"Become aware what is in you. Announce it, pronounce it, produce it and give birth to it." - Meister Eckhart

31 December 2013

Happy New Year and all the best for 2014!

I would like to thank you for your support over this last year and wish you all the best for 2014. I hope your stories are meaningful and nourishing.

I look forward to meeting you in the New Year and hearing your stories. And if you wish to discover what story can do for you and your organisation, contact me for coaching, mentoring and training workshops.

With kind regards,


24 October 2013

"What will survive of us is love." R.I.P. Mom (Marion Lynn Williams, 1931-2013)

I'd like to honour my mother who died this morning after a short struggle with cancer. She was 82 years young.

I am grateful that I was able to see her before she died and while she was still fairly aware of what was going on around her and able to have conversations. We talked openly about death and dying as well as life and living. There was nothing left unsaid when it came time for me to leave. That was one of the hardest things I had to do -- to walk away from my Mom in hospital for the last time. I'd sat with her all afternoon holding her hand, sitting in that profound yet mundane silence. I kissed her, gave her a hug and told her I loved her. I asked her if she knew she was loved. She smiled and nodded. As I walked away, I turned, thinking there might be some last words to make our parting easier. "See you later," I said, trying to hold back tears. She opened her eyes, smiled again and replied, "No, you won't." She was right, of course. She had accepted death in a way I could not.

Her greatest wish was that we remain strong as a family. Certainly, her dying and growing weakness brought out the family's strength. Every day in hospital one or more family members were there for her. Grand-daughters and grandsons pitched in to help arriving in the wee hours of the morning to be there when their grandmother woke up, staying throughout the long day and sitting with her until she fell asleep at night. Her children too--my brothers and sister--and their partners were also there each step of the way. Never have I been so proud of my family. My mother's dying allowed me to see them in a light I'd not witnessed before -- the light of love.

My mother was not perfect by any means (few parents are and neither am I). She was not your traditional "earth mother" maternal woman. After giving birth to six children in quick succession, she acknowledged the failure of her marriage and left the family. Rather than split us children up, she agreed that we would live with our father while she set out to find herself and a career. Her leaving affected all of us in different ways. I was the oldest though not yet a teenager. I felt betrayed and bewildered and turned against her in anger and silence. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that seismic shift in my life caused me to set out on a journey of self-discovery that would lead to a pretty remarkable life. In short, if my mom and dad hadn't been the people they were (warts and all) and things hadn't happened the way they did, I wouldn't be who I am today. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to thank her for that before she died.

Several years ago, over lunch, my mother tearfully asked if I could forgive her for leaving us. I knew immediately that her request was genuine and heartfelt. And thankfully because of the years of therapy and self-exploration, I was in a position to genuinely offer forgiveness. It was a special moment in a rather unremarkable greasy spoon cafe. Later, I too asked for her forgiveness for not being the son she might have wished for. We were lucky that we could do this before death intervened. I had missed the opportunity with my dad; I'm grateful I was given a second chance with my mom. Don't underestimate the power of forgiveness.

My mother's dying also precipitated another act of forgiveness. An old disagreement between her and her younger brother had resulted in a long-standing cold war between them that had gone on for many years. My brother had informed our uncle and his wife of Mom's condition. His wife informed us that he had received the message and that he was genuinely sorry for her and wished her well. When asked if she would like to see him, Mom tightened her lip and shook her head. Yet one day a couple of weeks ago, the impossible happened -- our uncle appeared at her hospital bedside. My sister was there at the time and she reported how he sat and held her hand. She left the room, giving them the privacy and opportunity to say whatever they had to say to one another. When she returned an hour later, he was gone. But Mom was smiling peacefully. She didn't say what was said, she simply told us it was good that he had come. Forgiveness, compassion, love -- these are the elements precipitated out of the cauldron where life and death mingle together.

My hope is that Mom also found it within her power to forgive herself for whatever wrongs or misdeeds she felt she had done. In her final hours, the pain of her cancer and the effects of medication caused her to cry out words of despair and vitriol often projected against whoever happened to be sitting with her. Yet this was not to be taken personally but rather, I felt, accepted as some of the inner poison to be expelled, the toxic dregs of self-loathing and insecurity that lurks within all of us. Dying is also a purging, part of the preparation for the soul's journey.

