Art Place 2016

Creativity Breeds Creativity: Art Place Interview #1 with Marie Bilodeau

Marie Bilodeau is a storyteller

Marie Bilodeau is an oral storyteller and fantasy writer. This year for Art Place she will be in residence with a senior’s day program at the Eastern Ottawa Resource Centre where she will be running group storytelling workshops. In these workshops participants will learn how to structure a story, how to speak and how to captivate listeners through performance. It will give seniors the confidence to share stories with their communities and will culminate in the co-creation of a group story.

Marie is first and foremost an artist who works with words, but she only took up storytelling at a beginner’s workshop in 2005. “I wasn’t getting published, but I thought I can tell my original story and people are way too polite to run away. If I can’t get published perhaps I can trap an audience and tell them my stories,” she laughs. “Writing and storytelling might both use words but they really aren’t as similar as I thought they would be.”

The main difference between the two forms is how you tell the story. “With storytelling you need to learn your beats. The beats are the turning points, the inciting incidents that leave the listener looking for the next revelation. If you understand how to follow the storytelling beats you can easily adlib a story,” explains Marie. “The beats are like the joints that hold a skeleton together and the story is the skin you lay over top of it to bring it to life. It doesn’t matter if the story is funny or even dramatic it has the same beats. This clarity of beats comes into my writing too, because when you are writing a 100,000 word novel it’s easy to lose sight of those moments. It has helped me understand structure.”

Storytelling has also helped Marie discover a new way of experiencing story. “When you are writing alone you don’t get to see people enjoy your work, but when you are telling a story you get to experience it with others,” she says. And this is part of what drives her to continue working as an artist. “That and the stubborn belief that we can still make a living as artists. It’s just really, really hard.”

Becoming a full-time artist has changed Marie’s perspective of life and art. “You have to stop having expectations about how things should be. If you are opening up your life, no nine to five or steady paycheck, then you have to open up how you are going to get money and how you are going to spend your time. So sometimes I work 20 hour days and it is just what you need to do,” she says. “You can’t go in with these expectations that it’s not fair, because it’s a choice you made. You have to stop the expectations and know you are on a journey and open up to the world. It’s mayhem.”

Marie’s goal is to be the kind of writer whose fans have trouble keeping up with her catalogue and can’t keep track of her shows. The ones who inspire her most in her craft, as in life, are the people who work hard at it. “They don’t invoke the muse,” she says, “but they put in the time and keep their deadlines. Art is nothing without action. It doesn’t become anything until it is put down in a shareable fashion.”

While working in community arts practice is a new experience for Marie, she has helped many people get comfortable with the form and become storytellers. “People have a nervous energy about making art because they don’t think they are artists but I have helped them cross over and find what the arts can do for them,” Marie says. “I think that teaching is applicable everywhere.”

She is particularly excited about doing a storytelling workshop with seniors because having more storytellers in a community creates a ripple effect by encouraging others to tell stories. “It’s a way of keeping stories from getting lost too, which is especially relevant to this group that is older and whose stories might disappear if they don’t share them.”

Though books have always been a creative source, Marie finds that she learns a lot about storytelling from chatting and interacting with people to see how they describe their experiences. “You learn how they structure their ideas and the images they use. Creativity breeds creativity,” she says. “Working with a group and sharing will let us all a chance to explore and connect to story. Storytelling can be anything. I hope that I get to bring that message to them so that they can embrace the process. And through this I will learn a lot too.”

Follow Art Place on Facebook and Twitter to get updates about Marie’s art project with the Eastern Ottawa Resource Centre and to find out what our other 2016-2017 Art Place artists are doing.

Thanks for sharing / Merci d’avoir partagé!

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