Andrea often uses writing and storytelling as a way of combating insecurities and doubts, anxiety and depression, which has totally changed her world view and opened up sunlight where there was none to be had. What is the story you tell yourself about things that have happened in your life and what is to come? Re-writing the story is possibly the key to unlocking your box.Read More
Jennifer Hartsock writes as the new President of the Resilience Project. In 2018, I participated in the Summer Games, a community-wide scavenger hunt. These Games brought together several socially isolated people, myself included. Our group formed exactly how the Games intended: we were strangers, and after a week of shenanigans, I call them my friends.Read More
A few months back I ended up on the Corvallis Advocate’s list of the most impactful folks in the community - how cool is that?
Jay Sharpe wrote the piece on me, inspired by the Summer Games event that Rebecka Weinsteiger and I started last summer. Our new board member, Jennie Hartsock, was a Summer Games pioneer. Here’s the great commercial that her team (The Fit ’N’ Greens) made for items on the Summer Games list:
I’ll include the text of the article below. Thank you Jay Sharpe and Jennie Hartsock, for making me look good! Thanks also to Rebecka and the folks who went for it and got in on the inaugural Summer Games. And we’re doing it again - follow us on Instagram to stay in the know about the Summer Games 2019!
Kriste York is on a mission to connect us to one another. She’s an English teacher by trade, recently at LBCC and now teaching high school in Siletz, and in her free time, she’s the creative director at the Resilience Project. In August, she helped the project launch an ambitious week-long event aimed at forging personal connections: The Summer Games.
For the games, teams of five assembled and were given a list of about 100 activities to complete for points by posting pictures or short videos of the results online. These tasks largely focused on two of York’s favorite things, telling stories and talking to strangers. If a stranger handed you a poem or asked you to teach them how to play Canasta last August, congratulations. You were a participant in her grand design.
his all may seem unconventionally goofy, but unconventional goofiness is York’s superpower, and she uses it to change people’s lives.
Jennifer Hartsock wanted to participate in the games, but was having trouble putting together a team. She ended up assembling a ragtag group of people she barely knew (as well as her mom) and ended up forging unexpectedly powerful connections.
“These Games, the challenge to do new stuff and invite strangers to play along, interact with and learn about our environment, the people, and the history of our town and community, all lit a fire in me,” wrote Hartsock in her blog. “I walked out of my house every day to meet these acquaintances to complete more challenges, telling myself, ‘This is life. This is truly living.’”
Hartsock ended up becoming close with this group of new friends over the course of the games (they won first place), and they’re still playing to this day. They continue to meet periodically and complete more resilience-building tasks from the list.
For York, strength comes from our ability to connect with others, and we build resilience to negativity through having those connections. Through her work at the Resilience Project, she continues to make Corvallis a more connected and friendlier place. To use her unofficial catch phrase: “How cool is that?”
— Jay Sharpe
Here's something I wrote for Open Streets in Corvallis (it's August 19th).
Open Streets 2017 gave me the opportunity to combine two of my favorite things: flânerie and talking to strangers. A flâneur is a person who strolls around in urban environments. And talking to strangers adds a bit of improv to the act of strolling.
I’m interested in resilience. There’s a “social ecology” to resilience – it is strengthened through a person’s physical and social environments. How cool is that? You can improve your capacity to navigate your way to resources that sustain your well-being by strolling around and talking to strangers you meet along the way.
I’m the Creative Director of the Resilience Project, here in Corvallis (not pictured). We are starting a new event called the Summer Games – it’s kind of a scavenger hunt where teams complete events for points (our mayor will present the winning team with gold medals at the end of the Games – how cool is that?). The events are all designed to improve participants’ resilience, and give them opportunities for some silly fun for a week in August.
