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teaching storytelling to your screen-addicted child

Hello friends! I am truly sorry: it has been far, far too long since I have blogged. Blame work and summer and Russian meddling. I do have a couple of TV projects premiering this fall that I’m excited to tell you about…but first, I have an even more exciting announcement, one that could potentially include you and/or your delightful, slack-jawed, screen-addicted kids.

My wife Jen and I are launching a storytelling school! The WRITTEN OUT LOUD storytelling school will be open for business this fall/winter. Classes will be weekdays after school here in the Fairfield, CT area, but hopefully, depending on interest, we'll be able to quickly expand to other towns, cities, anywhere and everywhere in the Greater Wifi Area. So if your child is a story-devour-er, with the potential to grow into a great storyteller, you can sign him/her up for a class right now.

WTF is a storytelling school, you ask?

If your child loves Pixar and Marvel and Harry Potter and Star Wars…or (if they’re a little older) if they love Stranger Things or The Lord of the Rings or Gilmore Girls or How I Met Your Mother … our classes unlock the mysteries of the stories that are already baked into their brain pans. We’ll teach them how stories really work (Why do we love Han Solo? Why is the first Avengers movie so much better than the sequel? And why do they have to eat Nemo’s mother in the first five minutes of the movie?)

We’ll open their eyes to the tools and tricks that Hollywood filmmakers use to get audiences to fall in love with characters, and to lure their viewers into unexpected plot twists. Then we’ll use those same tools to help your child create an original story of their own: a story he or she will develop, practice, and perform in front of a live audience.

Where did this idea come from?

As some of you know, I’ve fallen slavishly in love with School of Rock: the music school that teaches kids (and grown-ups) how to play rock n roll. What Jen and I want WRITTEN OUT LOUD to be is a SCHOOL OF ROCK for storytelling: a guided creative inspiration-space for kids who love stories and want to learn how to tell them like a pro.

Does this make sense? Do you totally get it? Is your kid one of those kids who would rather eat broken glass than be force-marched to another soccer practice? Or is he/she a soccer player who actually does love soccer but nonetheless nurtures a powerful Netflix addiction and is looking to round out the old transcript with a non-sports extracurricular? Then boom, sign up here to give us your kid’s availabilities and conflicts. Your child has been officially accepted to the WRITTEN OUT LOUD storytelling school.

Classes will be once a week. We’ll be teaching one version of the class for kids ages 10-12 (focusing on Pixar/Marvel/Star Wars), and another for ages 13-17 (mixing in some edgier/older Stranger-Things/Lord of the Rings/high school stuff). The first semester will run October-December, culminating in a live performance just before Christmas break.

Jen and I are figuring out class sizes now, so please sign up here if you’re even remotely interested in signing up your child. The course costs $600 per storyteller, payable in three monthly payments of $200. But we won't charge you for adding your name to the signup sheet - only after we figure out a class time that works for you. And as I said above, even if you're not in the Fairfield area, please sign up anyway if this is a class you think your child would love. We are already figuring out how we can teach the class remotely, for kids in LA or Dubuque or Woodstock, Illinois, or wherever. Your interest and feedback will be key to helping us figure that out.

If you’re busy or working or vacationing, you can take the rest of this blog post off. But if you want to hear more about where this idea came from, and some more details about what we’re actually going to offer, here’s a little more background.

If your kids are like ours, and in this respect I’m sure they are, they’re watching more shows than we ever did when we were kids. With the rise of mobile devices and unlimited, on-demand entertainment, kids today have become story gluttons, inhaling stories for hours on end, from SpongeBob to Jessie to 13 Reasons Why.

And what Jen and I have been talking about as we developed this idea was that we’d be a lot more comfortable with our kids inhaling so many stories…if they had a place where they can exhale them. A place where kids can learn why the magnetic pull of the stories inside their screens is as powerful as it is. We want to create a place, for our kids and their friends (and frankly, kids everywhere) where they can better understand the stories they're binge-viewing...and then use that knowledge to create new stories of their own.

We believe that good storytelling is a skill kids will use for the rest of their lives and careers: whether they become screenwriters creating entertainment, or, doctors who have to tell a patient's family about a diagnosis, or lawyers who have to convince a jury why their client is innocent.

Once we get your child to understand the basic storytelling carpentry - the components that make their favorite stories work - then we’ll get to work helping your children build a story from their own imaginations. Each class will contain 8-14 kids. These kids will become your child's “troupe.” Over the course of the semester, the troupe will help bring your child’s story to life, supporting them as co-writers, actors, lighting and sound designers. Your child’s final performance could be a dramatic monologue, a comic sketch, or an animated short film. The form will evolve as your child tells his story to his/her troupe each week: honing and sharpening the storytelling, until it’s finally showtime. When the big day comes, your child may be nervous, but he or she will be ready to tell a story in front of a live audience. And then they'll have an experience they'll draw upon for the rest of their lives.

We couldn't be more excited to help turn your young story-consumer into a polished storyteller. Here's the signup info - you don't need to commit a nickel today, but we would love to know if you're potentially interested, and if so, what days of the week work best.

And we'd love it if you rounded up a group of friends and parents, who could make up a class with a built-in carpool. If you know of another parent or gang or wine-swilling mommy-gaggle who might like this idea, please forward this to your friends! Again, there's no obligation if you sign up today - just fill in your name and conflict dates, and we can firm up everything in a couple of weeks once we've gotten a sense of enrollment.

OK, that's enough wordying. Thanks so much for reading. On a personal note, if you're a friend or colleague who has been following this blog, I want to send you a personal and heartfelt thank you. This blog turns two this month, at the same time that my WRITTEN OUT LOUD business turns one. I was scared and full of doubt when I launched both of those endeavors, just as I'm scared and full of doubt as I launch this storytelling school today. But every time, your support and feedback has provided me with the wind in my sails.

Jen and I couldn't be more excited to teach storytelling to your child. We will make it a truly magical experience. Please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions, comments, or thoughts.

And - oh dear Lord, what am I becoming - Like Us On Facebook! We promise not to sell your information to the Russians. Although that would make for a good story...


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