and Television. Grants, such as a Frank Basile Emerging Stories grant, and Telling History through Stories; numerous festival appearances; work in education through Young Audiences and assorted libraries state-wide. Also, in 2001, the Arts Council of Indianapolis awarded me a Creative Renewal Fellowship, a recognition that I cherish and by which I truly found a new reservoir of creative energy.
Recent years follow three distinct paths.
Distilling a mission for my storytelling life is like trying to hit a
moving target—my understanding and regard for the profession has
changed so much over the years. Surely I'd include inspiring a love of
the art in listeners, seeking greater self-understanding, and finding
challenging new ways and subjects to employ my skills.
Bob Sander, Storyteller | (317) 255-7628 | © 2004