It’s time for me to tell you about my other website, an ongoing labor of love created for the gathering and archiving of stories and memories through personal interviews. I hope you will visit and explore it at your leisure. Here is the link: The Living Stories Collective
The intent of the project is to document observations and experiences that might otherwise be forgotten and record the wisdom and lessons life yields. That’s all. I’m not selling or promoting anything, and I pay for the hosting of the website out of my own pocket, but something in my heart tells me that it matters.
A few of the Living Stories interviews are older ones conducted with middle school students during my days as a teacher. Many of these also appear elsewhere on this (Still Amazed) blog, but I am gradually transferring them to the Living Stories website. I recently purchased a little device that enables me to convert audiocassette tapes to digital recordings, so that on the new website even these older interviews are now enhanced with sound clips, and there’s something so special about hearing a person’s voice!
Of the more recent interviews, I conducted most of them myself (with occasional assistance from friends). Our approach is to meet with each interviewee in a setting in which he or she feels comfortable and draw from a basic list of questions that serve as prompts but not a rigid framework. I ask questions, we chat informally, and I listen, recording it all for later transcription. Initially, we tried to limit each session to about thirty minutes, but now I find that an hour or even two is more realistic. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so worthwhile, and it offers folks an opportunity to share their memories and add their voices to a living historical record.
I believe there’s something sacred about listening, and not enough time is spent in daily life doing it. I genuinely want to know how others navigate their lives and what lessons experience has taught them. And I find it especially delicious to be using modern technology to facilitate something so old-fashioned and fundamental. I’m disheartened by how often the lowest common denominator is what prevails on the web, and anonymous meanness, shallow look-at-me stuff, and incessant self-promotion. I quite like the idea of using this platform in a way that (to borrow some phrases from Internet thinker, writer, and entrepreneur Seth Grodin) “doesn’t involve yelling at people, networking your way to the top, and spamming people…but instead, involves weaving a story and weaving a tribe and weaving a network that means something.”
Grodin points out that we live in an era where everyone essentially has their own printing press. “So what are you going to put on it?” he asks. “What are you going to put out to the world?” We are all exponentially connected and have unprecedented opportunity to contribute to a vast circle; maybe we can use the opportunity to make something happen that involves real dignity and communication and education and community. In this era of social media and constant noise, I’d like The Living Stories Collective to be an enduring space and a sheltering place where visitors can linger for a while, quietly connect with other souls, then venture out again feeling fortified and less alone.
I know there are other oral history projects similar to this one, and I gratefully acknowledge StoryCorps in particular as a source of inspiration. But every voice is unique, and I hope to give many others a chance to become part of this pool of stories, within my own little rural community of Gaviota and as far beyond as its ripples extend. There’s a decidedly local emphasis at the moment, but I think this will change over time.
In fact, I’m telling readers about it now not only because I’m proud of it and I think you may enjoy perusing it, but also because I welcome your suggestions for new interviewees, or any other thoughts, questions, and input. Maybe you’d like to conduct an interview to add to the archive, or perhaps you’d like advice for starting a project of your own. The Living Stories Collective is a reminder of our shared humanity and a way for us to learn from one another.
So that’s what I’ve been up to…