After what seemed an interminable amount of time and suffering, our Mother finally found peace this morning. My sister was at her bedside. The night had been difficult with Mom's sleep interrupted by bouts of panic as she gasped for breath while her lungs were filling with fluid. The nurses had drained her lungs and got her settled again. According to my sister, several hours later, in the dead of night, Mom suddenly opened her eyes and recognised her daughter. My sister had a few moments to reassure her, tell her we all loved her, then told her gently to go to her Mother and Father. Mom closed her eyes and was gone. My sister reported that never had Mom looked so peaceful than in that moment. Death the devil of torment transformed into an angel of mercy.

Now we begin the story-catching and story-making, sharing our memories of our mother and ourselves and all those who were fortunate (and unfortunate) enough to come into my mother's ken. She could be a caustic, irksome woman at times who drove us crazy; she could say the most insensitive things without realising it; and yet she could also be sweet, compassionate and understanding. I saw that what she lacked in being a mother, she made up in being a loved and loving grandmother. And though there was a distance between us for many years, she never stopped sending me a birthday card every year or calling or emailing me. In more recent years, we established a good relationship, calling and skyping one another regularly. I'll miss her. I'll miss those calls. I'll miss her voice. I'll miss my mother.

Like a bad storyteller, I'm going on too long. I use words to try and make everything ok. Words, words, words, lamented Hamlet. Allow me, however, to close with the words of another enigmatic poet, Philip Larkin who, despite criticism of his often perceived curmudgeonly character, saw that at the end of it all, "What will survive of us is love" (read his "Arundel Tomb"). So, at the end of a life filled with complexities and complications, death brings a simple realisation. What will survive of us is love. That's your legacy, Mom. Love. Simply, love.

Rest in peace.

16 October 2013

Scottish International Storytelling Festival: Once Upon A Journey

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival gets under way in less than a week. To find out more about all the events the Festival has to offer, click this link http://www.tracscotland.org/festivals/scottish-international-storytelling-festival

22 September 2013

Blethers Fall 2013

Read the latest edition of Blethers, the newsletter of the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Catch up on the latest news in the world of storytelling in Scotland and read my latest article on the ABCs of Storytelling. This one focuses on 'Blogs and Breathing'.


13 September 2013

A Wake-Up Call: Stress, Decisions and Opening Up to New Possibilities

You always think it happens to someone else -- accidents, serious illness and hospitalisation. In his poem "Ambulances" the poet Philip Larkin suggests that while we all look on with concern and gravity when we hear the ambulance siren, we're all greatly relieved that it's not coming for us.

Several weeks ago, however, the ambulance came for me. In the middle of the night I was catapulted from sleep with severe chest and abdominal pain of a sort I've never experienced. Within minutes it had increased off the scale and I felt myself go cold and clammy. "This is it," I thought, "this is how I die . . . in my t-shirt and underpants, collapsed in the hallway. . . without even a chance to say goodbye to anyone." My moans and groans woke my partner and she called 999 and spoke to someone who suspected I was having a heart attack and ordered an ambulance. To my surprise and relief, a rapid response paramedic arrived within minutes and hooked me up to a heart monitor. Minutes later the ambulance arrived. The monitor indicated my heart was okay but to be safe they rushed me to Emergency anyway.

Now having raised three sons and experiencing the odd accident, I'm not a stranger to Emergency and am used to waiting hours before being seen. But I suppose when a 61-yr-old man presents with chest pains and difficult breathing, that requires swift attention. I was rushed immediately into the arms of a waiting team of doctors and nurses while my partner gave the necessary details to reception. I had a half a dozen or more electrodes attached with all these wires hooked up to a monitor. An intravenous drip was attached, and a nurse started taking blood. Within a couple of hours the pain was subsiding but that didn't keep the medical staff from doing an X-ray and other tests. They wanted to be sure my heart was okay.

Fortunately, it was. "Are you an athelete?" a male nurse asked me.

"Why?" I replied, a little puzzled.

"Because your heart rate is typical of long distance runners," he explained.

That certainly cheered me up particularly because I'm not as keen on exercise as I should be. "I do play badminton from time to time," I smiled, "and I walk a lot." Both are true.

