It’s been around a few months – the Storychick Storyphone

So how is it doing?
I need to get a people counter to track interactions. What I have here are clearly rough estimates.

The phone has appeared at 3 events over the last 3 months, while numbers and interactions vary, I believe it has been quite successful and I’m eager to explore further opportunities!

  • The Key Bank Rochester Fringe Festival – What a great opening run!  I had the big solar booth for this event.  Hundreds of interactions (I was there for much of the time and talked a lot of it).  40 recorded Fringe Stories, 15 non-Fringe stories.  Only 3 stories cut due to inappropriate content – and a few lost because they were unintelligible.  Post-processing is underway to get the related stories back to the Fringe.


    • The Heritage Maker Fair at Cumming Nature Center – No booth for this one, just me at a table.  The few interactions I had were great and I had some people listening to all 9 stories (some twice).  No new stories that day.


    • The Rochester Mini Maker Faire – Again no booth, just me at a table.  Lots of great interactions, though.  Rough estimate – 75?  Many listeners and 3 new stories.


    The conversations and stories have been great!  We have a few things to work on – the phone can get glitchy, the booth will likely be reincarnated.  If the booth is to stand alone for any periods where crowds may visit – I need more extensive signage – as a lot has depended on me talking so far.  But the connections for future potential endeavors (phone deployments) have me quite excited.  I’m starting to follow up on them, now that I have a breather from events.

    I wrote here about the power of Voice – another big finding is the element of physicality from the phone itself.  That will come in my next post – which won’t be months in the making, more like days.

Stories to help see

2015 to date has been a whirlwind and I’ve been missing here on the site – but you’ll be seeing more of me.

One incredible project that I’ve worked on was for my friends at Airigami, in support of their project Balloon Manor.  Let me set the stage – 73 crew members from around the world, 4 days and nights, and 45,000 balloons coming together into a 38 foot x 32 foot, 5-story tall installation. IMG_20150228_130514_322

Larry & Kelly of Airigami take pride in making their work accessible.  Balloon Manor was free to view.  It is built in a location that supports the revitalization of Rochester’s downtown and also makes it easy for bus-riders and downtown residents to participate.  They wanted to bring the experience to everyone – including those whose eyes could not see the vibrant seascape they had created. They brought me in to tell the story of the piece.

I sat at the periphery of the build – observing as the weaves and twists emerged into ships and creatures, treasure and sea-life.  Occasionally, I would walk around with my recorder, gathering the sounds of the experience.  Once complete, I took a long slow tour of all 5 floors, noting all the details that I could – shapes, colors, and textures.

Early on, I realized that the story had to be told in two parts.  First, a narrative.  There is clearly a story unfolding before our eyes in this sculpture and that overarching tale needed to be told before the details and intricacies were explored.  The forest before the trees.

And so the tale of The Pioneer, an ill-fated pirate ship, unfolded. I then told the story of the details of the piece, starting with how pieces emerged during the build and rolling into a tour from the 5th floor down to the ground level.   I wrote this all out as a script and then recorded my narration.  Then I layered in audio snippets from my walks around during the build and after the opening day.

I gave everything the flavor of a tale told by the fire while still trying to capture the scale and scope of the work – its huge size and striking intricacies.  I read the tour to a small group that included at least one blind person and she really appreciated it, while the kids enjoyed the story.  The tour was available at Balloon Manor for a week while it was open, and I hope it helped more people, as well.  You can still download it here if you want to check it out.

I know that audio tours are not new.  I tend to avoid them because I like to explore on my own, but I may check some out now as a point of comparison.  From what I’ve glimpsed, most are more replacements for tour guides – historical facts and perhaps stories and maybe some “if you look closely, you will see …”, but not a replacement for sight.

By weaving the tale of Balloon Manor, I hope to have brought some of the joy and wonder of the art to those who could not see it.  I look forward to more such opportunities – telling stories to help make the wonders in life more accessible to everyone. IMG_20150301_111150_565

How do you think stories might help the people around you to experience new things?  What tales can you tell to bring something to life for someone who may not be able to appreciate it fully?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Oooh, shiny and new!

Welcome to the new Storychick site!


I love fall.  For me, the colors and crispness in the air is a metamorphosis. It’s not about a dead season coming, just a new look to the world.  With the onset of fall, the changing of the leaves, and the dropping temperature, I figure it’s time for a bit of rebirth here.

