Welcome to The Storyteller. It’s my new blog about writing.
I have always been a writer, though that vocation remained a locked secret to me for many years as I meandered through careers and cities. As a teenager, I filled reams of padlocked journals with bad poetry and rank-ordered lists of boys I liked and unrealistic goals for the future. I read entire sections of our local library. I was the editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper.
Looking back with the clear-eyed hindsight of thirty-odd years, it’s obvious now that I should have gone to journalism school, but I was barely 18 when I started college and lacked both mentors and insight. I majored instead in international relations and Russian, with some vague notion of joining the Foreign Service, based on some vaguer notion still of what the Foreign Service was, or did. I graduated and went on a single job interview: a position at General Mills in Minneapolis that had something to do with “legislative action.” I wore a dusty rose cowl-necked sweater and a borrowed gray skirt. I never heard back.
I applied to law school.
Law school crystallized the worst parts of my workaholic personality. I unlocked achievement after achievement, yet found myself graduating with no clear idea whether I actually enjoyed any of the things I was excelling at, although I clearly enjoyed the excelling. I landed a good job at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. and left Minnesota. Forever, as it turned out.
I wrote, yes, but now in the formulaic prose of the trial attorney’s brief, issue-rule-application-conclusion. Lather, rinse, repeat. But I began to tease out story around me. I found story in the little plays one puts on around trials, in the gathering of witnesses, in the plotting of one’s opening statement, in ordering the appearance of one’s cast. But these, alas, were stories no amount of script doctoring by Aaron Sorkin or Elaine May could have saved. Stories about whether the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms had correctly procured financial records. Stories about the proper labelling of lamb products. Boring-to-tears stories.
I left law and helped tell stories in little cable documentaries for a year in Manhattan, but it paid nothing and New York City was expensive. I married and moved first to New Jersey, then North Carolina. For the next fourteen years, I taught people how to tell stories using the language of ceremony, stories to honor the dead, stories to celebrate the partnering of couples, stories to welcome children into families. This mattered much, much more, and began my love affair with the shared experience of story and its power. For over a decade, I taught students the hero’s journey, the epic story structure that grounds the world’s religions and mythologies. The oldest stories of all.
In 2012, I began to tell my own stories, finding my tribe in the world of bloggers and writers of personal essays.
Now, I teach others this art, this magical recipe of literary conflict and narrative structure and the perfect verbs and one’s authentic voice. I cheer with my students when they hit that sweet spot where what is in one’s head comes through on the page and connects, hard, with the experiences and memories and sensory yearnings of others.
I have finally, in Joseph Campbell’s words, found and followed my bliss.
As humans, we are hard-wired to connect through stories told and heard and passed on. Ever since we doodled on the walls of caves or decorated the tombs of pharaohs or chiseled gospels into stone tablets, we’ve been attempting to foster this connection. To write and share a story that says, “I’m here and so are you. Let’s be here together.”
So welcome to my new blog about writing. It’s for all writers, whether you consider yourself a literary author or a business blogger or a sometime journal-keeper. It’s a space for tips and resources and insights into the process of writing, the most useful tools for writers, and the best ways to reach your audience.
Mostly, though, it’s about stories and bringing excellence to the craft of creating them.
Ready to write your own story?
This fall, harness the power of personal storytelling for your blog. Registration is now open for my online creative nonfiction boot camp: 30 Days To Your Best Blog Post Ever.
This isn’t some phone-it-in email class. I’m looking for people who are READY TO WORK HARD and ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE. Keep up the pace and at the end of 30 days you’ll be rewarded with a 600-750 word creative nonfiction story you can be proud of.