Fall is ripe with stories

There’s a crispness in the air.  More order to the shorter days as school gets underway.  The leaves turn and crunch underfoot.  Apple and pumpkin dominate the flavor scene, like it or not.  And nothing beats a story tied with an autumnal bow.

Ideally while cradling a steaming mug of spiced cider in chilly hands.

But potentially in a booth!  Or nestled amidst forested hills!

The Key Bank Rochester Fringe Festival runs Sept 14-23 and the Storychick Storybooth will be at its heart – in the Spiegelgarden at One Fringe Place, for the duration!  Come, listen to a Fringe story, and leave one of your own!  Come back to catch new stories – I’ll be swapping new for old regularly throughout the Fringe.

I’m really excited about this concept, about Fringe, and about the potential for story discovery throughout the city!  Be sure to stop and check it out!

Never Fringed before?  You don’t know what you’re missing – this is an incredible assemblage of vast and varied talent and it’s very #ROC.

You also have the opportunity to be among the first stories heard opening weekend.  Call 585-210-0805 and leave a story (The recording will run for 3 minutes.  If you need more time, call back) about a Fringe experience! I know we live in a town of last-minute Lou-Lous, but I do need to get set up ahead of time, so please call now!


Post-Fringe blues? Craft and hone a personal story along with me at the amazing Cumming Nature Center Sept 30 at 12 and 230!  I’ll give you story tips through the day as we iteratively work in groups and on our own to craft a tale for day’s end.  Storytelling is as old as human history – it’s part of our nature – and everyone has a story worth sharing.  Let me help you find yours at the Heritage Maker Storytelling workshop!



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!



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.

Art <3 Stories – Jack Porcello – II

Was Jack able to save the library in Mumford with his storytelling?  Let’s find out in this second half of his storyteller’s story.

That week, we got a report back from Jackie that we’d met 200% of our goal in media that was to be taken out. So we continued. Every month I did this presentation and every month afterwords, people took out stuff and people started coming in and taking out stuff more and more. And the library is still open to this day.

In fact, I believe it was the 10th anniversary of that first presentation, they called and asked me if I’d come out and do another. And I did. The kids from the first time where teens and older and some brought their kids. We had a great time. It was a great reunion for everybody. Peg was still clerk. We had such a blast. Just knowing that that library is still in operation … fabulous.

After that I started getting more and more into that. But I also needed to do something to make a living, since my income source had dried up. I decided, after a few forays into different things, I decided to go back to MCC and take some computer classes. All that time I was still trying to finish my graduate degree in divinity, which I’d been working on a little bit at a time for a decade.

Talking to some advisory people at MCC, I got to know some people and one of them asked me if I wanted to be involved in the theatrical arm of peer counseling. So I said: “Sure.” What we’d do, at the time the Assistant Director of the Counseling Department (she went on to become the Vice President of MCC for quite some time), she and I sat down and we wrote a little introductory drama for students that were just coming in. And we would, at all the orientations, we would do this drama, she and I, and we had a couple of people that we wrote parts for that were in the faculty, as well, representing their departments. And it got me again, the bug hit again. I was really enjoying it and wanted to do more.

When I started taking classes at MCC, that was during the time of the alt.net talk groups and one of them was what became BalloonHQ. Larry Moss and I met through this discussion group. At first I didn’t know that he was the one behind it. We realized that we were both from Rochester – hey, let’s get together and get a cup of hot cocoa and talk about stuff.

I had been playing with balloons for a while before that. I had goofed around with them, I used them in church, when I was in the children’s ministry – I made balloon animals and things and I did a few programs where I developed a little gospel theme. I started working with Larry more. We started doing some stuff together out at festivals. But I wanted to do more than just being a “balloon factory” – churning out balloons and handing them to kids for $1 a pop or whatever. I didn’t want to do that anymore. I wanted to do something else. So I started developing storytelling with balloons. Not knowing that it was already out there. The first balloon story that I developed on my own was the story of the Stonecutter. I started by trying to make these really elaborate balloon sculptures that took me hours to lay the stage and then the presentation was 25 minutes and it just seemed so pointless. What I did was I toned it down. I made minimalist sculptures that really didn’t do any more than illustrate what I was trying to say. The story allowed the balloons to come to life in the minds of the people that were watching. I got the kids involved and got people involved in the story, had them represent different elements. I ended up publishing in a balloon magazine. I started doing some other stuff. I wrote a few books on balloons and storytelling – a couple of them were religious balloons and storytelling books, one was not.