I was kept in overnight for observation as a precaution. The next afternoon, a doctor came and sat by my bedside. She explained that all my tests came back ok. My heart was in very good condition, she explained.

"Then what happened?" I asked.

"Probably an unspecified gastro-intestinal upset of some sort. What kind of day did you have yesterday?"

Obviously, she was trying to discover if stress had brought on this attack. I had already considered that yet I hadn't felt particularly stressed . . . no more than anyone else.

"Nothing special," I began, "I drove my partner's car to the garage to have the power steering fixed. I hung around for a few hours and went to pick it up. On the way home along the motorway, the exhaust fell off. I had to crawl under the car and with one hand prop the pipe up again."

"What happened?" the doctor said.

"It fell off again a few hundred yards later," I said, "in fact, it fell off five more times before I found a piece of string in the gutter and was able to tie it up. Took me a couple of hours to get home."

The doctor raised her eyebrows, "You don't think that was stressful?"

"It happens," I answered, "I guess it was....yeah."

"What else is happening in your life," she probed.

"Well," I paused, "we're moving."


Pause. "Hmm . . . supposed to be today." I felt rather sheepish.

"Today?!" she exclaimed, "That's pretty stressful! What else?"

I took her back seven years and told her my story. How my marriage of 25 years had come to an acrimonious end, how my subsequent life was turned upside down as I struggled to find accommodation, work (I'm self-employed) and rebuild my relationships with my children. There was more but I could tell from the gobsmacked expression on her face that I had made an impact.

"My God," she exclaimed, "I'm stressed out just listening to your story . . . and you don't think you're stressed? You've experience virtually everything on the list of stress-inducing life experiences!"

"Yeah, I guess you're right when you put it that way."

The doctor went on to explain how our bodies can cope with a lot of stress for a while but eventually something gives. I had reached a state, she explained, where I had come to consider the level of stress in my body as "normal". I just let it pile up and now it had exploded in my chest.

"This woke you up at 3am," she said, "so consider this a 'wake-up call' and start taking it easy."

Easier said than done, I thought, when you're self-employed, in your sixties, and no chance of retiring on a pension that would barely feed me. But, I admitted to myself, she had a point. I don't want to go through that sort of pain again. And I'm not ready to die.

I was released from hospital, exhausted and grateful to be alive. I went home and went to bed and slept through till the next morning. When I awoke, my partner (who'd been an angel through all of this) assured me that we could put off moving for several weeks or whenever I felt better. "No," I said, "let's go today." It was a decision I'd been wrestling with for months. I hate moving and I didn't want to go. But now, something in me had shifted. I was adamant, my mind was made up. "Let's go today," I repeated.

We packed the car that afternoon, said goodbye to Edinburgh and drove north to our new home in the Highlands. I felt content and satisfied that I had made the right decision . . . at least I wasn't experiencing any pain. And if it turned out to be the wrong decision, then we'd simply reassess and make another decision if needed.

I'm more and more convinced that not making decisions is bad for your health. Going around with such indecision for months (or years) creates undue stress in the body as well as the mind. If you have a decision to make, make it. Of course, gather the facts as best you can, but make it. Even if later you determine it was a bad decision, then make another one. It's like a captain of a large ship correcting his course every now and again. Making decisions is how we get somewhere. Not making them gets us stuck or off course and sends us crashing into the rocks of despair and ill-health.

There's more to this story but that's for another time. In the meantime, consider the unmade decisions in your life that have been hanging around for ages. Commit yourself to making them or let them go. You never know, making a decision--no matter how frightening--may just open you up to new possibilities. If you don't then don't be surprised when your body wakes you up in the middle of the night crying and cringing in agony. Don't let that siren be the one coming for you. Listen to your body now and make the decisions you know you need to make today. Your body will thank you for it.

17 August 2013

Teller and the Tale with therapeutic storyteller Janelle Combelic

Janelle Combelic
Originally from Colorado, Janelle Combelic now makes her home in the north of Scotland where she's part of the Findhorn Community. Not only is she a storyteller but also practises and teaches mindfulness, having followed in the footsteps of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

Janelle's storytelling reflects her interest in healing and forgiveness. She is currently offering workshops which invite participants to explore the experience of forgiveness through story, dialogue and meditation. She will also take part in the Findhorn Foundation's Forgiveness conference at the end of September. Janelle shares her thoughts on therapeutic storytelling and tells an ancient tale from the Inuit tradition.

