I love stories. There are stories everywhere. Stories can be tiny and innocent, violent and unsettling, wondrous and magic, or even so monumental that they change our lives. But even so, we rarely find the time and the place to share the wonder and insight of the stories, which we hear, read, or experience ourselves.
So in order to share our stories with others, we (Anne, Mette and I) held a Story Club in our commune last night. Story Club is a fairly simple concept: Bring a group of people together in a cozy, informal, and unrushed place. Make them all feel comfortable and at home (as my dear grandmother always quotes her father for saying: “Make yourself at home, otherwise we’ll wish you were!”), and let them tell stories.
We had spent some time thinking about how to create the best possible setting for telling stories, and we ended up with a few rules (partially inspired by Fight Club):
1) You can tell stories based on experiences – personal or secondhand. You can read aloud a text – poems, speeches, short stories, essays, or whatever else you find moving, interesting, or thought-provoking. The important thing is that the text you relates to a story that is important to you.
2) Those listening to the story may offer to kinds of criticism: Positive and constructive. Both, if possible.
3) Everybody attending story club has to tell a story.
(originally, this was “If it is your first night at story club, you have to tell a story” – but in evaluating our first story club, we found that when everybody shared their stories on equal terms, it helped bring about a sense of openness and intimacy that wouldn’t have been possible if only some were sharing their stories).
It turned out to be a great evening. We were seven people, eating Triple Choc Cookies and drinking hot cocoa with marshmellows (and a few beers to get rid of any initial nervousness – I was the only one who knew everybody present, and it’s always a bit weird to tell stories to people you’ve never met before). We began by playing a little fun game to get going (as Anne wisely says, you relax a lot more when you’ve shared a few laughs), and then dove into the stories. Everybody had spent some time thinking about the stories they’d like to tell. There were short stories and opinion pieces, a few had dug out some of their old writing, and there were stories, reflections, and questions, which sparked more stories and reflections.
There were stories of spending time in airports, of unlikely travels, of disappearing turtles, of visions of the future, and of the flow of everyday life in the Facebook status updates. There were stories asking questions and stories offering explanations. And lots, lots, more.
The stories were good, the atmosphere was excellent – enchanting, even – but the best part for me was getting to know people in wholly different way: Through the stories they tell, and the reflections and associations that those stories bring with them within the group.
In short, it is definitely something that we’ll be doing again, and it is something that I can only recommend for others to try. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, just the good intentions of the people participating. If you’re interested in knowing more, feel free to get in touch.