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STORYCENTER Blog

We are pleased to present posts by StoryCenter staff, storytellers, colleagues from partnering organizations, and thought leaders in Storywork and related fields.

Filtering by Category: Voices from Around the Table

The Story of The Rich Coast Project – By Katie Beck

Root Barrett

Unlike most law school students nearing the end of what can be a less than enjoyable experience, I spent my final semester living and working in the southern Caribbean region of Costa Rica. This experience was life-changing and led to the establishment of The Rich Coast Project, a community storytelling and collective history project aimed at supporting and protecting the cultural heritage of coastal Afro-Caribbean populations and other communities living along Costa Rica’s Talamanca coast.

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A Richer Harvest: The “I-in-Relation” of Digital Storytelling – by Kayann Short

Root Barrett

I recently published A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography, a memoir of reunion with my family’s farming traditions and a call for local farmland preservation. In the book, I alternate stories about small-scale, organic farming at Stonebridge Farm, our community-supported farm along Colorado’s Front Range, with childhood memories of my grandparents’ farms in North Dakota.

Many of the chapters in the book began as digital stories. For example, “Seeds of Never Seen Dreams” was based on a digital story I wrote about my Great-Grandma Flora, a teacher and farmer on the North Dakota prairie, and the ways I see my own life reflected in hers. The first chapter, “A Trace of Rural Roots,” began as my very first digital story, made in a Denver workshop in 2006. I had never seen a digital story before I took that workshop and had intended to write about something other than the North Dakota farms, but when I looked at childhood photos in preparation for the workshop, my heart was drawn to images of summer vacations there.

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Day 8 of the 11 Days of Action: Nombasa's Story

Root Barrett

Today is Day 8 of the 11 Days of Action leading up to International Day of the Girl on October 11. This youth-led movement to advocate for girls' rights and speak out against gender bias was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 when it adopted Resolution 66/170. This year's theme is "Innovating for Girls' Education."  In honor of this movement, and in celebration of girls everywhere, we share this story.

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Day 7 of the 11 Days of Action: Opening Doors, by Tahira Hussain

Root Barrett

Today is Day 7 of the 11 Days of Action leading up to International Day of the Girl on October 11. This youth-led movement to advocate for girls' rights and speak out against gender bias was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 when it adopted Resolution 66/170. This year's theme is "Innovating for Girls' Education."

In honor of this movement, and in celebration of girls everywhere, we share this story.

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Join us in celebrating the 11 Days of Action

Root Barrett

Today is Day 4 of the 11 Days of Action leading up to International Day of the Girl on October 11. This youth-led movement to advocate for girls' rights and speak out against gender bias was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 when it adopted Resolution 66/170. This year's theme is "Innovating for Girls' Education."

In honor of this movement, and in celebration of girls everywhere, we share this story.

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Standing Up in Elizabeth City: All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

Root Barrett

"We get caught up in ignoring what happened in the past. I even have people in my own family who don't like to talk about the civil rights movement because it was a very difficult time for them. It's tough for them to speak on it," said Montravias King, a senior at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. "But it's important that my generation know, that we be reminded of the struggles of our grandparents, our great-grandparents. That will make us more appreciative of the freedoms that we have now. And in return, when things come up that threaten our voting rights, we'll react more swiftly and say, ‘Hey! We recognize this. We've seen this before. We may not have been through it, but we recognize this, so we're not going to allow our right to vote to be taken back, to be suppressed.’"

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Remembering – by Zoe Jacobson

Root Barrett

Being on the administrative team at the Center for Digital Storytelling, my storytelling skills are rarely called upon. My creativity and relatability are spent on website maintenance and email exchange – tasks which aren't storytelling as much as they are conveying information. 

Of course, my initial introduction to and love for the Center for Digital Storytelling was based on storytelling – not necessarily because I consider myself a great storyteller, but because I am a listener and an appreciator of story. In fact, for a long time I considered myself to be not a great storyteller at all. I stutter my way through sentences; I forget punchlines and other important details; I crack myself up thinking about the funny parts before I get to actually telling them. . .

