National Storytelling Conference
2015 Conference Workshops

*All workshops are subject to change.
Workshops are 90 minutes; intensives are 3 hours.



Dilemma Stories for Democracy, Empathy, and Personal Growth - Sara Armstrong

Dilemma stories—where characters make choices that involve values and/or ethics—encourage discussion, communication, and empathy among listeners. We will explore several stories and strategies for engaging audiences, and the power of stories in building community and understanding—foundations of democracy, empathy, and self-awareness. The session will include a number of dilemma stories and interactive activities on the part of participants to deepen their understanding of the stories, their own perspectives, and others' viewpoints.


Adding a Second Language to Your Tales Carrie Sue Ayvar
Celebrate and connect our diverse communities by incorporating another language into your stories. Learn strategies and techniques for blending two languages into your stories, from only a word or two to telling bilingually. By the end of the workshop participants will have told at least one story with another language and taken the first steps along the trail connecting cultures and languages. Appropriate for new or experienced tellers. Fluency in second language is NOT required.


The Ladder of Power: Exploring Class, Status and Gender in StoriesRobin Bady
Explore context, class and power imbalances in the stories you tell. Through physical and vocal exercises, discussion and use of the Ladder of Power, we’ll identify power dynamics that exist, and drive, every story. Finally, we’ll look at how this simple graphing tool can inform and enrich our storytelling practice. You may not agree with everything, but you’ll leave with something to think about. As Plato says, “Those who tell stories, rule the society.”


Connecting Across Conflict: Story Pathways to PeaceNoa Baum
Storytelling can offer pathways for peacemaking and dialogue in our communities. Israeli born Noa Baum created a show based on dialogue with a Palestinian woman. Experience her interactive storytelling model developed to give voice to controversial issues and explore new perspectives. Discover how listening to, and telling the story of the “other” can break through stereotypes and rhetoric to the possibility of change and help us find our way home to common ground and compassion.


Authentic Interaction: Birthing a unique program shape with and for your listenersJudith Black
For 40 years the presenters I have been drawn to, shape their program in that time and place, to fit like a quilt around their listeners.  ‘Authentic Interaction’ both subtle and overt allows us to create a unique experience for every community we present for. We will explore through games, exercises, and telling, how to give our stories away, gently reshaping each presentation to live in the eyes and hearts of the listeners before you.


Beyond the Sword Maiden-the Heroine's Journey as Story StructureDorothy Cleveland & Barbara Schutzgruber
Do you like telling stories about strong women? Are you frustrated with the Hero's Journey as your only model?  The Hero's Journey is one path BUT there is another - the Heroine's Journey.  Stand at the crossroads as we explore each of these paths, discover new insights, learn how a story changes depending upon the path taken and then decide which works best for your story.  Session includes lecture, group discussion and small group activities.


Community Youth Story JourneyHarriet Cole
Discover the value of the Hero’s Journey in creating intergenerational communities where youth thrive. In this workshop you will experience a story-based process employed by an established program (the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Phoenix), to empower youth to become the heroes of their own journeys. Learn the activities that will set the youth in your world on the path to increased presentation skills, confidence, and self-esteem.


Partnering -- Oral story crafting for practicing “not ready yet” storiesKevin Cordi
This workshop focuses on how we can build a pathway by practicing with a partner.  Drawing from study in theater, teaching, and improvisational work, generally uncommon to storytelling circles, we will re-energize storytellers’ work that is not ready.  With the assist of a partner, participants will actively engage in proven methods that can be applied to any story.  This pedagogy of play can build more new directions in working together when shaping our stories.


Stories, Stars, Songs, Quilts: Underground Railroad - Pathway to FreedomBeverly Cottman
Create a story which investigates ways enslaved Africans and African Americans may have been helped while traveling between stations on the Underground Railroad.  Be inspired by prompts from slave narratives and spirituals’ powerful words of encouragement. Construct a paper quilt square containing a coded message.  Investigate the role of seasonal positions of constellations and moon phases in assisting individuals and groups determined to be free.  Share your insights and created story. 


The First Steps:  A Beginner’s Guide to StorytellingLyn Ford (intensive)
Some of what a new teller needs and needs to know is already in a personal toolbox of skills, but the teller also needs affirmation and confirmation of that.  This is a “playshop” for such confirmation, and affirmation that basic tools for effective storytelling are just a few steps within reach.  On a playful path as individuals and with others, we’ll take those steps.


Collaboration: Pathways to New ConnectionsBeth Horner & Sue O’Halloran
What makes some groups hum and others barely able to tolerate each other? Beth and Sue will take you through a step-by-step practical and participatory process incorporating the artistic, business, financial, organizational and personal considerations essential to establishing a successful collaboration.  These veteran collaborators draw on experience with NASA, the Smithsonian, storytelling colleagues, their service on Boards of Directors and as producers of regional and international events. Applicable for artistic, business and event collaborations.


Making Your People Real: Voice, Visage and CharacterAndy Offutt Irwin (intensive)
If we storytellers are doing our job, the listener creates solid images of the characters.  We will discuss the limits of describing characters, allowing the listener to see characters.  We will explore character-driven story creation, the importance of believing in our own characters so they may come to life. We’ll play with creating composite characters for convenience, economy, and protecting the innocent. And we’ll root out the difference between imitation and mere shallow mockery!


