Do you know that you can bring storytelling into every aspect of your life? Debra Weller Storyteller has been working with people for decades to do just that. I had the opportunity to interview her recently on Legacy After Dark! We had an epic conversation about preserving family stories and why it’s so important to tell stories. I’m so excited for you to learn more about her, so let’s jump in! You’ll find the livestream replay below and a summary of our chat marked with timestamps for easy jumps in the video. Enjoy!
Audio Version of the Episode
00:14 Asked and answered wicked intro – Getting to know Debra Weller Storyteller
I am Debra Weller Storyteller. I've been performing and teaching as a storyteller for 40 years. And with that, I've had the opportunity to travel internationally, to perform and all throughout the United States as a storyteller. The things that I love about what I do is I get to reach and teach people. I get to be all the characters in a story.
I started way back when my daughter was an infant, and I lived in New Jersey. I met another woman who was caring for my daughter while I finished my college courses. And I said, Let's be storytellers. I said, Well, I play the guitar. And we performed as the insulin storytellers for 12 years in the Cherry Hill, Philadelphia area, and performed at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Doylestown festival. And our little girls went with us. And they became storytellers too.
We performed for 12 years until I moved to California. Once there, I formed the south coast storytellers guild with some other wonderful storytellers in Orange County, California. And for 31 years, I lived there and performed and taught teachers librarians taught at conferences, to find people's voice.
I believe, through storytelling, that people can overcome their fear of public speaking. And also by embedding story in their brands, and embedding straight into their message when they're doing any kind of presentation. It really shows that the engagement will be higher, and people will remember the message. Storytelling, to me, is the key to curriculum, it's the key to business success, it's the key to personal success, because storytelling is a way to also build that legacy of personal stories that you pass on through the generations of time.
I teach online classes now or do small group virtual coaching. It's been a joy ride to work with people. The best thing is when I was leading, after school and summer camps for kids, teaching them to be storytellers and helping them find their voice and competence to stand in front of an audience.
04:00 ish – Story about something that was mundane and turned into true awesomeness
This was an incredible story. Debra shares how she was giving a presentation in a run-of-the-mill session. She didn't know that the owner of school in Vietnam was in the back of the room. What would normally have been a mundane moment turned into the opportunity of a lifetime. Listen in to hear the whole story at about the 4 minute mark.
10:10 Asking Debra about being the person who trains the librarians
Debra is one of those traditional storytellers who does not need a book to tell a story. But, as a teacher she uses the books to help the viewers, children or students, to visualize the beautiful illustrations.
In her career training teachers and librarians, she tries to make the process of storytelling more entertaining, more impactful, so that they can engage their audiences.
12:46 Preserving family stories
Enjoying the family stories and having a grandmother who wrote them down allowed Debra to venture into the world of storytelling and preserving them.
One way to achieve this is by adding photographic memories in the family album and attaching the stories there. Debra tells us that she created a story book for her children and nephews in which they will find personal memories.
Storytelling can allow you to connect and meet family members, even those who are no longer with us, with this powerful tool our children will discover where they come from and who our ancestors are. Therein lies the importance of sharing their legacy in a written form.
This is a perfect time, although this year will be different for our families. This is the time to do that interview with grandma, grandparents, aunts and uncles, mom and dad. Make up a list of questions, use a story planner, reconnect, and experience their stories.
21:20 Saving family photos
Debra talks about the importance of saving family photos and what that has done for her family. Saving family photos is a great way to remember loved ones and share stories. Preserving family photos does not have to be elegant or costly. It can be simple and easy. Using something like Shutterfly or ChatBooks is a simple, no-frills way to gather all your digital photos into a printable format.
23:05 Getting kids excited about family history and preserving family stories
Debra knows that in order for family history to continue on the kids have to buy in. It isn't always easy to keep kids excited about family history. I think her approach to storytelling is a great way to introduce children to how to tell stories and find their own voice. Ultimately preserving family stories for generations.
Getting children involved in the process is very important. Debra explains that by the age of 6 they can be involved by helping to write stories on the computer, record them. They are able to experience their genealogy and family history as part of their story. Creating these stories will give them the opportunity to talk and connect with family. This is a real gift.
26:24 Keeping Pictures of your family in your home
Here Debra talks about how important it is for family to include pictures and they're home. Pictures are a great way for kids and family members to be familiar with and remember people who aren't in the home or have passed away.
30:18 Getting kids (adult and youth) on the family history train and preserving family stories
Debra and I talked about how hard it can be to get your kids as youth or adults on the family history train. Debra shares a few ways she has kept her kids engaged throughout their lifetime and how she hopes they will continue the traditions she started.
42:41 The End…
Thank you so much for getting to the bottom! I hope you enjoyed getting to know Debra and hearing more about preserving family stories. If you are ready to help someone you love tell their story, you can get started with a free mini-course here.