What does it mean to be a storyteller?

Heads up: if you are near New Jersey, I am helping to organizing a free event on Saturday June 11 called the Madison Storytellers Festival. It features 20+ speakers and workshops, 10 musicians, and 3 open-mics. More info here.

For everyone else, my post below reflects on the vision behind the event: how each of us are storytellers, if we only choose to take the risk to do so.

What does it mean to be a storyteller?

To be someone who has a story to tell.

And finds a way to share it.

Someone who keenly observes the world around them.

And turns what they see into entertainment or insight that can spread.

To craft a narrative – with a beginning, a middle, and an end; that counterbalances our experience of life that just keeps going from scene to scene.

To take the risk — the social risk — to share this story with as much authenticity as possible.

To do so when no one expects this of you, when it is above and beyond all else that is required of you in life.

This is what I have been thinking about for the last several months. What it means to be a storyteller.

When we put together the agenda for the Madison Storytellers Festival, we considered the idea of “storyteller” as broadly as possible. Of the 20+ sessions we are featuring:

Spoken word call & response
Oral history
Storytelling through yoga
… and so much else.

I want those who attend the festival to walk away thinking one thing:


I want them to think this regardless of age: 5 year olds, 40 year olds; 80 year olds.

Because the truth is that we each have stories, but not all of us choose to tell them.

I want that to change. I want people to realize that storytelling can take many forms.

You can dance your story.
You can draw your story.
You can sculpt your story.

For organizing the event itself, I have written previously about the ins and outs of the process.

After months of planning, it happens in a week. And one thing that I am realizing is that the event itself, is a story.

The feeling I am filled with during planning is one of gratefulness. For our town for supporting this effort. For the Downtown Development Commission of Madison New Jersey for not only funding it, but being hands on with their advice, their resources, and in doing heavy lifting.

Gratefulness for all of the speakers, partners, vendors, supporters and volunteers. To the other members of the steering committee, who have met again and again throughout the winter and spring to make this event happen:

Madison Storytellers Festival
Dan Cafaro, Deborah Farrar Starker, Barb Short, John Pietrowski, and me.

Madison Storytellers Festival
Me, kids!, Melanie Tomaszewski, Deb, Dan C., and Barb Short.

Madison Storytellers Festival
Dan C., our town’s Mayor Bob Conley, Barb, and me.

Madison Storytellers Festival
Bonnie J. Monte, Walter Rodriguez, Deb, Barb, and me.

Madison Storytellers Festival
Barb, Deb, Mel, and me.

Madison Storytellers Festival
Deanna Quinnones, Barb, Dan C. and me.

On June 11, the Madison Storytellers Festival itself will create new stories.

Whether you can go to this event or not, I ask one thing of you this week:

What story will you tell?