How much does a performance cost? 

While the standard rate according to Canada Council and Storytellers of Canada/Conteurs du Canada is $250 per hour performance, discounts are available for good causes. For example, I charge local daycares, preschools and Strong Start Programs $15-30 for 15-30 minute Storytimes. Seniors Centres usually pay $50-$75 for an hour session. Schools have paid $1-$2 per student up to $250 per hour for large groups and $3-$5 per student for individual classes. Birthday parties and family reunions have paid $5-10 per guest. Festivals with adequate funding tend to pay the full rate. I am also happy to donate my time for worthy causes.

Where do you find your stories? 

Sometimes stories find me or I search for them in books, on-line or in life before adapting them to my own telling style which may include an original or adapted song. Stories and songs can start as a few lines from a book, newspaper, conversation or personal experience. Once people know I’m a storyteller, they often are keen to share their stories. Tales come alive as I tell them and evolve into something new. When I find stories in books, on-line or in person, I look for other versions of the same story and use my imagination to help the story grow. For very young children, nothing beats fairytales, old and new.

Do you write your original stories and songs or compose them orally? 

I usually compose orally and only write stories or songs down once I’ve told or sung them many times. Even once they are written, they continue to change and grow. If you would like one of my original story texts (published stories by other authors must be purchased from a bookstore or borrowed from a library), please ask me to send it to you. If I haven’t written it down yet, your request will make sure I do. I often hear new songs before I sing them, sometimes inside words (especially sacred texts), in response to a question or during profound experiences. I have written down song texts and musical sketches, however so far only two of my songs have been formally transcribed, thanks to Robert Fraser, a trombonist with the Victoria Symphony & Cantor Anita Schubert of Florida. For children’s songs, I often choose old favorites (Eensy Weensy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, If You’re Happy and You Know It, etc.) or adapt old songs in new ways.

Can I tell or sing your stories or songs? 

Absolutely! Please credit the author(s) if you are telling to formal audiences. If you are telling stories to your own children at home, no worries. In a professional settings, permission from, and credit to, the author(s) is recommended unless the author makes it clear in their writing that they intend for their stories to be told. Even then, I try to remember to credit the source, which in Jewish tradition is a mitzvah (commandment). This can even be a incorporated into a fun joke for children, “Knock knock. Who’s there? Toad. Toad who? Toad you a Robert Munsch story, did you like it?” For adults, how and from whom you received your story can become part of the tale. If you are recording or publishing stories to sell, you must have written permission from the author and/or publisher. Please review the guidelines at Storytellers of Canada – Conteurs du Canada for more information.

Do I have to stick with the original text? 

No way! Let the story evolve. That’s part of the magic of stories. Every teller has their own unique style. You will remember the story better if it is closer to who you are and the way you speak. The easiest stories to remember are your own.

How do you remember the stories? 

B’ezrat Hashem (with Divine assistance) and by telling them again and again. I see, feel, hear, breathe and sometimes taste or smell the story as it unfolds. These experiences and images stimulate memory as one scene leads to another. Movement, especially walking, helps. The more I move during the telling and while practicing the better I remember. I often practice stories and songs internally as I walk. Before performances, I usually rehearse stories and songs out loud. Stories transform each time they are told, though, so it’s best to be open to the novel and unexpected. Forgetting key points or words (especially nouns) does happen sometimes. When it does, I take a deep breath, keep smiling and above all, keep going. G-d willing, I can make my recovery part of the story. If squirrels didn’t forget a few acorns now and then, we’d have a lot fewer oak trees, after all.

Can anyone become a Maggid or a Maggidah? 

This is a calling for Jewish people who wish to bring others closer to the Divine Source. If you are from a different faith or community, speak with your favorite clergy or mentor to find out the best way for you to pursue this gift within your tradition. If you would like more information about the program I took to become a Maggidah, please visit www.jewishspirit.com

Maggidah Shoshana Litman