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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. July's Theme: "Risibility"
Volume 9 Issue 5 ISSN# 1708-3265



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Our Secret Territory: The Essence of Storytelling
Laura Simms
ISBN: 978-1-59181-172-5

Heartfelt, multi-faceted and a treasure trove of insight and quotes is Our Secret Territory: The Essence of Storytelling by Laura Simms. The book is a collection of the author's own articles about storytelling and that which happens between storyteller and listener.

Laura Simms has been telling stories for 40 years. She is highly acclaimed and has performed in New York, London and the Philippines among other places.

In Laura Simms' world, storytelling is "more ritual than entertainment." When told with integrity and responsibility, it is able to reach a deeper level of consciousness in a person. Storytelling is thus able to bring peace and direction to the listener, heal and facilitate understanding and insight. Each listener experiences the story being told personally. In many ways, the listener becomes the story; its characters, the landscape, the challenges and its resolution. Storytelling is a reciprocal engagement between storyteller and listener.

I struggled writing this review and I have an idea why. What Laura Simms is trying to communicate (her understanding and learnings about storytelling) is not so much something that is difficult to understand but something which is multi-faceted and multi-layered. It is so much like our lives. It cannot fit into a box or be broken down into easily-identifiable components. In order to fully appreciate what she is trying to say, it did require me to have an open mind but more importantly it did require me to allow it to take me on a journey much like when listening to a story.

There are several things I take away from reading her book.

Firstly and most importantly, I feel inspired and encouraged when I read how she traces the beginnings of her work to activities she engaged in when she was young. Activities most people would deem as trivial, not important or even a waste of time. These include playtime with friends, creating and playing out stories, and keeping a journal in her teen years to help her cope with her mother's stroke. The message to me is that it is important to listen to my inner voice; to live in the moment and to engage in experiences that are meaningful to me. I may not fully understand its significance but following that inner voice leads to fulfillment and fulfillment brings peace and being fully present in the moment. Only when I am fully present in the moment can I see the many possibilities in front of me.

It is clear in Laura Simms' writing that she feels a sense of responsibility to her work. She begins her book with a quote from Antonio Machado, "What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?" This is something I am coming across more from people who are also involved in the performing arts. Very often performing is seen and experienced as a means of fulfilling oneself, which it does, but a shift towards a sense of responsibility to use one's talent/gift/work to help another person is an important and powerful one. It is an incredible but maybe not incredulous shift at a time when many of us in the first world are looking beyond what was seemingly important not so long ago; furthering a career at all costs and acquiring of possessions that do not make us or our children happier among others. It shifts one's centre from fulfillment of me to fulfillment of other people's needs.

Storytelling is needed today. It was the living blueprint of societies and communities in the past and still is of some, though few, today. Stories told responsibly and with integrity lead us to discover who we are. If the world had more storytellers, there would probably be fewer therapists. A story told is always a shared experience and that provides us that essential connection to another person and places us in community.

In Laura Simms' book, you journey with her as she has discovered the workings of her craft, learned about life and is sharing it with you. All three are intertwined. I urge you to read her book. It is not merely for the performer. It is for anyone who seeks to learn and grow. This is a book I will come back to after a while of absence and discover something else because I have changed or grown and am ready for that something else. It is like in the story of "The Bone Man" which Laura Simms narrates in her book. The boy, Nulwee, is told from his youth how he is to defeat the Bone Man who ravaged his village. It is only later in life before he has to fight the Bone Man that his grandmother hands him a bow his father had made for him and he starts practicing with it. In life we are fed things when we are ready for them.

Reviewed by a gifted and talented storyteller in her own right,
Marianne Hyland





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