Category Archives: Inspiration

Give, Take, Etc.

We’ve mentioned our friends Colin and Shanai before– they are some of the most inspiring and yet easygoing movers and shakers in young Minneapolis, so it’s no surprise they were early Story Farm fans. But their work continues to morph and I thought I’d share one of their most recent brainchildren, Give & Take, a monthly event that (in their words) “is built around your answers to two simple questions: What do you know? What do you want to know? Their events are as various as the people who attend them, so you can expect to learn skills as practical as how to start a garden, how to use WordPress, how to find the best pizza joints in town, title insurance, and dating successfully, and as ethereal as “opportunity” and “creativity.” I haven’t been to one of these yet, and sadly, I’m going to miss tonight’s (It’s 7-9 pm at Intermedia Arts). But happily, next month it shall rise again! In the meantime, check out their spunky website and ask yourself “What do I know?”

Personally, I would teach either farming with oxen, capturing good audio, or selecting a ripe melon. You?


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Inspiration: The Center for Digital Storytelling

Eric and I have an ongoing conversation about how to feel when a story idea, or project idea of ours, shows up somewhere in the world, authored by someone other than him or me. In journalism, this phenomenon is referred to as “getting scooped,” and it’s one reason I prefer more in-depth journalism projects– because it’s less about getting it first, and more about doing it well.

Nonetheless, it happens all the time that I’m innocently surfing the web, or strolling down a Berkeley ave, only to come across something that I thought was MY original idea, but was created by someone else, who actually followed through with the thing I’d only casually considered. Sometimes, Eric takes these experiences to mean that it’s time to throw in the towel. Perhaps that’s my first instinct too, but then there’s this other feeling that arises– a thrilling feeling that goes something like this, “Wow! We must really be on to something– these folks are thinking along the same lines! We’ve GOT to connect with them.” One woman’s bummer is another woman’s networking opportunity.

All of this is to say that a few of these instances have arisen lately, the most compelling of which is The Center for Digital Storytelling, in Berkeley, CA.

“Don’t you LIVE in Berkeley?” you might be wondering. And yes, we do. But we only recently came upon this cool undertaking– here’s their mission statement. Read it and rejoice:

The Center for Digital Storytelling is an international not-for-profit community arts organization rooted in the craft of personal storytelling. We assist youth and adults around the world in using media tools to share, record, and value stories from their lives, in ways that promote artistic expression, health and well being, and justice.

The Center for Digital Storytelling offers all kinds of services– from “story screenings” (coming soon to a conference near you!) to media design and production work. The most Story-Farm-relevant work they do, though, is their workshops– which are designed to help individuals creatively tell their personal stories in digital media. Check out the story “Sofas,” about a man’s experience with homelessness. His voice alone would have made me love this piece.

We’ve now got 2 remaining months in Berkeley, CA, and The Center for Digital Storytelling is among those places/people we need to connect with before we go. I love what they’re doing. And I’ve found that however kindred a project or story is, it’s always a little bit different from my own version of an idea. It’s just like wine, and cheese, and vegetables–their taste varies based on the climate and soil and air. Maybe we could think of this as narrative “terroir.” The taste of an idea depends on where it’s grown.

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Speaking of Soup

canningThanks to our pals Jess and Andy for this one…

Chicago’s Hull House runs an event called Re-Thinking Soup, in which all sorts of folks come together to eat soup and talk about the issues of the day. The program also holds canning events, and well, I love canning. Something about having a bunch of pals gather around that steamy stove is just supremely cozy.

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Inspiration: Porchlight

oldstersHow could I forget? Thanks to Julie J. for a reminder about San Francisco’s Porchlight series, a storytelling series that “brings together an eclectic mix of storytellers for evenings of entertainment and inspiration.” A la This American Life, Porchlight chooses a theme each time, themes like “I Quit!” and “Kitchen Confidential” and brings in mostly non-professional folks to tell 10 minute personal stories without notes or memorization. Julie says it’s consistently brilliant entertainment–sorry to say, I haven’t been yet, but I’ve now promised to attend. Next theme is “Family Portrait: Who Are These People?” Hmm. I might have a few ideas for that one.

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Inspiration: The Moth

logoThanks to Kara Garbe for the reminder about this excellent project: The Moth, a non-profit storytelling series in NYC. Occasionally, you’ll hear pieces from The Moth on This American Life, like this one which had me laughing out loud.

Oh, and here’s a great quote about The Moth from the NYT:

The success of The Moth is one example of the phenomenon of storytelling that is gaining momentum nationwide. In The Moth’s case, these narrative sessions are fast becoming an institution.

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Inspiration: The North Fork Brewery


It’s true, The Story Farm is not a brewery. Nor a pizza joint. Nor a wedding chapel (not yet). And the North Fork is all of those. So, then, where exactly is the inspiration coming from? Well, I’ll tell you.

The North Fork is a little place located on the Mt. Baker highway in Washington State – north of Seattle, not too far from Bellingham. Beautiful country. The beautifulist. I was introduced to it by a dear college friend, whose brother – Eric Jorgensen – was and still is the head brewer there. I started going there in 1999, on long weekend trips to get away from the buzz of college life in Oregon. Besides the amazing beer and pizza, I was blown away by the palpable sense of community that you could feel just walking in the door. A lumberjack sitting next to a punker sitting next to a Seattle businessman on his way back from a stay at his villa on the mountain. All bullshitting together. It was amazing and it’s what drew me back again and again, always dragging another person with me.  I started to refer to it as the Cheers (of T.V. fame) of the North Country.

So, I guess the inspiration comes from the fact that a really good and quirky idea presented with a lot of love (the owners were always around, hanging out with people) is something that people are eager to be a part of. That’s my hope for The Story Farm.

So there you have it.

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Inspiration: Blue Horse Farm

grassOh boy. The encouraging words are pouring in. And we’re hearing of all sorts of great examples of other folks doing things along these lines. Here’s a great one from Torry Bend. Blue Horse Farm is a “natural setting for creative gatherings.” I like that tagline. Ours, though WordPress doesn’t show it for some reason, is “a place for barn-sized ideas.”

Oh, and Torry, we’ve got you down to teach a puppetry workshop in 2016.

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