December 2009 Archives

One of my departures into stories of my own life …

I don’t drink (in fact today is the 27th anniversary of my sobriety) and don’t much enjoy raucous parties of the New Year’s Eve ilk. But a number of years ago, I sought a way to not feel like a loser who doesn’t get invited to anything on New Year’s Eve.

happynewyearseve.jpg I hit upon the idea of a New Year’s Eve movie marathon and conducted my first one in 1996. In the early years, the marathon was an opportunity to catch up on movies I hadn’t seen in the past year. As the days of DVDs, and especially Netflix, dawned, it became harder and harder to find movies I hadn’t already seen throughout the year.

So, sometime in this current aught decade, I started focusing the marathon around various themes — documentaries, dance movies, indie films. The year Katharine Hepburn died, her films were the theme. This year is the second I’ve dedicated to a specific actor, and this year’s theme spring from a remark I made to my husband that Robert Downey Jr. is one of those actors whose films I will almost always want to see.

robert-downey-jr-photo.jpg I’ve had marathons with eight or more films, but this year’s will be a more manageable four.

I like having fun munchie food during the marathon.

It’s a safe, enjoyable, non-loser way to celebrate the new year.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


From Michael Margolis, who is holding a telecall today:

new years resolutions-saidaonline.jpg

I don’t know about you, but I HATE the concept of New Year’s resolutions.
Every year, I say I’m going to lose 20 pounds, but it never happens. And I just feel crappy about it. Maybe this is a familiar story to you too? You set some big “blue sky” resolutions for the New Year, and in a couple months you fall right back to the old habits. The only thing we seem resolved to do is repeat the same punishing pattern year-after-year.
Want to break the cycle? Join me Wednesday for a Free Story Telecall:
*** Wednesday, Dec 30th at 1pm EST/10am PST for 60 Minutes *** Dial-in info - (218)-844-8230; Participant Code: 290302#
Here’s the thing — last year this time, my life was in major turmoil. It was so upside down, I didn’t have time to really set “blue sky” resolutions. Guess what happened? In 2009, I lost 20 pounds (actually it was closer to 30!). And I didn’t join a gym or go on a watermelon diet. So what was different this time? I resolved to fundamentally change my story. When I set this change in motion, the world around me totally re-organized: the end of my marriage, the transformation of my business, and the publishing of my book Believe Me.
Every story is a lesson in choice and consequence. If you’re looking to tell a bigger story in 2010, I encourage you to join me for Wednesday’s free telecall. We’ll discuss the process of change storytelling, and answer questions since reading my storytelling manifesto. It’s going to be pretty loose and informal, so bring your best and biggest questions. I know its one thing to think about your bigger story, it’s another to put it into action. I want to help you do it.
What’s one story you have the power to change in 2010?
Here are the details again:
Wednesday, Dec 30th at 1pm EST/10am PST for 60 Minutes Dial In info - (218)-844-8230; Participant Code: 290302#

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Matthew Cline and Sudipta Shaw have both recently written blog entries that examine how photographs can tell stories.

“A storyteller strives to have a deeper understanding of the subject and convey that through the camera,” Cline writes. He wonders if the many elements that go into making a story can “be captured in one frame? One single image?” His answer: “Most definitely.”

Shaw’s musings are based on a recent visit to the George Eastman Museum of Photography. “After looking at most of the photos (half way of the tour), I found an intangible element in almost all the photos,” Shaw notes. “It’s the “story” behind what (and how) the photo has been shot.”

Shaw concludes that “as any other properties of storytelling, a photo should comprise of one or more of 5 elements — Mood, Emotion, Narrative, Ideas, or Messages.” He goes on to give at least one example photo for each element, along with technical thoughts on how a photographer can achieve those elements.

Cline’s scrutiny of photographic storytelling led him to develop what he calls“a new form of photographic storytelling,” striving to create a “presentation that would make the story behind the photos more evident to everyone watching.”

It’s interesting to consider Cline’s photographic storytelling success based on Shaw’s 5 elements. Same goes for some other nice photographic storytelling I’ve encountered recently:

  • The Longest Way Home (below) by Christoph Rehage, like Cline’s creation, is more than photography. Rehage, attempted to walk from China to Germany. He walk about a third of the initial way, from November 9, 2007, (his 26th birthday) until October 27, 2008. Then he stopped, got a haircut and shaved off his beard, and took a plane home. The shave and haircut are significant because Rehage documented his walk with daily photos and short videos, compiling them into the video/slideshow referenced above. The video is set to music and has a few printed captions. I love the way this piece is done with Rehage always in the same position in the photos.
  • The Longest Way 1.0 - one year walk/beard grow time lapse from Christoph Rehage on Vimeo.

  • What kind of stories can shoes at a wedding tell? “Emily G” of Emily G Photography explores that question by presenting four photos of shoes at weddings (below). She writes: “All you need is two pairs of shoes, one bride, one groom and one unique picture to begin to tell the story of your wedding. … This photo will tell a lot more about your wedding than you think. Your shoes reflect not only you and your groom’s personalities but also the spirit of the day. … Take a moment to look at each of the four pictures, all different brides with a completely different story. Just by these two pairs of shoes you can see a snapshot of their wedding day. What was the weather like? Was it a formal wedding or did they dance down the aisle? Did they plan the attire together or do opposites truly attract?”
  • weddingshoes.jpg
  • Stephen Crowley of the New York Times writes extensively of the storytelling photography of the late photojournalist Grey Villet, citing Villet’s commitment to the “great tradition of storytelling.” You can see the story of that storytelling here and more of Villet’s work in this online exhibition.
  • The Julia Galdo Housewife Series gets storytelling props from TrendHunter Magazine.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Robert A. Swanwick recently reported on a storytelling framework that works well for gaining knowledge while evaluating projects. He learned of the framework from a presentation by Nancy Dixon, who in turn, learned of it from Lt Col Karuna Ramanathan.

With 2009 ending in a few days, it occurred to me that individuals could apply this technique to constructing stories about the past year with an eye toward learning from the year’s experiences.

hand.jpg Here’s the framework, called the 2-5-1 framework, along with my adaptations for applying it to it a personal year-end review:

  • 2
    • Who you are
    • Summary of your year’s experience

  • 5 fingers

    • Little finger – what aspects of your life did not get enough attention?
    • Ring finger – What relationships did you form? What did you learn about relationship building?
    • Middle finger – what did you dislike? What/who frustrated you?
    • Pointer finger – what would you do better next time around? What do you want to tell those who influenced your actions in the last year about what they could do better?
    • Thumb (up) – what went well. What was good?

  • 1 – the most important takeaway from the year

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


My colleague Barbara Safani (pictured) posted two terrific blog entries in the last month about storytelling for job-seekers. She and some other career colleagues recently attended a workshop put on by New York City’s Narativ, which apparently, in part, inspired these posts.

barbara-safani.jpg The first offers excellent guidelines for telling stories in response to job-interview questions:

  1. Personalization equals passion. A great story of success to showcase during an interview is one that proves your passion. To simply state that you are passionate about building strong sales teams or creating technology infrastructures would sound cliche. But communicating a story about a time that you put your blood, sweat, and tears into a project to get it done on time and on budget would be an authentic and more interesting way to tell your story and make hiring managers feel confident that you could create similar experiences in their organization.
  2. Everyone has a story. So many job seekers think they have nothing unique to say. “I just did my job; I didn’t do anything special” is one of the statements I hear most frequently from job seekers trying to prove the impact of their work. But like your family history, your work history is unique to you. Try to focus on how you did your job effectively and what you do differently than your colleagues or your predecessors in the position.
  3. The specifics of the story are more important than the general facts. I don’t remember all the facts or the time line of every grandparent story I heard this weekend. But for each story I heard, I remember several snippets that best describe that grandparent and even offer clues to their values and way of life. In interviews, most people think they should talk about their skills in general terms, but it is the specific examples of success and the specific metrics behind those stories that prove your impact that the interviewer will remember.
  4. A personal story can represent a universal feeling or experience. All the grandparent stories I heard were quite different. Yet there were common themes of family, community, love, and loss that everyone could relate to. When you interview, you are attempting to find common ground with the interviewer. You are trying to develop rapport by proving that the things you have achieved in your past positions will help improve their current work environment.

