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Storyteller Odds Bodkin talks about his craft

"To tell an audience 'the wind blew' is very different than making it blow," storyteller Odds Bodkin says. "That allows them to get an image." (Chris Pryor)
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Odds Bodkin is a magician who, when he's performing especially well, makes himself disappear to his audience.

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Well, not really.

Bodkin is a master storyteller who uses "words, characters, music and sound" to create a world in which stories come alive in the imaginations of his audience. "That's when I try to disappear," Bodkin says. If it all sounds a little, well, odd, Odds Bodkin would be the first to agree.

After all, he uses a 12-string guitar to mimic the sound of horse's hoofbeats, turns himself into a character he calls Sourdough Sam to tell the story of "Paul Bunyan and the Giant Mosquitoes," or spends four hours (yes, four hours) bringing to life the epic story of "The Odyssey" to students at Harvard University.

He'll be performing this week in the Washington area and took some time to talk to KidsPost's Tracy Grant about the art of telling a great story.

How many stories do you tell?

"About 150, some are just five minutes long; others go on for hours."

How do you remember them all?

"Kids ask me this all the time. I tell them that I don't memorize anything. I make pictures in my mind, and I tell you what I'm seeing. So each story is a little different every time I tell it."

What makes a great storyteller?

"Somebody once called me the hardest-working man in storytelling, and I like that. It takes a lot of energy, but I don't mind being silly. I find a great story that is beautiful and then try to perform it in a way that is fascinating to kids. I'll use a lot of vocal effects. To tell an audience 'the wind blew' is very different than making it blow. That allows them to get an image and an emotional charge. I'll play bouncy upbeat music on the guitar or beautiful music on the harp to set the mood of the story."

What's your favorite story?


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