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The art of storytelling

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Tim Sample will offer insights and wisdom about the professional spinning of a yarn

ORONO Maine's own humorist Tim Sample will make two appearances at the University of Maine's homecoming weekend to read excerpts from Stephen King's 'Drunken Fireworks' and discuss the ins and outs of doing voice work and storytelling. The public event is free and located at the 100 D.P. Corbett Building at 7 p.m. on Oct. 17.

Sample, who was in Bangor last week, graciously sat down with us to discuss the collaboration with Stephen King and his history of narration and oral storytelling.

'[Drunken Fireworks'] is very specifically a Maine humor piece,' said Sample, who has known King for some time and collaborated with him on several projects in the past. '[King] is a force of nature.'

Sample enjoys working with King, but is blown away by his energy level and capacity for not only having innovative ideas, but bringing them to fruition. King is no stranger to trying something new, be it acting in movies or offering his stories online for download ('The Plant' was available in six installments from his website, back when the internet still had a new car smell).

The hook for 'Drunken Fireworks' is that it takes place over the July 4 weekend of 2015, and the audio version of the story was available to download over that same weekend so listeners would be hearing the story in a fictional real-time.

'Steve has this unfeigned, unabashed love of the truly creative. I feel like creativity is air to breathe,' said Sample. He explained that while some people wish for someone to do something, he and King are on the same wavelength about trying to make things happen. Though he freely admits that King operates on an entirely different plane when it comes to executing creative projects.

'His success has largely been due to this. He really has the courage of his conviction. And if something fails [Sample shrugged] you never know until you try it,' he said. 'I tell my kids and young people who want to be in [this business] there is no option in life not to make mistakes. That is not an option. The only option you really have is, are you going to learn from your mistakes or not?'

The event at the University of Maine goes beyond just telling this one story. It also touches on the art of storytelling in general. What makes one a good narrator? How does someone break into the voiceover industry?

'A lot of people know me as a humorist from TV. I make recordings. A big part of my career has been as a narrator - specifically, narrating the notoriously hard or impossible to replicate authentic Maine accent,' said Sample. 'I can do that because I have a certain skill set. I was also born and raised here and have a lot of generations in the ground. I may be as close as you'll come to an expert on the Downeast dialect and its nuances.'

This expertise has led to Sample working closely with the likes of Robert McCloskey, Joe Hill, North East Historic Films and doing 'Postcards from Maine' for CBS Sunday Morning. And he was quick to point out that his success is shared with his producers like Mary Lou Teel, who worked for CBS, and Karen Pearlman, who worked with him while recording King's 'The Sun Dog.'

'Someone who can find that balance between being supportive and encouraging and pointing out where this wasn't quite right is a critical skill set,' said Sample. 'Having the people skills and the chops in terms of understanding the material and what it is supposed to sound like.... It's really important that the producer have strong opinions and be willing to speak up.'

For more information about Homecoming events, visit umaine.edu/150/.

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