Barb’s more more recent post addresses the issue of how to tell difficult stories in a resume. She notes that job-seekers are often reluctant to tell these stories that have a negative taint to them. “I disagree,” Barb writes. “Job seekers can show their ability to influence positive outcomes, even when the deck is stacked against them and business conditions are exceptionally challenging.” She offers these examples:

  • Secured sales meetings with 80% of target audience; successfully introduced products and services despite inherent obstacles including saturated and shrinking market.

Providing leadership in environments plagued with infighting…

  • Successfully broke down business silos and improved information sharing across cross- functional teams by creating an open and transparent work environment to foster collaboration.

Salvaging a damaged client relationship…

  • Reversed strained client relationship that was damaged due to a previous producer’s missed deadline by quickly mobilizing team resources to shave close to 75% off the normal project completion time.

Preparing for a failed company’s closing…

  • Developed a liquidation strategy that maximized profit margin from inventory and kept vendors and staff engaged until final closing.

Managing poor performers…

  • Reversed performance issues for a struggling employee who went on to become the division’s #1 account executive and ranked in the top-ten firm-wide.

The only thing I’d add to Barb’s resume stories is that in a resume, it’s often a good idea to tell the ending of your stories first because resumes are read so quickly. Employers like to see results, so it’s helpful to tell resume stories in this order: Results —> Action that caused those results to occur —> Situation or challenge that necessitated the action.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See a photo of Evelyn, her bio, Part 1 of this Q&A, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Q&A with Evelyn Clark, Question 5:

Q: How did you develop the idea of Storybooks for corporations? What inspired the idea?

A: The idea of Storybooks for corporations was generated by a client, Western Wireless (now part of Alltel). Although the company existed for only 11 years, it was a remarkable success story of becoming a top wireless provider in a chaotic and competitive environment. Before merging with Alltel, Western Wireless’ founders were brainstorming ideas for a meaningful parting gift to give each of their employees. The marketing director suggested that capturing the extraordinary experience through a collection of favorite stories would be a perfect tribute to the people who helped to create a unique culture and made it work. Collecting stories from board members, executives, and a widely representative sampling of employees was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. What an amazing group of brilliant, hard-working, and fun people! A talented graphic-design team created a beautiful book that included photos taken by employees over the years, complete with amusing captions that conveyed the work hard/play hard competitive spirit that drove the company.


The book was a huge hit with employees. Not only were they overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of a beautiful parting gift, but they were thrilled to have a permanent reminder of an experience that was truly a career highlight for everyone who contributed to the project.
In addition to being a wonderful commemoration of a company’s milestones, a Storybook is an engaging way to tell a corporate history and leave a lasting legacy from one generation of leaders to the next. Stories allow others to share the experiences and get to know the personalities of the people involved. Because stories convey core values and create lasting memorable, a book of collected stories are a natural way to impart the flavor of the culture.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Wishing You a Storied Christmas

Click to animate this image.


Merry Christmas to my readers who celebrate the day. Hope you’re having a peaceful and fulfilling holiday. May you make storied memories.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See a photo of Evelyn, her bio, Part 1 of this Q&A, Part 2, and Part 3.

Q&A with Evelyn Clark, Question 4:

Q: If you could share just 1 piece of advice or wisdom about story/storytelling/narrative with readers, what would it be?

A: Be honest be genuine, and be true to your core values. It’s ok to “spin” a story for greater effect by adding insignificant elements for color or exaggerating details, especially when you make it clear that you’re just having fun with the audience, but the lessons conveyed must always be grounded in the truth of who you are.

Note: This Q&A will conclude Saturday after a Christmas posting on Friday.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See a photo of Evelyn, her bio, Part 1 of this Q&A, and Part 2.

Q&A with Evelyn Clark, Question 3:

Q: What’s your favorite story about a transformation that came about through a story or storytelling act?

A: There are so many, it’s difficult to choose. Here are two of my favorites, insights that executives shared with me:
In a management retreat for 200 top executives and managers of a medical center, the president came up to me at the first break and said, “I’ve already learned a valuable lesson: I can tell stories! It’s second nature for our CEO to use stories when he speaks — and he’s so good at it, I had decided to leave that to him. But I’ve realized, as you’ve said, that we all naturally use stories in our conversations, and I’m looking forward to learning more about how to do it deliberately when I deliver more formal presentations.”


At the end of a two-day executive retreat that was part of an 18-month program to develop leadership skills, a highly-respected community leader said, “I wondered how we could possibly spend two days on storytelling, which seemed like a lightweight topic. But as we peeled back the layers over these past two days, I realized how profound the applied skill of storytelling is.”

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See a photo of Evelyn, her bio, and Part 1 of this Q&A.

Q&A with Evelyn Clark, Question 2:

Q: How did you initially become involved with story/storytelling/narrative? What attracted you to this field? What do you love about it?

A: I’ve enjoyed writing stories most of my life, especially since my father read one of my 8th-grade class assignments and suggested that I consider a career as a news writer. I was immediately captivated by images of reporters racing from one event to another and dashing off front-page stories. I gladly followed a straight line from high-school newspaper editor to a communications degree and a stint as broadcast editor for the Associated Press. I later moved to the other side of the desk, pitching corporate stories to the media, preparing clients for interviews and earning accreditation as a public relations counselor. Over the years I loved it all — and then I “hit the wall.”


I felt burned out and wasn’t sure what to do next. A top-flight business consultant friend offered to help me figure out how to reframe my work. After a series of conversations about my desire to help business people gain a deeper understanding of communication strategy, particularly as it related to marketing communications, my consultant friend suggested the title, “The Corporate Storyteller.” Just as my father’s suggestion had resonated immediately, this concept appealed to me instantly, and I developed a trademarked workshop entitled “Corporate Storytelling: Discovering Fire for the Second Time.”
The first session was presented in 1993, and I enjoy delivering it as much today as I did the first time. Each audience is different, the interaction is fun, and the participants always are excited about their discoveries. It’s very energizing and rewarding work when you see people light up and make significant breakthroughs.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



What a special holiday treat to bring you a Q&A with Evelyn Clark, one of the first organizational story practitioners I became aware of when I first got into storytelling in 2004. Evelyn is truly one of the pioneers of the discipline. This Q&A will appear over the next several days.

Bio: Author of Around the Corporate Campfire: How Great Leaders Use Stories to Inspire Success, Evelyn Clark helps executives become better leaders by teaching them to leverage the power of storytelling in their organizations. Her engaging presentations feature real-world case studies, many from her book and her own experiences as a news writer, corporate consultant, and facilitator.

Her clients include global leaders such as Microsoft, Royal Dutch Shell, Bank of Austria/UniCredit Group, World Vision and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Evelyn introduced business storytelling in Singapore at the 2007 Singapore Storytelling Festival and led the master class at the 2007 European Storytelling Congress. She recently co-developed a workshop and related materials for the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, TN. Learn more at her Web site.

