Stories for monsters

My twin nephews are 4 and I often refer to them as “monsters”, in only the most affectionate of ways.  I do believe that many monsters are good creatures and so I have no qualms about the term.

This year, for Christmas, I wanted to give them something that would strike their fancy,  would hold their attention – but not just a toy to add to the bunch.  So I wrote them stories.

A story for Ford featuring Ford as the hero.  A story for Alton where he was the hero.  Keying in on their favorite things.

(The photos are from my original pages.  You can click twice to see bigger)

I wrote the stories, selected fonts and laid out the pages.  I collaged in personal photos wherever possible to help with my limited illustration chops – and filled in the rest with illustrations.  I had everything copied on good paper and bound into books.

They loved the books.  I had already seen them pointing out pictures of themselves around the house – and they can read their names, so the pictures and their names in the books made them intensely personal.  And they had fun with the stories.

And I had fun making them.  It took a bit, but it was a really fun project and totally worth it to get to read the books in the bedtime lineup with the monsters.

There may be more adventures for these heroes down the road.  I’m actually pretty sure of it.


How are you Leaping?

Inspired by Seth Godin, I am burying my disappointment with February and turning my thoughts to leaping through wonder and the exciting road ahead.

It’s not just Leap Day – an extension to  the brutal month of February.  It’s Leap Year and it can celebrate those great steps towards innovation and new adventures.

The existing power structure wants to maintain the status quo, and is generally opposed to the concept of leaping. In fact, if you want to make change happen, if you want to give others a chance to truly make a difference and to feel alive, it’s essential that you encourage, cajole and otherwise spread the word about what it means to leap.

An opportunity to help the people around you level up. It’s an obligation, an opportunity and a chance that I hope you’ll accept. Tell the others.

Leaping is a part of what we celebrate at Icarus.  Through our repeated efforts at making art, at connecting others, at innovating in the face of today’s challenges, we are crossing the globe – leap after leap, bound after bound.  To find out more about the Icarus Sessions in Rochester, check out our Facebook page – everyone is welcome, anyone can share!


So, how am I leaping today?  I have some leaps ready – knees bent, butt wiggling like a cat ready to pounce – that I can’t discuss quite yet, but which I think will have awesome impact.  Others?

  • Rochester Stories – the FOOD show – will be April 14th at Writers & Books!  It’s a pot luck event – bring a dish, hear and share stories of food – which so shapes our lives, traditions, and relationships.
  • The story beading class went well and I hope to carry that model forward into other programs.
  • I’m working on more ways to get Storychick out into the community.  If you have a group that would like to get its message heard or learn how to better understand each other through story, let me know – I’d be happy to work something out!
  • ROC Soup radio is rolling forward with great success.  I’m having a blast matching stories and music and sharing time and stories with great guests doing good work.

I’ll be posting more on all of these leaps soon.

Now it’s your turn!  How do you plan to level up?  What innovations, what art, are you making to change your world?  How are you LEAPING?  Comment below!



This past Friday marked one year since my last episode.  One year of battling the unknown issue causing my PVCs (bad beats that are non-productive, causing exhaustion among other symptoms).

The anniversary passed in a whirlwind.  I’d just returned from a trip to Grace Bay in Turks & Caicos.  The return trip was extended and stressful thanks to Winter Storm Jonas.  I ended up with an evening to recoop before the next big adventure.


Which wasn’t enough.

But Monday am we reported in anyway to Balloon Adventure: Journey on the Genesee.  Our friends at Airigami have once again surpassed themselves.  40,000+ balloons, 75 crew members, and 4 days to produce a 5-story sculpture full of detail, vibrance, and texture. A new theme introduced 3 curious kids who have access to a balloon that lets them explore what they want – and they were exploring the Genesee’s wildlife this year.  Storychick had several roles:

  • Story stations – In relatively quiet space on the 3rd floor, we placed 5 story stations which played fables I’d recorded related to animals in the sculpture.
  • Audio tour – I put together a backstory for the kids and an audio tour, like last year, but with more real-time audio than before.  (You can find it here)
  • Stage performance – This is upcoming!  I’ll be on stage Friday night, right before the start of First Friday, telling stories!  Some old tales, some new, some new twists on ones you thought you knew….

I love working with Kelly & Larry’s designs, then building a story that incorporates great audio clips from throughout the week of the build.  It’s a great story endeavor.


And there’s more!  I have some other projects starting – more on those soon!  But other things to watch for this week include:

  • Story beads at the Brainery!  Learn to make regular, rolled round & S, and origami water bomb beads – and build your stories into them.  Include parts and pieces, words and symbols, in your beading.  Tell your story to the piece you create and share with the class, if you’re cool with that.  It’s a great way to heal, vent, and commemorate while also getting in the meditative handwork of craft.
  • Saturday on ROC Soup – January was Human Trafficking Awareness month but we didn’t quite get this show together while I was gone.  It’s an important topic, so we’re having a bit of January in February.  My guests will be from the Rochester Regional Coalition Against Human Trafficking – Lauren Van Cott (of Angels of Mercy) and Melanie Blow.