I’ve redesigned it to help you get a better picture of everything that Storychick is about and up to, without having to search or scroll through blog posts. Thanks to Chris Brogan for the inspiration – the tips you gave were echoed on several other sites that I look up to.

Let me take you on a brief tour.  From the header:

  • Connect through Story – the home and mission ofStorychick
    • Start here! – Background details
    • Gather & Tell – Resources and information about programs to help you gather & tell stories
    • Join our Newsletter – What it sounds like.  The Neighborhood Scoop will now be delivered weekly and have the latest news.  This is news that will not be posted to the blog.
    • Stories & Their Impact – Storychick projects and their results
    • Story Sparks – Story inspiration through crafts and products
    • Story Path – Under development currently
  • Blog – The upper right menu – that’s where the blog now lives.  It’ll be similar to before, minus the news posts.
  • Contact Me – Questions?  Get in touch!

What do you think?

My story of wonder – 6 years later

This year has been a bit rocky and I wanted to share the latest part of my story – now that I appear to have an end (to this chapter):

For 6 years, I had been telling the story of my “episode”.  I regularly downloaded data and, once the team got used to my “regular weirdness”, only checked in for a quick “all is well” with my doctor once a year.

This past November, I was brushing my teeth before an afternoon-close shift at the bookstore.  I leaned forward, using my spare hand to hold back my hair.

The chips in the porcelain at the bottom of the sink started to duplicate and float apart.  “This is odd, ” I thought. “I must have hit some nerve while getting those back teeth.”

Time stretched.  This all happened in seconds or parts of seconds, even.  But I had an entire dialogue with myself.

I felt myself moving forward and gripped the edge of the sink with my left hand.  “Is this a ghost?  Is some evil spirit trying to smash my head into the sink?”  I tried to brace.

There was impact in my chest.  At first, I thought the ghost had managed to hit my chest on the sink edge.  I screamed.

As I sank to the floor, I realized that my defibrillator had gone off.  Someone had once told me it felt like getting kicked by a horse when they went off.  Instead, I felt a rather gentle jab.  No pain remained afterwards, no soreness.  Just jitters.  Adrenaline raced through my system after the burst of electricity corrected my heart.

I went to work an hour late.  I probably shouldn’t have gone at all.  Most unsettling was the thought of what would have happened if I didn’t have my bionic parts.  I’d have been on the floor for hours before my husband got home.  There was one moment that night at work when the world tilted and I sat down fast on the floor I was crossing.  But no more almost passing out and no more shocks.

They downloaded my data – it was a legitimate episode – the defibrillator was doing its work properly.  I went through a battery of tests in the next few weeks to try to figure out why it had happened.  In late December, we had to settle that we could not figure it out.  That things went awry as they are wont occasionally when you have Long QT and our safeguards worked as planned.

It didn’t end there, though.  I could tell that something was still not quite right.   I had two good weeks in January, where I felt relatively normal.  Then there was an odd moment where I started feeling dizzy in the grocery store.  I hurried to buy some cold water and, as I caught up with Joel, suddenly felt like I had no legs.  Moments of dizziness, exhaustion, and shortness of breath on exertion followed.

Finally, one Friday in late February, I got so out of breath running a few brief errands after work that I went to the emergency room.  My heart rate was so low, they thought I was in heart failure and rushed me to the trauma bay.  A flurry of hands took off my clothes, put in an IV, stuck on leads and tried to figure out my story.  More tests, more reviewing doctors.  I had premature beats, or PVCs, but no other issue could be seen.  I seemed fine and went home the next day.

But the exhaustion, chest pain, and shortness of breath continued.  I frequently came home from work and got into bed.  Sleep was the only source of any relief.  I drank over a gallon of water a day.  I went through a bunch of tests.  Still nothing.

Those PVCs, though.  In November, they had measured PVCs 5% of the time.  In March, they checked again.  I was at 24%.  One-quarter of the time I had early, ineffective beats.  There was a procedure to stop the source of the bad beats, but it involved sedation and my doctors weren’t sure this was my only problem.  Tests continued to see if anything else might be causing my symptoms.  For months.

Finally, in June, we decided we weren’t going to find anything else and that we should go ahead with the procedure – an ablation.  Over 4.5 hours, they used a catheter to map the electrical activity in my heart and then started zapping the spot where the largest number of premature beats originated. In the photo below, the red is the “culprit” location.

My PVC rate is now 16%.

I feel better that I have since that fateful ghost battle while brushing my teeth.  Joel said he could hear it in my voice as soon as I came home.