Q&A with Evelyn Clark, Question 1:

Q: You tell organizations on your Web site that they “must deliberately select the right stories for the audience and the occasion.” Without giving away all your secrets, can you talk a bit about the process of helping organizations identify the RIGHT stories?

A: What I mean by the word “deliberate” is that anytime a leader choose to tell a story in a corporate setting, there should be a clear purpose with a desired outcome. It’s important for the speaker to identify the “right” stories by asking questions such as these:

  • What is my key message?
  • Who is the audience for this story?
  • What is the audience’s primary interest and/or need at this time?
  • What value or lesson do I want people to learn from what I’m going to say?
  • Which story or stories can I tell that will make my core message crystal clear?

David Armstrong, CEO of Armstrong International and author of several books, including Managing by Storying Around, most often tells stories of “people caught doing things right.” His purpose is to give clear examples so that employees understand how he wants them to enact the company’s values.
And, of course, it’s important to:

  • Edit, edit, edit! Tell only as much of the story as you need to convey the message.
  • For a speech, practice, practice, practice! Use natural language and speak as you would to a group of good friends.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Michael Margolis submitted the following as a comment to yesterday’s entry, but since comments aren’t very prominent here, I’ve made his announcement its own entry:

As a holiday gift, starting today, I’m releasing a free digital download copy of my storytelling manifesto,Believe Me. Anybody on my lists will get the announcement.


It’s also available to anyone else who’s interested. You just need to visit the book’s Web site to get your free copy.
Anyone can also tweet about it; just mention @getstoried and/or #bigstory.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


An interview by Michelle James with Michael Margolis enjoyed significant buzz and retweeting on Twitter — and with good reason; it’s filled with gems. One of my favorites is Michael’s response to the question “What is one technique or approach that people could start applying today to bring more creativity into their work or their business organization?”

Michael says:

In my journey to become a better storyteller, I’ve had to learn how to become a better story listener. The responsibility is on me to become a better listener by listening to others stories. As I develop a deeper intimate understanding of their world, I can share in a way that better relates to another’s story (i.e. it’s not always about me!). You can do this too. Channel your inner-anthropologist, and go observe and listen. Here’s one simple idea:

  1. Buy a digital video camera (about $100 now!) – and go around asking a bunch of people the same question.

  2. If you’re in a big company, ask co-workers a question about mission or passion.

  3. If you’re more on your own, go out in public, or better yet where your customers gather, and ask them ONE question about their lives.

  4. In either case, the question has to be something that people will have energy around. If there’s energy, you’ll collect great stories.

  5. Finally, look at the patterns of what you hear. What is the common storyline or variations on a theme? If you can find where people agree, build your own story around that. You can also learn a lot about the status quo story you might be up against.

(By the way, don’t ears look weird in quantity?)

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


This weekend, the last before Christmas, is bound to be a big one for holiday shopping. My newspaper said the crowds will be “outrageous,” which I find a little hard to swallow given the economy.

The blogger at Thoughts While Waiting suggests that holiday shopping provides an opportunity for storytelling.

christmas-shopping.jpg Just yesterday, Randall told me the story of looking for gift-wrap bins at a home-improvement big box and finding only a couple of damaged ones. Then he noticed a bunch more on a shelf too high even for my 6’4” husband. A sales associate happened by but was helping another customer. The associate sent the other customer to the plumbing aisle to wait for him and then helped Randall get the bins down. Happy ending.

Even online shopping results in stories. Yesterday I decided to check the status of a $170 order at a book retailer and was horrified to discover that the order was not scheduled to ship till Epiphany — Jan. 6! I had to cancel the order and go to two other retailers to order the same stuff. This story will have a happy ending when my packages arrive!

Here are some shopping story prompts suggested by The blogger at Thoughts While Waiting:


  • “What are you going to get?”
  • “Where are you going to get it?”
  • “When are you going to get it?”
  • “Why are you getting that?”
  • “How are you going to get it home?”
  • “Who are you going with?”
And After…

  • “What did you get?”
  • “Where did you get it?”
  • “When did you get it?”
  • “Why did you get that?”
  • “How did you get it home?”
  • “Who did you go with?”

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


With just a week to go before Christmas, it’s probably too late this year to implement the storied Advent project I saw on the blog My Photo Video. But file it away for next year as a nice idea for telling the story of family holiday preparations.

advent-wreath.jpg The blog’s editor (who goes by “Editor”) writes:

Here’s the challenge. Each day take a photo and/or video footage. In the end we’ll create a video storybook of our holiday preparations.
Here are some possible targets of your creative bug:

  • video of Christmas tree shopping
  • a tight close-up photo of the first ornament you unwrap to hang
  • video of hanging the lights
  • a wide-angle shot of the stockings hung with care
  • video of the kids opening gifts
  • a super tall photo of the Christmas tree taken from the floor

The blogger has been going on to present an entry on the blog for each day of advent. Here’s today’s entry.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Here’s the second half of my list of applied storytelling’s top growth areas in 2009. See yesterday’s entry for the first half.

  1. More business and cultural leaders recognize that storytelling skills are crucial in the 21st century. Story practitioners Lori Silverman and Karen Dietz are seminal evangelists for the idea that a millennial individual needs storytelling skills — that storytelling skills must be a core business competency. They’ve written new article that encompasses this belief. Others are picking up this battle cry. Gary Vaynerchuk, for example, writes in his book Crushit! that “storytelling is by far the most underrated skill in business.” James R. Gaines, who was the top editor of Time, Life, and People magazines and now works at Flyp, has learned from his new digital experience that it’s “the crafts and the art of storytelling … that need updating most urgently for the digital world.”
  2. Though PowerPoint-style presentations still dominate by far, more presentation experts call for storytelling in presentations. The slide-sharing site SlideShare held its first “Tell Me a Story” presentation competition, and while I felt that the winning entries did not tell stories as well as I would have liked, the idea of the competition was a step in the right direction. Slides themselves (a.k.a. PowerPoint) may be the biggest impediment to storytelling in presentations. Look at the superb TEDTalks series, in which slides are often not used, and when they are, they take a back seat to the presenter’s storytelling and prowess in delivering a talk. The blog Presentation Zen cites this talk by Hans Rosling, in which the speaker uses slides, but integrates the statistics on those slides into dramatic, energetic, suspenseful storytelling that builds to a wonderful climax. (see below)
  3. Influenced by the huge role storytelling played in the 2008 US presidential election, observers are increasingly scrutinizing “the narrative,” as presented by politicians, the media, and others. My storytelling colleague Paul Costello chronicled the role of storytelling in his book The Presidential Plot. Since then, observers have scrutinized “the narrative” of America political life and who controls it. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart rails against what the media has done to the narrative. Others worry that President Obama has lost control of the narrative that made him so successful in 2008.
  4. TheTransmediaSphere_1.jpg
  5. Transmedia storytelling increasingly becomes marketing’s darling, especially for marketing entertainment. Transmedia is by no means new, but I have never seen the degree of buzz about it as I have this year. Just in the pasty few weeks, buzz has been tremendous. Daniel Prager wrote on The Ocean Agency’s Blog: “You will be hearing more and more about “transmedia” in the coming months, as major brands are testing the waters creating advertising and marketing storylines that exist across multiple platforms and networks.” (The blog is also the source of the Transmedia sphere diagram copyrighted by Stephen Dinehart). Much re-tweeted recently has been transmedia academician Henry Jenkins’s Seven Core Principles of Transmedia Storytelling and Bud Caddell’s easily referenced visual thereof (you can download it here.) And of transmedia storytelling, Allison Norrington writes on “Authors are increasingly ‘curators,’ ‘story architects,’ or ‘experience designers’ and are looking toward the creation of storyworlds rather than a linear stream.”
  6. 4186330101_4ef1e18b88_o.jpg
  7. The next big question becomes, how will storytelling fare on Web 2.0’s successor, the Real Time Web? In the age of Twitter, it has become increasingly clear, especially in the last week as Google has introduced real-time search, that the Real Time Web will be the successor to Web 2.0. What provoked me to consider how the Real Time Web might affect storytelling was this short clip of storyteller Cathy Brooks in which she talks about businesses not understanding the power of the Real Time Web. I would like to pursue this issue further and learn more about the challenges of storytelling on the Real Time Web. In the meantime, the Real Time Web aids me tremendously in discovering the many items about storytelling that I write about in this blog. On the other hand, the fact that many others are using real-time tools means that the Real Time Web very often “scoops” me and alerts readers to storytelling goodies before I can blog about them. Thus my adaptation becomes trying to offer some synthesis and analysis about storytelling content since I am unlikely to be the first to bring this content to my readers.

