Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Awarding excellence in storytelling

I appreciate the Peabody Awards for achievements in electronic media because they have only one criterion: excellence. This means that the artistic expression of storytelling can be recognized and honored in a wonderful variety. Among the winners for 2011, I was thrilled to see Radiolab—one of my favorite podcasts—right up there with PBS docs and network TV dramas and even an ESPN series. Winners List

Monday, May 30, 2011

No browsing in this library

A library in which you can’t browse the stacks? At the new University of Chicago library, that’s considered state-of-the-art. At first I thought a library without row upon row of books to wander would be most terrible. But then I realized that I do the majority of my own browsing online these days. I’m not sure when my habits shifted. Do you still like to browse without a computer? Link to print article

Friday, May 27, 2011

“We’re Maybe in the 1940’s Now”

Last week I posted a link to a story about a proposed Australian law that would require gamers to program significant storytelling elements into their games. Here, Dan Ackerman theorizes on why, even though the technology is available, sophisticated and effective storytelling isn’t a run-of-the-mill component of gaming—yet.
Credit: Rockstar Games

Thursday, May 26, 2011

10 Tips for Storyteller-Photographers

Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt
Source: wikipedia.org

I love the idea that a painting (such as these by Dutch painter Gabrielle Metsu) or a photograph can tell a story. Thousands of words (unless your name is Reuben) within the boundaries of a single frame. Here are a few tips from Scott Bourne on how to create story-laden images.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Every Story Needs an Action-Idea

photo credit

Not just action, but an action-idea, a driving force that propels the characters and events through a story arc. Ted Dekker calls this “a through line.” I call it “a true arrow” that flies through the target zone of every creative choice. Hanson Hosein, author of Storyteller Uprising: Trust and Persuasion in the Digital Age, explains the principle here in such a helpful way that it helped me to get my current work-in-progress back on track: Storyteller Uprising

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Good News, Bad News, Good News

In a week of numbers that don’t always seem logical: Amazon is now selling more e-books than print books (105 units of e-copies for every 100 units of physical copies). And the sale of fiction is down (by 3%). But the total volume of physical book titles published is up (and fiction is still a leading category). Thank you, print-on-demand technology! And finally, it appears—perhaps in a foreshadowing of publishing models to come—that e-book sales might be driving print sales. I’ll take Good News for $100, please.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Fun

Finally, a periodic table that I can understand! I did pass my Physics for Poets class in college, but let’s just say that science isn’t my strong suit. My favorite category is the “Story Modifiers.” (See Aws and Ang.) Sensitive souls, please be forewarned that a few of the elements fall into what my editorial colleagues call “the sphere of questionable language,” or LaQ, perhaps.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gaming Down Under

In Australia, video game developers will have to create games with “significant storytelling elements” in order to get government funding. Not everyone is happy about that. Article from SMH.com.au

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

This Is Your Brain on Stories

This Scientific American article from a couple years back still holds plenty of interest for me. It probes the questions of why storytelling transcends culture, what it reveals about the biology of the mind, and how it affects our behavior. Fascinating stuff.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To Resolve, or Not to Resolve?

photo credit
Resolved stories are satisfying stories. That is, the probing questions “What does that mean?” and “Why does it matter?” have answers. But in Brant Hansen’s April 28 blog entry “Unresolved Chicken Soup for the Soul,” (follow the link and scroll down) he explores a painful real-life problem: “We don’t live in resolution time.” In light of this truth, does resolution in storytelling frustrate or inspire you? Read the blog here

Monday, May 16, 2011

If I Were Canadian, I'd Eat Here

Storytelling Dinner Theater. It was a special event last week at The Sultan's Tent, a Moroccan restaurant where one could go dine and hear dramatic retellings of tales from 1001 Arabian Nights.

The idea arose out of an initiative launched last year to share epic stories across Canada, says Hays.
"We are also linked up with Storytellers of Canada," she says, "and there's a movement across Canada to tell epic stories and various groups have used 1001 Arabian Nights.
What a great idea. I'm hungry. For a classic story, served up fresh.

Rakugo for the Displaced

Storyteller Kyoraku is a storytelling celebrity in Japan. Rakugo is a traditional form of humorous storytelling. As the people of Japan reel from the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor failures, he uses the form to bring a bright spot to the refugees’ tedious days. “If you want to make people around you smile,” he says. “You have to start by smiling yourself.”
photo credit

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Storytellers Are the New Black

"Storyteller" is the latest buzzword not just in creative industries but in corporate environments. Last week blogger Dawn Marinacci wrote:

"The value of good storytelling can’t really be measured in hard numbers (maybe that’s why some marketers don’t always consider it an essential component of their “arsenal”), but the impact of a good storyteller is immeasurable in my opinion. Companies/marketers who don’t position a storyteller as its brand champion are passing on the secret sauce because it’s not just about the story, but also how the story is told that matters. It’s the emotional connection the storyteller creates with the audience by using their natural ability to deliver a compelling message that not only resonates but inspires."

