Why I Created Story Street Labs

By Carlos Frederico Rosenwald

My childhood was mostly spent living in different imaginary worlds and experiencing the most epic of imaginary battles. But it was around the age of 12, when much of my time was spent scribbling down ideas for what I then thought would be the most amazing Dungeons & Dragons adventures ever conceived, that I discovered creative writing as a true passion of mine. The thrill of coming up with totally new storylines and different characters, and imagining how they would interact with each other, and how surprised they would be when something completely unexpected happened next, felt more intense to me than winning any competition of any kind could ever feel. When I moved from my native Brazil to the United States at the age of 15, writing poems helped me deal with the sense of loss and displacement I battled against during much of my first few years abroad. And when I later started to develop a deeper interest in history and politics, writing short stories about dystopian societies gave me the freedom I sought to intimately question what I had been taught. Ever excited about my writing, I would soon start working on a promising and ambitious novel set during World War II.

But my promising and ambitious novel would have to wait. Life in the real world scared me to death — which meant I forced myself to see writing as a passion, as a hobby, not as something I ought to seriously invest my time on. I had been an International Relations and History double-major in college set on pursuing a career in international law, but sometime between my Junior and Senior years, at the height of the dot-com boom, I, like so many others, fell deeply in love with the range of possibilities the internet offered to profoundly change the way the world worked. New emerging companies like Kozmo, GeoCities, and Amazon mesmerized me as they seemed to fearlessly challenge long-established corporate giants to fist-fights. Napster blew my mind — of course I didn't know then I'd be back to collecting vinyl records in 2017. I now dreamt of one day becoming an entrepreneur — but first I needed to have a good grasp of how businesses were run.

By 2012 I found myself living a rather comfortable life. The past few years had been spent working as a senior executive for a British company in Brazil. I felt I made a good salary, was well respected by my peers, quite enjoyed my work and the people I worked with, and was surrounded by dear friends and family. Yet something didn't feel quite right. I felt guilty and ungrateful for not being able to simply enjoy how things had turned out, while secretly fearing how any type of soul-searching might end up affecting my carefully planned, comfortably lived life. I had often reminisced about the rush I felt when writing those stories in my younger years — and constantly reassured myself that one day, when the time was right, I would go back and finish the story I had so abruptly abandoned. And now I actually found myself considering whether that time had arrived.

But all stories have a twist. Mine came in the form of a crashed hard drive and a corrupted floppy disk. Just like that, the fatal error message blinking on my computer’s screen informed me that my novel had abandoned me for good. I was devastated — I still am, actually. I thought I had all the time in the world to tell my story — but that particular story couldn't wait that long to be told.

But that whole incident also got me thinking: what was it that had kept me from writing that story all those years?

You see, people have story ideas all of the time. Get a group of people together to discuss a movie they've seen or book they've read and it will only take them a matter of seconds before they're discussing alternative plots, passionately advocating for different endings, or pitching their own sequels. We are all creative storytellers — whether we admit it to ourselves or not. Put us in a risk-free, non-judgemental environment, and all of us can become creative geniuses. But ask us to tell those same stories ideas as best as we can and most of us become nervous. We tell ourselves we can't do it. We tell ourselves we are not good enough.

I wonder how many amazing stories the world never got to hear because their authors lacked the time, the commitment, or the confidence to get their stories out there. But what it telling those stories became easier? What if they could be shared with the world in smaller chunks, so that the work involved wouldn't overwhelm you?

That's how I had the idea for Story Street Labs: an online community where anyone is welcome to share short-stories and serialized narrative stories. We want to make the writing process easier for the amateur storytellers in all of us, while maximizing the opportunity for having our stories read by adapting them to the fast-paced, mobile world we currently live in.

We are only just beginning our long trip — and I'm thrilled not only about what we'll get to see once we finally arrive, but also all the stories we'll get to experience along the way.

I wonder now if perhaps this was not the story I was meant to start all along — and with your support, it might just turn out to be my best yet.