Accolades is a funny thing when you are not seeking it. It can suck the joy right out of what you love doing (experience talking here). I loved facilitating digital storytelling workshops or story workshops. Loved it. I loved combining story with our arts – I was in love with all the stories that came to be ❤️ Then my job expected me to do it with my work constantly – I do mean constantly. Then people wanted me to come speak, teach, inspire! This became too much for me and I stopped storying and took a break… My love of story was being directed by others instead of by my love of story and community.
I story because I love it. I story because I believe people deserve to be heard. I story because it honors my culture. I story because it feels right. This is why I story and I just need to start storying again 💕 #storyemancipation #stopbeingagoofball
p.s. This comic hit a nerve this morning…
The Beginning of a Storyteller
It’s been a while since I wrote. I’ve been at the “crossroads” again in my life and it’s been occupying a lot of my time.
I wanted to share how I’ve come back to myself and it all started with a choice I made many years ago that was a first for me in California, and here I am, attending a Summer Institute with the StoryCenter in Berkeley, California, which is another first for me – both times I was at a crossroads in my life and here I am again.
The first time I was here back in 2009, I was blown away by my choice to become a storytelling facilitator, and now this first, at the StoryCenter, has reaffirmed, has lifted me back up of why I love story work. Enjoy.
I love helping people to tell their stories, especially with the communities I serve. I’ve been a firm believer that whoever tells the stories controls the narrative, so for me, besides the love of stories, it is a form of advocacy and is a way to help communities to control how their story is told and shared.
As a storyteller facilitator, you need to have many skills to be a good facilitator. You need to be able to guide, not direct, on how best to help the storytellers share their story. A good facilitator will have:
Strong facilitation skills
Ability to create safe space
Ability to create a sharing space
Good to great technology troubleshooting skills (including image and video editing)
Good to great people troubleshooting skills 🙂
Able to think creatively
Superb listening skills
Excellent negotiation skills
Strong desire to help people be successful
This list may seem like it is asking a lot, but in all the years I’ve been doing storytelling, these are skills I have seen that are needed in order to have a great learning experience with your storytellers.
There is also another big item that storytelling facilitators need to excel at and that is: Ethics in Storytelling. It’s important to be clear to the funders of the story workshop and the storytellers (participants) about what and how the stories will be used. It needs to be shared with the storytellers:
What the end goal of the story project is.
Where will these stories be shown.
How and why they will they be used.
What control will participants have over reproduction and distribution.
We have a digital storytelling release form that every storyteller needs to sign. It clearly addresses the above, and is written with all possible ways the stories will be shared and participants are able to check off which ones they agree to, such as using the stories in an educational setting, a presentation at a conference, and/or the company internet site, etc. In the workshop pre-planning stages, we work with the funding organization to answer these questions and customize the release form to each workshop.
Please note: The release form only covers the final published video, we do not keep the images or any other story development items – those belong to the storyteller, as does the finalized story, and we are granted permission to use those stories per the release form.
This is only a snippet of what makes a good facilitator, and will talk more about Ethics in Storytelling again.
Long live storytelling! Laura
As a storytelling guide (facilitator), you encounter all kinds of stories and to cause no harm in your story work. Sometimes with some of those stories emotions happen, and you as the facilitator need to ensure you provide safe space for all, resources, and help if need be.
If you are not comfortable with strong emotions, certain
topics, and being able to hold safe space for all the storytellers, maybe being
a storytelling guide is not for you, and that’s OK.
There is so much you have to consider when you decide to step
into this type of facilitation role; besides handling strong emotions, your
language, including your body language, needs to be as neutral as possible, and
you don’t offer advice, but instead, ask questions to help guide the
conversation. There is also power dynamics within your group you need to be
aware of as well as cultural diversity to think about.
You also have to realize it’s not about you. Being a
facilitator is NEVER about you, it’s about the learners, the storytellers, and the
stories. You also need to understand and respect that each storyteller brings something
to the table – so the learning process is dynamic, a 2-way process, and not
about how much you know or about your stories.
For me, being a storytelling guide has been one of the
greatest works I’ve been honored to participate in. I’ve been facilitating
digital storytelling workshops for 10+ years and my story facilitating skills continues
to grow as I learn something new with every workshop I’ve done Y and it is something I hope to do for a long-time to
come. If I cannot be a storytelling facilitator, then let me continue to be a
story keeper or carrier and continue to honor the story and storytellers I’ve
Here’s some resources to help you think about before you
facilitate a story workshop:
Not a link but you should look at your state’s requirement,
and your organization’s requirement for “Mandated Reporting” there’s somethings
you may hear that require you contacting public safety officials, such as Elder
abuse or child abuse.
This is by no means a complete list, just things to help you
think about as you start your storytelling journey, and to help you think about
what kind of training you’ll need before guiding your first story workshop.