Join us for a series of little interviews with some of Austin’s most experienced and successful storytellers. Subscribe to Austin Storytelling, on the right, if you don’t want to miss one! Brought to you by Carol Ramsey at carolmramsey.com.
Cate Berry is a writer, performer and songwriter. Lately, she has turned her focus to writing for children. Ms. Berry has told stories for Austin Bat Cave’s The Story Department, Do Good Work Podcast and Listen to Your Mother. She is a two-time Best of Fest winner at Frontera Fringe Festival. Her full-length one woman night of stories, Dish, premiered last April at the Long Center. Ms. Berry is available for private coaching in public speaking, storytelling and author presentations. She will be telling a stories this spring with a fabulous group of writers, details coming soon.
Q: When choosing which story to tell, what is most important?
A: Fun. I can’t stress this enough. You should have a spark about something you want to share, a memory or recent event filled with emotion or danger or humor. Bonus if you have all three!
Q: Do you prepare your story mostly by writing your story down or by telling your story out loud?
A: I always write first. I usually start and delete the first paragraph about 5-15 times until I’ve hit something that compels me to keep going. If it’s not holding my interest why would it intrigue an audience?
Q: What strategies do you have for remembering the details of your story?
A: I guess I’m lucky because I remember very vivid weird and tiny details. For instance, I was working on something and I remembered the way the carpet looked up close: mangy, brown and crimson fibers woven together, Saltines crunched down at the roots. This led me instantly to remembering the lamp, the pictures, the purple grape soda stain on the walls, what my Mom was cooking downstairs. Who knows if on that very day she was cooking beef stroganoff I’m remembering. But it might help me remember an even better memory when she was cooking stroganoff that is more compelling. So I switch. You have to mine for the good ideas and stories. It takes time.
Q: What advice would you give someone preparing their first story?
A: Keep it simple. If you have 5 minutes, try and rehearse to finish in 3. I hate it when people say, “Have fun!” (Ha! I did that in question #1 didn’t I?) That’s hard to do the first time around. But if you over rehearse you have a better chance of letting go, which is where the fun happens.
Q: Why do you perform true, personal stories?
A: That’s hard for me to answer right now as I’m writing a lot of fiction for children currently. And, I’m finding it deeply satisfying in whole different way than personal stories. But real life stories are exciting because you can help people, normalize difficult or embarrassing situations, create solidarity through humor. And when that happens, it’s a rush. When someone comes up to you after a performance and says, “I so related to that purple dress!” or “I have that Uncle!” it’s a surprising reminder of our collective humanity. That’s a damn good reason to tell stories.
Q: If you could make up your own question, what would it be and what is the answer?
A: Are you doing what you love with your storytelling or writing? If not, what are you waiting for?
Many thanks Cate Berry for her time! The Dish was an amazing show, it would be great to see another Austin Storyteller or two with full-length shows at The Long Center. I’ve worked with Cate as a coach and she has an intuitive feel for the performance side of storytelling that is especially helpful for my writer-brain.