Who’s Going to International Storytelling Weekend in DC?

I usually keep storytelling events separated out from the main part of this blog, but because the following is something I’m actually attending, and since it’s a premier event in the organizational storytelling world, I wanted to highlight it here:

The weekend consists of an evening Intro to Storytelling workshop on Thursday, April 16, an all-day seminar at the Smithsonian on Friday the 17th, and workshops all day during Golden Fleece Day at the National 4H Center in Chevy Chase, MD.

The Friday event in particular is described here, so I wanted to highlight the Saturday event in this posting since it’s not yet detailed on my Events page. Here’s the lineup:

And you can download the full flyer for the weekend here: 2009_Smithsonian_Golden_Fleece_Story_Weekend.pdf. You can also read a nice blog post about the weekend by Seth Kahan on Fast Company.

Seth also shares this list of storytelling luminaries who will be at Golden Fleece:

  • Rick Stone — The original organizational storytelling pioneer, acclaimed author, and StoryAnalytics Master for the i.d.e.a.s., an off-shoot of Disney
  • Gerry Lantz — Expert marketer, creator of STORIES THAT WORK®, INC.
  • Madelyn Blair — Founder and thought-leader of the applied storytelling movement
  • Paul Costello – Executive Director of the Center for Narrative Studies
  • Noa Baum – International Performing Storyteller and Diversity Expert
  • Christopher Heimann — Artistic Director of The Imaginary Body theatre company in London
  • Steve Denning — Global thought-leader and author of four top-selling books on organizational storytelling
  • Pamela Smithbell — Action researcher and author
  • John Sadowsky — Leadership professor from Grenoble Graduate School of Business in France
  • Laura Baron — Acclaimed Singer & Songwriter
  • Douglas Weidner — Pioneering knowledge management practitioner
  • Pernille Stockfleth — Professional storyteller.
  • Svend-Erik Engh — Danish storytelling and business expert, European founder of Organizational Storytelling
  • Loren Niemi — Public policy consultant and champion of storytelling as a social advocacy tool
  • Jacob Lindeblad — International Leadership Trainer
  • Hugh Byrne — Insight Meditation Teacher
  • Michelle James — Visionary Founder of the Capitol Creativity Network
  • and of course, Seth himself

I’ve established a pattern of attending the weekend in odd-numbered years. This year will be my third time. This time I’ve opted to attend just Golden Fleece Day, which I’ve found to be a consistently rich event. And this year it is dirt cheap as an acknowledgement of the tough economy we’re struggling with; at $75, this event has got to be best value of the year. I decided to spend Friday seeing the sights of DC by bicycle, including a tour of the Capitol and possibly a White House tour (we don’t get notified about whether we get the tour till closer to the day). Just to cap off this busy weekend, I’m attending a family wedding right after Golden Fleece day.

It would be wonderful to meet readers of A Storied Career in DC. Hope some of you plan to attend. For those who can’t, I will report on the Saturday event.

Q&A with a Story Guru: Susan Luke, Part 1

When I came across Susan Luke while researching material for A Storied Career, I was struck and intrigued by her job title, corporate mythologist. I had to learn more about this work.

The Q&A with Susan will appear over the next five days.

Bio: Susan Luke, CSP, is a corporate mythologist and leadership consultant. Her client list runs from Coca Cola to BHP Billiton Corporation, from Hyatt Hotels to the US Department of Defense, from Avantel (Mexico) to Hawaiian Tel (Honolulu), and spans more than a dozen countries on 5 continents. She brings to her clients hands-on CEO experience, proven consulting skills, and superb presentation/training abilities. Her compelling information, practical ideas, positive approach, and irreverent sense of humor have garnered rave reviews around the world.

As CEO of a technical services support company in the financial services industry, Susan oversaw the execution of an original 5-year plan in 3 years, exceeded growth targets by 300 percent, paid dividends ahead of schedule, and completed a successful merger into a larger entity.