Join the Teller and the Tale starting tomorrow (Sunday) at noon (in the UK or 7am if you're in Eastern Standard Time in North America). Check www.bluesandrootsradio.ca for times in your area.

13 August 2013

Teller and the Tale with actor and storyteller Ray Armstrong

This week my guest on the Teller and the Tale is actor and storyteller Ray Armstrong. Now in his 70s Ray lives in the Findhorn Community where he still takes an active role in organising theatrical productions, readings and taking visitors on tours of the Community.

Ray shares his memories of childhood, his dreams of living like Tarzan in the Norfolk forests, and his many years of working in the theatre including the famous Royal Shakespeare Company. Ray has a captivating voice and you won't want to miss him share his love of traditional tales.

Catch Ray on Blues and Roots Radio tonight at 8pm (EST) or 1am in the UK and again on Friday at 4pm (EST) or 9pm for our UK listeners. If you miss the programme you can catch up on Saturday when the programme will be uploaded to my site here (click on the 'Radio' link).

I'll be featuring other storytellers from the Findhorn Community in the weeks to come as well as other storytellers from around Scotland. Don't miss the Teller and the Tale on Blues and Roots Radio.

10 August 2013

Teller and the Tale with Allison Galbraith now uploaded

Just a quick note to let you know that I've uploaded the episode of the Teller and the Tale with storyteller Allison Galbraith. Click on the 'Radio' link above.  So, if you missed it when it was broadcast on Blues and Roots Radio (www.bluesandrootsradio.ca) you can listen here at your convenience over the next couple of weeks. 

Starting tomorrow, listen to an new episode of Teller and the Tale with actor and storyteller Ray Armstrong from the Findhorn Community. Now in his 70s Ray has some wonderful stories about growing up, initiation into the ways of manhood in the wilds of Norfolk, and the theatre. He also shares a couple of traditional tales. Teller and the Tale: Sundays 7am (EST) and 12noon in the UK; Tuesdays 8pm (EST) and 1am (Wed in the UK); and Fridays 4pm (EST) and 9pm in the UK. Check www.bluesandrootsradio.ca for times in your region.

02 August 2013

Moggy's Tale: a Story Coaching Journey

Spiritual & Healing Practices Click link for the story.

This story is based on an experience I had over the course of a story coaching session with a woman who desperately wanted to tell the story of her dear departed cat. Her vulnerability and courage in digging deep to find this story and share it were memorable and are an illustration of why I love story coaching.

Teller and the Tale with guest storyteller Allison Galbraith

Allison Galbraith, storyteller
Next week's episode of The Teller and the Tale finds me at a busy Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh where I'm in conversation with storyteller Allison Galbraith. Born in England to Scottish parents, Allison now lives in Lanark, south of Glasgow.

She also has Canadian connections -- her great, great grandfather Hugh Campbell emigrated in the 1920s settling in my hometown of Hamilton Ontario. His sister later married into the Emslie family, so if there are any Emslies reading this or listening to the show next week, get in touch.

Allison started storytelling back in the 1980s when she started telling stories to Travellers' children in the Midlands. Since then, she's taken her passion for storytelling all over the UK. She has a wide repertoire of stories and accents with which to tell them. Learn more about Allison and her stories, beginning next week on the Teller and the Tale. You can listen to the show on www.bluesandrootsradio.ca on Sunday at 12noon (UK), Wednesday at 1am (UK) and on Friday at 9pm (UK). Check the radio station's web page (www.bluesandrootsradio.ca) for details of times in your region.

If you miss the shows next week, come back here to my blog where you'll find each week's shows posted at the end of the week. Simply click on the 'Radio' link at the top of the page and enjoy all the shows thus far.

Thanks for listening!

Michael Williams

p.s. I'd very much appreciate if you'd "Like" the Teller and the Tale Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheTellerAndTheTale

29 July 2013

The Teller and the Tale: a new episode with Druid storyteller Daru McAleece

In case you missed last week's broadcast of The Teller and the Tale featuring Daru McAleece on Blues and Roots Radio (www.bluesandrootsradio.ca), you can now listen at your leisure by clicking on the "Radio" link on my blog (http://michaelwilliamsstoryteller.blogspot.com/p/radio.html). In fact, all the Teller and the Tale shows to date are there for your listening pleasure.

