No big deal, I thought. As a historian, I pretty much write and tell stories for a living.
But then the story specialists at StoryCenter taught the other institute participants and I *how* to write a script for digital storytelling, and I began eyeing the door. Not because it was too big or difficult, but because it was so small and succinct. How was I going to tell a full story worth hearing in fewer than 250 words? I've probably written longer sentences than that!
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!
February is Black History Month, and we couldn't imagine a better way to celebrate and honor it than by sharing some incredible stories from our All Together Now project on civil and human rights. With great admiration and appreciation for all the stories and storytellers in the project, we have selected a few stories to share with you here.
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...
His name was Ronald. Not Ron. He made certain everyone knew that. He worked at an independent coffee shop I occasionally visited. While I admit I found Ronald cute, we had never done more than exchange small talk. That changed one hot Sunday afternoon during an open-mic poetry reading the coffee shop was hosting. I arrived late, just after he had finished serving a long line of readers and listeners. The first poet was adjusting the mic, and rather than make her compete with the whirr of the blender, I simply grabbed a bottled water out of the cooler. Ronald didn’t say a word as he rang up my drink and took my money...
What's the BackStory? You write it.
Here's how BackStory 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.
The owner of the photo, Brooke Hessler, will pick her favorite BackStory submission, and we'll post it, along with the real BackStory!
Send us your version by Monday, July 15th to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don’t have any bumperstickers on my car.
I noticed this a few years ago. Nothing… and justified it by saying that I didn’t need to share my views with anyone.
But I didn’t have any. Truth.
It was probably my dad, leaning against the oxidized green Volvo sedan, who took it. It can’t imagine it had been anyone else.
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.
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: email@example.com 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.
– Storycenter Blog Team
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.
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.)
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.
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…
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.”