What growth areas have I left off? Which areas on the list would you have left off?

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


... And Rakontu, Too ...

Posting this on behalf of Cynthia Kurtz, who had technical difficulty posting a comment (and I, too, had trouble posting it in comment form, so I made it into a regular blog posting) — and she’s right that my list should have included Rakontu in today’s post:

Rakontu.jpg Great list, Kathy.

May I mention Rakontu as a web storytelling tool? It’s different from those you’ve listed because (a) it’s open source and adaptable, (b) it’s for small groups, and (c) its purpose is not just to share stories but also to work with stories together to build new understandings and achieve common goals. It also incorporates lessons I’ve learned while helping groups work with many thousands of collected stories to gain insights and resolve problems over the past ten years. For people who want to do something with their stories, Rakontu is worth looking at. (If I may say so myself :)

As always, love getting the news from your blog!

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Well, I wanted this entry to be the top 10 applied-storytelling developments in 2009, but none of the areas I identified within applied storytelling — with the possible exception of No. 10 — are really new this year.

Instead, these are areas experiencing tremendous growth and buzz this year. If we heard about them last year and before, we heard a lot more about them this year.

Here’s the first half of my Top 10 list:

  1. Twitter not only unites the storytelling community by disseminating storytelling information in real time, but it also serves as a storytelling vehicle for some. Twitter has given the storytelling community new ways to keep on top of storytelling news and thought in real time. We can follow other story practitioners. We can find tools to bring us regular tweets focused on storytelling. Twitter’s new list feature enables us to focus our “listening” efforts on story practitioners. twitter-logo-large.png The community is more cohesive through tweeting and re-tweeting our passion. My periodic roundups of what’s hot in the Twitterverse have spotlighted the storytelling topics that are getting the most buzz. Arguably, Twitter is also a storytelling medium in itself, as I’ve written about here, here, here, and here, where I blogged about Cathie Dodd’s Labor Day Twitterthon. In his Censemaking blog, Cameron D. Norman, PhD, recently noted that the “narrative fragments” of Twitter tweets may “better fit with our cognitive tendencies for sensemaking.” Tweets may be more like the interactions in our everyday lives in which communications rarely comprise “a full-fledged story; one that had a clear start, middle, end and coherence that could only be gathered from the story itself, not past relationships with the storyteller.” Norman talks about Dave Snowden’s Cynefin framework as providing “a theoretically-grounded and data-driven method of making sense of large quantities of narrative fragments; the kind we tell in organizations and communities.” You can devise lots of ways to keep up with what the Twiiterverse is tweeting about storytelling, such as by following the folks in Kat’s Definitive Story Follow List or @AStoriedCareer’s Twitter list of storytelling practitioners, or by setting up various kinds of search streams and alerts on the term “storytelling.”
  2. Storytelling for career and job search makes significant strides. To the best of my knowledge, the first book completely devoted to storytelling in the job search was published this year. That would be my book, Tell Me About Yourself: Storytelling to Get Jobs and Propel Your Career. More career practitioners are recognizing the value of storytelling; I know of four of them who recently attended a workshop by New York City’s Narrativ. I increasingly learn of more and more career and job-search gurus who are lending their voices to the chorus to those of us who support storytelling in the job search.
  3. Digital storytelling explodes, especially in education. Conduct a search of Google or Twitter for the term “storytelling” and note how many of the results are about “digital storytelling.” As I monitor thought, happenings, comments, developments in the storytelling world, I am struck by the omnipresence of digital storytelling. Educators in particular are singing the praises of digital storytelling for teaching and learning. I’ve chosen not to make digital storytelling a major topic on A Storied Career simply because it’s such a huge niche, and I assume that others who practice in this niche can cover it better than I can.
  4. More Web sites and Web-based applications/tools spring up to facilitate storytelling. I’ve discovered these in the last year (However, some may have emerged before this year): Storytlr, Great Life Stories, Always Stories, The Timeslips Project, We Are Storytellers, The Legacy Project, Flokka: Share Your Stories, Cityscapes of the Displaced, Bloombla, Why Go to Therapy When You Can Go Absolutely Insane?, Penzu, Storyz, Life Story Telling, LifeSnapz, Creativity Workshop, Scrapblog, Women’s Memoirs, ThisMoment, Telling Herstories, LifeBlob, Story of My Life, and Makes Me Think. In fact, so many storytelling platforms have emerged online that inevitably some are succeeding, while others aren’t making it. As reported on Mashable, Storytlr is shutting down on the last day of this year for lack of time and commercial interest to sustain the platform. But the founders are open-sourcing the platform so “existing users can download all of their data and migrate to a self-hosted solution.”
  5. Social media is increasingly seen as storytelling media. Much discussion this year has swirled around the storytelling capabilities of social media. Just in the last few weeks, we’ve seen articles like the much-re-tweeted Three Reasons Why Storytelling is the Key to Social Media Marketing Success and slideshows like the one below. Many of the story practitioners in my Q&A series debated the storytelling properties of social media.

Tomorrow: Conclusion of my Top 10 list.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Lisa Rossetti is developing a female leadership development and coaching program and will soon launch the Web site Q2Lead. I offered to publicize her research needs:


As a writer and narrative researcher, I am collecting conversations and stories from women who are Leaders in their own Life. 
Women often do not recognise or acknowledge their leadership qualities and achievements. They often prefer to step back from the limelight, or simply don’t identify with the Hero Leader model which has been around for many years certainly in the corporate world. Yet wherever and whenever a woman said “Look! this needs doing or changing — and we can do it,” they showed up as a leader! 
Female energy in leadership prefers collaboration to individual or heroic charisma, inclusivity to standing out in front, and intuition over obsessive data. I would love connect with any woman who wants to share their “pivotal” experience with me. That moment when you realised that you had indeed stepped into being a “leader for change.”  What was that like for you? What or who persuaded you to take that step?

I have a Facebook page Conversations with Women who Lead Change — or simply email me.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Here are three ways that folks are applying storytelling in creative, innovative ways:

  • PSST! is a collaborative film project of 17 brilliantly produced films by 51 teams of designers, directors, animators and composers. Every film is comprised of three sections — beginning, middle and end — each produced by three different teams. This process is the whole idea behind PSST! — a technique derived from the Dadaist game of Exquisite Corpse and the children’s game Telephone and applied to the arts of motion graphics, animation and film-making.
  • Remember Origins Of Meaning Middle Ear from PSST! on Vimeo.