Story is more than meets the eye

The Storychick approach to storytelling is not just about how to spin a yarn – it’s more than writing or telling stories.

It’s about LISTENING.

There’s a magic to it, when you open your ears, heart, and mind.  And an art.

When you are building and strengthening a community, listen to those with stories to tell.  Listen to those whose voices are not often heard.  Listen indiscriminately.  Set bias aside and listen without judgement.

When you are talking to customers, listen to what they need, what they’re struggling with.  Listen to how they approach problems and questions, to the language they use.

In order to share YOUR story – you need to know where your audience is coming from, what moves them, what will resonate with them.  This is learned when you listen.

But wait …. there’s more!

Listening shows that you care.  It builds a bond between you and the teller, you and your audience.  It satisfies, encourages, and thrills your audience before you even start.

As I’ve said before, it’s about getting someone ready to share talking to someone willing to listen.  THAT’S where the magic happens.


BTW, this week on ROC Soup, a tale of coyote and badger, the Farmer’s Tavern & Inn, and more.

Stuff gets real in 2016

Not that I haven’t been putting real effort into the work of the past 4 years, but I really believe that this will be the year where some things take off.

2015 in review

Last year saw great strides.  I added my first off-Fringe show, started the radio show, and started doing more targeted projects – from the Balloon Manor audio tour to working with a soup kitchen and a Girl Scout troop.  I built some new relationships and made progress on Noodle (my novel).

It was a rough year medically, so there were good days and bad.  Energy drains sometimes did a number on my focus.  That and the fact that I came seriously close to over-committing.  With a bunch of threads going, I need to keep on track, even when energy gets sapped.  There are things that can go more smoothly and be more productive.

2016 in focus

After thinking about last year and where I want to head, here are my focus words for the year.

  1. Balance – I want to do so much and help so many, but if I let it get out of control, no one will be happy.  I need to balance the amount and type of work that I’m doing.  I also need to make sure that I don’t neglect myself, my family, or my home in the process.  I need to find a workout that will stick, and that I can keep up, and also do more focused meditation, yoga, or something.  Balance will be key.
  2. Expertise – Develop it.  Share it.  Show it.  I know a lot about the power of story and how to use it in many situations.  I need to hone my expertise and be the expert that I am.  Look for that here on the blog, especially.
  3. Target – Focus on those who can benefit from my work.  SELL to them.  Set deadlines and goals and don’t lose sight of them.  Be intentional about networking, social, and do more targeted sharing of my work.

I’m excited about what’s already on tap in 2016:

Looking for a last minute experience-type gift?

‘Tis the season, so I have to let you know!

Storychick will be teaching a new class at the Rochester Brainery on 2/4!  You can sign up a loved one now and share the experience in just over a month.

This class is a direct result of the hands-on experience at the Rochester Maker Faire.  Everyone will get to try their hand at the regular, rolled circle, rolled S, and origami water-bomb beads – then you can continue working to create a string or a new creation all your own – whatever inspires you!

Ah, but there’s a twist!


These are STORY beads.

We’ll be including pieces of stories that are important to you in the beads themselves.  Those who are ready and willing can share these stories as we work or at the end of the session.  At a minimum, your beads will carry your story for you.

This is a great way to start healing from painful stories, to create a piece that carries the tale of a loved one, and to have some fun creating – even if your story seems to be an everyday tale.

Supplies will be provided, but if you have any papers that you are fond of – any favorites from holiday gifts, for example – you’re welcome to bring them.

See you in February!



Never Sitting Down

A few weeks ago, I had a booth at the second Rochester Mini Maker Faire.

Last year, I also had a booth.  I put up my jewelry display and spent the day working on projects – specifically domes and embellishments for the Stages projects.  It was fun, I enjoyed talking people through my work while actually having my hands busy (and covered in Mod Podge), but there were a number of kids who came by expecting to be able to DO something, MAKE something, LEARN something.

So I decided to have a hands on part to my booth this year.  I figured “half the booth, half the time”, and that I could work on a new project (in its VERY early prototyping stage) for a hunk of the time.

Silly, silly Storychick.

The hands-on experience (make a bead  – regular, rolled circle or “s”, or origami waterbomb) was a HUGE success.  So much so, that I didn’t have a chance to sit, really, all day!  People were thrilled and excited to get specifics on how to do more at home, though that didn’t diminish my work in their eyes.  Several had questions and ideas for taking the activity in other places.  Schools, hospitals, recovery camps.

