How Has Story Impacted You?

Story empowers, changes us.

Whether we read a story book or hear a friend’s tale or see a movie, we experience it as if we live it. Our brain lights up in the same areas as if we had been the character ourselves. Fascinating! The result: we grow and change and spark others on to the same as we share our own (or ones that have become our own) stories.

Birth stories teach us about the miracle of life and birth. Who can help but shed a tear at the moment the mother sees her newborn’s face in Call the Midwife on Netflix? These stories give us the strength to push through our own birth adventure or admire those women who have done so.

Coming-of-age stories show us how difficult it is to grow up and discover who we are created to be but also allow us to experience the joy of it. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee teaches me that surface differences only hide our similarities and that judgment hurts others.

Love stories give us hope that there is someone for us, someone who understands us and accepts us for who we are. My favorite love story shows that no matter what I’ve done, there is someone who knows me better than I know myself and who still loves me. That love story is found in the New Testament.

Adventures allow a safer way to feel the thrill of events for those of us who might not put skydiving or war or swimming with dolphins on our bucket list but secretly would like to try (or know about) certain thrills. I loved experiencing what life is like in North Korea by reading The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. Happy to not have to experience what the protagonist did while discovering the pain and reward of an ultimate sacrifice.

Mysteries, crime, science fiction, historical and more have their own flavors, and since we all are different, provide us with stories that appeal to our own tastes. One example I just read is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, a story set in WWII about the tragedy of war but also a story of how kindness can prevail even in awful circumstances.

Even contemporary fiction has a wide range to give us a glimpse into different cultures than we are in. Socioeconomic, gender, race, and religion differences–to name a few–blur in the pages of story. Right now, I’m reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. The protagonist is a self-educated French concierge who is befriended (and maybe more than that) by a wealthy Japanese man. Here I’m learning to embrace who I am and not adhere to who society thinks I should be.

Family stories told around the dinner table or at family gatherings tell us how those who have gone before us are still with us to teach us. My great grandmother immigrated with a friend from Finland at age sixteen in 1897, not knowing another soul and never seeing her family again, because she wanted to go to America where she would lie under a “raisin tree to eat raisins whenever she wanted.” Her name was Sunna and her story taught me to follow my dreams.

How have the stories you’ve read, heard, and seen impacted who you are today? I’d love to hear how.




It’s About Story


We told stories around the campfire.

Someone told of a moment of fame ultimately splashed with humility. Another shared an experience with a well-known celebrity that has become part of the family lore. Childhood memories and funny stories and more helped the listeners understand each other as we warmed around the campfire.

We all love stories because it’s how we were designed to learn and grow. It all started around a campfire when the hunters and gatherers of long ago learned from and entertained each other in the same way I did with my friends a few weekends ago.

At this particular campfire, I was at a retreat for writers. Mick Silva taught Story Vision. I went to get help on a story I’m working on. I still had questions. Did I have unnecessary plot points? Were my characters believable and sympathetic? Was my theme universal, something that would resonate with my readers?

Fourteen writers and Mick allowed plenty of individual attention. Also, the camaraderie of this group of writers allowed continual conversations on our favorite subject: writing story.

Mick covered the basic elements such as character, plot, theme, scenes, dialogue, style, and voice, which led to discussing novels that work so we could determine why they worked. That helped in a practical way because, again, we talked about story. What makes a great story? Why did you love that story? We shared titles and grew our book lists.

“Don’t Worry; Be Crappy”

The logistics, such as schedules and editing, required we look at what is holding us back. Time is our greatest asset, Mick reminded us, and to fight the malady of perfectionism, he offered a catchy saying: “Don’t worry; be crappy” for first drafts only. And we tackled schedules from a practical angle and peeked in on a fellow writer’s actual schedule (Thanks, James Rubart).

Practice exercises, such as how to imbue our setting with emotion that either contrasts or magnifies the character and plot, allowed us to begin to process what he taught us. How to figure out where our book is heading and why we want to tell a particular story. How to find our unique writer’s voice. We considered what it would mean to us if we failed to write, and a particularly meaningful exercise was to consider what we are learning about ourselves as we write these stories down.

Story Is A Relationship

At the core of Mick’s teaching, the very gem of Mick Silva, writing coach and editor, is his belief that writing is about the relationship between the reader and the writer. Story is a relationship. The stories we have been given demand vulnerability and honesty for our reader if we really believe books can speak Truth into lives. He encouraged us to leave our safe box, believe our story is—not only for our own comfort and healing as we write it, but—a treasure everyone needs.

As I’d hoped, the retreat helped with my particular novel, giving me reasons beyond plot and character to write it. But I gained even more than that. My writing dream expanded to help me understand not just the who, what, where, when, and how of my craft, but most importantly, the why.

And that makes a great difference for me.

Mick’s experience in the publishing industry and his unique approach toward the writing process qualify him to be an amazing teacher. His expertise and sincere heart transform writers into authors of wholehearted stories with the potential to touch their readers’ souls.

And, in the writing process, stories that will also change the writers.

Around a campfire . . . or not. It’s all about the story itself.

What Gift?



Five hundred words?

Makes me hum that old song, “Five Hundred Miles,” when I read my first line, which in the song is a long way to go. But five hundred words in a blog post is not many.

As long as you have something to say.

I don’t like to buy gifts out of obligation. Just because it’s someone’s birthday or a shower for a friend’s daughter or yet another anniversary. I feel the gift needs to be useful to the receiver.

Otherwise, it’s a waste of time for both the giver and recipient. And I guess I have been feeling a similar duty about my blogging or rather lack of blogging. Like an overdue letter to a friend.

But most fiction writers struggle to come up with things to say in what is a nonfiction format. For a fiction writer to write primarily nonfiction feels contradictory or at least inconsistent with what they do.

Writing is a gift, both for the one writing as they explore what they are passionate about and for the reader who makes her own discoveries through those words.

I want my gift to have value for my reader. Like the stories I write. A character like the reader who wants something but runs into difficulties in attaining it. And sometimes finding what they want isn’t what they get. Or need.

I want my words–five hundred or even less-than-three-hundred, like today– to be useful, beneficial, encouraging. I want my letter, my gift, to you to make you glad you went to the mailbox.

Why do you read a blog?