#StoriesWeTellWeek: an online celebration of workshop creations

Our workshop “Stories We Tell” was dedicated to storytelling for social change and took place in France last month. This week we’ve been sharing some crunchy details on the process and the creations. Here they are.

We curated several mini books to share artists’ stories, poems, illustrations. During the “online festival” week we shared them all.

During the workshop we dove into many way to approach storytelling. It was quite exciting to mix them — using words, images, sound, video for telling stories and sending social messages. Whilst being part of an extremely intense process, we managed to create some evidence on the process. Now we are using the opportunity to share with you not only our creations but also the exercise and the learning outcome from it.

Coffee Stories

Coffee occupies a big place in Turkish culture. There is even a saying: “Coffee is an excuse but stories are great’’. Fortune-telling from coffee leftovers is a culturally rooted practice that enriches the storytelling abilities of the entire Turkish population (and the Balkans too). We believe all storytellers from Europe and elsewhere would gain a lot in discovering and adopting it. After a cup of Turkish coffee with delights, writers from all over the world were asked to read from each other coffee grounds. By looking at coffee traces each participant wrote a poem addressed to the cup’s owner.

The result is a creativity boost, a new and old method to draw a storytelling line. Using cultural rituals and iconography combined with imagination, the exercise provides people with a chance to renew the perception of their cultural backgrounds.

See it for yourself: look at the poems in this album or download the e-book here.

Telling stories in different ways

Different media influences stories differently. We explored the process of creating a story in words, in visuals and in sound. The participants went outside to an unexpected adventure in Bernay en Ponthieu and collected inspiration, ideas and stories from the local environment. Abandoned houses, barking dogs, hidden treasures — whatever was out there, was a beginning of a story to be told.

By groups of 3 we collected 3 stories from locals. We were using different mediums to approach them from visual, sound and writing side. Together we made a sharing round with other groups about our experience and how different medias influence the same story.

Some of the stories that came from Bernay are these:
-Lisa’s view on the exercise is here. Also, then she worked on her first draft on “Marcel Runs” — a remarkable piece that was with us during the whole project.

-Alex’s Bernay story is a tiny illustrated book — even though she had the task to write a story, she moved back to her comfort zone by creating some illustrations of it too.

-Vlad’s “Frogio et Frugliet” was another piece that was created during that exercise.

-Jasmina’s “Layers” of an abandoned house tell its story by image.

Blackout poetry

“Blackout poetry” is creating a poem from a text by scratching the unnecessary words.

Have you heard of Blackout poetry, a creative practice invented by Austin Kleon? Pick a piece of pre-printed paper. By choosing and circling/boxing specific words chosen on the page, you will create a poem. The unchosen words can be blacked out or obscured in any way. Experiment with your perception of words and meaning. You may enjoy using someone else’s work to build a new piece of art. Then mount the page on a larger piece of paper and illustrate or embellish the poem in any way you choose.

Doing this work illustrates how writing is not just about the juxtaposition of words. It is the order we use them in that brings meaning: one word can have a myriad of different meanings depending on its context. We can also draw a parallel between the journey of pages and our human journey. The full book or newspaper we pick our original printed text from represents the way that many individuals together create a whole — a culture, a country, a society. No matter the fact there are different things on each page, they are all part of the whole. The removal of a single page represents both the loss of the individual from the whole (culture/country/family) and the beginning of the individual’s loss of that whole. The slow curation of words on the page to poetry is an illustration of the individual’s growth into themselves, in their newly defined context.

Enjoy reading the poems created at “Stories We Tell” blackout poetry workshop facilitated by Lisa Gates Thiessen!

Download the mini book here.

Rewrite classic tales

In 2009 the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a TED talk called “The Danger of a Single Story.” It was about what happens when complex human beings and situations are reduced to a single narrative: when Africans, for example, are treated solely as pitiable poor, starving victims with flies on their faces. Her point was that each individual life contains a heterogeneous compilation of stories. If you reduce people to one, you’re taking away their humanity.