She took her own personal experience, combined it with extensive research, and began consulting to senior executives in the financial services industry on one of the key ingredients of her success: the power of myths, legends and storytelling to accelerate the execution of corporate transitions. Susan understands how those in leadership positions can harness the power of stories to shape corporate culture and provide an accelerated decision-making process at every level of an organization. She continues to help individuals and organizations use stories to help others accept change while working through challenging times.

The effectiveness of her insights, and universal truths of her models and experience, broadened her client list to a wide variety of sectors and organizations. She is recognized, both domestically and internationally, as an inspirational speaker and trainer, providing information, practical strategies and techniques, through highly interactive learning sessions for her clients.

Susan began her professional career as an educator. She indulged a passion to make a difference, teaching school in remote villages throughout Alaska.

She was also one of the first certified International Credit Union Development Educators under the Biden-Pell Amendment, working in conjunction with the World Council of Credit Unions, and the first to hold both North American and Australasian certification.

Susan is a Certified Strategic Planner, and one of less than 10 percent of the 7,500-member International Federation of Professional Speakers to hold the Certified Speaking Professional Designation.

She authored Log Cabin Logic and is a contributing author to the anthology Grand Stories. See Ya Later ‘Gator (Achieving Bottom Line Results through Narrative) is the working title of a book-in-progress expected to be published later this year. Susan also publishes an ezine, “Myths R Us.”

Q&A with Susan Luke (Question 1):

Q: You are a corporate mythologist. Can you trace your development in realizing the importance of corporate mythology and becoming a corporate mythologist?

A: To my knowledge, I am the only “corporate mythologist” using that title. I coined the descriptor in trying to put some definition around who I am and what I do. Corporate mythology has two aspects — the stories of/about the organization (history, philosophy, values, vision) and the stories of the individuals who make up the organization. How they are being used and how much in alignment they are determines the everyday corporate culture.

Intuitively I have always known that stories are important. As my
career evolved, I realized that what I believed and took for granted about stories and storytelling (based on my growing-up years) was not universally shared nor understood by many. As I began to work with businesses around the world I realized that stories were an ideal communication tool because their universality crosses cultural lines.

As our world grows smaller and more interdependent than ever before, sharing our stories is not only a basic way to develop alliances, but it provides a vehicle for understanding that is the power behind every bullet point in every report, proposal, etc. It was an epiphany of sorts to realize that what I loved about working and talking with people were the stories they shared. If I can continue to help them do that, both internally and externally, both corporately and individually, then perhaps being a corporate mythologist is not only my profession and business, it is my calling.

Today’s Storytelling Buzz in the Twitterverse

I use two Twitter tools to alert me about what folks in the Twitterverse are saying about storytelling. My current favorite is Twicker (which works only on Mac OS 10). Twicker gives me a line of Twitter avatars across the bottom of my screen that represent tweets about storytelling. The tweets refresh at regular intervals that the user sets (every 15 seconds for me!). I like Twicker because it gives me the storytelling tweets almost in real time, and it also gives me live links to click on. I find material for A Storied Career, interesting people to follow, and occasionally people talking about me and my storytelling writings.

Twilert sends me a daily e-mail with all the same tweets I see on Twicker and is thus good for any storytelling tweets I’ve missed throughout the day (hey, I’m at my computer a lot, but not 24/7). Downside: No live links; I have to copy and paste.

I’ve noticed that daily storytelling themes seem to emerge on Twitter. Someone will tweet about a storytelling development or opinion, and the tweet will be retweeted. The more retweeting, the more apparent buzz.

So, I thought it might be a cool idea to do regular — possibly even daily — reports on storytelling buzz in the Twitterverse. Many of the items I cite are fair game for me to blog about later at greater length. Here’s what Twitterers have been buzzing about the past few days:

    • Whrrl, an application that, according to Mashable, “brings collective location-based storytelling to your iPhone.”
    • World Storytelling Day, coming up this week (March 20)
    • Storytelling in Joss Whedon’s TV show, “Dollhouse” and in “Battlestar Galactica,” as well as storytelling (or lack thereof) in the Watchmen movie (very mixed reviews on this one).
  • Joyce Hostyn’s slideshow, “Influence through Storytelling” and accompanying wiki page on Vizthink.
  • Seth Godin’s blog post citing storytelling as the differentiator between publicity and public relations.

