Turning Memories Into Stories : A Wonderful Online Resource Guide

One of my favourite experiences in gathering and sharing stories happened back in 2008, when I worked with, and learned from, a wonderful Professor Emeritus from UBC, James Thornton, PhD.  The project took place at the SHOAL Centre (a seniors centre) in nearby Sidney, BC and was funded through New Horizons for Seniors Initiative.   It involved working with approximately 30 seniors over an eight week period to help them discover and tell their life stories.  It was based on the Guided Autobiography model developed by James Birren, PhD (UCLA).

What or Who do you see?

Watching participants change over the weeks, as they shared the stories of their lives with one another, was transformational for all involved.  Each week, we would learn more about their lives – the good and bad, the happy and sad.  And through that journey, as their life stories were revealed, layer upon layer, they become more than what they had been – to themselves, and to one another.

Being seen has so much to do with being heard.

So, when I was asked to be part of the Storycare Project through Storytelling Toronto – by facilitating a workshop on collecting stories from seniors – I was more than happy to share what I’d learned. But what I want to share with you today is the link to this online resource guide, Memories Into Stories .  This is the result of all the hard work undertaken by the Storycare Project team: Debra Baptiste, Dinny Biggs and Dan Yashinsky.  Hats off to this team for all the work they’ve done.  For anyone interested in Arts in Health practice, this is truly a treasure trove of resources.


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The Legacy of a Storytelling Granny: A Radio Interview

“A human being is nothing but a story with skin around it.” Fred Allen

Granny Jamieson

My love and respect for stories, and the important role they play in our lives, can be traced back to my childhood years and, specifically, time spent with my Granny Jamieson (my mother’s mother).  She was nothing short of magical in her ability to weave excitement and narrative into what others might consider rather mundane, everyday events.

It seemed that there were more stories back then – but perhaps this was because people provided more space for them to emerge, more attention to coax them out, and were more eager to listen as they unfolded.  And, stories were primarily local; told by and about people and places that were familiar to their audience.  Nowadays we have the luxury of receiving stories from across the globe, delivered at a time, and on a screen, of our choosing.  But I believe we still need to hear, and share stories from, and about, the people we live, work and play with.  I created a one-woman show dedicated to my Granny’s legacy and if you’re interested in learning more about her, and the gift she gave me, here’s a link to a Literary Landscapes radio interview with CKCU FM’s  Kate Hunt  recorded prior to my one-woman show at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on April 27, 2017.  My hope is that a little of Granny’s enthusiasm for creating and sharing stories will inspire you to do the same.

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Want to learn more about choosing, crafting and sharing stories strategically?

Then attend AFP’s upcoming Lunch & Learn: Donor Relations – It’s All About the Story: Choosing, Crafting and Sharing Stories Strategically to Raise Funds

Presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Vancouver island Chapter on March 23 – 11:30am – 2:00pm Venue: University of Victoria  Members $65 | Non-members $80

While all fundraising organizations have stories to tell, what’s often missing is the knowledge of how to choose, craft and share stories strategically to educate prospects and donors about the mission of your organization and clearly articulate the crucial role they can play in your organization’s ongoing ‘story of success.’

However, adopting a more strategic approach in using stories to build and maintain positive donor relations can only be achieved by shifting to a truly donor-centred model of fundraising. This shift requires us to take the time to discover and understand what our donors wish to accomplish through their philanthropy (now and/or in the future), then find the match with what our organizations wish to achieve, and work with donors all the way through to reporting on impact and outcomes. This approach incorporates the exploration and creation of organizational, donor and beneficiary stories.   And, to accomplish this requires the integration of fundraising and communication skills and knowledge.

So whether you work in a large organization or a small shop, we believe you will find what fundraising and communications industry experts Norma Cameron, CFRE and Sarah Tarnopolsky have to share about using stories to achieve positive donor relations both interesting and useful.

Please join us on March 23 and leave with a toolbox of practical tips and techniques you can start to use immediately to strengthen your relationships with your donors.  Don’t be disappointed, buy your tickets today.


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Norma to present her one-woman storytelling show at the National Arts Centre, Ottawa, April 27

Coalmines, Council Houses & Corsets: The Life & Times of a Scottish Granny

Courtesy of Ottawa StoryTellers

Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 7:30 pm

National Arts Centre: Back Stage – click here for tickets

The best storyteller I’ve ever known was my mother’s mother, my Granny Jamieson. And when she died in 1994, I decided to honour her legacy by sharing her stories with others.  I am thrilled that Ottawa StoryTellers has asked me to perform this show, allowing me to share ‘Granny’ with a whole new audience.

Join Norma for a stroll down memory lane to the small coal-mining town of Cambusnethan in the lowlands of Scotland and discover how Helen Jamieson, born in 1900 into poverty, managed to carve out a life full of love, laughter and adventure. With one foot firmly planted in Cambusnethan as the wife of a coalminer and the other in the land of wonderment, she created a world full of joy and fascination. Join Norma and visit Granny Jamieson’s council house and mining community, travel with her on a romantic adventure to Rio de Janeiro, learn a thing or two about corsets, visit Buckingham Palace and discover Granny’s role in helping the Queen Mum become the most loved member of the Royal Family.

This show saw its debut in Prince Edward Island and most recently, in 2016, played to a sold-out crowd on Vancouver Island.

Born just outside Glasgow, Norma has been a writer and storyteller for as long as she can remember. She has performed across Canada, the USA, England, Scotland and Ireland. She served as President of the Storytellers of Canada, and teaches storytelling to individuals and organizations through her business, The Narrative Company.

