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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 Tag: writing

Unlocking Stories: The Work of Words Beyond Bars

Amy Hill

After a rocky start, with plenty of naysayers breathing down my neck, I piloted the Words Beyond Bars program at Limon Correctional Facility, a vast teal and purple themed concrete and razor-wired Colorado prison complex. I sat in a circle in the visiting room with my first 12 participants wedged behind tables, with a copy of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and a 79-cent composition book in front of them. The men exhibited empathy, wisdom and gratitude right from the start. Slightly mystified by my energy and encouragement, they shared their own stories of the burdens they carried.

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Challenging Stigma Online: The Impact of Being Forever Known for Your Private Tale – by Aspen Baker, Founder & Executive Director, Exhale

Root Barrett

We don't always want to be known for the most vulnerable or emotional story of our lives. New York Times best-selling author of How to Be Black, Baratunde Thurston, once asked his live audience not to tweet or record his telling of a personal story at a public venue because he's "not interested in that story blowing up and getting lots of YouTube hits. I'm not interested in being KNOWN for it...the idea of people streaming and live-tweeting and uploading this personal, intimate tale felt like a violation."

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Amy Hill: 2014 AHN Awardee

Root Barrett

Arts & Healing Network is delighted to present one of the 2014 AHN Awards to Amy Hill, storyteller, documentary filmmaker, public health consultant and co-founder of Silence Speaks. In 1999, after ten years working in community-based public health projects, Amy co-founded Silence Speaks, an international participatory media initiative offering a safe, supportive environment for telling and sharing stories that all too often remain unspoken. Silence Speaks surfaces personal narratives of struggle, courage and transformation and works to ensure that these stories play an instrumental role in promoting gender equality and human rights. Since 2005, Amy has continued to lead Silence Speaks and other global health and human rights-related projects as a staff member at the Center for Digital Storytelling. Amy has overseen the use of storytelling all over the world in places like Nepal, Ethiopia, Uganda, Brazil and more.

To learn more about Amy Hill, please visit the Silence Speaks web site where you can also watch some of the digital stories that have been recorded from around the world.

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Too Big to See – by Jamie Mayo

Root Barrett

Sometimes racism is so big you don't notice it. I grew up in an all white town. I didn't think about it much. It was just the way it was. It didn't mean anything. After all, we sang, "Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight," every Sunday. And that's what I knew about diversity. But what I didn't know then was that it was an intentional racist act that ensured that my hometown was all white. By law, black people had to be out of town by sundown. Until 1968. And that is the way it was.

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Hear Our Stories – Featured on Connecting Point

Root Barrett

Last summer a group of young teen mothers from Holyoke participated in a program called Hear Our Stories: Diasporic Youth for Sexual Rights and Justice. The program was funded by the Ford Foundation and is the result of a partnership between WGBY, UMass Amherst, the Center for Digital Storytelling, and The Care Center in Holyoke. These women had an opportunity to share their story of becoming teen moms through the use of digital technology and on May 7th will share these stories with the public.

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It’s time to talk and to listen – by Sally J. Laskey, National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Root Barrett

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the U.S. I remember a time when Sexual Assault Awareness Month was mostly about talking for me. As a social justice activist trying to end sexual violence, there certainly has been a lot to talk about. I can still feel the vibrations from the first Speak Out against rape that I ever attended. Indeed, it moved me to continue to tell stories of resilience and resistance. I believe stories have power. Sharing them promotes healing. 

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Sharing My Story – by Tracy Reed Foster

Root Barrett

Sharing my story at the Transitions Clinic Network digital storytelling workshop last spring was an awesome experience. I didn’t know what to expect when I was asked to participate. I was nervous, and yet I knew this was something I needed to do.

The Story Circle became serious very fast, and empathy was shown very quickly. We all were able to share parts of ourselves and trust that we had to bond and hold each other up, pull each other through, and then choose to become connected. I have met friends for life. Even if I don’t see my storytelling family daily, I know they are there. Yes, I did call them family, because they loved me through my sharing. They embraced me when I talked about my story and revealed parts of me that not even my own relatives know, and as I write this, I smile warmly because I feel really good about my storytelling family. This magnificent process brought me back to a time when I thought I was weak, yet I was strong and managed to endure. As I told my story, what seemed to be tears of sadness became gladness. I understood that if I had not gone through what I talked about in my story, I would not be sitting here today!