How Many More Times Is She Gonna Promote That Darn Book?

Umm, maybe just once more after it is actually released on April 1.

I got copies of my new book this week. I’m really embarrassed because I’ve been writing the title incorrectly for months. The title is Tell Me About Yourself: Storytelling to Get Jobs and Propel Your Career, but I’ve been writing “Storytelling to Get a Job.” In fairness to me, the photo of the cover on Amazon (see photo) says “Storytelling to Get a Job” plus the incorrect title also appears on the publisher’s site (and hmmmm…. I wonder why JIST’s site gives a December release date). Still, it’s kinda bizarre for an author not to know the name of her own book.

I’m really happy with the book’s design; the folks at JIST Publishing did a great job. It’s very reader-friendly.

The book, my seventh, is pretty special to me because it was part of my dissertation research and represents my personal and professional evolution from career guru to proponent of using storytelling in the job search — and all-around student and fan of all kinds of storytelling. Had there been no book as part of my PhD program, A Storied Career probably would not exist. I might have originally envisioned that this blog would be more consistently about using storytelling in job search and career. I did not know I would be seduced by all kinds of storytelling.

Tell Me About Yourself releases April 1 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Handheld Un-Conference Explored How Digital Storytelling Can Improve Health Care

OK, I admit that this entry is from almost a year ago, and for some reason, I never published it at the time. The most current aspect of this project is the accompanying DVD expected to be released. The un-conference’s site asks interested folks to email to be notified of the release date. I’m a little curious as to why it hasn’t been released almost a year after the [un]conference. Maybe a victim of the economy? More:


HANDHELD includes the new short film UNEXPECTED, featuring the candid and provocative dialogue between young mothers who have experienced homelessness and the health care professionals who help deliver their babies.

From the conference Web site:

HAND-HELD was an [un]conference that explored how digital storytelling and new media can be harnessed to improve health care when the tools of creation are placed in the hands of citizens.

The day-long event was the culmination of a three-year experiment in socially-engaged media-making undertaken by the National Film Board of Canada — a filmmaker-in-residence project at St. Michael’s Hospital.

The event showcased the remarkable results of an 18-month participatory media project, I WAS HERE. We put digital cameras into the hands of young mothers who have experienced homelessness to document their lives, and their experiences with the healthcare system. Their photography and video work were the starting point for the conversations during the day.

HAND-HELD was an [un]conference; the content of the sessions is driven and created by the participants.

HAND-HELD brought together a small, hand-picked selection of health-care professionals, academics, media-makers, politicians, decision-makers and young parents who have experienced homelessness — all experts — in a unique open-source day to envision our collective future of health-care in a democratic and digital age.

Surefire Cover-Letter Technique: Incorporating Stories

With my new book,
Tell Me About Yourself: Storytelling to Get Jobs and Propel Your Career
, about to be released (April 1, no foolin’), I thought I’d run this excerpt that also appeared on Quintessential Careers:

Why would you went to employ storytelling in cover letters — or indeed in any part of your job search?

Cover letters offer job-seekers great latitude to tell stories because letters are quite compatible with the narrative form. Learn more in the article, Tell Me About Yourself:
Storytelling that Propels Careers

In a cover letter, you can engage the employer, make an emotional connection, show results, and become instantly memorable by including at least one paragraph in the form of a powerful story.
Not all employers read cover letters (about a third don’t), but those who read, do truly read the letter, unlike the resume, which they almost always skim.

This article details the types of stories you can tell in a cover letter and provides examples of how to tell them. The article is excerpted from

Tell Me About Yourself: Storytelling to Get Jobs and Propel Your Career
, releasing April 1, 2009.

Types of stories you can tell in a cover letter:

Q&A with a Story Guru: Corey Blake, Part 5

See a photo of Corey, a link to his bio, Part 1 of this Q&A, and Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Q&A with Corey Blake (Question 6):

Q:With the success of Edge! A Leadership Story (named a finalist in The National “Best Books” 2008 Awards), do you foresee creating more narrative nonfiction/business novels? Do you have anything in the works?

