But it's not enough to think those thoughts. Being a thought leader means making sharing and promoting those thoughts.
And leadership means sharing and promoting the hell out of those thoughts. Getting them out there. Getting heard. Evangelizing.
I'm going to take three examples of what I think of as "deep thoughts" and look at how fast they are catching on:
Carol Birch and Melissa Heckler collected some of the movement's thoughts in "Who Says?: Essays on Pivotal Issues in Contemporary Storytelling" (August House, 1996), and those essays are still pertinent (Which reminds me, I need to go back and read them all again).
Now, granted, this anthology most likely didn't rush off the shelves at August House when it came out. You don't see the storytelling community rushing to contemplate or debate "pivotal issues," except maybe for three days each summer at a conference. (You, dear readers, all ten of you, are the exception, of course.)
And there aren't enough university courses in the world for these essays to get out there, even should they be required reading (and I'm of the opinion they should.)
If Who Says? Volume 2 were to come out... we'd need to rethink its delivery vehicle. Reading about storytelling performance is like dancing about architecture. Short multimedia pieces depicting oral storytelling performances along with commentary from the essayist would not only be more digestible to storytellers outside of the university, but catch some attention from the world at large. A storytelling lab on YouTube-- why not? Hey, are the slide show guys who helped Al Gore available?
Jo Radner, current chair of the National Storytelling Network, created quite a buzz with her inspiring keynotes at Sharing the Fire in 2006 and the National Storytelling Conference in 2007. She looks at the current state of the storytelling movement and suggests some paths for the future.
And when I say, quite a buzz, I mean among the five hundred people who got to hear her.
I wasn't one of them.
I've been trying to track down a recording of the keynote for some time.
I happened to talk to Jo the other day, and got her to email me her speech, if I promised to remember that it was much more entertaining delivered live.
(She also was fairly certain that no one recorded the keynote at the 2007 conference).
/me smacks head against wall.
Is it really that difficult to arrange to record a keynote? Hell, fly me out to the conference and put my iPod on the podium to record it, and I'll have the speech up on the Web at the Internet Archive for anyone to listen to, for free, forever, the next day.The speech was as impressive as I'd heard. I didn't agree with all of Jo's visions for the future, but I was quite excited that she put it out there.
She also told me it was now available in print as part of the latest issue of Storytelling, Self, and Society.
Good grief."SSS" is the international, peer-reviewed academic journal created in 2003 by the Storytelling in Higher Education Special Interest Group of the National Storytelling Network. I understand the vision that created the journal (i.e., the desire to bring storytelling into secure footing in the academic world), but the infrastructure of these journals is more self-serving (for the publishers who print them, as well as for the egos of those academics who are published in them) than community-focused.
Academic journals like these limit their audiences (they focus on university libraries and academics (yes, personal subscriptions are available, if you want to pay $65/year for 3 issues)). They have authoritarian copyright policies (most journals, SSS included, recommend that authors relinquish copyright and transfer it to the publisher. SSS's publisher does allow exceptions, as long as authors grant them exclusive worldwide publishing license).
I serendipitously discovered that my employer has online access to SSS, so I took a peek and was quite impressed with the articles I found there, and sorry to see that for most of the storytelling community, they are hidden away behind a locked gate.
Finally, I wanted to do a shout out to Kendall Haven --one of the first professional storytellers I ever saw perform once I discovered storytelling. Kendall is a former scientist, and he's surveyed the research out there in educational literature on the educational impact of storytelling, and found hundreds of qualitative and quantitative studies to back up storytelling's usefulness in the classroom, going way beyond the tired old position paper by the National Council of Teachers of English trotted out by every storyteller trying to book a school residency or assembly.
So where did I find out about this? SSS. (/me rolls eyes). He's also presented at the 2006 National Storytelling Conference. He's written a book about what he found, Story Proof: the Science Behind the Startling Power of Story (Libraries Unlimited, 2007).
I don't imagine the book tour that Libraries Unlimited set up included YouTube videos. (Nope, just checked).
Now I know Haven is a hard-working storyteller. He'll get the word out, one professional development workshop at a time, one reading conference at a time. But I have to say, he's sitting on an idea virus that needs to be liberated from its petri dish. Where's the Story Proof blog? Where's the Story Proof web site? Even the storytelling community's evangelists for storytelling in education --the ones who know how to use the web-- aren't picking up on this (hey-- Karen? Kate? Jackie? Dianne? Rachel? Kevin? the clue phone is ringing. Pick up, would you?)
Get those Oscar-winning slide shows guys back here again.
A presentation at a storytelling conference is not sufficient. An article in an academic journal is not sufficient. An article in Storytelling magazine is not sufficient. (SSS = throwing your ideas down a deep well. Storytelling magazine = less deep well, but a well none the less)
What is sufficient? Will I be happy only when every storytelling elder has their own YouTube channel, blog, viral marketing campaign, and ancillary line of products?
(Okay, yeah, I'd be happy)
There are more and more ways to get content out there. And I've mentioned a few of the leaders who have found ways to do that. Old school, meet new school. Make stuff happen.