It’s awesome.

And I really appreciate the struggle, frustration, and emotional roller coaster of people who suffer undiagnosed issues.  I’ve heard stories of people going years before answers are found.  I cannot imagine it.  A few months was torture for me.  With each new test I hoped for something.  With each “normal” result, I sank deeper into despair.

I am oh, so grateful for the device that saved me.  I also have a new appreciation for the delicate balance of the systems in our body.  That I could walk a few blocks to a park last night to see my brother’s band play – and get up and dance for at least the final song – the joy and wonder explodes around me.  It rocks to feel free again.

Big News! x2!

Two great announcements to share!

  • It’s official!  Rochester Stories 2014 is a part of the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival!  Tickets are already on sale – get them now! Last year’s show was a thrill and I’m really excited about the stories I’m gathering this year.  Hope to see you there!


  • Also, I will be speaking at TEDxRochester this year!  It’s a huge honor and pleasure to be among the ranks of really awesome people from the TEDx stages across the globe.  Mark the date – November 15.  It’s a Saturday.  Check out my Superhero Backstory and keep watching the TEDxRochester site for more speaker announcements.


The story of a visual migraine

The first time I got one was bad.  I was working from home – which at that time meant sitting on the floor of my husband’s study with my laptop.  I was having a hard time seeing what I was trying to do and realized that my vision was not focusing in the center.  It was just slightly out of whack.  What followed was almost the worst headache I’ve ever had (the one in Paris, with nausea, no pills, and a sprained ankle on top was the worst).  Bad.  I figured out that the vision problems were migraine aura – and became a bit paranoid that any other visual symptoms would have the same follow-up.

They changed a bit after that, though.  Sometimes there’s pain, sometimes not so much.  Lack of focus is now rather rare.  I get migraines monthly, but migraines with aura are less frequent – maybe just a couple a year.

Until this year.  I had a few weeks at the end of January/ beginning of February where I got one every day.  It was crazy.

It starts with a small segment of flashing color and black lines, maybe the size of your pinky nail, usually somewhere upper-right of middle.

It’s there even when you close your eyes.  You try to ignore it, but your eyes seem pulled to focus on it, which can cause a headache on its own.  Your eyes now can’t rest, dumbstruck by the flash even behind the lids.

And then it grows.  For me, it grows into a jittery, snake-y circle of triangular bright colors bordered by thick black lines.

Sometimes the center of the circle will blur.  Sometimes it seems like you can maybe see something in there….

Here’s my 6×6 piece for this year – a still of what this looks like.


*cough* This is still available for purchase ($20, money goes to Rochester Contemporary Art Center)  – you can see it live at ROCO or find it here online. *cough*

A starting point for educational programs

I’ve been working on some ideas about bringing story gathering to youth – getting them involved in gathering and sharing the stories. Not only would such a program help them to develop writing and public speaking skills, but also listening, empathy, and compassion. Not some shabby qualities to have. Here’s a look at what a Storychick youth program might look like – this is a model for a class with several sessions. Watch for more. And let me know what you think!


A few things to watch

New places to explore!

I’ve added a Store page.   Currently, it contains some of the free infographics and documents that I’ve posted here in the past.  It will grow to include more free content, information on consulting-focused solutions, and some for-purchase items.  Keep an eye on it!

Tools has been reborn as Reference – This will get revamped in the near future to contain storytelling reference links.


New badge = New Community!

We have some big news.

As some of you may know, we’re committed to doing as much good as possible. Today, we’re deepening that commitment.

We’ve just joined This Good World–a platform that connects and supports good businesses so individuals can discover and support them, too. We’ve just joined a community of like-minded businesses all over that, like us, have signed the following pledge:

“If good exists, we will find it.
When good is found, we will spread it.
If good is not yet there, we will create it.”

Beyond highlighting the good we’re doing, This Good World provides us with an opportunity to collaborate with these other amazing businesses and organizations to bring more good to the world.

We’d greatly appreciate if you visit our This Good World profile and throw any support you can to the other members of this good business community. Together, we can make a big difference.

Quick note

Hey all –

Things have been a bit quiet here on Storychick and I just wanted to pop in and say “Hi!’.  I’ve been doing a bunch of background stuff lately, setting the stage for cool things down the road.  Plus I’ve been having some health problems that I’m hoping to clear up VERY soon.  Keep an eye out – there are cool stories and projects and all sorts of stuff on the way!

– Aprille