The Australian Art of Yarn Spinning

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To begin, this article is not about 'Wool Spinning'; rather it is about the perhaps fading art of story telling as practiced in Australia (and maybe elsewhere).

What is Yarn Spinning?

At it's basic level, Yarn Spinning is telling a story. Many yarns are simply a recitation of a real event. Some are funny, some are poingant. Some are purely jokes, some don't raise a laugh. The whole point of a yarn is to entertain; and sometimes that doesn't necessarily mean its humerous. A yarn has a certain relationship to the "tall story" and to the "shaggy dog story" as they can indeed be overblown, or long winded. Though neither are requirements.

The majority of Yarns started out life as a simple tale, or joke, and have expanded. Many are presented from the speaker's point of view, as if it was them to whom the events happened. In some cases this is true, in many it's not. Instead a story is heard, and then retold by someone new. Personal touches are added, and the story is expanded.

Some might perhaps argue that it's not truly a yarn until it's been 'matured' in such a way.

How to 'spin' a Yarn

Begin with something that happened in your life, or a story you've heard, or even a joke. It should be something you somehow identify with, and something you can 'modify' to be more personal if it didn't happen to you.

You can try practicing it in private, but really a yarn only truly grows as you tell it to others. Tell it at parties, to a friend at work, or when having a coffee or beer with friends. Don't rush it and don't push any humour. By that, I mean be yourself. Don't try to be funny, the humour inherent in the story, if any, will come out a lot better if you don't try to be funny.

Analyse the reactions to the story. Did they laugh at the right points, did they look thoughtful, or sad, or disbelieving. Try to work out what you can change to get the emotions you want. It's very much an art, and expect a few false starts. Given that, chosing a short story, rather than a long winded one, is a good starting point.

As you speak, sometimes you'll change the story somewhat, or a new way of putting something will come to you. Try them out and see what happens. Over time you'll find you develop your own rhythm, your own timing, and that story will become yours.

The Golden Dag Award

Held in the Pyrenees Ranges region of central Victoria the Yarn Event began in 1996.

The Yarn Spinning 'Community'

There is an air of 'friendly rivalry' in the 'professional' yarn spinning community. Losers lose gracefully and with good humour and winners only lord it over others in a very joking way. Often one person may improve on another's story and that's usually viewed well

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