In which I tell a different story.

In my IST 646 (Storytelling for Information Professionals) class I have been tasked with telling a one-minute story using the sound mixing software Audacity so that I could add music and sound effects to a story to make it more compelling. You can hear the finished product below:

[Some necessary information to give credit where it’s due: the story is “The Smuggler” which is a tale from the Middle East taken from Wisdom Tales from Around the World by Heather Forest. I am the narrator above and made a few small changes to the original story in the process of telling it. The background music is Desert City by Kevin MacLeod
License: The donkey noises are classified as CC0 and no attribution is necessary.]

The story of this audio tale’s creation is much different than the struggles I faced the last time I told an audio story. The story of creating my version of “The Smuggler” is hardly a proper story at all in comparison. To be sure, the same parts of the story are there (i.e. exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution) but this time the ordeals were not as severe. No intense crisis overwhelmed me. Therefore, the relief at finishing the project was perhaps not as momentous.

That’s not to say the process was without its challenges. My first task was mastering the Audacity software to the extent that I could record and edit the basic narrative of “The Smuggler” in a way that sounded professional and pleasing to me. Remembering my former advice to myself, I didn’t over-rehearse or stress out too much, but just did my best to tell the story using vocal techniques that I had been taught.

When that was accomplished, I set out to complete my next task: to select music (under a Creative Commons license or in the public domain) that would enhance the story. I searched Incompetech to find just the right piece of music with a Middle Eastern flavor, since I was telling a story from that region of the world. And I found donkey noises on Freesound, since you simply cannot craft a story featuring donkeys without that “hee-haw” sound effect.
Donkey Hee Haw
My final task was to use the multi-track audio editing features of the Audacity software to combine music, sound effects, and narration to create a balanced whole. I confess to being a trifle nervous at this prospect, since I’ve never manipulated multiple tracks of audio before. I thought of all that could go wrong, like background music that might drown out the narration or not being able to find just the right spot for strategically placed donkey noises. Fortunately, I was able to use my professor’s Audacity tutorials and tips to come up with a final product that sounded just right to me.

The result is not only the audio you can hear above in my version of “The Smuggler,” but a growing sense of pride that I am meeting challenges head-on and mastering new skills along my storytelling journey.

Please tell me what you think of my latest story. I am always happy to receive kindly-worded constructive criticism as well as praise.


In which I wonder if I’m having fun yet.

“Take IST 646,” they told me, “It’ll be fun!”

Last fall, I was trying to choose electives for my second-to-last semester of grad school. A rough couple of semesters stood behind me. I looked forward to taking a course that would make my brain happy… something enjoyable, engaging, challenging enough to make my mental synapses crackle with anticipation, but not so difficult as to cause angst. IST 646: Storytelling for Information Professionals was recommended to me by several people whose opinions I trust, who said it would be that good sort of challenging, and fun, too. I closed my eyes, took a leap of faith, and registered for the class.

Last month I began my storytelling journey. My goals: to improve both my verbal and digital storytelling skills, to have fun, and hopefully to get an A. Why? Mostly, because I am aware of the power of storytelling in library advocacy efforts and I want to be the Best Public Library Advocate Ever. But also because I want to enjoy my semester. Plus, mastering new skills, much like getting As, is very beneficial for one’s self-esteem and an antidote to Impostor Syndrome. I imagined this journey would be like an invigorating hike up a tree-covered hill, a warm breeze ruffling my hair, a walking-stick in one hand, for fashion rather than necessity.

Sun Shining Down the Golden Forest Path

The journey started well. The first (ungraded) task was to create a video introduction using words and images. No problem.

The second (ungraded) task was to practice telling a one-minute cultural folktale. No problem, right? Wrong! I tripped over my words. I forgot details. I would start out fine, “In a lush, green forest a tall fir tree stood next to a…” and then the whole sentence would devolve into a mess, “…thwisted, torny bramble. No, a twisted, thorny bramble.” By about the thirteenth practice attempt, I felt like I had walked off the well-marked hiking trail of my journey and wandered into a twisted, thorny bramble of my own. As hard as I tried, as much as I practiced, I couldn’t tell one simple story and have it turn out okay.

Dry thorn

My third task (and first graded assignment) was to create a podcast with my telling of a two-to-three-minute story from my own life. Writing the narrative was simple enough, but rehearsing the tale was another matter. Again, I forgot important details or what happened next in the story. My tongue tied itself into knots. My voice either lacked emotion or was filled with the frustration of imminent failure. The storytelling journey that I had imagined as a pleasant woodland hike along a well-trodden path was morphing into a brutal slog through an overgrown jungle full of untamed branches, stinging insects, and the fetid stench of rotting vegetation. I practiced until my voice was raspy from overuse, until I was so frazzled that I never wanted to tell another story in my life. How was I going to become the Best Public Library Advocate Ever, have fun, and get an A when I couldn’t manage to tell one simple story properly? I would forever be a bad storyteller, fail the class, and be an ineffective advocate for the rest of my life. I was a frayed rope ready to snap.

Under stress

So I gave up and went to bed.

The next morning, I reassessed my priorities. Maybe I didn’t need to be the ultimate storyteller/advocate, maybe it was enough to just do my best. Maybe I should remember my goal of enjoying the semester, and have fun with the assignment, instead of letting it stress me out. Maybe, instead of rehearsing 12,000 times expecting perfection, I should just hit the “Record” button and see how things went from there.

I unfurrowed my brow, unclenched my jaw, and unhunched my shoulders. It took me 3 tries, but with my new relaxed attitude I managed to record my story without making any noticeable mistakes or forgetting anything important. Success!

Now I am ready to continue on my storytelling journey with a more realistic mindset. I don’t mean to imply that I’m not taking the class seriously. No, I still don’t do anything by halves: I read the articles, participate in the discussions, give each assignment my best effort. But now I’m getting over my insistence on flawlessness… I am a student, after all, and learning can be messy and imperfect. I still want to be a good storyteller and skilled library advocate, although it’s entirely possible that I may not achieve “Best Ever” status. I am embracing the challenges that IST 646 has to offer and am starting to discover the fun that was promised to me by former students of the class.

I’m enjoying the journey and trusting that the destination will be worth the effort.
Find joy in the journey. Hand drawn motivation lettering quote. Design element for poster, banner, greeting card.