Storytellers' Research Guide by Judy Sierra. Eugene, Oregon: Folkprint, 1996. Paper, 90 pp. $14.95 ISBN 0-9636089-4-0
What is surprising about this book is that no one wrote it before. What is not surprising is that it was Judy Sierra who wrote it and did an admirable job. Sierra, well-known to tellers and librarians as a reteiler -and anthologizer of folktales, called upon experience gained in pursuing a doctorate in folklore and mythology to produce this essential handbook.
The first chapter starts with definitions of some of the genres of oral narrative tradition, and the challenges which face tellers as they present the tales to contemporary audiences. Sierra then moves on to basic research tools and skills including the traditional use of libraries, special collections, and archives. She discusses online library catalogs and periodical indexes, and how to search them. She talks about the promises and limits of technology and even devotes a section to storytellers on the net. Online information is not limited to this chapter as Sierra often refers to online sites and strategies in the rest of her book.
The second chapter identifies stories suitable for oral telling. A selective list of anthologies and bibliographies is more than enough to get beginning tellers started. The chapter on tracking down tales discusses finding stories: the beginning steps using story indexes, and then more advanced searching using tale and motif indexes.
Next Sierra discusses the background research around and about the story, research that could lead you to magazine articles, cultural resources and tale traditions. This is the type of material which helps a teller enrich the story and return to it some of the vitality which can disappear as the story moves from mouth to page. Sierra cites numerous works in each chapter, often annotating the listings.
There is a chapter on conducting fieldwork which briefly covers where to find stories, interview techniques, and equiupment. The final chapter walks the reader through the maze of copyright.
An excellent resource, and one which I will be recommending in workshops.
To order send $14.95 + $3 S / H to Folkprint, Post Office Box 450, Eugene, Oregon 97440. Canadians $19.95 (D.S.) prepaid.
Judy Sierra's Website: http://www.judysierra.net/
The Second Story Review, Vol 2, No. 3, Sep 1997