Look for Pop-up Poetry during Open Streets. The booth will be the intersection of Open Streets and the Summer Games. Summer Games teams will earn points for chatting with an Open Street-er for a minute and then writing them a custom poem in 60 seconds. The poem can be for you, or you can hang out and be a poet for a bit. Or try both! There’s more info at www.wearetheresilienceproject.org/the-summer-games
You should probably start training now for Open Streets. Start by taking a weekly walk around your neighborhood – put on some comfy strolling shoes and stay hydrated for chatting. I’ll see you on August 19th at the Pop-up Poetry booth.
You become an All-Star when you attend your third Community Workshop. In May we had 4 All-Stars. I asked them why they keep coming back.
Paul: It is a creative outlet that uses many disciplines. The people who attend these sessions are from a broad range of the Corvallis population which adds texture and balance to the group. The end result is a form of uninhibited self-expression that is funneled into a cohesive work through simple technology that renders ideas and feelings into durable media.
Hezekiah: Putting words with music and images is a triple threat and has became rather obsessive for me because it gives so many options for the speaker and the audience to engage in.
Diane: The story that I end up telling always ends up very different from the one I think I will tell. That's because of the creative input of the group, the questions that they ask, the ways they focus on a particular portion of the broader idea. It makes me drill down on specifics and makes me a better storyteller .Plus, the folks that show up are especially cool and interesting people.
Jeff: I attended my first workshop with the intention of creating a single digital story. This effort required the learning of a new (to me) film editing application, and it took some time. Once I'd finished my first story - a tribute to my Dad - I started having a deluge of ideas for additional stories, and this hasn't stopped. The creative process, and filmmaking in general, these have a way of inviting you in and inviting you back.
When it comes to technical applications, many of us fall somewhere on a continuum. Some avoid learning new technology as much as possible, while others seem to rush toward every new thing - think of that cousin who can’t wait for the iPhone 27 to come out. I’m a late implementer. I generally wait until the early implementers have made their purchases and held forth on what’s useful and what isn’t before I enter the picture. So it took me a little while to warm up to the idea of learning a new application for the purpose of digital storytelling. And longer still to practice it and to get it to work for me.
I remember a vivid setback in my filmmaking journey. Between my first and second digital storytelling workshop, I saw The Last Jedi, the most recent film in the Star Wars franchise. It was a great film, but what really struck me was the credits at the end. I lost count of the sheer number of names of talented contributors, but it had to have been more than 4,000 people. All of them working on one big, elaborate film. Then I thought of my upcoming workshop. It was going to be just me and not 4,000+ well-paid professionals. Who was I to think I could do this?
Fortunately the WeVideo software is well-designed and easy to figure out with a little help. It’s an online, collaborative video editing program that makes it fairly simple to create original films from inputs all around us, things like images on our phones, narratives we can write and record ourselves, and music clips that serve as the soundtrack. And the stories it helps us create are meaningful and fun, not necessarily sophisticated. While nobody will ever mistake my work for a blockbuster movie, I’m okay with that because it was never the point. All I ever wanted to do was experiment with DIY filmmaking and this environment makes it easy, even for someone like me.
Stories are a form of comic relief and building good neighborly relations. As a kid, I grew up listening to stories about family and neighbor foibles around the campfire at the lake cabin. Usually all or most of us witnessed the thing that the stories were based on, but we loved recounting the chain of events, building on each other’s assessment of the situation. One our favorites focused on my Dad, our neighbor Kevin, and his father-in-law Willie, and THE BEEHIVE. Willie was an old farmer who, even at the lake, would wear overalls just about every day as if he had a cornfield to plant. He was a self-proclaimed “expert” in many things, but mostly he was an old coot, retired from a long stint as a local county commissioner. Kevin was no handyman or horticulturalist and spent a lot of time harassing my Dad from his lawnchair. The more Brandy and Diet Coke he drank, the more his common sense would be replaced by a “ah, screw-it” attitude, which was entertaining to see in action.