  • Storytelling to sell wine. “The Drops of the Gods” is a Japanese Manga comic series that, as described in the blog Truly Madly Deeply, follows the main character Shizuku as he learns about wine, allowing the reader to do the same. (I could not locate a way to see the comic online, but if you click on the image, you can see a slideshow from the New York Times.) From Truly Madly Deeply: “At the start of the series, Shizuku has rebelled against his father, a famous wine critic, by refusing to drink wine and working instead for a brewery. Suddenly, though, his father dies and leaves in his will a description of 12 wines he considers the world’s best, comparing them to the disciples of Jesus. dropsofthegods.JPG Pitted against his adopted brother, who happens to be a sommelier, Shizuku must catch up in his knowledge so he can find the 12 wines mentioned in his father’s will and inherit his father’s vast cellar. … Since coming out of nowhere four to five years ago, this 20-something Japanese would-be sommelier has quickly become the most influential voice in Asia’s wine markets. In Japan, wine sellers grab copies of the magazine as soon as it comes out on Thursdays, quickly showcasing a featured wine in their stores or on their Web sites. People regularly enquire about specific wines that are referenced in the comic series.”
  • Storytelling to help people deal better with the experience of psychosis. has released the online serial: The Secret of the Brain Chip: A self-help guide for people experiencing psychosis. intends the serial to serve as an anchor in periods of loneliness and confusion for all involved. secretofthebrainchip.jpg” Although this exceptional guide is not a replacement for therapy,” the site says, “it is a source of practical tips and dedicated information, as well as support.”

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


By posting a discussion question on Worldwide Story Work (of which you probably need to be a member to see the discussion), my friend and story colleague Thaler Pekar called my attention to a New York Times article by Anand Giridharadas, “Are Metrics Blinding Our Perception?”.

MetricsGraphsm.png Giridharadas contends that we are in the Age of Metrics — or the End of Instinct. The author asserts that contemporary society is obsessed with measuring and quantifying everything. Giridharadas worries about studying things that are not easily counted. Further, the author frets that “what we know instinctively, data can make us forget.”

Similarly, a blogger at Chamberlain Forum (“a group of people who have been inspired by what has been achieved in neighbourhoods like Balsall Heath in Birmingham: where citizens and communities have become involved in turning around years of neglect”) asks: “Why is it that with all the money spent on collecting and displaying data relating to the success of public services, the everyday stories people tell of how public services work receive relatively little attention?”

Stories don’t just reflect the culture: they ARE the culture,” the Chamberlain blogger notes.

Chamberlain’s response has been to develop “a technique for listening critically to stories; using storytelling in policy evaluation and development.”

The technique, Structured Dialogue Method (SDM) is “based on an approach developed in Canada by Ronald Labonte and Joan Feather, it uses peoples’ stories and a structured dialogue around them to evaluate and understand the experience of policies in practice.”

Key elements of the approach, the blogger continues, involve:

  • A provocative theme — something to generate animated discussion
  • A diverse storytelling circle of around 10-15 people
  • Two storytellers willing to share their experience
  • Active reflection of all participants — not just the storytellers
  • Structured questioning — not general discussion
  • A skilled facilitator to manage the process

The metrics vs. stories/experiences (or quantitative vs. qualitative) argument reminded me of the argument I made in my dissertation about why I chose to conduct my research by collecting stories rather then collecting data. Because I think some of my sources made some excellent points about the value of stories, I’m excerpting a bit of my methodology chapter here. Read specific arguments for narrative inquiry in the extended entry, and contact me if you’d like a full citation for any of my sources.

The qualitative approach, more accurately called the qualitative paradigm (Lincoln, 2005), has strong proponents in the field of organization studies. Luhman (1998), for example, wrote, “Scientific knowledge, in its drive to be comprehensive (to reduce and simplify), ignores the placing of meaning on human experience which fails to gain insight into people’s lives and social reality.” Patton (2002, p. 196) noted that “qualitative inquiry can be used to discover, capture, present, and preserve the stories of organizations, programs, communities, and families.” Contending that tests and measurements do not offer inquiry into such sensemaking, Lincoln (2005, p. 225) argued that “qualitative methods offer the best possibility for understanding how individuals make sense of and enact their social (and organizational) worlds.”

In sum, “qualitative research is no longer the poor stepchild of quantitative inquiries,” Jones (2004, p. 95) asserted, continuing by saying that over the last decade, “qualitative research has come into its own.”

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


I have evangelized about personal branding for a number of years, including here on A Storied Career.

Deep in my core, I believe in the concept of personal branding.

But I admit to some doubt and cynicism.

Finally someone else has expressed similar cynicism. Carlos Miceli wrote recently on the Brazen Careerist blog that he no longer cares about personal branding for these reasons:

  1. It makes you afraid. …
  2. It has made us so calculated, that I wonder how many people are able to live up to their online personas. …

I understand these concerns. Every time I post a status update, I have to think about all my various social-media contacts and whether any would be offended or whether my words are consistent with my “brand” or whether my various audiences will think I’m a moron.

But I have other concerns. Personal branding often seems like a Flavor of the Month kind of concept — a fad or trend that careerists are urged to devote time and energy to. I often have the sense that in a few years, no one will be talking about personal branding; they’ll be talking about the next thing we’re supposed to put time and energy into.

I’m also flummoxed by the fact that there’s no one consistent rubric for developing and communicating one’s brand. Everyone who touts personal branding has his or her own formula, approach, or process for determining one’s brand.

Your personal brand is supposed to be about your authenticity, but like Miceli, I often think that worrying about staying “on-brand” and saying the wrong thing makes us inauthentic. Miceli writes: “Once I started not worrying about the repercussion of every word I said online, I truly connected at an emotional level with others. Once I embraced my personality, I strengthened the connections that mattered and cut ties with those that didn’t.”

And what does all this have to do with storytelling? Personal brands are synonymous with — or at least spring from — our stories. In my book, Tell Me About Yourself, I write about developing a personal-branding statement backed by a story.

I have a feeling that personal storytelling that expresses our authentic selves may pass the test of time more than “personal branding” will.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


In my world of curating information in the realm of applied storytelling, the term “digital storytelling” has truly exploded in the last year. It has been big for a few years now and is only getting bigger. I’d estimate that at least a third of storytelling tweets I follow relate to digital storytelling.

Last year, Douglas Galbi claimed that “online video isn’t succeeding in telling stories,” to which “Dr. Strangelove” retorted that Galbi’s claim may depend on how “story” is defined. Certainly, viewers are watching YouTube videos in huge numbers.

Not only has video vastly expanded the story universe through the sheer numbers of (arguably storied) videos out there, but, says Carolyn Handler Miller::

While traditional stories are told via a single medium — the spoken word, the printed page, or the cinema screen, for example — digital storytelling encourages the use of a number of different media, all tied together to serve the core story. In these new stories, the plot is advanced by everything from content on websites and DVDs to highway billboards to magazine ads to cell phone messages. They may incorporate mainstream media as well — including feature films and TV series. This method of tying many media together to tell a single story gives the writer a potentially enormous and versatile canvas to work on.

From the standpoint of the creator, though, “video storytelling is a whole different game.” So writes Steve Krizman in his Tropes blog. He lists three ways that video storytelling is different from other forms. The first two can be judged through the eyes (and ears) of the beholder, while the third is from the maker’s perspective:

  1. Video is not as forgiving as written storytelling. If you don’t get the beginning, middle and end captured in video, your story will stink. You either have to stage a reenactment, or you resort to a silly text card.
  2. Sound is the most important part of video. I’ve had decent visual, but lousy sound. Nothing you can do with that. Conversely, with good sound you can get by in editing.
  3. On the scene, you have to work harder on a video story than on a written story. You snooze, you lose the one piece of action that would make the whole story.

