My friend Jackie K and I took a train to Ballarat today. A storytelling group was holding a practice session for members, ahead of their performance at the 25th birthday of an Embroidery Guild. They’d called for audience members as well as tellers, so we rocked along. Jackie had info about the Storytelling Guild to share and we were both keen to hear others tell stories.

The storytellers meet one Friday a month at Known World Bookstore in Sturt Street. Okay, so this is Monday, but it was an extra. This secondhand bookstore also offers coffee and a meeting room that doubles as the children’s book room. We arrived early-ish and were able to meet many of the storytellers as they arrived.

This group have come to storytelling from many different places, not just geographically. One storyteller has come late to storytelling via Toastmasters. She takes no notes, writes nothing down. She takes her story on her walk with her dog and practices as she walks. She times herself with a stop-watch and trims/adds as necessary. She tells stories from her life. Another is a longtime member of the Storytellers Guild but until recently had not known about the Ballarat group. Jackie put them in touch with each other and John seemed as settled as any member there. Another member, with a writing background, read her story from double-spaced copy, not yet ready to abandon the printed word completely. Newcomer John related a tale about teaching an unteachable child, and another member sang a version of ‘The Ugly Duckling’. She had us all join in her vocal warm-ups before launching into her story. There were poets, writers, singers and more. There were creative stories and stories from life, all told with passion.

We weren’t able to stay for the whole meeting but it was a privilege for us to be part of their practice session. We trawled the Ballarat bookshops showing our wares with mixed success. One bookshop was quite disinterested, but another made up for it with their warmth and enthusiasm.

We stopped for lunch and happened across another storyteller – Ballarat small town? or Ballarat – home of storytellers? Both?