July 10, 2012

Conference Reflections: Lorna MacDonald Czarnota

Lorna MacDonald Czarnota is a professional storyteller based in Buffalo, New York, who specializes  in healing story. She  is the founder and Executive Director of  Crossroads Story Center, Inc, a not-for-profit reaching at-risk youth through storytelling. In 2006, the National Storytelling Network honored Lorna with an Oracle Award for exemplary leadership and service and significant contributions to community through storytelling. The following post originally appeared on Facebook. It is reprinted here with Lorna's permission.
Follow Lorna on Twitter @StoryLornaMac, and learn more about Lorna at her website, http://www.storyhavenstudio.com/
 Reflecting on Bill Harley's keynote address

I came to storytelling to share my stories and started by familiarizing myself with its history. I spent years studying this art and how it was used for entertainment, education, spiritually, for dissemination of knowledge and as a means for keeping the culture of a people. I told stories in all those ways.

I came to a deep understanding of the art of storytelling and how story is structured, as well as the significance of the storyteller in a community, small and large. I was called to story for healing and like others, I continue to learn.

In the beginning, I believed I would only be successful as a storyteller if I was recognizable on the "big" stage. Yet venues like Jonesborough and others continued to elude me. I wondered if I would ever be successful and at times thought about quitting. But there came a day when I asked this, with somewhat of a whine, to two of the storytellers who had the frustratingly recognizable name I thought I could not achieve. Those two tellers were David Holt and Jim May. I was a shadow, a speck compared to them and I found it frustrating. I cannot remember their exact words to me but I know when they were finished I left feeling like I had received a beat-down. They didn't give me the coddling I had expected, and thank goodness! That moment, and a little more ripening on the vine, changed how I viewed myself and my work, and in turn it changed how others saw me. That was years ago but this past weekend, Bill Harley's keynote took me to the next level of understanding the significance.

In a nutshell, Bill said we made a mistake when we allowed our art to become synonymous with Jonesborough and the big stage. He said telling to 1000 people in a tent isn't storytelling (by definition of intimacy). He said "Important things happen at the edges." He meant that about our art, that storytelling is at the edge or fringe of our society's ideals, but I think it also connects with what we do as "applied" storytellers - tellers using the art not only to entertain but specifically to educate, heal and enhance spirituality.

Like any good story, I imagine others took away a different message from Bill's keynote. And like any good story, it touched us where we needed to be touched. I guess I needed to hear once more that what I do is as important, if not more so, than what happens on a stage in a tent with 1000 people. How as a storyteller, I can listen as well as I tell and still make a difference in this world. I can tell to one lady in an elevator or listen to a dying friend's story, or sit in a room with five struggling teens, and have the world call me a storyteller. I can be proud of what I do, continue to marvel at the power of this thing called story, and know I have been successful. I have believed for a long time that once you give yourself to story, you serve it more than it serves you. You are the story, live and work in it, becoming so much a part of it that you cannot imagine doing anything else in your life. You realize story is all around you, you can not escape it nor do you want to.

Thank you Bill Harley. Thank you National Storytelling Network. And thank you to my fellow storytellers. Let's keep moving forward!

1 comment:

Carolyn Stearns said...

well thought out commentary in reflection of the wonderful National Conference