Telling Stories…About Stories

Amy Orringer blogs about attending The Story Conference, a day-long conference all about telling stories. Here’s a quote from their website, “The Story is not about theories of stories, or making money from stories, but about the sheer visceral pleasure of telling a story.”

I think I heard somewhere that your brain really likes being surprised. Not scared-suprised, but delighted-surprised (it must’ve been RadioLab, as that’s where all my knowledge of neuroscience comes from). And when your brain gets all delighted-surprised, it absorbs more, enjoys more, and ultimately leaves you with that warm fuzzy feeling.

So even though my day started off quite badly last Friday (see boot zipper malfunction below, that was on the bus, with no emergency shoes in sight), I definitely drifted away from The Story 2013 on a pink fluffy cloud of happiness.


Full disclosure — I had no idea what I was walking into. I did check the web site for details after I purchased my ticket, but at that time, there wasn’t an agenda posted. Even if there was, I’m not entirely sure it would have prepared me for the day. The agenda we did receive as we walked in was printed on the opposite side of a bag of high-quality Witches Brew, a special blend of tea specifically commissioned by The Story from the Hoxton Street Monster Supply Store. Proceeds from the day went to benefit the Ministry of Stories, the secret organization behind the Monster Supply Store, so it was fitting that we’d be greeted by their products.

TheStory2013front TheStory2013back

It’s hard to talk chronologically about the day, because it wasn’t really organized in any linear fashion (that I could discern anyway). It was just a bunch of really talented, interesting people telling stories about how they tell stories. So to make sense out of my jumble of notes and taking a cue from this brilliant blog, I’m just going to give you my top five moments of the day:

1. Laura Dockrill – So this woman walks up on stage, with her crazy colourful hammer pants, and her black tied-up collared shirt, and shiny stars stuck on her face, and her hair doing something which can only be described as messy-chic. She has a book in her hand, and I think, yay! A reading! She gives us the speil to bring us up to speed on the plot, throws the book down, and starts “reading.” Only she’s not reading her book, she’s acting it out, with all the requisite voices! She gave a great interview afterwards as well. She said that the reason she approaches her readings with so much, let’s say, “energy,” is that she wants to show kids that they can be writers too! Writers don’t have to be old and wear glasses. She also said it was important for kids writers to make kids feel like they are important and listened to (we all fully agree with that one here at HKB).

2. Alecky Blyth — There’s really no good way to describe the kind of thing that Alecky has created. It’s basically a new way of putting on a play, one where the actors are basically fed their lines via earphones — but they’re not regular lines in a script — they are recordings of actual people, responding to a police incident in their neighborhood. Here’s a little taste:

I am so glad this production is doing another limited run at The National Theatre. This is obviously something best seen live!

3. Ben Boucquelet — One of the things that always annoys me about listening to artists speak is that it always feels like they just woke up one day and produced something brilliant. Ben however, did not downplay the blood, sweat and tears which went into making his ridiculously funny cartoon show The Amazing World of Gumball. He made it clear that Gumball was, and continues to be a labour of love. He showed us different phases of the process, even side-by-side with the final product at some points. He encouraged us to embark on our own absurdly difficult creative endeavors, just as long as we really, really love what we’re working on.

4. Michael Please — I might be a bit biased towards anything to do with stop-motion video, but I think even the average visual arts appreciator was awestruck by Michael’s work. Michael is a brilliant stop-motion animator who made a film about the relative value of time. Take a look:

5. Fiona Romeo — Before last Friday, if you’d asked me about the top 10 museums to visit in London, the National Maritime Museum wouldn’t have made the list. But after listening to Fiona Romeo, the director of the museum, explain how she approaches the exhibits, I’m putting in the top 3. She talked about how museums are inherently about telling people stories, and exhibits should be designed accordingly. OK this is not a shock, but what was fascinating is the way Fiona described designing exhibits so that people could experience the narrative the the way they felt most comfortable. Whether you want to take a deep dive or just dip your toe into the information, you could still walk away with a story.

If you can believe it, this is only a teeny tiny taste of the amazingness of the day. I walked away feeling excited about the stories we could tell at Hot Key Books. Not just the ones that our authors write, but the stories behind, beyond, and beside those stories. What I realised is that even though we (as in, humanity) are incredibly practiced at storytelling, there are always new ways to do it, just as long as we are willing to put on our crazy pants, stick earphones in our ears, play with clay, animate the inanimate, and redesign the regular.

(And here’s another blog about The Story conference, comparing it to attending the Brit awards… verrry interesting.)


4 responses to “Telling Stories…About Stories

  1. The conference sounds ace – what a great range of people.

  2. Fantastic post! I can wholeheartedly recommend London Road at the National – it is superb, really clever way of putting on theatre. Go!

  3. Lovely post, this. Your re-telling of Laura on stage is bang on. She was great, wasn’t she…!

    Thanks for the link btw…

  4. Thanks all! I had such a great time. Can’t wait for next year!

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