According to Michael, he was born on a hot July morning in the early '50s. That weekend, scores of flying saucers were reported swarming the skies over his birthplace and most of the north-eastern United States and Canada. Later, as a boy, the stars beckoned, inspiring young Michael to become an astronaut. He kept scrapbooks documenting the American and Russian space programmes and leapt at any opportunity in school to talk about the astronauts and cosmonauts.
Sadly, an innate fear of heights, speed, and confined spaces put an end to his dreams of flying into infinity and beyond. Michael retreated into the world of the imagination, immersing himself in books and flights of fancy. He'd sit all afternoon at the top of a walnut tree dreaming he was in the crow's nest of a pirate ship on the high seas. "My home life was not a particularly happy one," Michael recalls, "so I escaped into the world of story, inventing all sorts of adventures for myself. It was inevitable that I'd become a storyteller."
However, Michael's life took many detours and before he'd become a storyteller, he'd be a miner, a rug-cutter, a maker of grinding wheels and sewer pipes, a mover, a window-washer, a waiter, a dish-washer, a musician and singer, a traveller, and a counsellor to adolescents. In the 1980s he returned to University to study English Literature & Language, immersing himself in the study of stories. He married and started a family and moved to Scotland where he completed his Ph.D. in English Literature. Then for the next 15 years, he taught literature at both post-secondary and secondary school levels.
As much as Michael loved teaching, an inner voice was beginning to call him to another adventure. "It was while teaching that I began my apprenticeship as a storyteller," he tells us, "spending seven years taking workshops and courses at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh and with the help of two mentors -- Ruth Kirkpatrick and Claire McNicol -- I got the experience I needed." In 2005, Michael left full-time teaching to become a professional storyteller. "A lot of people thought I was crazy," Michael recalls, "but I knew I had to do this, even though it took me another two years before I stopped telling people I was a teacher and I was now a storyteller."
Initially, Michael was able to utilise his teaching experience with storytelling as a peace-education facilitator with Unipaz-UK, an organisation that invited children and adolescents to practice ways of feeling more peaceful and improving their relationships in schools. That led to being asked to help organise a Cross-Party Group on Creating a Culture of Peace in Scotland for the Scottish Parliament, which led to his being asked to contribute to the General Teaching Council of Scotland's Chartered Teacher Programme. Michael explains: "Essentially, I worked as an Adviser and Assessor, supporting senior classroom teachers in becoming reflective practitioners to a high level, helping them tell their stories of their professional and personal development." Michael would work with teachers for almost 8 years in this capacity as well as tutor teenagers who were struggling with exam work in high school.
|Michael in the Holy Land, May 2009|
The Teller and the Tale, on Blues and Roots Radio where he introduces storytellers and stories from around the world. As a StoryCoach, Michael's clients have included the Scottish Parliament, the Church of Scotland, several Scottish universities, the National Museum of Scotland, MUSEArtspace (Canada), Children 1st, Children in Scotland, Action for M.E., Macmillan Cancer Research, Arthritis Care, PAMIS, the Scottish Marine Institute, the Aberdeen Leadership Forum, and many, many others.
"I owe my success to the mentors in my life," Michael says, "I've had the privilege of working closely with such storytellers and coaches as Lisa Bloom, David Campbell, Doug Lipman, Laura Simms, Michael Margolis, and Tanya Taylor Rubinstein. Without their sharing and support, I would not have made it this far. I'm so grateful for their guidance throughout these years. I'd encourage anyone in this line of work to find a mentor."
Michael offers one-to-one storycoaching and mentoring in person and via Skype. He is also available to facilitate storytelling workshops and trainings and is available for speaking engagements. Contact Michael at email@example.com or through his website at www.michaelwilliamsstorycoaching.com or facebook.com/michaelwilliamstorycoaching or Twitter @MWStoryCoach
Michael shares his stories on The Teller and the Tale, starting Sunday 17 July 2016 at 7am ET (Canada/US), 12 noon (UK/Ireland) and 9pm (Australia). Repeated on Thursday at 4pm ET, 9pm BST, and 6am on Friday in Australia. To listen, go to bluesandrootsradio.com at the specified time and click on the "Listen" button.