In her blog, Marinacci outlines the quintessential qualities of top storytellers in any field. The same week, novelist and consultant Justina Chen (via Russell Working) offered "Seven Secrets of Successful Storytelling" in a corporate context.

Both women note that the key to effective storytelling comes from the heart, which might explain why Hallmark commercials make me teary. My hat's off to good storytellers of all kinds, wherever your stories are told.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

One Tweet Does Not a Story Make

But now there's a program that will make a readable, chronological drama out of all those nonlinear tweets. I confess I'm not a Tweeter. (Twitterer?) Nor a Tweedle Dum nor Tweedle Dee. But I'm all for storytelling, in any format.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Fictional Story about One of Our Favorite Storytellers

Coming to a bookshelf near you—a novelization/criticism of J. R. R. Tolkien titled MIRKWOOD, sort-of approved by the estate. In other words, all parties have agreed to drop their lawsuits over the use of Tolkien's name as a violation of the estate's publicity rights. The lives of historical figures are fictionalized all the time, I suppose, but I'll say it right now: I hope my life never is.

Monday, May 9, 2011

StoryCorps, Animated

I love listening to some of the stories people have recorded for the mobile StoryCorp Project, which has been dedicated to preserving the captured audio tales at the Library of Congress since 2003. More recently, StoryCorp has begun animating some of the narratives, adding another wonderful layer to the story-sharing experience. Here is their most recent endeavor, which had me laughing and crying in the space of four minutes. Isn't it amazing that stories of total strangers can grip us?

Friday, May 6, 2011

How Family Stories Change Us

Great-Grandpa Gus and
Great Nana Matti Gleichmann
For a season when I was a child, my parents worked at a hotel. It wasn't just any hotel, but one that my great-grandparents had purchased as a young married couple in 1921. And for a time, while I was a teenager, I resented the place: the demands of the business, the conflicts it generated among family members, the intrusion of that life into MY life.
      During my senior year of high school, my mother asked me to help her with a project. She was assembling a wall of historic photographs chronicling some seventy-five years of the property, and she asked me to do some research with her, and to write the story that would go with the images.
      That project of writing my family's story--at least a portion of it--forever changed my attitude. It opened up a view onto my great-grandparents' desires to invest in their family and community. It showed me a side of my aging Great Nana that I'd not fully understood--the history of a strong woman widowed young (Grandpa Gus was killed by a drunk driver), who raised her children through World War II, who never remarried, and who ran the hotel with her children and grandchildren until her death, just a month shy of her 101st birthday. Her story explained much about the strength of the women who precede me, and what strength of character they might have passed along to me. Strengths I might not have fully tapped. Yet.
      Today, The Pierpont Inn is a historic landmark (and it's still owned by other members of my sprawling family tree). In 1995, my husband and I were married there. (Right there in front of those lovely cottages that are pictured on the homepage.) For me, the location represents a way of regarding my own history that I would have missed if I hadn't paid attention to the story.
     I was reminded of this experience after reading about someone else's “Grandpa Gus,” who died young, and how retelling his story changed her life, 

In what ways have the stories of your family changed the way you see your own story?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How Important Is "Transmedia Storytelling" to You?

“Transmedia storytelling” refers to stories that extend their fiction across a variety of media. It’s a film adaptation of a novel, or a fictional character who blogs or Tweets, or readers who create unauthorized sequels. How important is the transmedia experience to you in expanding your enjoyment of a story?

Check out some of these example from of transmedia from Social-Creature. I've been experiencing it without even knowing it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stories of Social Justice, for a Better World

Today on Oprah, storyteller Steve Sanfield will tell the tale of his participation in the Civil Rights Freedom Rides. Have you ever participated in a social-justice cause? Share your stories here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why Cameras Are Like the Printing Press

“Photography is a language,” says photojournalist Pablo Corral Vega. If each picture is worth a thousand words, what kinds of stories to YOUR photographs tell? I’m captivated by Vega's prediction that we’ll eventually have cameras that we wear like contact lenses.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Spoken Poetry of Sarah Kay

I’m used to reading poetry alone, and silently. But every once in a while poetry takes on new power and meaning just because someone knew exactly how to speak it aloud, and speak it well, and speak it like the story it was meant to be. Like Sarah Kay.