Q&A with a Story Guru: Larry Smith: Teachers Laid Groundwork for Story Immersion

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I am completely thrilled to present a Q&A with Larry Smith, not only because he is a luminary in the story world, thanks to his innovative SMITH Magazine, but also because of a personal connection. Although we have not met, we did attend the same high school. This Q&A with Larry will appear over the next five days.

LarrySmith.jpg Bio: [From the SMITH Mag site]: SMITH founding editor Larry Smithhas whirled around the media landscape for the past 15 years. He most recently was the articles editor of Men’s Journal, has been the executive editor of Yahoo! Internet Life, senior editor at ESPN The Magazine, a founding editor of P.O.V., and editor-in-chief of its sister publication, Egg, as well as an editor of Might magazine. While living in San Francisco, he was managing editor of the wire/syndication service AlterNet, and currently serves on the board of its umbrella organization, the Independent Media Institute. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Popular Science, Men’s Health, Salon, Slate, and other places. He has contributed personal essays to the anthologies Maybe Baby and Modern Love.

He has spoken on the power of personal storytelling, and how to engage an audience, in schools across America, as well as at foundations and nonprofits, and companies such as ESPN and Google. He most recently spoke at Ignite NYC, on the story of the Six-Word Memoir project. He teaches the class, “What’s Your Story: How to Deliver an Authentic Elevator Pitch,” at The Hired Guns Academy.



Q&A with Larry Smith, Question 1:

Q: You and I attended the same high school (albeit 15 years apart) and had the same Latin teacher. You’ve already noted in correspondence with me that Latin class with David Rhody probably influenced your storytelling interests. Can you elaborate? Were there other aspects of Moorestown High School that were influential?

A: I’ve written and edited all my life, almost to the point of being boringly single-minded and directed, and that has a lot to do with having great teachers early on. My third and also fourth grade teacher, who then went by Lynn Bechdel (whose cousin, Alison Bechdel, author of the acclaimed graphic novel, Fun Home, has an illustrated memoir in our new Six-Word Memoir book), always encouraged her students to think differently, weirdly, and above all, to follow your passion.
The high school Latin teacher we share, David Rhody, is one of the best storytellers I’ve ever met, and, as I’m sure you remember we read some of the greatest stories ever told in his class. Seeing Mr. Rhody popping up on Facebook was a total kick — that guy was always so cool. And then connecting him to you, and you and I to this tiny town in South Jersey was wild.

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I’m in touch with all many of my favorite teachers and mentors still. Last year Perri Geller-Clark (the advisor to the school newspaper) invited me to speak to a few of her classes at about storytelling and journalism; I’ve done the same with my nephews’ sixth and third-grade classes as well. In the past four years I’ve probably done more than 500 interviews and 50 live events, but there’s nothing been as scary, and amazing, as talking the third graders about storytelling. The class later sent me their own book of Six-Word Memoirs, Not Quite What We Were Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Mrs. Nixon’s Class, which I digitized and posted on SMITH. It’s the most amazing document I have from the SMITH Magazine journey.

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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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