New Kate Farrell Interview

Kate Farrell, author of Story Power, was recently interviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin for her website Writers Advice, read the interview here!

An interview with Kate Farrell by B. Lynn Goodwin

Storytelling has been around longer than the written word. How can you make your stories more vivid, compelling, and engaging? The tools are in Kate Farrell’s Story Power: Secrets to Creating, Crafting, and Telling Memorable Stories.
Storytelling has been around longer than the written word. How can you make your stories more vivid, compelling, and engaging? The tools are in Kate Farrell’s Story Power: Secrets to Creating, Crafting, and Telling Memorable Stories.
According to the Foreword written by Susan Wittig Albert, “author Kate Farrell guides us in the craft of creating and telling unforgettable, true stories for any occasion. She divides her chapters into Creating, Crafting, Telling, Exercises and Prompts. Dozens of authors share their approaches and the result is a rich compilation of techniques and ideas that will turn you into an effective storyteller. 
In the interview below she shares the importance of oral storytelling, how she got started, and tips for marketing any how-to book.

BLG: Tell us what motivated you to become a storyteller. Can you add a reason that’s not already in the book? 

KF: As a ten-year-old girl living on the Southside of San Antonio, Texas, I walked to the local public library and discovered the Andrew Lang Fairy Books, each one bound in a different color, like a rainbow. Enchanted with fairy tales from all over the world, I decided to put on a play of my version of the stories for the neighborhood children, and taught my five-year-old brother to take some of the parts. But when the day came for our performance, my little brother hid under the covers in his bed, and I had to take all the parts. It was my first, but not last, performance as a storyteller. I never lost my fascination for folklore and fairy tales, and wanted to share them.

BLG: How is oral storytelling different from written storytelling?

KF: The oral tradition includes folk literature that dates back to the beginning of time from all cultures. The ancients of every culture told stories to make meaning of life, to remember their history, and to entertain. A lot has changed since then, but stories haven’t. Some of the oldest stories ever told are still with us—because it’s in our nature to both tell and listen to them. Today, while many storytellers tell personal stories, their delivery is live, spontaneous, and engaging. The modern art of telling is similar, a performance, in the moment, with live interaction. It creates community and teaches universal truths.

KF:  Written storytelling, though it has some similarities to the ancient art, has a fixed text and is meant to be read in isolation, without deviating from the printed word. A printed text can have meaning and impact for the individual reader, but it does not, in and of itself, create community. Further, a literary work can be embellished with multiple literary devices, descriptive passages, and internal monologues, to name a few. Most of these stylistic features would encumber the tale a storyteller might tell, one that needs to move along quickly to hold the attention of the listening audience.

BLG: How can oral stories make people better writers?

KF: The obvious attribute that writers can take from the oral tradition is a sense of voice in their work. By learning to tell scenes aloud, to record them, and listen to the replay, writers can begin to develop their own voice on the page. All of us have a footprint in writing, a subtle rhythm, a cadence, and a rise and fall of emotion. Listening to your own voice, reading your own words, is a powerful way to increase your sense of its presence in a written text, and by so doing, engage your readers. Voice is the quality that brings a text to life, and lifts it off the page—gives a vital dimension to fiction and nonfiction.

BLG: When/how did you realize that you should be sharing your techniques with teachers as well as writers and how did you locate people who wanted to learn?

KF: Storytelling as an effective teaching strategy was my first focus, and I received a generous, long-standing grant from a local foundation. After three years, developing training ideas, research, and materials, the project became affiliated with the CA Dept. of Education, providing endorsement and access to CA schools statewide. Later, I learned the genre of memoir and began to edit and publish anthologies of personal narrative. Memoirists and storytellers have much in common, and both fields are increasing in popularity.

BLG: I like the pragmatic organization of Story Power. How did you select this format and where did your sample topics come from?

KF: I relied on the structure of my previous storytelling books and training materials, in particular, the first one, Word Weaving: A Storytelling Workbook, 1980. Over the 12 years of the storytelling project’s grant, I was able to identify training tools that worked and identify themes of compelling interest.

BLG: It was exciting to realize that I am acquainted with many of your contributors. What were you looking for when you chose them?

KF: After years of volunteering for writing groups, like the California Writers Club, the San Francisco Writers Conference, and WNBA-SF Chapter, I became fortunate to have a network of writer friends. From those, I chose a range of diverse voices: ethnic, racial, sexual preferences, cultural, even political. Knowing the published works of many of the writers and the themes within the book, I approached each person, chapter by chapter, matching authors to themes.

BLG: How is marketing a book like this different from marketing a novel or memoir?

KF: A nonfiction, how-to book for the adult market is a much easier book to sell than a novel or memoir, because its readers are already identified: those interested in learning a particular skill, a targeted market. With good strategies for discoverability, such as meta data, SEO, keyword choices, a robust online presence, readers can find a how-to book by its subject matter. Novels and memoir readers are not so easy to target, so marketing depends on book reviews, tours, the reputation of the author, a strong emotional and literary appeal.

BLG: What advice would you give to a writer who wants to share specific skills she has acquired?

KF: The most important first step is to research the market by looking for recently published, comparative titles; if possible, determine sales figures for those books. In that way, you can modify your approach and target a more specific reader. Next, look for a publisher that includes similar books in its catalog. Finally, develop your own platform in teaching those skills, if not already in place.

BLG: How was writing this book different from your first one, and where can readers learn more about you and your storytelling practices?

KF: My writing process clearly aligned with my first storytelling book, not only in style, but in the exact timing of writing a draft in 1979/2019 with publication in 1980/2020. I worked from an outline, and structured my work so that I could set individual deadlines. I was able to submit each chapter in draft form to Mango, as I once did throughout the summer of 1979 from a Sierra mountain town to a foundation in San Francisco. But in 1979, I worked on a manual typewriter, stuffed the manuscript for each chapter in a manila envelope, rode my bicycle to the photocopier, and mailed the original MS onion skin pages at the local post office.

BLG: Now that’s a story. I remember onion skin typing paper and manual typewriters. We’ve come a long way.


Story Power by Kate Farrell

Story power

Secrets to Creating, Crafting, and Telling Memorable Stories

Stories are everywhere. The art of storytelling has been around as long as humans have. And in today’s noisy, techy, automated world, storytelling is not only prevalent—it’s vital. Whether you’re interested in enlivening conversation, building your business brand, sharing family wisdom, or performing on stage, Story Power will show you how to make use of a good story.