Here is a diverse group of video stories that I’ve seen cited by bloggers and others somewhat recently. How do they stack up according to Krizman’s criteria? Do they have beginnings, middles, and ends? How’s the sound? Do they work as storytelling?

  • Renee Hall’s “A Day to Remember,” about President Obama’s inauguration.
  • More of a slideshow than video, “Homeless Connection” tells of a couple that buys hygiene supplies, bottled water, and backpacks in order to put together Roadside Care Packages for the homeless of Austin, TX.
  • A technological marvel, “The Creative Bushido” uses the metaphor of Japan’s Age of Warring States and presents it “as entertainment in the style of a traditional picture scroll. Seemingly at the mercy of the powerful current and waves of these times, we the creators of YOMIKO Advertising freely exchange our views and enter into the fray of the battle for new business with enthusiasm in this epic tale. And no matter what the next age may bring, we are prepared to meet the new era of advertising, armed with the peerless weapon of ideas polished to brilliant perfection.”
  • “The Heart Knows,” asks the question: “How does a shy M.D. win the heart of a gorgeous pharmaceutical rep?” The video stars Anuja and Nirav in “an original Bollywood-inspired short … produced for their 6.6.09 wedding. The couples’ surprise big-screen debut premiered on two massive screens just before their grand entrance to hundreds of unsuspecting family and friends.” Pacific Pictures made the film.
  • Thomas.jpg
  • The most affecting story in the group, in my opinion is “Choosing Thomas,” about a couple that chooses to see through the wife’s pregnancy and birth even knowing that their baby will die shortly after birth because of a genetic disorder.

Want to see more storytelling videos? Eric Johnson at the Case Foundation lists storytelling videos in which nonprofits present their missions — what they do, how effective it is — and how supporters can help.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


If you were intrigued by my recent post about The StoryBox project, you can learn even more about it through this report aired on an NBC affiliate:

Find more videos like this on THE STORY BOX PROJECT global publishing and sharing

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


My friend, corporate-communications media producer, author, and speaker Thomas Clifford, has included my book, Tell Me About Yourself: Storytelling to Get Jobs and Propel Your Career, on his Top 10 Books of 2009.

Tom headshot white bknd small.jpg Here’s what he said about the book:

Want to learn how to use stories in your career, in your job search and anywhere else, for that matter? Storytelling proponent Kathy Hansen has written a super user-friendly guide to navigate you through the storytelling waters.


I’m also excited to check out the other books on Thomas’s list. His book picks focus on leadership, social media. engagement, communication, creativity, private writing, and more. I’m especially intrigued with Accidental Genius: Revolutionize Your Thinking Through Private Writing by Mark Levy and the author’s “Fascination Method,” as well as The Power of Appreciative Inquiry: A Practical Guide to Positive Change.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Storytelling in the job search is a recurring theme in A Storied Career, and I’ve presented support for the notion, along with how-to’s, but not a lot of evidence of how well storytelling works in the job hunt. Today’s entry is the story of marketing professional free agent Bryan Lee, who took a “Humaway” workshop with recent Q&A subject Judy Rosemarin

Frying Pan to Fire: Bryan’s Story

The day before taking my “Humaway” Workshop with Judy, the phone rang and it was a firm with whom I was angling for a new position. Could I come in tomorrow to interview? I had that excited/nervous thing going on the whole night. I played the two stories I had drafted for Judy and the workshop in my head as I tried to drift to sleep, but also now played out the interview in my mind.

story.jpg During the workshop, Judy led us through the elements of a great story — learning to feature characters, drama and dialogue. As my fellow students and I worked our way through our first attempt at telling our stories, you could feel the collective unease and tension rise. This was supposed to be a story to highlight a strength of ours — could it really sound like this? I couldn’t help but think of how challenging it might be a few hours later in the interview. I had moved to churning the butter.

Then something remarkable happened. Following some collective feedback and some pointed but helpful coaching from Judy, we rewrote and then retold our stories. What a difference for each of us! The stories were personal, interesting and most importantly, memorable. From the bank compliance officer to the CFO to the accountant and on, a new “humaway” had been birthed for each of us.

I was exhilarated leaving Judy and the group, and started to feel my story coming together as I dined on a slice and soda.

An hour later, I was seated in my interview with Harriet, the vice president for HR and Louise, one of her staff. Finishing some opening banter, the first question came: “Can you walk us through your resume?” Inside, I took a deep breath and took the plunge. Instead of a dry recitation of my previous jobs and experiences, I said, “I’d like to tell you a story that I think will feature a couple of my key strengths that will help you understand what I can do for your firm and your clients.” Anxiously scanning faces for reaction, I saw a bit of surprise, and a spark between them — they looked at each other, then back at me. Harriet nodded and said, “Sure. Love to hear it.”

My energy rose, and I unfolded the story I had told to Judy, and my workshop pals, only two hours earlier. No notes, no hesitation — just fun. I was engaged, and more importantly, they were engaged. My two-minute story prompted some great follow-on discussion. At the end of an hour, we ended — I had graduated from a “recitation” interview to a pace where I thought my story was in play — and regardless of the outcome to come, I was memorable. Humaway indeed!

You can reach Judy Rosemarin through her Web site, Sense-able Strategies or via e-mail.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


You can tell that a particular way of doing things is catching on when a practitioner carves a niche out of teaching others how to do it.

Lisa Bloom has recently begun to teach coaches how to use storytelling in coaching. In her newsletter, Kachanga, in an article that also ran in International Association of Coaching’s IAC Voice, Lisa explains why storytelling is a natural fit with coaching:

Storytelling is the perfect complement to the coaching process, helping us answer the questions we bring into coaching. On one level, storytelling gives the coach an additional tool to get to a level of understanding or awareness which may be inaccessible to the client. This level may be blocked for many reasons; through listening to a story, the client can hear and s ubsequently deal with more difficult issues.
On another level, we are all storytellers and our narrative is the story of how we talk of our lives. As we experience life, we “tell” it. We pass along almost every event that happens to us-as an anecdote, complaint or amusing tableside story-sometimes lightly and sometimes purposefully and with interpretation. And in the “telling,” in the narrative we choose, we define the experience. When we look closely at the narrative and examine the stories we choose to tell, we begin to understand how committed we can become to these stories. We also understand the fascinating potential to create new and better stories-stories that empower us and allow us create a more fulfilling reality.

Of course, Lisa is not the first coach to teach storytelling in coaching. That distinction may belong to David Drake, PhD, who not only teaches storytelling methodology in coaching but also operates the Center for Narrative Coaching. Or perhaps Dr. David Krueger at Mentorpath was the first. His program is Live a New Life Story, in which he offers a coaching certification.

StorytellingCoaches.jpg Others use storytelling in coaching, too, including several folks who’ve been part of my Q&A series:

  • Jim Ballard of LifeCrafters “uses the myth of the Hero’s Journey to teach groups and individuals how to develop their intuitive connection with their souls; to use not just the intellect but all of themselves in bringing meaning and passion to their experience.”
  • Annie Hart has developed several bodies of original work including a Heart-Centered Communication model, DreamBuilders a group coaching model, Stories From the Heart of the Cosmos, a story performance workshop and her current work Skills of Excellence, a compilation of skills of the masters.
  • Melissa Wells Q&A “explores remote areas to find unexpected stories about cool creatures” to “help individuals determine what they want out of their career and how to get it.
  • Katie Snapp’s focus is leadership training, and she asks leaders what their leadership story is.
  • After Rob Sullivan spent “countless hours helping job hunters from a variety of industries,” he “realized that the inability to share our stories is widespread — mostly because our society isn’t clear on the distinction between bragging and factual self-promotion.” Thus he coaches job-seekers to tell their stories effectively in the job search.
  • Karen Gilliam explains here why she uses story-based techniques in coaching.

