Opportunities to hear the narratives of the Lansing community

What’s your story? Have you ever wanted to share it? Have you ever felt so passionate about your life and your adventures that you wanted to stand up in front of a crowd, big or small, and tell everyone? Do you love to get up in front of an audience? Do you find public speaking and storytelling absolutely intriguing?

Thanks to WKAR, The Lansing State Journal, and other community partners, your story can now be told throughout Lansing at various locations through storytelling events.

A chance to speak up and share

Storytelling events are all about you. It’s all about sharing your story. Everyone in our community has a unique story to share, and these events are giving you the platform, space, guidance, and an engaged audience of community members to do it in front of.

Katie Wittenauer from WKAR and RCAH works on the team that makes these events a reality. She helps with each step, from brainstorming to setting up each event and being present for the stories themselves. “It’s kind of amazing and I feel so lucky that I get to see the steps leading up to it and the finished product,” says Wittenauer. When talking about the events and the process of setting them up, her excitement is obvious as she talks through the planning and brainstorming that goes into coming up with each theme for each event. “It’s really fun to sit down and strategize each event. We come up with a theme and then go from there.”

Current State producer Katie Cook, another integral member of the Pop-Up Stories team sees this as a way for WKAR to get to know their community. "As a public radio talk show, one of Current State's main goals is to reflect our community and be what our listeners need us to be, and we can't do that without building a solid relationship with those listeners," says Cook. "Giving people a place to tell their stories, and then listening to and sharing those stories, are ways we thought we could strengthen that relationship- and hopefully reach new people who haven't listened to us before."

Pop-Up Stories are themed strategically to reflect the season, month, and holiday during which they are told. This past August, the event theme was titled, “The Heat is On,” which took place at Red Cedar Spirits in East Lansing. Other themes have included: “Putting Down Roots,” “The Call of the Wild,” “Fools Rush In,” and more.

The art of storytelling

The format of LSJ Storytellers is a little different. The tellers are coached beforehand and cannot read off of anything – they must memorize what they plan to share – which is not the case with the more casual setup of Pop-Up stories. "We started storytellers to bring together the community and elevate the art of storytelling," says Matt Hund, engagement editor at the Journal. "Greater Lansing has embraced it, and so far nearly 50 tellers have taken part. With themes from 'Love Lansing' to 'Cars' we have put together our own program, modeled after a national program that is part of the USA Today network. "

Though both events move around the Lansing area, their formats are shaped to challenge the teller in different ways. Pop-Up Stories arouses a sense of engagement with the audience that seeks to foster community and the capability of the storyteller within all of us. Though anyone can sign up to be an LSJ Storyteller, you've got to be willing to craft and prepare in a way that may seem daunting, at first. In doing so, however, the storyteller improves both their ability to memorize and master the art of storytelling.

Hund's quick to share some of the more memorable stories he's heard. "Some notable stories include the 14-year-old who talked about growing up in the age of the Internet ... and finding some interesting websites while researching a class project; the writer who, as a young journalist, was politely scolded by Maya Angelou; and the first woman to lead an all-women expedition to the Arctic Circle."

Cook is fascinated by those attending, as much as she is the stories being shared. "My favorite thing about the events has been the diversity. People of all ages, races, backgrounds, professions, come and share stories. And they usually bring their own fan clubs, so the audience is just as diverse."

What’s in it for you?

For the residents of the Lansing area, these storytelling events not only offer the opportunity to share a story that might impact someone else, they also offer the opportunity to meet new people and get in touch with members of community.

"LSJ Storytellers provides the type of evening that brings people together to talk to and with each other; attendees report good conversations at their tables and laughing, crying and more with people they did not know before sitting down," says Hund.

You don’t have to tell a story to be part of the Pop-Up Stories or LSJ Storytellers event. Every storyteller needs and audience. Being part of the audience is just as exciting and just as fun. So if you’re looking for something fun to do and you want to be part of fun events around Lansing, check out LSJ Storytellers and Pop-Up Stories, they are sure to impress.

If you’re curious, the next LSJ Storytellers event, "Crossing Borders" will be held Sept. 20 at the University Club of MSU. As for Pop -Up Stories, the next event, "Turning Over a New Leaf" will be held Sept. 29 at REACH Studio Art Center and you can check out their Facebook page for more information.
Photos © Dave Trumpie
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
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