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Grandpa – by Holly McClelland

Root Barrett

When I took the 3-day workshop at Stonebridge Farm, outside of Boulder, CO, in June of 2011, I thought, “Well, yes!” My good friend, Cyns Nelson, had given me her spot. Or told me about a spot that had opened up. I can’t remember which. But I was in.

I asked if my partner at the time, Annie, could come take the workshop, too. Yes was the answer.

Around the story circle, I had decided I’d tell the story about my grandpa, who was 89 at the time. And I’d write and tell about how he’d learned to fly airplanes at the age of 73. Ah, how easy that story would be. How safe. I’d always admired and loved him, and felt honored to tell a part of his story.

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What listening to a story does to our brains...

Root Barrett

In another case of science sort of proving what we’ve known for a long time, the following article contains powerful, useful, and practical information. The article’s only flaw might be that it wasn’t written as a story itself.

It’s always a good thing to confirm and even harmonize brain science and knowledge of mind, in this case: What we feel is true about stories and what that actually looks like brain activity wise. Because a brain is a strange thing, and one we aren’t near understanding. It’s tricky because we’re using our brains to try to figure out our brains, which sort of seems doomed at the outset, like trying to see your eyes with your eyes, or to touch the tip of your finger with the very same tip of your finger. But, I think, it is important to try to know, and we can use all the help we can get. That’s what I really liked about this article; it’s so straightforward, relative to the work that I’m interested in, and it comes with directions at the end...

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Better Than a T-Shirt – by Teresa Barch

Emily Paulos

When I decided to create a digital story about a recent Intro-to-Facilitation Training Workshop – while I was attending it – I already knew what the first and last lines would be. In fact, I had written them down in my notebook on the plane. I was that sure. The middle, though, was still a mystery. My plan was to soak up those details in between, to pay close attention to the chemical reaction that would begin the moment all sixteen of us came together.

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Fight the Flat: Open the Floodgates with Emotional Stories – by Aspen Baker

Emily Paulos

“We are wary of listening to stories that we think are being told to manipulate our emotions or push us to believe a certain way,” said Francesca Polletta, author of It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics in a phone call with me last year. “On the other hand,” she says, “ambivalent stories, stories with no clear moral agenda, invite the listener to imagine themselves in the story. True engagement happens when the listener can see multiple outcomes for a story and is able to come to their own conclusions.”

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Ira Glass on Storytelling

Emily Paulos

I came across this four-part video series on storytelling, by Ira Glass from public radio’s This American Life, on http://aerogrammestudio.com/.

Each video is only 3-5 minutes long, but the first one is particularly relevant for digital storytelling. Ira shares his thoughts on the two most important building blocks of a great story: the anecdote and the moment of reflection.

Of course, who can explain it better than Ira Glass?

In the last three videos, he discusses what it takes to find a good story for broadcast - and the willingness to “abandon crap” (my favorite line!); having good taste in stories (and the time that it takes to develop your abilities to match your taste); and, finally, two common pitfalls that beginners often make: not sounding like yourself and leaving yourself out of the story.

- Allison Myers, Storycenter Blog Team

 

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Data Journalism + Personal Storytelling = Brave New World? – by Laura Hadden

Emily Paulos

In the world of storytelling, words and numbers have a complicated relationship.

When I was an Americorps*VISTA volunteer at the Center for Digital Storytelling, I was privileged enough to bear witness to hundreds of stories. Sitting in that circle and listening to folks from all walks of life share of themselves and their experiences never got old and, when my time at CDS came to an end, I carried so many of those stories with me into the world.

I knew that the experience had changed me fundamentally, but couldn’t quite figure out how and what that change actually meant. I was also trying to figure out what storytelling meant for the world at large beyond developing a greater sense of empathy for individuals. I would like to believe that increasing empathy in the world and storytellers taking control of their narratives are in and of themselves radical acts that create an inevitable domino effect of healing communities and rebuilding broken systems, but some days it seems like that burden is just too heavy to bear. How do we, not necessarily as storytellers, but as members of the storytelling community, communicate how individual stories relate to these systems on an institutional and societal level? How can we find patterns in individual experiences that suggest new solutions?

