The Power of a Single Story

28 Oct

I think it’s fair to say that I am bamboozled – in the best way possible – by all the responses to my last post.  Thank you all so much for reading, sharing, commenting, and thinking about my words.  Yes, I was trying to make a point, but all I was really doing is what I try to do with the majority of my writing:  tell a story.  The timing of that post coincides perfectly with what I’d like to do next, which is focus on other peoples’ stories.

There’s no way to deny the power of a single story.  J.K. Rowling became one of the most beloved and influential authors in the world by scribbling one in cafés and on her old typewriter.  James Joyce’s Dubliners helped inspire the Irish independence movement and the Easter Rising of 1916.  Dreaming of heroes and bounty hunters, Flash Gordon, and Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, young filmmaker George Lucas wrote a series of scripts in the early 70s that would become Star Wars, the third highest-grossing film in the history of cinema.  A diary given to a Dutch girl on her thirteenth birthday would be found two years later and published as The Diary of Anne Frank, the quintessential warning against the Holocaust.

I don’t pretend that my stories (or most stories) are nearly as influential, but it’s clear that stories in general hold humanity enthralled.  That’s why, when I got to Spain this semester, I wanted to investigate the stories we hold dearest to us.  As part of an independent study, I’ve created Everyday Folktales, a blog of interviews in the vein of Humans of New York and other sites that aim to shine a spotlight on what at first seems ordinary.  The posts will have two questions, which anyone can answer:

  1. Tell me a story.
  2. Why did you pick that story?

I want to know what you think when I say the words Tell me a story.  Is it your favorite fairy tale from when you were younger?  A memory?  The plot of your favorite book?  Something you make up on the spot? Whatever it is, I firmly believe that the stories we tell ourselves and each other also reveal what is most human about each of us.

If you’re interested in participating, feel more than free to do the following:

  1. Write down, in no more than 750 words, the answers to both questions.  If you’d like, create a video of yourself telling the story to go along with it.
  2. Send it to epb3xw@virginia.edu.  If you’re friends with me on Facebook, feel free to message it to me that way.  Include a picture of you and a title for your story.
  3. The story will go up within a week, and you’ll get the enormous satisfaction of knowing that a) people get to listen to you, and b) you’ve helped me a good deal in my independent study

If you’re in Valencia, Spain with me right now, good news: you don’t even have to do the work of filming yourselves!  I’d love to have as many UVA program participants as possible become interviewees, so comment or shoot me an email if you’d like to join in.  I’m working on getting good filming equipment, and we can talk/film whenever is convenient for you.

Although there’s nothing on it yet, you’ll be able to check out Everyday Folktales in under a week, so stay tuned and keep it on your radar!

To cap things off, here’s Isabel Allende with my favorite TED talk.  “There’s a Jewish saying that I love,” she says at the very beginning.  “‘What is truer than truth?’  Answer: ‘the story.’”

 

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