What would happen if we rewrite the classical fairy tales from the perspectives of different characters? What if the wolf from “Red Riding Hood” had a difficult life and was forced to hunt people to feed her little ones? Or the witch from “Hansel and Gretel” had a terrible childhood in which she was cursed?

During this activity the participants dove into the personal and psychological aspects of the stories, rewriting them from the perspective of other characters. Read the new stories!

Read the whole stories in the e-book here.

Visual Storytelling

Storytelling can be made using many ways of expressing: it could be by just telling stories verbally, but also by writing, photographing, drawing, video-making, music, theatre… It is amazing, isn’t it? After writing and rewriting, we explored the visual part of telling stories and some of the methods to do it: illustration, photography and movie-making. In series of several different activities we explored those ways and shaped stories according to different medias to tell visual stories. Because the world is getting more and more visual!

-Whilst Silvia’s workshop we explored visual vocabulary and how a message can be sent to the world with images. We dove into the ways of audience’s perception and how to address them according to their expectations. We created posters considering the 3 main components: topic, format & audience. Here are the results: e-book and online album.

-During the whole workshop we also had the assignment by Gabriela to take a photo illustrated a word. We called it “Photo Vocabulary” and here are our creations.

-And finally, let us share something hilarious with you! It is a short and very funny exercise that we made and it also showed very well how every single detail in our drawing/design adds something to the message. By a tiny little detail you can add context and change the whole meaning. Have some laugh here.

Final Creations

All of us had the final task to create our ultimate final creation for the project that gives a social message. We had books, illustrations, photo stories, live perfomances, installations, sound stories. We couldn’t put all of them in an awesome form to share now with you, but we will manage to show you some of them.

Here they are:

-”One Day With Littles” by Ilaria Fresa. Her illustrated book tells a powerful message, see it here.

-”A Story A Day Keeps Your Old Vision Away” byNilay Yılmaz. Another book that makes you reconsider your expectations + has some powerful questions at the end.

-“Snoring Room” by Roman Shchetkin. This illustrated book tells you about a girl’s journey to find a place where she could belong.

-“Marcel Runs” by Lisa Gates Thiessen. This piece that we carried with us all through the projec, till the very end and after…

-“Pandora’s Box” is a powerful short story by Ramon Martensen.

-“Heart & Brain” is a story to listen to, by Vlad Guzmán. At the final performing night it was performed as a “sound story” but you can read it here.

-“Toothless Monster” is a story by Bogdan Grigorewith another powerful message and some questions to help you think about it at the end.

-“The Sun And The Moon” by Silvia Alba. A lovely and inspiring video here.

-And finally, Leo Zbancă created this video about “Stories We Tell” just for a day! Watch here.

The Booklet

We created an e-book which contains most of the exciting exercises we did at the project. Feel free to share it and to try them out at your next training.


Download “Stories We Tell” Booklet here.


It was not all over after everyone left. “Stories We Tell” will definitely have future follow-ups, not to mention that the workshop deserves to have more editions in other countries. However, here is what happened shortly after the project’s end:

One end is another beginning.

-Sara did a performing arts workshop at “Stories We Tell” but then we also brainstormed about ideas how to decorate a concrete amphitheatre in Italy with kids. Earlier this month Bruno and Roman joined her there and they did it! Look what they have created here.

-She also created 1000 paper cranes during our workshop! Unbelievable but true! And many of them flied with us in different directions and parts of the world. Here are their stories.

-Ramon created a new website for his project — you can now listen to his stories.

-Lisa is making summary of all of the activities at “Stories We Tell” — you should definitely look at her blog here.

Tell us, which exercises did you like the most? Will you try some of them on your own? We are looking for your feedback — let us know if you’ve read the stories and loved them! Do not shy away from sharing them with your friends!

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