For National Storytelling Week, Here Are 15 Books You Can Use To Start Your Storytelling Career

Prime your voices and flex your wrists, folks. It's National Storytelling Week! OK, so it's technically a U.K. holiday, but the U.S. version, the National Storytelling Festival, doesn't come around until October, so I don't think celebrating both will be a problem. Storytelling is something you can do year-round, after all.

I should know. Long, long years ago, I used to tell. And I still do, when the moons and planets align.

Call me biased, but I think storytelling is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives. I'm not usually the type to tell people to cast off their smartphones and focus at length on something old-fashioned, but that's exactly what I'm saying here. It takes no effort at all to turn off your devices, sit back, and listen to a great story.

So my first recommendation is that you find a storytelling event near you. Most are very affordable, and many are free. There are multi-day festivals, one-night-only tellings, monthly workshops, and more, so trust me: there's an event out there that's perfect for you, your schedule, and your budget.

Now, if you want to take the deep plunge — and you absolutely should — you can sign up for an amateur storytelling event. That's my second recommendation: prepare your first story to tell. It's terrifying at first, but someone once told me that if you don't have butterflies before you start, you're sure to do badly.

But hey, that's what preparedness is for. The books on this list will help you find the perfect story to craft into your own tale. A few of them have pointers to guide you toward becoming a better storyteller. Even if storytelling is something you only do once, it's still a huge achievement of public speaking.

One final note before we get into the book list, though. Stories are copyrighted material, even if they're public domain. So you can absolutely tell "Beauty and the Beast," but you can't just anyone else's version of it; it must be the absolute original or your own.

If you find a particular story you love, you can write to the copyright holder and ask permission to tell it at a specific time and place, and note whether or not you will be paid. Written permissions come back promptly, in my experience.

That might not be an issue for you, though, because many of the books on this list feature stories from tellers who have given amateurs permission to use their material. Just look in the book's front pages to see what you should do if you want to tell one of its tales.

Whenever and however you receive permission, you should absolutely introduce the story with the title and author: "This is 'Story Title,' from Storyteller, and I tell it with her permission." Just do that, and everything's on the up and up.

Happy telling!

1. Ready-to-Tell Tales, edited by David Holt and Bill Mooney

This collection, edited by David Holt and Bill Mooney, grants readers permission to tell the tales inside. From diverse tellers and origins, these stories make a great resource for anyone who wants to start telling or build up her portfolio.

2. Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen is the queen of bringing medieval legends to life for modern readers of all ages. In Not One Damsel in Distress, you'll find 13 stories about girls who kick ass and take names in all corners of the globe.

3. Come Go with Me: Old-Timer Stories from the Southern Mountains by Roy Edwin Thomas

Come Go with Me contains nearly 100 tall tales and historical anecdotes about Appalachian and Ozarks life, almost all of which are ripe for the telling.

4. Folktales Aloud: Practical Advice for Playful Storytelling by Janice M. Del Negro

Audience involvement is a huge part of storytelling. Sure, there's clapping, and there are call-backs, but the first step is to get your listeners to listen. In Folktales Aloud, Janice M. Del Negro covers how to keep children actively engaged with your telling, and includes a few stories to boot.

5. More Ready-to-Tell Tales from around the World, edited by David Holt and Bill Mooney

This follow-up to the original Ready-to-Tell Tales has even more stories amateurs can use to take that first, deep plunge into storytelling.

6. Shake-It-Up Tales! by Margaret Read MacDonald

A lot of folks use musical instruments when they tell. I've heard guitars, harmonicas, drums, tambourines... even a washboard! If you've got a gift for music, Margaret Red MacDonald's Shake-It-Up Tales! will be a great place to begin your search.

7. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Remember what I said about public domain stories? Yes, I was just talking about folk and fairytales earlier, but even books like The Velveteen Rabbit are fair game. Other great examples are The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. And because the original versions are in the public domain, you can tell them verbatim, if you like. But I suggest putting your own spin on these tales.

8. Telling Your Own Stories by Donald Davis

Donald Davis is a master of turning life experiences into hilarious storytelling. If you've got a few tales of your own you'd like to share, check out his book, Telling Your Own Stories, for information on turning your life into laughter.

9. The Original Folk & Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Those of you who have never read the Grimm Brothers' original, unaltered tales are in for a dark and creepy delight. Full of violence, blood, and gore, any of these stories might inspire you to get out there and tell.

10. Three-Minute Tales by Margaret Read MacDonald

If you want to make your first storytelling experience quick and dirty, check out Margaret Read MacDonald's Three-Minute Tales for your fast fix.

11. The Book of Virtues, edited by William J. Bennett

If moral fables are your thing, check out William J. Bennett's The Book of Virtues for stories and poems, long and short.

12. The Story-Teller's Start-Up Book: Finding, Learning, Performing and Using Folktales by Margaret Read MacDonald

Looking for a quick-start guide to developing your storytelling craft? Check out Margaret Read MacDonald's The Story-Teller's Start-Up Book. It's got all the information you need to build your repertoire and get to telling.

13. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

This classic set of horror shorts scared the pants off of every kid I knew growing up. If you're planning to tell spooky stories, you can't miss Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

14. Wonder Stories Told for Children by Hans Christian Andersen

Ahhh, Hans Christian Andersen. Does it get any better? Not generally. If you want to tell a classic story that isn't overdone, I suggest "The Wild Swans," "The Constant Tin Soldier," or "The Tinder-Box."

15. The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde and Other Stories by Mary de Morgan

The title tale in this stunning collection from feminist activist Mary de Morgan centers on an evil princess who turns suitors into beads for her jewelry. "The Three Clever Kings" is another gem, which follows a trio of heirs who do not want to inherit the throne.

Image: Dennis Vandal/flickr