And finally, someone with whom I have not yet done a Q&A (but would love to) is Yvette Hyater-Adams, who has an assessment instrument, Transformative Narrative Portrait, which Yvette says “takes a collection of stories along a lifeline to look at the pattern of experience and make decisions on ways to ‘re-story’ unhelpful habits into new and thriving stories that move toward a desired vision.” Yvette calls the Transformative Narrative Portrait “a collection of past, present, and future stories along with action stories that help facilitate personal change.” She plans to offer a certification for people who want to use this method for coaching.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


Another of my occasional forays into stories of my own life …

As regular readers know, my husband and I plan to move from DeLand, FL, to Kettle Falls, WA, in April. We are downsizing to the smaller house we are building in Kettle Falls, so we knew we wanted to purge a lot of our stuff. Our neighborhood was planning a big yard sale this weekend, so we decided to join in. Now, I have the world’s worst yard-sale karma; I have never been successful at staging them. But I figured if Randall took the lead, I couldn’t jinx it too much (I also thought that I would jinx the Florida Gators if I watched their SEC championship game against Alabama — so I didn’t — but apparently I got that backwards).

YardSale09-10.jpg We literally worked on this yard sale just about every waking hour for nine days straight. The second my mother left Thanksgiving dinner, we started dismantling the lovely and tasteful home (if I do say so myself) we’ve been remodeling for 17 years. Here are five lessons I learned from the experience:

  1. Possessions can create a kind of prison: When I wondered on Twitter why we had saved all the stuff we had, a friend made the tongue-in-cheek observation that a new season of the A&E show “Hoarders” is starting. Well, we don’t quite reach hoarder status, but Randall and I are both packrats. We have accumulated an enormous amount of STUFF in 25 years of marriage, plus our single lives before that. One of the biggest reasons I felt we would be bicoastal and maintain homes in both Florida and Washington was that I felt it would be just way too overwhelming to deal with all our crap. Once we realized that Kettle Falls was our future, it seemed insane to be beholden to our possessions. And the more we started to purge, the more free I began to feel. It feels so fantastic to simplify. There’s also a sense of wanting a fresh start. Decorative items and furniture that we still love aren’t hard to part with because we want things to be fresh and new in our new life in the great West. I also began to acutely realize the utter mindlessness with which I acquired possessions. So many things I bought simply because I could. I failed to question whether I really needed something, whether it would give me pleasure, whether it had lasting value. This mindlessness was especially true of gifts. While I pride myself on clever, creative, and thoughtful gift-giving, another dimension for me has been wretched excess — giving gifts just for the sake of giving them without really thinking about what the gift would contribute to the recipient’s life.
  2. Circumstances can change your relationship with things. Twice in my 20s, my residence was burglarized, and prized possessions were stolen. From those experiences, I learned not to place as much importance on possessions as I once had. Apparently that lesson didn’t stick. But I had my next epiphany while spending the summer in Kettle Falls living in our RV while we build our house. As I wrote here, I found I really didn’t miss any of my myriad possessions back in Florida. I had all I needed. A year ago, purging the many (many, many, many) possessions we put up for sale in the yard sale would have been unthinkable. We filled 40 cartons of books to sell, probably 80 percent of the books we own. I’m an inveterate book collector, but I had read only a small percentage of them. My fantasy was that I would read every book in retirement (or I would go to prison where I’d have little to do but read). It doesn’t seem worthwhile, however, to schlep 40 cartons of books to the West Coast for a scenario that may never happen (especially the prison scenario). I had a large two-drawer lateral file cabinet filled with my notes from college — and would you believe high school. Realizing that I had never once referred to these notes since filing them, I purged them so I could sell the filing cabinet. I collect teapots and had amassed quite a few. I held onto some favorites but was able to part with others. And then there were my “soap-opera boxes.” Have you ever noticed that on soap operas — and many other TV shows — when a gift is given, the recipient doesn’t tear into the wrapping paper but simply lifts a wrapped box top off a wrapped box bottom? About a decade ago, I had the idea to create my own collection of soap-opera boxes. They would be eco-friendly because they could be reused, and they would make gift-wrapping easier (for years, I had had conducted all-night wrapping marathons a couple of days before Christmas). I had a whole closet filled with these boxes, and I stuffed nine large garbage bags of boxes to sell at the yard sale.
  3. Yard sales are very much susceptible to Murphy’s Law. Since we got back to Florida on Nov. 1, we’ve had rain maybe once. But a few days before the sale, we learned that rain was predicted for the exact days of the sale. Weather forecasting is, of course, an inexact science anywhere, but especially in changeable Florida; naturally however, this forecast was dead on. The rain started about an hour into the first day of the sale and just got more and more torrential, bringing cold (for Florida) temperatures and lasting well into the second day of the sale. We rain-proofed as well as well could; sales areas were either covered or inside the house. Surprisingly, we still had a good first day of the sale and made the bulk of our sales then. The second day, however, brought just a trickle of nickel-and-dime customers. We also learned at the end of the second day that the rest of the neighborhood had bailed on their part of the yard sale and taken down their signs. Despite many forces working against us for this sale, we did pretty well.
  4. Yard sales are stressful and a test of relationships. I didn’t agree with Randall’s pricing strategy. I was resentful that I was the one stationed outside on the first wet, cold day of the sale. Randall resented the fact that he had been the only collecting boxes during the prep (especially since the produce guy seemed to be coming on to him). I was also unnerved by the chaos of the preparations. Our adult children could have been more helpful with the preparations. So, we all had some issues to work out by the end of the sale — but fences seem to be mended.
  5. Leftovers are pretty easy to deal with. Even if we hadn’t had miserable rain, I knew we’d still have a lot of stuff leftover — simply because we put so much stuff on sale — three full rooms of sales space plus several outdoor venues. YardSale09-23[1].jpg I estimate it was about two-thirds of our possessions. So, I planned a strategy for dealing with the leftovers. Greyhound Pets of America, a greyhound rescue organization, is a favorite charity dating back to the two wonderful greyhounds we had in the 1990s. They hold a couple of fundraising yard sales every year, so we offered our stuff to the group. They picked up the bulk of it right after the sale and are picking up more today. In many cities (including both DeLand and Kettle Falls), Habitat for Humanity runs a thrift store; the DeLand store will get our furniture leftovers. For the few types of items that neither organization wanted — like the famed soap-opera boxes — The Freecycle Network, a nonprofit organization and a movement of people interested in keeping good stuff out of landfills, provides a way to offer the stuff for free to folks who will come pick it up. I think the only item, that, alas, may end up in a landfill is a bunch of old VHS tapes.

So, bottom line, I’m glad we did the yard sale even though it was flawed. I’m grateful to be one step closer to purging the bulk of our possessions and moving. I also hope to be a much more mindful consumer in the future and really think about each future purchase to consider whether I truly need it.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See a photo of Judy, her bio, Part 1 of this Q&A, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Q&A with Judy Rosemarin, Questions 5 and 6:

Q: Are there any current uses of storytelling that repel you or that you feel are inappropriate?

A: Gossip or false advertising.