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Patients first for integrated care – by Joe Sammen

Root Barrett

In 2013, the Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) included questions around mental health for the first time. The results were significant: one out of every four Coloradans experienced one or more days of poor mental health during the past 30 days. I’m not really surprised by these findings. Nearly everyone I know, including myself, has faced at least one bout of stress, depression, or emotional instability at some point in their life.

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Stitching Together the Stories of StoryCenter's First 20 Years – by Joe Lambert

Root Barrett

This weekend I found myself writing a quasi-academic article about the 20 years of the work of the Center for Digital Storytelling. The argument was more or less that we have watched four significant phases in the growth of our work, each with a slightly different emphasis in our work, and in each phase an arc of expansion, a wave of interest, that surged and receded. It was an interesting way to understand what an organization, and a movement, can accomplish over two decades. 

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The Mahi-Mahi & The Map: Digital Storytelling for Science – by Shawn Margles, Coastal & Marine Planning Scientist

Root Barrett

Can storytelling help scientists convey even complex and contentious topics like marine spatial planning?

In my experience, storytelling not only helps, it is essential if we want broader audiences to understand and support our work.  Revealing something personal about why we do what we do can connect audiences with our messages and disarm adversaries.

Consider the field of marine spatial planning.  Here, disconnects between scientists and audiences can be glaring.

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An Interview with Ernest Kirkwood, Transitions Clinic Network Digital Storytelling Workshop Participant

Root Barrett

Transitions Clinic provides intensive case management support and comprehensive health care services to formerly incarcerated women and men. StoryCenter is working with the Transitions Clinic Network and City College of San Francisco on an online curriculum development project, which trains formerly incarcerated women and men on skills to become Community Health Workers at clinics like Transitions. The online courses feature digital stories by women and men, talking about their experiences with prison and the impacts of prison on their health. Ernest Kirkwood created his digital story last fall, as part of this project. During the workshop, Tim Berthold with City College of San Francisco interviewed participants; below is a partial transcript of that interview. 

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“Truth isn't always beauty, but the hunger for it is” – by Rob Kershaw

Root Barrett

Somewhere in a box, stored either here or there, is a framed, aerial photograph of an offshore semi-submersible drilling rig – the Ocean Ranger – being pulled out to sea just off the coast of Newfoundland. The derrick in particular, if I remember correctly, is lit soft orange by early morning sunlight and the ocean is dead calm.

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Turn Toward What You Deeply Love – by Joe Lambert

Root Barrett

Berkeley is the kind of place where you find little surprises.  As you climb down the hill from Hinkel Park in the Berkeley Hills, you may find yourself on one of the many paths that connect the streets. On the Yosemite steps there’s a wall of poems. On a walk in late January, well before dawn, I came across this poem, illuminated by the less-than-romantic light of my iPhone.

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Stand Up Now: All Together Now – by Daniel Weinshenker

Root Barrett

I grew up in Palo Alto in the '70s and '80s. I think there were three students out of a graduating class of 300 that weren't going to a 4-year college. I'm not sure I knew a single person who was joining the military. There was one publicly known homeless resident in the town, whom nobody actually believed was homeless (word around town was that he was a writer doing research for his next novel). And there were maybe ten African Americans in my entire high school. 

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Breaking Down Walls: All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

Root Barrett

“I got very emotional when I read my story aloud in the first story circle before the recording. Probably it’s because November was the month when Esther passed away; this is the fifth anniversary of her death. When I said that line about the anniversary of her death, I just broke. I felt so vulnerable because I was embarrassed and then Mr. Westmoreland said, ‘Just breathe.’ That was when I was able to actually sit up and continue to read the rest of what I had written. Then when I actually did the recording, I didn’t cry. I started to get choked up toward the end, and I got choked up when Eugenia played it back. But when I actually recorded it, I didn’t cry. I’ll never forget that, when Mr. Westmoreland just said, ‘Breathe.’"

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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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BackStory: Guru McDonald – by Brooke Hessler

Emily Paulos

I was driving fast through the Ozarks when I saw Ronald McDonald sitting like a yogi on the side of the highway. I was in a hurry: I had a frequent guest discount at Deb’s Motel in Paragould, Arkansas and wanted to get there before dark. My Chevy Sprint had no air conditioner so I drove with all the windows down, blasting Depeche Mode and New Order. I was 21, working as a sales rep on straight commission covering Oklahoma, Arkansas, and northern Louisiana for a novelty show room in Dallas...

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