This week's show features ex-Flock of Seagulls keyboard player Seán Pugh. Seán is not a traditional storyteller but rather a musician who tells stories through his instrumental compositions. His most recent release is called "Under a Weeping Willow" and features a collection of haunting and memorable melodies that invite the listener into an imaginative world of story and childhood memory.

Upcoming Teller and the Tale programmes will feature interviews and stories from an ex-Royal Shakespeare Company actor, a passionate storyteller from Lanark, and a former animator whose credits include "Who Framed Roger Rabbit".

Till next time, may the right stories find you for the telling.


Listen to Blues and Roots Radio for all the best in blues, roots, Celtic music and storytelling.

26 July 2013

Changes to Gmail which might affect you (and me)

Have you noticed all the BUZZ about the changes at Gmail? I've been receiving a number of emails asking me to look into the changes Google is making to your Gmail account.

If you have a Gmail account or an email list of subscribers, this is an important heads-up which I'm passing on to you.

Gmail (which is owned by Google) has implemented a new filtering system automatically decides what shows up your inbox. 

(If you have a Gmail account and haven't seen this feature yet, you will. Gmail is rolling out this change over time and eventually all Gmail users will automatically have it.) 

Before, everything was categorised how you wanted it. 

But now, Gmail has decided to implement a new feature that filters YOUR email how THEY see fit. 

Imagine how frustrated you would feel if you opted-in to receive emails about important trainings, resources, tools and strategies to grow your coaching business but you didn't see them because Gmail decided not to put them in your inbox. 

I wouldn't like that and I bet you wouldn't either.

Here's How to Take Charge of Your Gmail Inbox:


Just above your inbox, Gmail will now put your emails into 5 categories: 

* Primary 
* Social 
* Promotions 
* Updates 
* Forums 
The problem is, Gmail won't know you’re focused on your coaching business and will automatically put the messages I send you into "Promotions". 

As long as my messages are in "Promotions" - you won't see them because "Promotions" skips your inbox. 

How To Take Back Your Inbox 

Here's what you can do to make sure we stay connected: 

#1 - Find one of my emails in "Promotions" and drag it into "Primary" 

#2 - A pop-up will appear to ask if you want to do this for all future messages. Click "Yes".

#3 - That's it. Super easy and now Gmail will know we're friends! 
And you won't miss any of my messages to you :-) 

BONUS TIP if you want to totally get rid of this new Gmail feature: 

=> Go to "Settings" [the icon on the top right corner of your screen above your inbox] and select "Settings." 

=> Click on the "Inbox" tab and "Unselect" all categories but "Primary" and then click "Save Changes." 

That's all you need to do to regain control of your in-box. 

Hope this is helpful too you. 

I look forward to staying connected! 

All the best,


24 July 2013

Action for M.E. Digital Storytelling Project gets underway

On Tuesday the first digital storytelling workshop for Action for M.E. got underway at the University of Islands and Highlands in Fort William. This half day workshop outlined the structure of the programme and encouraged participants to begin exploring the stories they will want to tell and create on video.

Thursday sees the second workshop getting underway in Edinburgh. These will be followed in August with a video-conferencing workshop where both groups can share their experiences with one another and a final set of workshops will take place at end of August. It is hoped that the videos will be finished in early September and ready for an upcoming public showing.

In the months to follow, participants will be encouraged to use their new-found skills to create a more ambitious video project and to encourage other members of M.E. support groups to become involved.

If you are someone with M.E. or similar illness or if you know of someone who is suffering or who has suffered this illness and want to know more about our project, please contact me.

The Teller and the Tale with guest storyteller Daru McAleece

Don't miss this week's show with my guest storytelller Daru McAleece.

Daru's stories draw on the Druid tradition and his love of nature.

Listen to and learn more about Daru and storytelling on Blues and Roots Radio (www.bluesandrootsradio.ca).

20 July 2013

Teller and the Tale with guest storyteller Paula Cowie

Paula Cowie
I certainly hope you enjoyed this week's show with my guest Paula Cowie. To listen again go to the 'Radio' page where you'll find a SoundCloud file of the show. Click and enjoy.