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We Are Our Stories: A 3 hour Narrative Discovery Workshop with Norma Cameron in Ottawa, April 26

norma-cameron-nac-word-pressWednesday, April 26, 2017 from 6-9pm at Knox Presbyterian Church, 120 Lisgar Street, Ottawa, Cost $65 or $50 for Ottawa Storyteller Members (Tickets here) Presented by Ottawa StoryTellers

A human being is nothing but a story with skin around it. ~Fred Allen

We used to be rich in stories – told to us by our parents, grandparents and others – including current or historical stories about our family, about people and places in our community, myths, legends, fairytales, fables and more. Unfortunately, many of us don’t tell, or listen to those stories anymore and as a result we risk losing a sense of place, of history – and possibly even a sense of one’s self.

And yet, we’re all ‘hardwired’ to be wonderful storytellers. Story listening and telling is how we’ve passed on knowledge for thousands of years. But, like any skill – use it or lose it — and risk  creating a huge ‘story gap’.  And remember, if we aren’t the authors of our own stories, then whose stories are we, and our children, carrying around, learning from and sharing with others?

Stories are powerful – the ones most dominant in our culture can shape our values, meaning and purpose in life. They can galvanize, motivate and fundamentally change individuals, families, communities and even nations.  After all, We Are Our Stories.

This workshop will provide you with a deeper understanding of ‘why’ stories are so powerful and, introduce you to a process on how to uncover your ‘narrative self’, and provide you with tools, tips and techniques to help you hone storytelling skills – including choosing, crafting, learning and telling stories. And, of course, you’ll hear a few stories along the way.

If you are interested in finding our more about the power of story for personal or professional reasons and want to expand your knowledge and skills in this area, then why not join Norma for an evening of narrative discovery.

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Stories of Wisdom Found & Shared

Discovering Wisdom…through Story Listening

In 1994, my life changed.  My Granny (the best storyteller I’ve ever heard) died and I picked up her baton and began my journey as a storyteller. But it was also the year I discovered the transformative power of collecting and sharing personal stories. And, that wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for Christopher J. Kinman M.SC., M.DIV.  Our paths crossed while working at Matsqui Abbotsford Community Services, I managed the fundraising and public relations department and Christopher was a counsellor working with young offenders and their families.  We soon struck up a friendship around our interest in the power of story.

One day, he invited me to be a guest editor and writer for a journal he produced called Local Wisdom.  The purpose of these journals was to collect ‘real life’ stories (from people who were marginalized in society) and share them, anonymously, with community service providers (e.g. probation officers, school counsellors, social workers, the police, etc.).  And in doing so, provide a platform for these voices to be heard.  I was to interview mothers of young offenders who were reluctant to attend his support groups.  As a former journalist, I welcomed the opportunity to step back into listening and writing, from an objective perspective. While they were hesitant to share their story in a group setting, we hoped they might do so, one on one.  And, after a number of lengthy conversations explaining who I was and what I was looking for, eight women agreed to be interviewed.

I explained the goal was to collect the wisdom they had honed over the years of caring for their children and dealing with social services. At first, they were a little reluctant, but once they realized their advice, knowledge and ‘lived experience’ could help other families they became a lot more comfortable. In fact, most said that they were surprized to learn that anyone would value what they had to offer. The end result was this issue of Local Wisdom,The Other Side of Silence Wisdom of the Mothers

As I look back on that experience, over 20 years ago, I realize it was the starting point of my self-directed research and work into ‘applied’ narrative. I will never forget some of those women or their stories of resilience, courage and most of all, love. And, apart from a couple of pretty lacklustre attempts at poetry by me (haven’t we all written poetry at some point?), the words captured in this journal bring back strong, vivid memories of women who opened up their hearts and told their difficult, personal, stories. I remember how pleased I was to hear from Christopher that a few of these women decided to join his support groups and one in particular became a powerful spokesperson for social change.

Why am I sharing this old publication now? Well on the eve of the Narrative Matters 2016 conference, in reviewing my presentation, I was reminded of this pivotal experience that taught me that the power of story is not always in the telling, but often in the listening.  Listening is a gift…and so many of us carry stories (and wisdom) just waiting to be heard. It’s a gift we can all give.


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“We Are Our Stories” Keynote presentation by Norma at Narrative Matters 2016 Conference in Victoria

If you want to understand how stories and conversations impact you and your community, or how stories have the power to influence future government policies, healthcare practices as well as  everyday life…then you need to attend this amazing conference.

Believe me...Narrative Matters!

Believe me…Narrative Matters!

The University of Victoria and Royal Roads University are hosting international and Canadian scholars in Victoria, June 20 – 23 to present Narrative Matters 2016. This conference, open to the general public, features presentations on how narrative research is transforming people and communities around the world (including South Africa, Japan, India, Australia, Korea, Germany, USA,  Malaysia and Finland).


Check out the program which includes presentations from national and international scholars, acclaimed keynote speakers and an evening presentation by former UN ambassador Stephen Lewis.

Information and registration for Narrative Matters 2016 is available on the conference website. Come for just a day, or stay for all four and enjoy an incredible journey of discovery. Learn how the power of story gathering, sharing and listening is being re-discovered as a way to investigate, describe and understand important aspects of individual and social change.

On Tuesday, June 21, spend the day at the University of Victoria visiting various story stations showcasing Victoria-based narrative research projects that are attracting global attention. For example, vertical narrative: telling stories on Coast Salish totem poles, mapping communities by using stories from the past and present, multi-generational health care practices learned from family stories, a personal story from the frontlines of climate change and, at lunchtime, you can hear my keynote presentation, We Are Our Stories. 

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