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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.

Listening and Telling: Reflections Eight Years Later – by Elizabeth Ross

Emily Paulos

In 2005 I was part of a group who produced stories about the impact of child sexual assault through StoryCenter’s Silence Speaks initiative. Initially after viewing the stories at the end of the workshop, I felt curiosity and surprise at the immediacy of impact: I felt proud, visible, and necessary – quite different from how I had walked into the Berkeley lab feeling on the first day. What has become clear was that this process of internal re-structuring has continued to this day. Making Listening and Telling was the beginning.

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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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BackStory: Small Fists – by Ryan Trauman

Emily Paulos

Small Fists by Ryan Trauman is the first post in our BackStory series... The Story Behind the Picture.

This first BackStory is made up by someone (Trauman) who has no clue about the photo.

Here's how it works:

Someone submits a photo, and we ask our readers to write and submit their 250-300 word BackStory – what they THINK the story behind the photo is... everything you can't see in the picture.

This time, to give you an example, we asked our friend Trauman do the first one. 

The owner of the photo – in this instance our very own Daniel Weinshenker – will pick his favorite submission and we'll post it, along with the REAL BackStory by Daniel.

Please email your BackStory submissions or questions to: blog@storycenter.org by May 30th for consideration.

If you have a photo that you'd like to submit to BackStory, please send it along with your BackStory script and we will consider it for a future posting.

Thanks!

– 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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Digital Stories Part of Campaign to End the Silence and Shame Surrounding HIV/AIDS in Asian and Pacific Islander Communities

Emily Paulos

The Center for Digital Storytelling has been busy facilitating workshops in which the inspirational participants brought together by the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center's (A&PIWC) Banyan Tree Project have told the stories that are featured in these events to celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on May 19. Since March 2012, the Center for Digital Storytelling has partnered with the A&PIWC on four workshops in the Bay Area, Guam and Honolulu, and will teach three more workshops this summer.

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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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Getting It All Together, Now – by Joe Lambert

Emily Paulos

Sometimes this job affords you amazing contrasts. Here is one week in April:

Tuesday afternoon.
New Haven, Connecticut.

A mad dash to finish a group of stories by rambunctious teenagers. Hip hop music is playing. They are getting up and wandering around and laughing with each other. Especially the tall skinny kid from California; he seems like he belongs there, trading rap lyrics and talking smack.  

They must have been friends for years, right?

But most of these young people only met three days before.

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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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"Outing" Our Silenced Lives – by Ronak Davé

Emily Paulos

Coming home from the bus stop this evening, I found myself behind two men whose conversation I encroached upon as my legs hurried to get out of the cold. It became apparent, as I caught the word "gay" and the statement, "I still remember coming out to my parents," that these men were sharing a moment of empathy and understanding as they spoke about their lived experience as gay men in America. "In a lot of ways it is like you come out to people a little bit every day," one of them stated. My heart stopped for a moment when I heard those words, the way it does when you hear the utmost of truths. I reflected on the power and weight of that reality, of the strength of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters to live their truths in their worlds each day. And then I realized I could relate, myself. "Isn’t that so true," I thought. Every time I share that I have had an abortion, it feels as though I’m "outing" myself.

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I Call Them Flower Portraits – by Zoe Jacobson

Emily Paulos

I call them flower portraits.

I've been a landscape gardener in Berkeley, California for the past three years. I can't imagine living in a city without it, not just because we humans need to touch the real, live earth from time to time, but also because the plant landscape has become a surprisingly dominant feature of my urban experience. I know more about the plants I walk past every day than I know about the people inside the buildings beside those plants. I can hardly take a stroll with a friend through my neighborhood without interrupting our conversation with, "Look at that marvelous Echium over there – finally blooming!" or, "What sweet California poppies! Aren't they early this year?" (Now I even add insult to the injury of interrupting whatever my dear friend was saying by pulling out my camera and lovingly snapping a few shots of that marvelous Echium and those perfect California poppies.)

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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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"Like Father Like Son" – by Shaun Anderson

Emily Paulos

The first story I intended to write was about my father's achievements with the Alberta Métis Settlements, such as being one of the four signers to bring in the Métis accord (self governance), but as I wrote, I realized there were a lot of details I didn’t know. I wrote "Like Father Like Son" not by conscious choice, but by more of a spiritual intuition. It was something I needed to share to breathe a new light, and to explore more in depth the bond between father and son. So I drifted to something I knew deeply… the story of a boy and his hero, a story about inspiration and coming of age.

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Renewal Comes Calling: Telling Stories for Their Own Sake – by Rob Kershaw

Emily Paulos

Janet, the rancher I worked for in the late 1990s, called me out of the blue last week . . . Recently I was looking at a photograph I took during that one of those calving season. Why I was looking at this photograph had nothing to do with working at the ranch, but rather to do with my work at CDS, about desire paths, about wanting to be acknowledged and feel enabled. I don’t tell Janet this, although she would have listened deeply. Instead I describe the photograph to her and in doing so tell a story. She remembers…

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Share Your Time, Share Yourself – by Jessica Reynolds

Emily Paulos

"Why do you volunteer?" The SharedTime project asks volunteers at nonprofits in Toronto to answer this question and to probe deeply, unearthing the real reasons they started – and continue – to give back. Over the past two years, the Center for Digital Storytelling has worked with Volunteer Toronto on the SharedTime project to help capture the spirit of volunteerism in Toronto.

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All the Truly Important Things… You Haven’t Lost – by Andrea Spagat

Emily Paulos

Eric held us spellbound. We knew we were witnessing a moment especially rich in humanity, in dignity, in compassion, in nobility, in tapping into the most important things that make us human. His story was about finding out he was HIV-positive. All the storytellers in the room were also HIV-positive and were telling different versions of this story. About how HIV made them stronger and wiser and better able to support their friends and the people they work with in their communities.

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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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Cajun Cookin’ Cajoles Culinary Tales in New Orleans - by Joe Lambert

Emily Paulos

Our stories focused on the centrality of food to our individual and communal identities. Not surprisingly, everyone had powerful stories to tell about their connections to food, and the initial introductions had us hungry for finding out where this journey would take us, but also just plain hungry as we sampled the best of the nearby Cake Cafe.

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