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  • Writer's pictureSteve Otto

Meet a MO-TELL Member: Steve Otto

Updated: Feb 8

How did you get involved in storytelling?

Steve Otto has been involved with storytelling for many years. He credits Joyce Slater for getting him into storytelling when she told him she found this class in storytelling and he should take it. Since Steve was involved in community theatre at the time his reply was “Joyce, I am an actor. I don’t tell stories to little kids.” To which Joyce said “Steve, I really think you should take the class.” So he took the class and discovered he liked storytelling because he could use his own words and imagination in telling a story vs. trying (emphasis on trying) to remember and recite lines written for the character he was playing on stage.


He took storytelling classes for about a year then came his big break. Jim “Two Crows” Wallen had taken the leap to become a full-time storyteller and invited Steve and another teller to join him in telling stories at a local park. Steve said this was the first time he told stories to a non-storyteller audience. This experience was what firmly set the hook and led Steve to continue to learn about storytelling. Over the next several years he worked on learning stories and how to tell them. He attended the NSN Festival and Conferences where he studied the tellers and learned how they used their voices to captivate audiences.


Then his employer, The Federal Government, offered an early retirement option and Steve, after a long discussion with Virginia, his wife, decided to take the option. He’s been telling stories as his only job since then.


What is your favorite type of story?

If you know anything about Steve you know that he loves, absolutely loves with a passion, telling scary stories. He says for him the quickest and easiest way for to get the audience’ attention is to start with a scary story.


What advice to you have for someone getting into storytelling?

He has two pieces of advice for beginning or experienced storytellers.

  1. You have to have a large enough repertoire of stories to satisfy a wide range of audiences.

  2. The most important thing is to tell your version of the story. Many people may tell the same stories from literature or folktales. You, as the storyteller, has to tell the story your way and not the way someone else tells the story.


A favorite storytelling memory.

As you can guess there are so many it is hard to pick a favorite but one sticks out in his mind. He was hired to tell stories to a group of middle schoolers but there was an issue. A group of parents had pre-filed a motion prohibiting the telling of ghost stories in the school. It cut out his favorite type of story to open a program but he had other stories that would work. He walked into school that morning and met the literature teacher who asked about his Edgar Allen Poe stories. When Steve replied that he thought he couldn’t tell them at the school because they were prohibited the teacher replied that Poe was literature and he could tell literature stories. So Steve led off with one of his favorite stories, The Tell Tale Heart. Nobody complained, even though it probably is one of the scariest stories he tells. As Steve put it “It’s amazing what a difference in perspective there is when the story is “literature”.


How can you help MO-TELL?

There are several ways to help MO-TELL move its mission forward

1. Become a member

2. Renew your membership each year

3. Encourage others to join

4. Make a donation

5. Make a memorial donation

6. Volunteer your services

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