One summer Saturday, Kevin discovered a hive of bees in the tree he was trimming and was completely perplexed about what to do. Shortly, my Dad became engaged in the situation and suggested that Kevin get some hornet killer, but unfortunately there was none to be had. My Dad, aka, the “instigator”, probably had the right item to do the job, but did not offer because he wanted to see what other interesting ideas Kevin and Willie might come up with. Kevin told my Dad “we don’t need no goddamn spray, I got some RoundUp” (which Dad noted, only kills things with roots, not wings) and proceeded to shoot a heavy stream of the stuff on the hive. It seemed Roundup is indeed only effective on weeds, as the bees just swarmed around more angrily than before. Willie, who was watching and assessing the situation expertly suggested that they smoke out the bees, as he pointed out, this is what they used to do “back in da old days”. My Dad enthusiastically agreed this was the best plan. Willie went back to his garage and came out with a dripping rag soaked with dirty oil and Kevin found a long stick. Willie directed Kevin to stuff the lit rag into the tree. Like an Olympic torch-bearer, Kevin paraded with the stick toward the tree and nervously propped it up by the beehive. As he ran from the swarm, he inadvertently kicked over the stick and started a small grass fire. The bees were still in the tree. Dad chuckled and said “Well boys, I think you done well here” and headed off to find the hornet spray.
What defines “a writer”? I've always wanted to be one, but what is the criteria? Is it getting paid, being published, writing consistently, or just state of mind?
When I was in elementary school, my best friend Ellen and I wrote a book about our beloved hand-sewn red stuffed cats, Hermingal and Teddy, and their imaginary adventures. We paved the way for Calvin and Hobbes. When I was in junior high, my friend Lauren and I wrote and illustrated an ongoing comic strip about our superhero alter-egos, the Super Watashettes (inspired by our math teacher), and their battles against the evil Dr. Cleverly. The spine-tingling saga frequently included pop idols of the day, especially the Bee Gees. Not even their terrible remake of Sgt. Pepper could dim our enthusiasm.
As I grew up, so did my aspirations of being a novelist. When I was fresh out of college and working at my first science job in California, my plan was to write a sweeping historical based on genealogical research into the life of my great-great grandfather and his first wife, who lost two children to illness in Ramsgate, England and promptly got on a boat and emigrated to the whaling port of Sag Harbor, New York, in the 1840s. When I was in graduate school, I thought about chronicling the romantic adventures of my fellow students under the title “Graduate Affairs,” but in actuality I published several scientific papers about the regulation of muscle cells and a Ph.D. thesis. As my frustration grew in my post-doctoral research job after graduate school, my hypothetical novel became a murder mystery – who pushed my boss over the 5th floor railing onto the pink marble floor of the atrium of our building, and why? There were too many suspects.
Writing for science for several years seems to have dulled my creative juices, and taken all the imagery out of my writing. It's hard to train my brain away from making all my writing to be dry, succinct and in the passive voice. We are on the cusp of another National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I still don't quite have my act (and courage) together enough to jump in an try, even if it stinks. But I did write a digital story, and my friends liked it. So although I know I am a good scientific writer, I'm still not sure about whether I can consider myself “a writer”, but I am on the path to discovering my voice. Practice makes progress.
Do you read the same book, over and over? I do. I am a nut for certain books. Oftentimes, they are ones that I first read in middle or high school. On August 26th I will be celebrating my 20th high school reunion with friends in Springfield, OR. So, this means that I have been reading and re-reading the same books for 20+ years.
It can be a crisp fall day – I’m pruning leaves from the river birch tree in my backyard, and I will have a sudden urge to read a passage from Franny and Zooey. Or I will be driving down I5 to visit family in Eugene when I just need to revisit White Noise by Don Delillo.
What is it about certain stories that keeps us coming back for more? I’ve often thought about this as I lug box upon box of books across the country, from place to place. “Why don’t you just get rid of them?” friends and family ask. It seems like a tedious burden, hauling these words around.
As I nestle down into my favorite blue chair and open Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man for the 92ndtime, I feel at home as the first lines settle in ... “I am a man of substance, flesh, bone, fiber and liquid. I might even be said to possess a mind.” It’s like coming home, to re-read these stories. I find myself catapulted back to the first time I read Ellison’s work, as a high school sophomore, searching desperately for meaning behind each and every word.