Daru McAleece
Next week's upcoming show features Druid storyteller Daru McAleece from the Scottish Borders. Daru is a dramatic storyteller with a love of myths, nature and ecology. Don't forget to listen to Blues and Roots Radio (www.bluesandrootsradio.ca) on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Check the Blues and Roots Radio for broadcast times.

And don't forget, that at the end of each week, I'll be posting the latest Teller and the Tale on my site here for you to listen to at your convenience.

Finally, if you haven't done so already, please go to the Teller and the Tale Facebook page and 'Like' it. Thanks!

11 July 2013

The Teller and the Tale

I'm so grateful for the support expressed this week for my radio show The Teller and the Tale on Blues and Roots Radio (www.bluesandrootsradio.ca). I've enjoyed making these shows and must thank Steve and Anne Connor at Blues and Roots Radio for their enthusiasm and confidence.

This week's show features me in conversation with Edinburgh storyteller Peter Snow. Check http://michaelwilliamsstoryteller.blogspot.co.uk/p/radio.html for details. And in case you missed the show on Blues and Roots Radio, you can listen again by clicking on the SoundCloud file.

Next week's show will feature me in conversation with Fife storyteller and eco-advocate Paula Cowie. Don't miss it. Times -- Sunday 7am (EST); Tuesday 8pm (EST); and Friday 4pm (EST). Remember to allow for time difference depending on where you live.

Time and Date Converter

28 June 2013

Digital Storytelling with Action for M.E.

For the past couple of months, I've been working with the charity Action for M.E., creating a digital storytelling programme for a group of people in Scotland suffering from myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

I'm pleased to announce that the project workshops will begin in July 2013 in Edinburgh and Fort William. Participants will be taught storytelling and video skills to enable them to create their own digital storytelling video. Each video, approximately 3-5 minutes long, will tell a story of their experience with the illness. The videos will then be used by Action for M.E. to raise awareness of the illness.

I am looking forward to working with the participants and with my colleague and film-maker Paul Maguire. Check back in on the site to keep up to date with our progress. We hope the videos will be available for viewing in September 2013. Following on from this project, I will be developing a digital storytelling toolkit based on this experience for others to use.

17 May 2013

"The Man Watching" by Rainer Maria Rilke

As a child I loved the power of storms to drive us all indoors, to make us stop and look in awe and humility. We can learn a lot from trees and storms about how we might be in the world. MW, Edinburgh 17 May 2013

"The Man Watching"
by Rainer Maria Rilke

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can't bear without a friend,
I can't love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler's sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

English trans. from German by Robert Bly

13 May 2013

The Teller and the Tale Radio

I'm pleased and excited to announce that I've been commissioned to produce a series of storytelling radio programmes for Blues and Roots Radio in Canada.

The series is called "The Teller and the Tale" and will feature many of Scotland's finest storytellers and their tales. These 30-min programmes will introduce a different storyteller in conversation with myself and we'll get to hear one of their stories and thoughts on the art of storytelling.

I've already produced one show with a number of others in the works. Subscribe to my blog and you won't miss out on the latest news about the series. Dates and broadcast times to be announced.

In the meantime, learn more about Blues and Roots Radio at http://www.bluesandrootsradio.ca.

25 April 2013

Narrative Approach to Transformational Leadership

Booking Enquiry

The 2013-14 Aberdeen Leadership Forum gets under way this month with another journey into the world of authentic leadership and storytelling.

Founded in 2012 by leadership coach Norton Bertram-Smith and narrative consultant Michael Williams, the Forum invites corporate and community leaders to come together to explore their leadership abilities within the context of authenticity, mindfulness and storytelling. The programme is entitled "A Narrative Approach to Transformational Leadership" and consists of seven day-long sessions held over a year in the beautiful rural setting of the Mary Culter Hotel on the River Dee.

"It's a challenging commitment," says Williams, "but the journey is worth it. Participants examine closely their leadership abilities, their values, beliefs and vision for the future. They really come to know themselves and learn to create and tell the stories that express their authenticity."

There are still a few places left on the programme, so if you or someone in your organisation is looking to take your leadership skills to another level, consider joining the Aberdeen Leadership Forum.

Click on the link above or contact Norton Bertram-Smith at On Purpose or call 01224 791876.

