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Full Circle

STORYCENTER Blog

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

Full Circle

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.”

And here he is, two decades later, still doing what he started then because he believes that: 

Everyone has many stories to tell.

Listening is hard, but important.

People see, hear, and perceive the world in different ways.

Sharing stories helps us understand what divides us, but also what binds us together.

Bearing witness to stories can lead to learning, action, and positive change.

I believe those things, too. Twenty years ago, I was waiting tables and trying to figure out how to make a living, while bringing my soul to work every day.

So here I am at CDS.

And of course, I’m passionate about stories. Sometimes telling them. But mostly I listen.

To the refugee kid, finding friendship in a strange land; the foster youth becoming the first in her family to go to college; the cancer patient living to trim the trees in her back yard next spring; the woman with physical differences revealing first impressions; the grown man with AIDS, afraid to tell his parents, yet brave enough to mentor others. 

I’m filled with these beautiful stories. 

But in our work at CDS, I’m most passionate about what happens when people share stories in small groups and out into the world. Something changes.

We see ourselves in the open and honest stories of others… I know what fear feels like, and hope, and betrayal, too. I’ve got a story like that. Resonance… and empathy happen. 

Often, we haven’t quite figured out what our stories mean for us until we hear ourselves telling them and feel ourselves being heard. Until we’re really heard, we can’t be present for the stories of others. 

Sharing stories and listening deeply, which is what we practice at CDS, changes us… all of us.

That’s why we’ve started this blog.

True to our favorite number, we’ve come up with seven categories: 

Owning Our Insights.We will feature CDS staff reflections on workshop experiences, stories or projects, or our own stories from time to time. We may also include reviews and opinion pieces on books, articles, and movies.

Voices from Around the Table. Because sharing stories sparks stories, we want to hear from others. Look for interviews and guest reflections or opinion pieces.

Updates from the Field. This section is more resource heavy and will include technology reviews, methodologies, innovations, articles, and reports on story work in a variety of contexts, written by CDS staff and others.

Storyteller Reflections. Hear directly from storytellers in our workshops about their process, the back story, and maybe their answer to the question we always ask, “Why this story, and why now?” 

Project News. Sometimes, we just want to share with you some of the interesting projects that we get to develop with our community partner organizations around the globe.

In the Moment. Find out about upcoming events, project announcements, and news about our partner organizations and clients.

The Story Behind the Picture. One exercise we sometimes do when our staff are together is trade a photo from our life with a colleague who then narrates to the group what is in the photo and what the possible story behind the photo is… or what you can’t see. Then the owner of the photo reveals the real story behind the photo. This will be a crowd-sourced component of our blog, and we hope it will be a lot of fun. 

We hope that we can collectively engage, share, learn… and, of course, listen.

Stay tuned!