This, to me, is the courage of true storytelling – when it transports a reader or listener to a particular time and place, a safe space to process and imagine. Through story we find courage to confront demons and dance on rooftops, to relish the odd, and honors tales of resilience amid obstacles.
I hope that you, too, have stories that keep you coming back, again and again.
My Top Ten Re-Reading List:
- White Noise by Don Delillo
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- Franny and Zooey by JD Sallinger
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson
- Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murukami
- Go by John Clellan Holmes
One way of thinking about human behavior is in evolutionary terms, the notion that even in this age, we do things because they somehow contribute to our survival.
Our forbearers needed to create things and tell stories in order to survive. They needed to build shelters and weapons, start fires, and make clothing suitable for different climates and changing seasons. They needed to sound warnings of threats and communicate opportunities such as ripening berries and migrating salmon. In the centuries before before moveable type, before literacy was commonplace, before we had anything like television or film, I can only imagine the importance of the sharing spoken stories. For many, sharing stories might well have been the only way they could experience the world beyond their personal, lived experience.
Today we live in a world filled with more than six billion people. At times its hard to imagine that we’re individuals and not just part of this huge, teeming herd. It’s our personal narratives that set us apart and make us truly unique.
Our forbearers needed to make things and tell stories in order to survive, and the same is true for us today. The stories we create, whether they’re fiction or memoir or DIY instructions on You Tube or even poetry, these are essential to our humanity. And there are more ways than ever to create stories and express our uniqueness.
On March 27, 2017, a cup of coffee in Russell (birthplace of Bob Dole) led me to an afternoon in Lucas. That was the day that I, a lifelong West Coaster on my first ever visit to the Midwest, fell in love with the great state of Kansas.
I woke up that morning in Wilson, KS, home of the World's Largest Czech Egg.
From Wilson I headed west to Russell, on a pilgrimage to Senator Dole's hometown. After taking a few pictures outside his childhood home, I gave in to my craving for a fancy coffee, and stopped at Espresso, Etc., in downtown Russell. Shelby, the barista, and Jim, the other customer, were adamant that I should go to Lucas, KS, to see the toilet. No way was I going to argue with either one of them, so I headed north and arrived in Lucas in an hour. Jim said that I should check out the Grassroots Art Center, which displays the works of quite a few local artists. The staff and volunteers were having a meeting when I arrived. Rosslyn, the woman who runs the center, said that she'd gladly give me a tour after the meeting. She pointed me towards the toilet. And man alive, what a toilet it was.
When I got back to Grassroots Art Center, after my best bathroom visit ever, I was warmly greeted by Rosslyn. Before the tour got started, she asked me, "Are you an artist?" I automatically said no, and added that I do some writing. There were half a dozen of us in the group, and Rosslyn started us in a side room to look at examples of art created by Kansans. She talked about the artists, who were all regular folks who used their creativity to beautify their homes and yards.
During the tour I realized that, yes, I am an artist. I didn't start thinking of myself as creative until my first Storycenter digital storytelling workshop, almost exactly eight years ago. So I took back the answer I'd given Rosslyn a few hours earlier. I told her that I am an artist, and the art I make is folk art for the 21st century (a description I've always loved, but hadn't completely understood until that spring afternoon). As I started to describe digital storytelling, I realized how much I have in common with the Kansans whose art I was admiring. One of the things I love about digital storytelling is that you don't need a lot of technical experience to create a digital story - you need a story to tell and some visuals to help you tell it. The regular folks in Lucas, and really everywhere, don't need special art education to make what they have around them into something beautiful - they need raw materials and the creativity to put them together in ways that they find appealing. Same idea, different century.
Next summer I want to bring digital storytelling to the folks in Lucas, Kansas. To help the artists tell their own stories, in their own voices, so that Grassroots Art Center can introduce them to future folks who come to town for the toilet