Stories21 is Not a Substitute for a StoryCenter Workshop

Maybe you’re thinking about taking one of StoryCenter’s public workshops, but you’re hesitating for some reason. If at all possible, take the StoryCenter workshop. In person. Wherever it may be. There are too many aspects of StoryCenter’s workshop model that have no substitute. The story circle. The one-on-one, face-to-face script feedback. The interactive video editing tutorials focused explicitly on creating your story. The group discussion of how StoryCenter’s “seven steps” operate in the example stories. As hopeful as I am about what Stories21 might become, I’ve never intended for it to be able to replicate or take the place of a StoryCenter workshop. It’s an experience that has changed people’s lives. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve felt it myself. Stories21 doesn’t aspire to that. I aspire to something equally important and compelling: a resource for storytellers to continue to improve their practices and a community for people to share their stories and encounter others.

Stories21 has a different scope: the individual storyteller. I imagine you just finishing a StoryCenter workshop and feeling pretty invested in what you just created. But where do you go from there? What if you arrived at your workshop wondering if you had any story to tell in the first place? And now that you’ve created something, you have at least an inkling that you might have more stories to share. But the workshop’s over. There’s no more story circle. There are no more video tutorials focused on creating personal stories. There’s nobody there to help you think about what sorts of images might make your story go. There are no other participants to challenge and encourage you to keep working until you find the heart of your story.

I know StoryCenter has had a Facebook Group for several years, and it’s an amazing tool for a relatively focused set of purposes. I guess I see that group as serving as a resource for people who, like the amazing people at StoryCenter, want to promote and facilitate digital storytelling within their own communities or institutions. The group’s description reads: “We are practitioners, researchers, companies and social workers using digital storytelling as a way to reflect on our work, stimulate communication and generate social change.” From what I can tell, the members of that group find it quite valuable. I think it is, too.

Some people might be completely satisfied with the StoryCenter model of digital storytelling. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a model that’s been helping people make incredible stories for more than twenty years. It’s a brilliant model, without qualification. But it’s not the only model for creating stories. And the sorts of stories the model tends to produce aren’t the only sorts of stories people might want to create.
I have two hopes for Storie21. First, I hope it’s a resource for any digital storytellers out there who are looking for some resources (and possibly a community) that they can draw from to improve their stories and keep making them. Second, I hope it becomes a place for people who are looking for a way to maintain their enthusiasm and create their next stories after finishing one of StoryCenter’s workshops. I’m not exactly sure how to go about creating something that serves either one of those purposes.

But I want to try. I want to make lots of mistakes and make this resource more valuable to you. A year from now, it might look nothing like it does now. If it means more people are creating their own stories, and those stories are getting better, I wouldn’t mind at all. So I hope you’ll join fellow storytellers and me to help figure out how to make this go. So go start another story. Get yourself stuck. Come here to look for something that might help. Then share your story. I would love to see it.

Image Credits: StoryCenter’s Public Workshops page; DS Working Group’s page on FB.