The planet's coolest jobs: professional storyteller

Kids Blog - RA UNEXPECTED HILL VANESSA sept 2015-4
Vanessa bringing stories to life © Royal Academy

Spinning yarns, telling tales, sharing stories... When it comes to bringing legends and myths to life, there's no better way than to speak them aloud. Vanessa Woolf spends her days doing just that, working as a professional storyteller and painting colourful, detailed pictures and narratives for audiences using just her words. What's it like to tell stories, create characters and capture imaginations for a living? Let's find out!

Describe your job in five words!

Making stories magical and alive.

Kids Blog - Vanessa Trafalgar Juniors jan 2019
Vanessa captivating an audience with her tales © Vanessa Woolf

Whereabouts do you tell your stories?

I am lucky enough to be asked to tell my stories in all kinds of amazing places. Sometimes they're big museums like the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, or theatres like Shakespeare’s Globe. Sometimes I can hold storytelling sessions in shops, other times I have been asked to tell stories in creepy old cemeteries in the middle of the night! I have told stories in schools, caves, on hilltops, at festivals and parties. I also get to travel around the world to do what I love! One of my favourite experiences was being invited to a 1000-year-old castle in the clouds, on top of a lonely mountain in Italy, to tell stories about fairies.

Are the stories you tell rehearsed, or are they from your own imagination?

My stories come from all kinds of places. Some are amazing old fairy tales like Puss in Boots, or legends like Thor’s Hammer, and some are based on history or real people. I usually play with the stories and mix them up a little to bring them alive in the listener’s imagination. If I need something completely new then I will make it up for sure, but once I know what I’m telling, I rehearse a lot. Long and difficult stories can take months to work out and learn.

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Using props to create extra drama © Bold Tendencies

What are some of your favourite stories?

I usually LOVE the tale I am telling in the moment, whatever it is! But at its core, if the audience is enjoying it, then I love it too.

How did you become a professional storyteller?

Well now that is a very long story...

Kids Blog - vanessa Clore Ballroom Imagine 2019
On stage at the Clore Ballroom © Vanessa Woolf

What advice would you give someone looking to become a storyteller?

The world always needs wonder, dreams and magic, so believe in what you’re doing!

What's the coolest thing about your job?

Storytellers work with the listener’s imagination, so audience members will feel as if they have really been to the places you’re telling them about, and have really met the people in your story. I think that’s pretty cool!

Packed with magical tales and fairy kingdoms, there's plenty of storytelling inspiration in our newest title – Wild Things!

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