Q: Your Web site states: “In today’s tough and turbulent times, Judy has a methodology that helps executives move quickly into the memories of interviewers, to distinguish themselves from the competition.” Without giving away too many trade secrets, can you provide a taste of this methodology for readers?

A: My years as a journalist, executive coach and now, for the past five years in community theater as an actor and director, my methodology is based on intentionality, audience-centricity and authenticity. People can be more of themselves when they share a true story, (albeit well considered and crafted) than when they have to put together some artificial elevator pitch and sound like everyone else. There are no two perfectly similar CFOs, and if there were 20 in a room, each would have his or her own brand and stories. My methodology is to play to a person’s strengths while using proven approaches to unearth and rebirth their stories.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See a photo of Judy, her bio, Part 1 of this Q&A, Part 2, and Part 3.

Q&A with Judy Rosemarin, Question 4:

Q: What’s your favorite story about a transformation that came about through a story or storytelling act?

A: While teaching one of my classes, some people were working on their interviewing stories, based on a value to the potential employer. One woman, on the opposite side of the room, was getting increasingly more red in the face. Others were talking about how the storytelling was new to them and yet a bit easier than they thought it would be.
I kept my eye on her, as I anticipated some emotionality. I noticed that her eyes were filling up but the tears did not flow over her bottom eyelids.
“Judy, you have changed my life from here on.”
“What do you mean?
“I have always felt like an imposter with that darned elevator pitch.” Her skin got redder. “And now, I realize that all I have to do is tell my story and I feel released. Thank you, thank you,” she replied and as she said those words, her skin returned to its normal coloring, and I thanked her back for sharing.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See a photo of Judy, her bio, Part 1 of this Q&A, and Part 2.

Q&A with Judy Rosemarin, Question 3:

Q: The storytelling movement seems to be growing explosively. Why now? What is it about this moment in human history and culture that makes storytelling so resonant with so many people right now?

A: How could we not have stories now? How many facts can you jam into your head? How many data points can you stomach? How many claims bombard us every day? How can we escape or even understand the magnitude of our world’s challenges and possibilities? But one story of one little girl, during the second world war, who hid from the Nazis in an attic, and whose book has been translated into countless languages, whose little life and major story makes us see something new, different, touches our hearts, and we remember the story: Anne Frank’sThe Diary of A Young Girl.


My belief is that storytelling had to emerge now, for we long for the connection, the humanity, the longing for learning from one another, to hear conquests so we can believe in ourselves, to hear sorry so we can develop empathy and to be in the moment, so we can be present to ourselves and to one another.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



See a photo of Judy, her bio, and Part 1 of this Q&A.

Q&A with Judy Rosemarin, Question 2:

Q: How did you initially become involved with story/storytelling/narrative? What attracted you to this field? What do you love about it?

A: I loved Miss Leigh, my fourth-grade teacher, who after recess, would sit her huge self down in her chair behind her desk and say, “Now children……… Once upon a time….” and we were hers! No matter how wound up we might have been in the playground, playing dodge ball, marbles, chasing one another, as soon as we got back into Miss Leigh’s room, and began to put our lunch boxes back and perhaps put our outer clothes in the “cloak room,” as she called it, we would see her slowly move to that chair at her desk, take out a book and be captured by that haunting, “Once upon a time.”


For over 26 years, I have been working with executives in transition and in position. They seem to know how to make statements and claims but sorely need to learn how to become more memorable by learning how to intentionally select, craft and tell a story that helps others understand the storyteller and themselves.
What I love about stories is that they are real, human and touch us all. With the high tech world we are living in, I think more than ever, stories are what help us connect, remember our humanity and as I have also come to see, stories beget stories, so there is no end to possibilities.

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.



I’ve completed two series of Q&As with story practitioners, the most recent in August, followed by the free e-book compilation of Q&As, Storied Careers: 40+ Story Practitioners Talk About Applied Storytelling. Plenty of fascinating practitioners are still out there uninterviewed, so I will continue to bring you these Q&As from time to time. I learned of Judy Rosemarin while researching my most recent book, Top Notch Executive Interviews. Judy joins me, Terrence Gargiulo, Rob Sullivan, and a handful of others as strong advocates for storytelling in the job search. This Q&A will appear over the next several days.


Bio: For more than 25 years, Judy has coached senior leaders in effective communication so that they can influence and impact others in the most productive ways. With her unique one on one coaching style, combining her experience in writing, acting and teaching, Judy has helped thousands of executives become more confident and competent in their roles. As a storytelling coach, she teaches executives in transition how to highlight their value in quick and memorable ways; by telling their own value-based stories. In today’s tough and turbulent times, Judy has a methodology that helps executives move quickly into the memories of interviewers, to distinguish themselves from the competition. Read more at Judy’s Web site, Sense-Able Strategies.

Q&A with Judy Rosemarin, Question 1:

Q: How did you first discover the value of storytelling in the job search, and how did you come up with Humaway© StoryTelling?

A: I have been hosting senior executive networking meetings sponsored by ExecuNet for over 16 years. Each first Wednesday of the month, 20+ executives come to meet new people so as to broaden their viability and visibility. Each person gets a chance to present himself or herself to the rest of the group and inevitably, until one year ago, this November (now) everyone would give their “elevator pitches.”
They were the typical claims that were to illustrate each person’s brand but instead, they would be claims filled with things that began to sound like everyone else’s pitches. “Effective communicator,” or “team builder” or “my background includes” but no stories! Eyes would glaze over, until one’s turn came around the room for the next person to speak. I tried, for years to make it more compelling, encouraging people to focus on results but the claims still claimed the room.
Then, I took a one-day storytelling class in New York City, at Narativ, and the light bulb went off! My execs were not telling stories; they were making claims. It was no wonder that it wasn’t as compelling as it could be. So, I started immediately to let my groups know that everyone who comes to my meetings must tell a story that reflects some part of them for the purpose of networking.
After that, I began to teach it for interviewing. And now, I am about to take it into a major airline to help their senior execs share the company’s value through real life stories.
I came up with the Humaway© idea based on reflecting back on an interview I had at JP Morgan, for a coaching assignment.
The Senior HR manager asked me, “When you leave this office, what do you want me to be thinking about?” I was surprised by the question, but gave her an answer that she must have found suitable because I was hired for a coaching assignment.
I remember that later that evening, I went to see the Broadway musical “Rent” and upon leaving the theater, I found myself humming a tune from the show. “Oh, I get it now,” I thought to myself. That woman wanted to know what my “humaway” was!

Entry by Kathy Hansen. Learn more.


A Storied Career

A Storied Career explores intersections/synthesis among various forms of
Applied Storytelling:
  • journaling
  • blogging
  • organizational storytelling
  • storytelling for identity construction
  • storytelling in social media
  • storytelling for job search and career advancement.
  • ... and more.
A Storied Career's scope is intended to appeal to folks fascinated by all sorts of traditional and postmodern uses of storytelling. Read more ...
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Dr. Kathy Hansen

Kathy Hansen, PhD, is a leading proponent of deploying storytelling for career advancement. She is an author and instructor, in addition to being a career guru. More...


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Free: Storied Careers: 40+ Story Practitioners Talk about Applied Storytelling.
$2.99: Tell Me MORE About Yourself: A Workbook to Develop Better Job-Search Communication through Storytelling. Also $2.99 for Kindle edition



The following are sections of A Storied Career where I maintain regularly updated running lists of various items of interest to followers of storytelling:


Links below are to Q&A interviews with story practitioners.

The pages below relate to learning from my PhD program focusing on a specific storytelling seminar in 2005. These are not updated but still may be of interest:

October 2012

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