A: I just finished Excalibur Reclaims Her King, a medieval fantasy, with Angelica Harris. I’m in love with this book! As far as narrative nonfiction, I just finished the book and the proposal for The Family Business with Dr. Kay Vogt and Jarret Rosenblatt. It is a non-fiction narrative look into the work Kay does with business families — like the ones we watch in the news but rarely get to see behind the curtain. Kay provides guidance to these people and assists them in navigating this incredible world where the family often takes a back seat to the business. It’s a world steeped in power, buckets of money, and quite a few unhappy people. Wonderful stuff for a manuscript that uses a real life narrative to get across some phenomenal new ways of looking at business and family dynamics. We’ll be shopping that this spring.

I’m also working on The Corporate Madonna with Heather Leah Smith and Eva Silva Travers. Heather is a director at Trinity Health, and she has a brilliant approach to business that combines the masculine and feminine in the workplace. Groundbreaking stuff, in my opinion. We use story throughout the book, though it is not a total narrative like EDGE! or The Family Business.

Other than that, we put out Duckey and the Ocean Protectors recently — a book for middle-schoolers about a band of adventurous sea creatures that save the planet, teaching about the oceans and the environment along the way.

I’m also in the middle of working with a man named Daniel Cardwell, who is probably the most intelligent man I have ever worked with, and I’m desperately trying to get my head around his life story. Dan is a dark-skinned German man, a product of WWII, with a German woman for a mother and a dark-skinned American soldier for a father. He grew up unwanted by Germany or the US, unwanted by whites or blacks. His life is a brilliant study of racism from the perspective of total outcast. The story spans nearly every continent as he traveled around the globe working to save African Americans with cancer by bringing radiation technology to underdeveloped nations. We’re not sure of a title for that one yet, but here’s his Web site.

Q&A with a Story Guru: Corey Blake, Part 4

See a photo of Corey, a link to his bio, Part 1 of this Q&A, and Part 2, and Part 3.

Q&A with Corey Blake (Questions 4 and 5):

Q: What future trends or directions do you foresee for story/storytelling/narrative?

A: With so much information accessible, I am a true believer that what has lasting impact is information delivered through some kind of story/performance. Otherwise, it is just content, and content without form is nothing more than information that goes in one ear and out the other. But form married with content is inspiring, and that inspiration is a springboard for learning, for remembering, for processing and ultimately for growth. I’m seeing more businesses turn to storytelling, and that tells me a ton about where we’re headed. Businesses often come to our company and show us the “information” they have been sharing with potential clients. We help them turn that into story that emotionally engages people and attracts new business. People nowadays want to be included in an experience. Good storytelling considers the audience as a player in the story. So while I believe that the publishing industry is falling apart, I also believe that storytelling itself is on the rise.

Q: Your company, Writers of the Round Table Inc., specializes in exceptionally written content. How does storytelling fit into that equation?

A: My belief is that exceptional content is a marriage of information and emotional engagement. Reading is an emotional experience; and if it isn’t, people will go off in search of writing that stirs something within them. That being said, we have a filmmaker’s approach to book writing (collaboration) and a storyteller’s approach to business writing. When I founded the company early in 2006, we started by fulfilling short-term writing assignments and built the business around them (Web copy, press releases, eBooks, articles, white papers). Clients continued to pour into the system, and some of them were looking to write books, so we naturally progressed into that area simultaneously. But everything we do is fueled by story. A business has a story it is trying to communicate. If a company or individual is saying the same thing over and over again, we get bored and tune out. But if someone reels us into a hero’s journey that we feel we are participating in, we not only root for them, we start to get on the train and become part of that success. Why? Because ultimately, our stories are all interconnected. But we need help to tell our stories in a way that engages one another. That’s why people come to us. They know they have the story, but they do not have the ability to string together the words that will evoke the proper emotion.

