Born a storyteller – interview with Susi Wolf (7 May 2008)

Introduction

Susi Wolf is one of the people who responded to my request for people to interview. As I did the research for the interview, I was fascinated by her reference to therapeutic storytelling. I shall say no more about this and let you read for yourself what she means. Without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing to you, Susi Wolf …


Aneeta: Susi, thank you very much for contacting me.

Susi: Thank you, Aneeta, for asking me to take part in this interview. I am honoured to be able to share some of my storytelling experiences with your readers.

Aneeta: Let’s start with a little about you. Please tell us, where were you born, where did you grow up, what do you do for a living, where do you live now and anything else you’d like to share with my readers.

Susi: I am a native Southwesterner, hailing originally from Phoenix,Arizona. I moved to Texas many years ago and was inDallas until I relocated toAlbuquerque,New Mexico in June of 2000. I came toAlbuquerque to tell stories at a wolf rescue ranch and within a day I felt this inexplicable pull to be here. I went back toDallas, quit my graphic design job, gave away almost everything I owned, put my car on a trailer and drove a U-Haul across westTexas. I did not know a soul, have a job or anything when I arrived inAlbuquerque; but I knew I was doing the right thing and that I was being led to theLand ofEnchantment. I discovered that, because of the economic situation inNew Mexico, it’s difficult to make your living as a full-time storyteller so I work at a non-profit agency where I train public housing residents in life skills, job skills, financial literacy and technology. I always use storytelling and metaphor in my training classes as it enhances their learning.

Aneeta: On your website, http://www.wolfsongcreative.com, you give a very good answer to the question, “When did you become a storyteller?” For the benefit of my readers, I would like you to give me your answer to this question as well, please.

Susi: I’m smiling, Aneeta. When I am asked, “When did you become a storyteller?” I reply, “When I was born.” It is a gift. It is a need. And it is innate to the very makeup of being a human. And it is in all of us. I firmly believe everyone—men, women, children, and selected wolves—are storytellers.

Aneeta: What, in your eyes, is the true importance of storytelling?

Susi: The key word, I believe, is connection. Story connects us – to self, to each other, to our Higher Power. It gives us freedom in expression. When I don’t have the words to share how I am feeling, I can let Story express it in metaphor. I have witnessed firsthand how Story allows people to look at their own perceptions and behaviours but with a psychic safety net so they don’t fall.

Aneeta: I am very interested in one aspect of your work and that is therapeutic storytelling. Can you please explain this in detail? What does it mean? What do you do? And who is involved in this therapeutic storytelling?

Susi: Therapeutic storytelling to me is a specialized method for telling for healing. Rather than using traditional talk therapy, listening to stories allows people to explore their feelings and beliefs on the coat tails of metaphor. Many cultures have traditional wisdom or sacred stories that would be used by healing people. But I think we can use almost any story in the therapeutic arena. If we as tellers are open in presenting the tales we feel will be helpful and appropriate, then we are doing therapeutic storytelling. It can be in shelters, in crisis situations or even one-on-one.

I personally have used therapeutic storytelling in domestic violence shelters, addiction recovery facilities, incarceration, crisis centers, shelters, and more. It’s important to remember we are storytellers and not therapists. Let Story do the work for you. The answers and the healing people seek will be brought to them through storytelling, not your expounding with sage advice on how they should change their lives.

Once we understand the needs of our listeners, we can intuitively know what story they need to hear. And they can find the courage to change by listening to stories. Here is one real-life example:

“Story saved my life.” These are the exact words from a courageous young woman fighting to win a battle with abuse and addiction. She confided after one of our weekly storytelling gatherings that often she wanted to leave her recovery program and return to a life of drugs. But knowing that Story offered truth and metaphors for healing, she stayed. She listened. And she changed. And that’s the gist of it. Storytelling changes folks. Always has. Always will.

Aneeta: How can my readers contact you if they wish to engage you as their storyteller professionally?

Susi: They can call me at 505-881-1220, visit my website (www.wolfsongcreative.com) on the “Contact Us” page or email me directly at susi@wolfsongcreative.com . I promise I will respond quickly.

Aneeta: As you know, this website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give those who would like to get started?

Susi: Use your library or the Internet to find stories. Read, read, read. Listen to as many other tellers as you can. It’s all about finding your own voice and which types of stories appeal to you. Tell only those which you love. For instance, I rarely tell tall tales. It’s a wonderful, fun venue but it is not my voice and, therefore, my performance may not sound authentic.

Aneeta: Susi, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Susi: Life is about change, which frightens many. But it’s inevitable. Humans are just creatures undergoing constant renovation. And Story reflects that. Consider how often the theme is transformation. The frog that is kissed…Cinderella meets a prince…the ugly duckling becomes a swan. Consider how many changes you have undergone within your own life. Like the cricket that buries itself inside the lion’s ear and won’t leave, Story beacons us to listen. Just be still and LISTEN!

Aneeta: Susi, thank you.

Susi: Thank you again, Aneeta, for allowing me to share my thoughts. And special appreciation for all you do to promote storytelling. It’s a wonderful newsletter.


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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