For a while, I had put off the whole divinity thing completely because this computer thing was very lucrative. I was making a lot of money, but I still kept something going, I always had some sort of little fellowship group happening, much like the group we have now. It was a bit more religious. And after a while, after I’d worked at a couple of different places, I worked at one company and things went poorly – not in as much as I did a bad job there or my work wasn’t recognized as good, but I did not like the direction they were taking. There were a lot of things that I was involved with that, I told the company I was being used as a pawn, in a cutthroat fashion and I had to leave.

I came home and talked to Lorraine. “What are we going to do?” The balloon thing was starting to pick up. I was doing library and school shows. I was working a couple of restaurants. That’s when I put on a lot of weight. I got paid cash, tips, and $50 in food vouchers every night I worked at this one place. I worked every Friday and Saturday. For two people, back then, that was a lot of food. It got to be too much. I got tired of the restaurant thing. I started concentrating more on private shows. I started teaching workshops on balloons and storytelling – across the States and Canada. I did a few every year. I started developing that more.

Then I realized, maybe I need to get back into the divinity thing again. So this is what took me into my present leg of storytelling – which is telling people’s stories in a ministry-type of situation. I still have my ministry credentials, of course. At that time, I was committed to finishing my degree, so I got my graduate degree in divinity and applied pastoral care. Got that done. I was very happy, I had my degree, it was all over with….

I got a call from my sister one evening. “OK, what’s up?”

She said, “You’re going to kill me.”

“What happened?”

“Well, a friend of mine from work came in and she was so upset because she’s Catholic and her fiance is an Atheist and nobody will do their wedding for them. She wants to be married in the church and he’s OK with that, but he’s not going to convert. So nobody will do their wedding. So I told her: ‘Ah, my brother’s a minister. He’ll do it for you.’ – jokingly. And she went: ‘Oooooh, will he? Can I get his number? Could you give him my number?’”

Now my sister’s freaking out. ‘Oh, my gosh. What did I do?’

So she called me. “If you don’t want do this, I understand. BUT, would you consider it?”

I said: “Look. Give me her number. I’ve seen the church piss a lot of people off, turn a lot of people away, not do what it’s supposed to do, so maybe this is an opportunity for me to take ministry in a new direction.”

When I did that wedding, other people – professionals who were working too – said: “That was really great! Can we have your card?” I didn’t have a card. “Well, can we give people your information?”

“Sure. Certainly. OK.” And that started snowballing. At first it was a situation where I was very generic about the way I presented things and I did not like that at all. I thought: ‘How can I make this more personal?’ – Make it less about religion. Ministry should be less about religion and more about the individuals. So I worked very hard to get to know people. At first, it was a lot of effort, because I had to sit and talk with people and take notes. It was fun, too, because I got to know people. Got to know them by sitting and talking with them a lot. And because of that I felt that I was able to present their stories in an adequate fashion.

But because I was doing that and it seemed like something that was unique for the area, more and more wedding professionals started giving my name out. So I figured: ‘OK, I don’t have time to meet with anybody a dozen times before their wedding any more. What do I do?’ I developed other techniques to gather information about them and streamlined getting to know them in that way. To the point where I was doing a LOT of weddings. Quite a few weddings. In fact, the most I ever did in one year was 200.

That was the year that really killed me. But it was the year that Lorraine was finishing up her Master’s degrees, so I needed to be out of the house anyway.

I started to realize that ministry isn’t about giving anybody false hope or fantasy to believe in or hold onto. I also realized that I did not want to be a Pastor. Because I did not want to have sheep for followers. I hated that illustration, even when I was with the established church. I want people to understand what they believe. I didn’t want to present fantasy as reality. I wanted to present fantasy as a powerful tool to help define who you are and who we are as a people – a community, a society, or a tribe, whatever you want to call it. I wanted to see story used in that regard, and there were a lot of opportunities not only in the Christian religion (I did a lot of comparative religious studies.).