To be honest, I had been a bit nervous about the activity.  At some of the initial craft shows where I had tried to sell my jewelry, I had several “I could do that” comments.  I worried that letting people make regular beads would convince them that this was a simple task and that they  would not value what I had created.  This was the impression given by those at the craft show.

You know, it’s funny how things work.  I intended to write this post about the Faire and this experience and what I’ve learned, but never connected it mentally to the nervousness I had when publishing Framework Basics until now.  A few days after that experience, Seth Godin posted about how others will react:

For each person who cares enough to make something, who is bold enough to ship it, who is generous enough to say, “here, I made this,”…

There are ten people who say, “I could have done it better.”

A hundred people who say, “Who are you to do this?”

A thousand people who say, “I was just about to do that,”

and ten thousand people who don’t care at all.

Themes.  Connections.  It’s all related.

Back to the Faire – the point was that I did not have anyone say “I’ve done that” in a negative way.  Yes, some said it, but they saw next steps in my work that they hadn’t ever considered.  At one point during those craft shows I had worried about guarding my process so that others couldn’t pick it up and run with it.  I didn’t consider it all that innovative or unique and figured those who tried would come up with something similar or better.  This time, that wasn’t a concern.  I felt like an expert and was able to enjoy watching people discovery the intricacies I see in making each bead.

I’m super excited at some of the ideas that came out of discussions with my bead-makers.  I should have some news in that space next week!

I declare the Faire a success!  I didn’t get time to do ANY work on my projects.  I wish I had had more time to talk with people on the display side, also.  Next year, I’ll need a helper.  That’s rather exciting. : )

I have one Stages complete and one more just waiting final assembly.  Both will go onto Etsy soon.  Here are some preliminary cellphone shots of the first Stages – Dragon.



A life in perspective

My little brother had a rough time in kindergarten.  His color by numbers were always weird and wrong.  And then they were fine.  It turns out he has a red-green deficiency – his is partly color-blind.  He did his color by numbers as he saw them until he learned to read the names on the labels.  For him, the lawn is orange and any other shade would be wrong.


This was one of my first tastes of perspective, and I know I’ve mentioned the story in this blog before.  I wanted to see the world through his eyes and understand the differences in the view.

Shortly after we started dating, my husband bought me An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks.  It did not take long for me to become hooked on his narratives – the perspective he provided into the lives of people whose brains worked differently from my own.

Later,The Island of the Colorblind dealt with some of those first questions. I found the discussion of artwork by artists who see only black, white, and shades of gray – and the details within it that cannot be seen by the color-sighted – fascinating.  And Migraine helped me to understand my own migraine cycle, as well as put my head problems on a spectrum (where I was not all that bad off).

Oliver Sacks has had a great influence on the types of stories that I pursue and his influence is central in my push to help people connect through stories.  As he notes: “… there is no one like anyone else, ever. … it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”  We all have unique, and yet shared, perspectives.  Sharing our stories show us that we all encounter similar types of experiences and emotions – but also celebrates the unique approaches, viewpoints, and coping structures that we each build to deal with them.

There is infinite variety in life, and in story, and I thank Sacks for showing me that.

On the discovery recently that cancer has metastasized nastily and he does not have much time left, Sacks once again provided perspective.  His op-ed piece in the New York Times explores his view of the world, and what is important given the limited time he has left.  His focus has become intensely personal while also celebrating humanity.

He’s grateful for the adventure – and not calling it closed until it has to be.

It’s all perspective.

If you could see the world from someone else’s perspective, whose would it be?  Whose experience would you like to better understand through their stories?  Tell us in the comments below.

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.

A story about Rochester weather, kind of

First and foremost – there’s still time to register for my class on Monday at the Rochester Brainery!  Come get first-hand story gathering experience and learn the tips and tricks to collecting stories.

Second – a brief fable to take us into the weekend that I adapted for a ROCspot meeting.


Let me tell you a story about the Wind and the Sun. One typical May day in Rochester, NY, the Wind started at fight with the Sun. “I am stronger than you!” shouted the wind. “No way. I am stronger than YOU,” declared the Sun.

They fought back and forth for days. A war of words and claims. Finally, they decided to resolve the issue with a contest. Each would work their ways on a man walking down Main St. Whoever got him to take off his coat faster would be declared the stronger of the two.

He blew and blew and blew. Great gusts hit the man just as he came to the bridge. The Wind blew so hard, the man almost went flying in to the river.

He shivered in the gale and huddled deeper into his coat.

The Wind finally tired and gave up.

Now, it was the Sun’s turn. He shone and shone, smiling happily down on the man – who soon unbuttoned his coat. Then unzipped the liner. He grew warmer and warmer in the bright sunshine. Finally, he took off his coat altogether and draped it over his arm – muttering about the changeable Rochester weather.

The Sun managed to win through gentleness what the Wind could not conquer with brute force.


Enjoy the weekend!