Friday, March 14, 2014

Train your storytelling brain, overachiever edition

It is a dangerous keg of gunpowder when a storytelling spirit is teamed up with a gamer mind. Give me achievements to unlock and I will be burning through free time faster than the water I put on for tea and then proceed to completely forget about every singer morning.
(Spare kettle, anyone?)
The best you can do to manage this dangerous condition, I came to find, is to turn it into an exercise to expand your storytelling repertoire and cultural awareness, chalk it up to professional research, and move on.
(Observe how I am writing a blog post about it, instead of grading papers. Case in point.)

I found this fun little website a couple of weeks ago, and promptly fell down the rabbit hole. It is a collection of quizzes and trivia that are timed. That is really all there is to it. But for those of us who cannot turn down a timer and a challenge, it is dangerous territory.
Try this gem, for example. All you have to do is type in all the countries in the world in 12 minutes. Fun, right? It even tracks your progress, and arranges the countries into lists by continent, so you can check and see what letters you are missing. It gives you stats and information after you are done, and if you make an account, even keeps track of your high scores.
The first time I tried it, I got 126 countries down (there are 196, total). With a week of obsessive training and a bunch of other, partial map quizzes on the site, I worked my way up to 186. I am still missing island states and most of Polynesia, but I am getting there.
In the meantime, my storytelling brain is busy feeling ashamed for myself as a teller and as a cultural studies major for not being aware of all the million cultures and countries and languages and stories that are all out there waiting to be explored. Finally around Round No. X, I decided to turn this into a storytelling lesson instead of fervent procrastination.
Here is the game: Do the world map. Do your damndest best. Then take down a list of all the countries you missed (or never even heard about). Try again. Give yourself two or three tries, or however many you are comfortable with (some of us are more lenient with themselves than others). Once you have a list of places you keep missing, go hit up a library. Or Amazon. Or, you know. The Internet. The goal is to find at least one story from each of those countries. Or, for overachievers, a story collection.
I just walked home today with my first book of tales from Nicaragua (formerly known as "WHAT is that blank spot in Central America I am staring at?!?!") (my sincere apologies to Nicaragua).

I don't know all the countries in the world yet. I definitely, undoubtedly don't know all the stories in the world either.
But I am working on it.


  1. Impressive challenge! My students used Story-Lovers to add stories to their world cultures papers.
    I just bought a spare whistling tea kettle at Goodwill for $8 -- I wish you similar good fortune. (and thank Elizabeth Ellis for reminding me of thrift shop "recycling").

  2. This sounds worth trying. Will it keep me from unpacking my goods?

  3. After days and days of practicing, I have finally done a 100% run. Two days later, I was missing Brunei again. I ordered some new books. Looks like this game needs regular maintenance. I guess that is the fun part :)

  4. Congrats on the 100% run!
    That's a really cool, really crazy challenge. :)

  5. I love learning games, puzzles and quizzes. They keep me on my toes and sometimes provide excellent writing prompts.

    MJ, A to Z Challenge Co-Host
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