Wednesday, March 31, 2010

PLA 10: Thrilling Tales with David Wright

It takes a lot to get me out of bed, caffeinated, and ready to listen at 8:30am. I've been stalking following David Wright on Fiction_L and Shelf Talk for at least a year, probably longer. I've been intrigued about the storytime he does for adults at Seattle Public Library.

I figured a guy who's been entertaining folks with stories for years would give a pretty awesome talk. I meandered in a few minutes late and I couldn't resist tweeting: Listening to one of my library crushes, David Wright, talk about storytime for grown-ups. #pla10. (Tweets about #thrilling tales.)

Wright has been telling stories at SPL for more than five years, regaling workers and tourists from 12:05-12:50 twice a month at the flagship library. The escapist romps attract between 25 and 80 people per session. Wright mentioned the stories of Jack Ritchie as early and favorites to read.

Initially Wright recruited local actors and "celebrity" readers -- like our beloved Nancy Pearl -- but after a year decided to read all the stories himself. ("Just me and a microphone.") He found that regulars preferred the consistency. For those not wanting to tell tales personally, volunteers can also do the program.

Where find stories? Everywhere!

I'm just going to go ahead and list all the places Wright mentioned, but be sure to see his handout (link below) for more examples: Ghost stories, crime, mystery, western, pulp, Elmore Leonard ("suspense with spurs"), New Yorker, anthologies, Kelly Link, Stranger: Dark Tales of Eerie Encounters, Best Short Stories, Best New Voices. One thing to avoid? Novels.

Ready to start?

All you need is water, light, a clock, lectern, and mic. Wright advised, "Use a mic unless you're reading to one person in a closet." (Now, do you understand my library crush? Funny guy.) Set the mood with dim lighting and pre-show music. Lowered lights send the message that the program is auditory. Wright suggested starting with a short tale, maybe 10 minutes in length, so that late-comers will be able to get into the groove.

Wright tends to stick to suspenseful tales, but there's a lot of opportunity for variation. The program also works great with themes (do a world tour, selecting different countries; bilingual storytime; reach out to the deaf community and arrange for an interpreter to sign the program). The grown-up storytime is also a natural fit for outreach, visiting senior and other community centers, as well as nursing homes.

Broadcasting and podcasting are also possible, though the requirements change when you record something. Wright encouraged attendees to seek necessary permissions and stated it was easier than one might think. He said, "We are libraries, we hold the golden key."

The community library where I worked for two years would have been great for this type of program. Even though I'm not currently doing public service or programming, I knew grown-up storytime was something many of my colleagues would be interested in. (And something I could try once I left my Very Special position.)

Wright offered, "This is a great program to fail at." You can't beat the bargain basement price of you, a mic, and time.

Wright's materials are available on the PLA Conference website: (You can search by last name or session title.)

See also: ricklibrarian: Thrilling Tales and Selected Shorts: An Adult Story Time for Your Library

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