18 April 2013

All the World's a Stage

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts."
(Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II: vii)

Shakespeare's observation that we come to play many parts over the course of our lifetime certainly rings true for me. While my father worked for one company for thirty-five years of his working life, I, on the other hand, have had to--and at times chosen to--play many parts -- gardener (my first teenage job for pay); hitch-hiker and wandering minstrel (no pay); hard-rock miner; steel-worker; factory labourer; carpet-layer; salesman; house-painter; door-to-door salesman; college student; adolescent-care worker; coffee-house waiter and dish-washer; handy-man; family therapist; record salesman; western-wear salesman; window-washer; truck driver; furniture mover; traveller; gang-leader (that's a long story); school-bus driver; group-home parent; university student; literary researcher; night-time baker; gifted student adviser; writer and poet; book-binder salesman; PhD candidate; university lecturer & tutor; high-school English teacher; pastoral counsellor; business web site builder; private tutor; peace education facilitator; teacher development adviser and assessor; education consultant; workshop facilitator and trainer; filmaker; and a son, grandson, brother, lover, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, ex-husband, friend and not-so-good friend; coach and mentor; leadership consultant and . . . (whew!) . . . a STORYTELLER!

My chequered working life has demanded flexibility, agility of mind and body, and adaptation. It has made me who I am today. And it has coloured the narrative arc of my life story. Of course, there are times--mostly when I don't know where the next pay-cheque is coming from--when I think what my story might have been like had I settled for one profession instead of being a sort of "jack-of-all trades and master of none".

But mostly I am grateful for the story that I and the countless people whose paths I have crossed and walked on have co-created. I try to think of it as a tale of a rather long apprenticeship. It's not to say that there are times when I wish I could have become a professional storyteller at a younger age; but then I think, I couldn't be the storyteller I am today if I'd not encountered all those experiences and stories of which I was a part over a lifetime.

No, I'm learning to accept what I've made of life--the successes and failures, the achievements and mistakes. I'm learning to cherish the talents entrusted to me by the divine. I've tried to do the best with them. I just hope She/He/It has enjoyed the story as much as I have.

So, what's your story? What parts have you played in the play that is your life? How have you used your talents?

I'd be grateful if you'd share that in the comments box below (or email me if you wish). Thank you!

28 March 2013

Storytelling Project for M.E. Awareness

I'm  pleased to announce that I'll be working with Action for M.E. in the coming year facilitating a digital storytelling project to raise awareness of those living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Through a series of workshops, I'll be encouraging participants in the programme to discover and share their stories through the medium of video. By the end of the project, we aim to produce a digital storytelling toolkit which can be used by others.

For more information about the project and about M.E. and CFS click on the following link:

Subscribe to my blog to be kept up-to-date with this project and other storytelling events.



27 March 2013

The ABCs of Storytelling

The new edition of the Blethers, the Scottish Storytelling Centre's newsletter has just arrived with many interesting items on storytelling in Scotland and further afield. Check out my first article 'A is for Audience', part of my ABCs of Storytelling series.

Let me also draw your attention to the article 'Storytelling, Conflict and Drama' by Alette Willis. Alette is a dynamic storyteller and currently works in the School of Health in Social Science at the University of Edinburgh.

Click on the link below to download a free copy.


22 March 2013

Heart-Centred Storyteller

I've uploaded a new version of my free e-booklet "10 Secrets of a Heart-Centred Storyteller". It's on the Resources page and is free to download.

Subscribe to my blog if you'd like to keep up-to-date on my storytelling work and receive other free downloads in the future.


16 March 2013

Spring is coming

Since my last posting in February, life has continued to stir and grow beneath our feet. Snowdrops, crocii and daffodils are all sending up green shoots and have begun to bloom. Spring is just around the corner.

As for me, there was little time to bask in the warm glow of the 'Gift of Story' performance for I had to prepare for another workshop--this one for the Methodist Ministers Conference/Retreat near Glasgow. This half-day workshop saw a group of ministers gather to explore the art of storytelling and its relevance to their work. A chance to share practice and stories with one another.

A late call saw me going out to West Lothian to help the staff and pupils at Addiewell Primary School celebrate World Book Day. Everyone was dressed up in costume reflecting their favourite story characters. The P1s and 2s swarmed around me as I set up. They just had to hear what a guitar and banjo sounded like. They also marvelled at my Japanese meditation bowl, gonging it for effect. They also discovered my bag of finger puppets and asked a million questions before finally settling down at my feet for stories. How attentive and appreciative they were.

