The 2002 StoryCon Story / Media page
World’s First Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story
The World’s first Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story was a resounding success. It brought together, for the first time ever, people who work with story from many different perspectives including: novelists, screenwriters, journalists, oral tradition storytellers, corporate and organizational consultants using story and narrative, psychologists, mythologists, folklorists, movie directors, producers, sound and visual experts, actors, musicians, teachers, hospice worker, technical writer, sales copy writer, marital therapist, fund raiser, lawyer, minister. Approximately 85 people attended the meeting, which was held in Palm Springs California, Sept 26-30, 2003. Participants came from England, Japan, Australia, Canada and Sweden. Now, Futurehealth, the corporate sponsor of StoryCon, is publishing tapes of the lectures and workshops from the meeting.
Thom Hartmann, best selling author of over a dozen books on varying topics, his latest being Unequal Protection; The Rise of Corporate Dominance and Theft of Human Rights, said, "Storycon was the best writer's conference I've attended in over 30 years of being a professional novelist and nonfiction author."
British Storyteller Tim Shepard said, "I don't know about writing conferences, but Storycon isn't about writing - it's about story."
The Storycon meeting was an incredible exemplification of the story of the blind wise men. They were put in a room with something and had to figure out what it was. One said "It’s a rope."
Another disagreed, saying, "No. It’s a big snake." Another laughed, saying, "It’s obviously a tree trunk." Others said it was a piece of rug, or a spear. Finally one, lying on his back, reaching up, said it was a cow. They were each touching different parts of an elephant-- the tail, trunk, leg, ear, tusk or belly.
Rob Kall, who came up with the idea for the meeting, organized and funded it, said, "We each came holding our own vision of what the meeting would be about. We were all pleasantly surprised to discover that it was that and more, that the emergent properties of the meeting, and all the different worlds of story coming together exceeded our expectations and gave us ways of seeing, ideas, insights that we had not anticipated."
"The central theme of the meeting was story and each participant came with different handles on it, different ways of knowing, describing and experiencing it (phenomenological and epistemological approaches.) Many came wanting to learn ways to make better, more powerful stories-- with techniques, with models. Others came to see how different people were using stories to make changes-- to heal clients, to empower students, to enable organizational change.
Others discussed using stories to understand people, companies and organizations better. Steve Denning, a former World Bank Executive and expert in use of story in business and knowledge management odescribed the meeting, "An in depth overview of the role of the story in the world today. A very full program and an excellent journey through the multifaceted aspects of story."
Ray Bergen, a psychologist and Marital therapist who spoke on the Hero and Goddess relationship, said, "I liked a lot the feeling that we were pushing ourselves to try to grapple with ALL the issues around story. It widened my horizons on story & recommitted me to the centrality of Story in my life and surroundings.
Laurie Sheppard, a life coach, said, "We are hungry for authentic stories to inspire us and move us to our value and change, to experience being listened to, connecting us to our values and creating community. This conference is the kernel of that reawakening for us to bring this about."
"A universal experience we all seemed to share was our eyes were opened wider to see story from new perspectives." Kall said.
David Garfinkle a sales copy writing consultant and trainer said, "The meeting opened new vistas for me, personally and professionally. This was the first cross disciplinary approach to story. I was able to look at story, for the first time, from a lot of different points of view. That’s important because story is part of my work and also because story is part of my being. This meeting gave me unique insight that I simply couldn’t have gotten anywhere else from any other seminar. I’ve also met a terrific group of people here. Just the contacts alone, that I’ve made were worth coming for."
The meeting wasn’t all discussion of technique and theory, art and application. Steve and Robin Larsen, co-authors or Joseph Campbell’s authorized biography surprised us all by putting together a play, written by their friend, an 80+ year old African witch doctor, performed by volunteer meeting attendees, with music and sound effects and wonderful huge masks. And the storytellers in the group (We are all storytellers. We are all story creators, story finders, story lovers.) though instructed that this was not another storytelling entertainment venue, managed to sneak in wonderful stories to illustrate their points.
Marcie Begleiter author of "From Word to Image, Storyboarding and Filmmaking Process" whose client list includes Paramount, Tristar, New Line, and ABC said, "From the surprise of encountering scientists, business people and therapists at the conference (my life is a fairly provincial one, filled with artists, filmmakers and other low-lifes) to the midnight romping with over-sized puppet heads I found my appreciation for what story is and what they can do constantly in a state of flux."
The writers-- screen, novel, short story, oral tradition-- shared ideas for tapping the souce of stories. They shared ideas on editing, revision, re-writing-- on character development, on using ancillary characters (buddies, family, strangers, etc.) as vehicles for telling background or showing character depth in more interesting, connecting ways. The importance of the antagonist, of Evil, darkness, and bad guys was discussed. The threat-- risk to the story’s world, to the hero, and the protagonist’s willingness to take risks were described as ways to define the genre of the story by Neill Hicks, co-writer of several number one hit Jackie Chan movies.