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Interview with Arlene Goldbard: Part II – by Barry Hessenius

Emily Paulos

Reposted from Barry's Blog.

Barry: You talk about giving “cultural impact (the impact of our actions on a community’s cultural fabric) standing in planning and policy decisions.” And you talk about something I heard you speak about some time ago – the idea of a Cultural Impact Report (as a companion to the Environmental Impact Report) requirement for building projects. I love that idea. How do we make that a reality?

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Interview with Arlene Goldbard on The Culture of Possibility: Part I – by Barry Hessenius

Emily Paulos

Reposted from Barry's Blog.

Arlene Goldbard is one of the nonprofit arts sector’s most insightful analysts and observers. An artist, blogger, author, and consultant, she is keenly intelligent and a passionate visionary for what might be. And, she writes beautifully and persuasively – an elegant wordsmith who intuitively knows how to communicate. For anyone who appreciates writing as both an art and a craft, reading her words is a sublime experience. While I am more the skeptic and cynic, I know intuitively, from observation and from deep in my heart, that it is not the skeptics and cynics who change the world, but rather those like Arlene who can envision a better world, and ask simply, “Why not?" She pushes everyone to think, and to move towards that better world. While her two new just published (and complementary) books urge a monumental paradigm shift in how we approach life in America, she is a realist and fully understands how hard this will be.

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Heart Work – by Lisa Nelson-Haynes

Emily Paulos

My work with the Center for Digital Storytelling is what I often refer to as my heart work. . . the work closest to my heart. . . work that isn’t work at all, but vital in keeping my head and spirit straight as I navigate, along with my husband, the raising of a young son and teen daughter, and managing the uncertainties of working in the non-profit arts sector. 

About eighteen months ago, Stefani Sese, CDS’s East Coast Regional Director, asked if I was available to co-facilitate a digital storytelling workshop with participants from the National Park Service (NPS) and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) “Digital Storytelling Ambassadors” program. This year is especially poignant as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and CDS, NPS, and ASALH are intent in collecting both the memories of elders who participated in the March, as well as reflections and thoughts of a generation who recently voted to re-elect the country’s first African American president.

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Best Seat in the House – by Penny Cook

Emily Paulos

How could a twenty minute story be condensed to three minutes? How is someone who doesn’t use a computer going to make their own video? What have I gotten myself into?

These were all questions that flowed through my mind as I sat through the first day of a CDS Workshop. I wasn’t really in the workshop, but instead, got to be an observer. I’m still not sure which seat was the best to be in... Read more.

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Incoming and Outgoing – by Arlene Goldbard

Emily Paulos

After dinner the other night, a friend who'd recounted the rather impressive incompetence of the powers-that-be at his workplace said that he tried not to think about how messed up things are in the larger world beyond his 9 to 5, because when he got in touch with all that could go wrong, it terrified him.

I see his point, of course. If the course of events on a global scale were actually determined by the blind-spots and shortsightedness of individuals who — like those running my friend's workplace — had been promoted to their level of incompetence, I doubt a single train would run on time.  Luckily for us, saving grace abounds. 

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Interview with Monte Hallis

Emily Paulos

At StoryCenter we have a creation myth. For the first ten years, as often as not I would lead off my initial lecture about our work by showing a single story from the very first Digital Storytelling workshop . . . The story was by Monte Hallis. I can’t say I remember much… A smart, focused woman among a group of seven participants. She was going through a major change taking care of her friend Tanya Shaw, a young mother of two girls who was dying of AIDS at a local hospice center. Dana asked Monte to make it personal. She did. The rest is the story/history of our organization. 

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Full Circle - by Joe Lambert

Emily Paulos

For 20 years (this month!), the Center for Digital Storytelling has been supporting people in sharing meaningful stories from their lived experiences – because stories matter. Last week, Joe Lambert (our Founding Director) and I were in L.A. teaching a workshop at the Museum of Natural History. As we drove past the American Film Institute, he said, “This all started right here 20 years ago this week, at our first digital storytelling workshop hosted by AFI.”

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