However, I was coming down with a cold and I could feel my voice wavering. In the middle of the "Wide Mouthed Frog" it went. Open mouth, nothing came out. Good thing the kids had picked up on the refrain "I'm a wide-mouthed frog and I eat bugs!" A few did remark that my croak was a pretty good imitation of a frog.

Drawing of Kaminik by P6 pupil at Addiewell Primary School
Luckily, my thoughtful partner had supplied me with a flask of hot honey and lemon drink, which brought my voice back somewhat and I was able to continue through the rest of the morning (although replacing 'Wide Mouthed Frog' with a 'Drop of Honey'). In the P5 and 6 class I told 'Kaminik', an Inuit-inspired tale of a little boy who grows into a giant of a man. The telling lasts for about 30 minutes. Any fears the teacher had about the kids' attention span were thrown out, as the kids sat and listened attentively, enraptured by Kaminik's adventures. At the end of the story, they paused for a few moments to reflect, before asking for another story.

The morning finished with a session with the P7s and some other P6s. All in all, it was a wonderful morning of storytelling, even if when I got home, I collapsed into bed for a week.

13 February 2013

The Gift of Story

The Gift of Story presents eight storytellers and myself in performance, sharing stories that reflect the themes of the Middle Eastern Festival of Spirituality and Peace -- compassion, inter-spirituality, diversity, inclusivity, peace among others.

The event takes place on Sunday 24th February at Augustine United Church from 5:30 till 9:30pm. In middle of the performance, the audience will have an opportunity to join in Story Circles where they too can share their stories.

This is an unique opportunity to experience the ancient art of storytelling eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart.

22 January 2013

Aberdeen Leadership Forum 2013

The Aberdeen Leadership Forum was established in 2012 by professional storyteller and narrative consultant Michael Williams and leadership and business coach Norton Bertram-Smith. They undertook a year-long programme entitled "A Narrative Approach to Transformational Leadership" with a group of seven senior managers and directors from Aberdeen's oil & gas industry and local community initiatives. The purpose was to work intensively with these individuals, exploring how story and storytelling could nourish their leadership qualities and bring about positive and constructive change in themselves and their organisations. Not only have we seen positive transformation in the individuals and organisations but also within the communities which these leaders and their organisations serve.

Michael and Norton are now looking ahead to the next season of the Forum. Are you a leader in your field who wants to harness the power of narrative in your organisation? Do you want to learn the secrets of narrative leadership and empower others in your organisation and community? Do you want to improve your communication skills and share your experiences with other leaders in the field?

If you live and work in the Aberdeen area, contact us today to learn how you can join the Aberdeen Leadership Forum. Discover how our "narrative approach" can make you a Transformational Leader of a truly transformational organisation and community.

Contact Michael Williams (iamthestoryteller@gmail.com) or Norton Bertram-Smith (norton@onpurpose.co.uk) or go to www.onpurpose.co.uk to learn more and apply online.


"We have received only very positive reports of your workshop, and must thank you for being so flexible and responsive both before and in the course of implementing the workshop. It has been lovely to work with you. . . . We are hopeful this project will give rise to future storytelling endeavours, and would be very happy to work with you again if the opportunity arises!" Muireann Crowley, At Home in Scotland, University of Edinburgh, May 2014 ("Storytelling, Research and Public Engagement" workshop)

Michael Williams is a a storyteller of compelling skill. He is also a fine human being who engages in all situations and draws people into the warmth of communication and shared experience." Donald Smith, Director, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh Scotland

"Michael's understanding of storytelling within a leadership and business context has helped us provide a great service in helping leaders determine their personal and organisational destiny and legacy. Working with Michael is inspiring and fun; and pulls you to be fully engaged from start to finish." Norton Bertram-Smith, Managing Director and Leadership Consultant for On Purpose.

Kamink: the little boy who grew into a giant of a man

Blues and Roots Radio

Blues and Roots Radio
Check out my weekly storytelling radio show, The Teller and the Tale on bluesandrootsradio.com.

Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland
I'm grateful to Creative Scotland for its support.