Egg Stories (Not Egg-sactly), Architecture Stories, Atheism Stories, and Financial Stories

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about applied storytelling, it is that there is virtually no subject to which storytelling cannot be applied. Here’s a little roundup of interesting storytelling applications:

    • The American Egg Board collects what I thought were egg stories at its Gather.com site, Incredible, but on further inspection, these turn out to be stories in which “some Incredible People are doing some incredible things to change [childhood obesity]. Hear their inspirational stories and share your own.” The stories I saw didn’t seem to fit that description. I did see a Christmas morning story, reminding me that I could easily submit a story about my famed eggs-and-wine-sauce that I make every Christmas morning. This story, however, is the antithesis of a story to fight childhood obesity in that my recipe will clog your arteries in a New York minute. On the flip side, I’m on my biannual, two-week Fat Flush diet in which I get a puny scrambled egg for breakfast each day. (and on a related note, successful fat-flushers tell their stories here.)
    • Scott Sheppard, a software development manager at Autodesk Labs, blogs at It’s Alive in the Lab and not long ago wrote a nicely illustrated entry on storytelling in architecture:

Architecture has always had a role in storytelling, from the library that hold the books to the created space for drama, sports, commerce, and community. Theme parks go beyond providing the setting for the creation of stories and consciously builds upon well known stories or genre traditions, allowing visitors to enter physically into spaces they have visited many times before in their imagination. In more traditional architecture, spatial and social narrative are fundamental to the ways in which buildings are shaped, used and perceived. Building these evocative spaces is one thing, but selling the idea and communicating the story before it is built is a challenge architects face.

    • Just as storytelling plays a significant role in explaining beliefs for theists, so does storytelling serve to explain atheism at Daylight Atheism, where “Ebonmuse” blogs The Story of Atheism, concluding:

This is our story, and we are all characters in it, as well as the storytellers. But unlike any other character, we see the story we are in, and our choices will write the next chapter. In spite of everything, the darkness of our past may come sweeping back, and our future may be a fall back into the same precipice we have been painfully climbing out of. Or the slow, frustrating, yet upward trajectory of history may continue, into a bright future that surpasses our imagination as far as the truth surpasses the imaginings of the past.

    • Finally, Stewart Marshall does something that sounds a lot like an oxymoron to me. Blogging at Financial Storyteller, he writes, “Stewart is a financial storyteller. He helps organisations tell their story through numbers.” To me, stories are kind of the opposite of numbers. In fact, one reason I am so drawn to storytelling is because I am quantitatively challenged. In one entry, he begins to explain the concept of financial storytelling:

Start with a picture, develop the story with words that you can then support with numbers. And I mean support. Numbers of themselves tell you nothing. It’s only when you label, reference and put them in context with words and pictures that they can make sense. (witness the rise of the pie chart in business). Put all three of the above together and you have a Story.

I would like to learn more about what Stewart does, but I’m a little afraid I would zone out as soon as I start hearing about numbers.

Building the Path Forward, Story by Story

As part of my ongoing examination of the value of stories in coping with the current economic crisis, I admired a blog entry by Christina Baldwin, author of Storycatcher.

Noting that we are “finally facing the imperative to retool the global economy,” Christina suggests “we can assess what is happening in the larger story and design our lives to survive and thrive. We can build the path forward, story by story and insight by insight, and action by action.”

She asks her readers what stories about this time inspire you and which scare you.

Though I’ve blogged several times about stories and the recession, I keep thinking I don’t have my own recession story because the crisis has not yet affected me personally. I realize that’s not entirely true. Some of my income comes from a company through which Quintessential Careers (a parent site of A Storied Career) outsources resume-writing services. The company just had the worst sales month I’ve ever seen — thus severely cutting my income for February. I’ve observed a job-seeker psychology that I find odd; of all the times to need a professionally prepared resume, this time is huge — but job-seekers are afraid to spend money. Anyway, my little story of a smaller paycheck last month is quite puny compared to the stories of those who are truly hurting. So, I raise Christina’s questions again — of the recession stories you’re hearing, which ones inspire you and which scare you?