Novelist Sharon Maas, author Of Marriagiable Age, Peacocks Dancing, who flew from London to participate, said, "Though some of the talks were less relevant to my line of work, I was amazed and delighted to find that there seemed to be a golden thread linking them all together. We were such a diverse bunch, and yet in our diversity there was a unity, and that was the secret of the meeting’s success."
"At the risk of sounding terribly New-Agey and esoteric, I feel that there was reason in this random coming together. It was the right time, the right place, and the right people. Because finally it comes down to that: the people. We were a group that had to happen. From our various points around the world we converged and met in one single spirit and that was the force that gave our meeting such authenticity, such sincerity, and such power. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship"
Many speakers delved into story structure-- Linda Seger first described traditional three act structure and then variations from the linear three act model.
Dan Decker, a screenwriter, playwright, author of Anatomy of A Screenplay, and director of The Screenwriters Group, one of the largest independent schools for screen writing in the country said, "The art and Science of story is finally telling its own story. Where does story begin inside us, and where does it take us... each individual’s notions of reality are shaped by the stories that live within them; intelligence itself can be defined as how we apply our stories to our lives. Having no expectations when I arrived, my mind was open to the experience. What unfolded around me was nothing short of amazing. The breadth and depth of the presentation was mind-boggling. I am changing the way I look at my business, my relationships, and my own writing."
The speakers explored the neuroscience of the story experience, of subliminal perception, brain lateralization, the psychophysiology of the frisson and the heartwarming glow and the power of stories. There was a shared sense among speakers and attendees that this meeting was a benchmark in our understanding of not only how to create better stories, but also our understanding of their power to make the world a better place-- to make a difference. Speaker David Vanadia, whose website, www.nycstories.com includes hundreds of stories from the 911 WTC disaster, talked about story as energy. And there was a sense among the attendees that the untapped power, perhaps beyond nuclear power was starting to be unleashed.
Rob Kall summed up, "And as the meeting was coming to an end, we felt as though we were a part of a lost tribe which had rediscovered itself. There was a connection, a communion between us all that was more than intellectual. It was spiritual, archetypal, as though a bardic fellowship that had been disbanded for centuries, had reconvened, and we recognized each other, though now living in different lives, different garb and times. And we knew that our time to be together again had arrived, that this was a wonderful beginning, that story was about to blossom to a new level of being and becoming and power... and that our work was just starting. Cathy Pagano, a psychotherapist and mythic storyteller consultant said, "I love that we all found our way there this first time - as if spirit moved us to come together. It felt like an ancient brotherhood of light coming together with common aspirations."
And so all went home, glowing with an inspired energy, uplifted with a buoyancy that comes from knowing you are on the right path, making progress, that you are not traveling alone.
At the closing session of the meeting, after the remaining speakers and attendees had cleared the hall of tables and created a giant story circle to discuss and process the last five days, storyteller Doug Lipman, one of America’s most respected storytelling teachers and coaches, led the group in singing a song about story, and then, Tim Shepard, who flew in from England to attend, told this story. He said he didn’t know who wrote it but it was told with permission to pass it on.
* * *
Truth walked into a village. The local inhabitants started cursing at him. Spewing epithets, they chased him out of the village.
Truth walked along the road to the next town. They spit at him and cursed and spewed epithets, driving him out of town.
He walked, lonely and sad, down the empty road, until he reached the next town, still hoping to find someone who was happy to see him, who would embrace Truth with open arms.
So he walked into the third town, this time in the middle of the night, hoping that dawn would find the townsfolk, happy to see Truth with dawn’s light. But as soon as they townsfolk’s eyes lit upon him they ran to their homes and then came back throwing garbage at him.
Truth ran off, out of town, into the woods, and after crying, and cleaning off the garbage, returned to the edge of the woods, when he heard laughter and gaiety, singing and applause. He saw the townsfolk applauding as STORY entered the town. They brought out fresh meats and soups and pies and pastries and offered them all to STORY. Who smiled and lavished in their love and appreciation.
Come twilight, Truth was sulking and sobbing at the edge of the woods. The townsfolk disdainfully ignored him, but STORY came out to see what the story was.
TRUTH told STORY how all the townsfolk mistreated him, how sad and lonely he was, how much he wanted to accepted and appreciated.
STORY replied, "Of course they all reject you, " STORY looked at TRUTH, eyes a bit askant. "No-one wants to look at the naked truth."
So STORY gave TRUTH brilliant, beautiful clothing to wear. And they walked into the town together, TRUTH with STORY. And the townspeople greeted them with warmth and love and appreciation, for truth wrapped in STORY’s clothing is a beautiful thing and easy to behold.
And ever since then, truth travels with story, and they are always accepted and loved. And that’s the way it was and the way it is and the way it will always be.
The meeting schedule, speakers, abstracts of talks and descriptions of workshops and tape ordering information can be found at http://www.storycon.org
Meeting organizer Rob Kall can be reached at 211 N. Sycamore St., Newtown, PA 18940
215-504-1700 fax 215-860-2555 firstname.lastname@example.org