So that’s what caused us to take Joining Hands Ministries and Our Fellowship Gatherings in the direction where they currently are. We invite people from all faiths to come and present a respectful environment for them to share what their beliefs are and how they impact upon their lives. And all we ask is that you have the same respect for others that we have for you. That you don’t try to convert others to your way of thinking, but present it – and that you don’t ridicule others’ way of thinking.

Now I want to tell other people’s stories. I try to skate the line between emotionalism and practicality. I believe both are very important to story. You have to have that drive, that push that comes from the emotional element of it. But also the practical side, with a little comedy thrown in.

Every now and then I feel almost disappointed wondering about what would have happened if I had kept a larger congregation. I probably could have made a really good living, but I would not have been able to do it from the point of view of some way that I felt sincere. There would always be a bit of insincerity, a beguiling element. So if we’re 10-12 people for the rest of my life meeting together at a little artist’s studio downtown, I’m okay with that. I’m really happy with the way it is right now.

A show about neighbors

A little over a year ago, I came up with an idea that would make our Rochester community stronger using stories. I knew that, fundamentally, the principles were right, but I didn’t quite have enough details to make the sale. I kept at it, pushing and pulling at the design to get to something that would resonate AND work.

Last spring, I bit into a plan to do a show for the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. It gave me a hard deadline – I had to have something to put on stage on the show date – and meant that I could be part of an awesome Rochester event (Did you know that Rochester’s Fringe Festival, in 2012- the first year – was immediately the 5th largest in the US? This year, it doubled in size…) and surrounded by shows that I’m honored to be associated with.

Last week, we put on the show! Wow. Or, as Gordon Ramsay would say: “Wow. Wow, wow, wow.”

First, my thank-yous. Thank you to my marvelous cast – without you the show would have been quite dull and your personal stories were a wonderful addition. Extra thanks to Dave for helping me with all of the stage bits that I had no clue about. Thanks Donald, Dave, Alexis, Judy, and Miriam!

Thank you to the people who contributed stories – to Kate, Davin, Lilly & Rhonda, Micky, Tanvi, Jan, and Joan. Your stories are the heart of Rochester and what made this all possible. Thank you so much for sharing.  Thanks to those who contributed stories not used in the show – yours will be part of the trading cards to come!

Thanks also to RAPA, the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival, Joan Hildebrand at the Rochester Public Market, and Voula’s. And to Futons & More, our show sponsor. Thank you to my husband, Joel, for listening throughout the process and helping to gather stories. Thanks to Jenny for bringing refreshments while gathering.


I thought that the project would bring the audience and the story owners and the cast closer together by challenging assumptions. Challenging stereotypes about what types of people live where and what their lives are like. That the show would reveal common emotions and experiences to create one-on-one connections between people.

This did not happen, but that does not mean that I failed.

Because, ultimately, I wanted to draw our community closer together and make it stronger through the use of stories. And what happened at the show was just that. People learned more about Rochester and the types of people in it. They felt a universal common bond of place. They came together as Rochestarians.

That’s wicked cool.

People were excited, emotional, and inspired after the show. From the comment cards that I collected, the one universal improvement mentioned was to include more stories – some mentioned neighborhoods that I have yet to mark on my map.


I am so happy at the success. So excited to be named “Best Community Exchange” in the mid-festival review from our City newspaper. And brimming with ideas for what’s next.

This will move forward and I can’t wait to show you where it can go!

And Now, for the Conclusion of … The Golden Lamb

I know you were waiting for it!  Here’s the end of the story of the Golden Lamb – and my favorite bits.

Today is also the Spokes & Ink festival (12-6) at the Genesee Center for Art & Education on Monroe Ave here in Rochester. There’ll be bands, food trucks, bikes, letterpress, and posters for sale! Check out the Storychick poster in the mix! 🙂

Super-Meta Story Thing!

I’ve been digging around and have come up with a handful of awesome stories about storytelling that I want to share with you.  They touch the tip of the iceberg of the importance of stories – some quite literally, some quite figuratively.  Come, lend me your ear!

(BTW, the video was recorded Friday, so the “early next week” I mention at the end is probably more likely late this week)

Comments welcome!

One other quick note, I’ve entered an Intuit contest for grants and a chance at promotion during the Big Game in February!  Please check out the quick link & vote – you can vote daily and no registration is necessary!