Passing it On: Nurturing New Voices in Old TraditionsEmily Hooper Lansana
Practical techniques can help to uncover personal stories and reimagine folktales. If you are interested in working with children and or seniors to help them to tell stories with confidence, this workshop will engage participants in tools for developing key components of storytelling: finding and projecting your unique voice, transforming memory into story, personalizing folktales. Citing examples from community, college and public school settings we will share tools for building vibrant storytellers.


Pathways to Excellence as a Storytelling Teaching Artist - Sherry Norfolk
Are YOU a Storytelling Teaching Artist? Are you thinking of becoming one? If so, what does excellence look like for a Teaching Artist? How do we achieve it? How does professionalism impact our ability to do our jobs and to get more jobs? Explore these questions and their myriad answers (yes – the answers may be different for everyone!) and determine what you can do to improve your skills, your reputation, AND your income!


Playful Creativity: Breaking Blocks, Deepening Telling, Fooling Your Insecurities AwayLaura Packer
“The creation of something new is not accomplished by intellect but by…play.” – Jung.
We work hard on our stories, sometimes getting blocked or frustrated. Through play we move beyond boundaries, learn new things about character, plot, technique and ourselves. Expect to stretch your creative boundaries with improv, games, creativity exercises and more. Participants will learn several new creativity techniques applied to storytelling and will leave with the seeds of a new tale.


Exploring the Narrative Healing ProcessLani Peterson (intensive)
Drawing on 20 years of experience as a professional storyteller and psychologist, Lani Peterson will guide participants through the theory and stages of narrative healing. Grounded in her experience of working with both individuals and groups from diverse populations and settings including hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, Lani’s hands-on workshop will explore the tasks of the narrative healing process while allowing participants to experientially discover the potential of personal therapeutic story work fi­rst hand.


The Road to Reliable Resonance: Voice Use and CareLeticia Pizzino
Learn the steps to use your voice to its full potential with the guidance of an experienced voice teacher and storyteller. The human voice is a powerful instrument and is intended to last a lifetime. Explore this complex, fascinating instrument and what makes yours unique. Discover and apply the principles of healthy speaking through hands-on and voice-on opportunities. Realize your personal path to vocal health; find yourself at home with greater expression.


Giving Place a Powerful Role in Your StoryJo Radner
Portrayal of place is a major key to the audience’s imaginative involvement in many kinds of stories.  The teller’s place-making can create or intensify a mood, foreshadow action, or transform a traditional formula into a living, present experience. This hands-on workshop focuses on the roles place can play in a well-told tale.   Participants will experiment with strategic language, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movement and will emerge with a refurbished, newly vivid story. 


BellyLaughs and BeyondBob Reiser
You are not comfortable telling Funny Stories? Why? Belly Laughs and Beyond encourages telling from the whole body, not just the head. Using theater games, coaching and a safe storytelling environment, new and experienced tellers will hone their own funny tale, and learn to share it with confidence. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a tale to share.


The Profound Training of the Compassionate Storyteller Laura Simms & Angela Lloyd (intensive)
For 25 years Laura Simms’ Annual Seven-day Retreat addressed storytelling as a path of compassionate action in the world. The process combined mindfulness-awareness practice, penetrating preparation and an experiential approach for performance as a reciprocal event. Naturalists, anthropologists, voice and dance teachers joined the annual staff. Attendees will benefit from Angela Lloyd’s perspective and long time association with Laura’s penetrating process. Participants are invited to bring a story to work with.


Community Crossroads: Where Storytelling Audiences, Advocates, and Sponsors MeetB.Z. Smith & Marilyn McPhie
Turn on your storytelling GPS and get tips on navigating communities!  Find routes to intersections where storytellers and story listeners need to meet.  Navigate way to locate sponsors, advocates and audience in different communities.  Two of California’s NSN representatives share their experiences on these pathways: One from a dense urban area surrounded by cultural diversity; the other from a large wild and rural area, sparsely populated.  Both where people need stories!


Pathways between Science and Story: Deeper UnderstandingJane Stenson
How can storytelling and science intersect in meaningful ways to foster deeper understanding? In this "working" workshop, we will examine what society/teachers seek in terms of science learning; identify stories that can facilitate science understanding; and explore a variety of ways to use stories to engage in scientific investigation. THAT'S NOT ALL!  The pathway to keeping knowledge whole through story, completes the understanding of science/narrative concepts…which is what we find in the greatest stories! 


Ten Years Sharing at our Well; Ready to Start yours? -  Paula Weiss & Ben Russell
Ten years ago, the proposal for Children at the Well Youth Storytellers for Peace & Understanding received the NSN Brimstone Award! We’ve been growing and flourishing since, and we’re developing a C@W Training Program to help storytellers and teachers create similar programs of their own.
C@W Co-Founder and Director Paula Weiss, and longtime student participant and now C@W’s youngest Story Coach Ben Russell, will update you on the program and give you a sneak peek!