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“You, like every human being, are a storyteller by birthright. You are born with an endless supply of personal and universal themes. It is important to open yourself to receive the vast wealth of imagery that lives within you. Build a hearth within you and let it become a circle of protection. In it your heart’s wisdom may ignite and burn. Ask that all who gather at your fire from your own inner skies, lands, and waters come with goodwill to share their truths in its warmth.” – Nancy Mellon, “Storytelling & the Art of Imagination”

Storytelling is one of my dedicated passions–at least for the next three weeks, and then we’ll see. Let me clarify: my job is all about supporting my boss’ incredible ability to tell a story, yes, but my personal life is being governed by an event I’m planning for November 6th, and that’s the stressful side of things.

Last summer, I spent a week in Hiroshima, visiting one of my role models and third-grade teacher, JoAnn. She and her husband were serving the end of their two-year term as the head of the World Friendship Center, a small but impressive organization that championed the rights and cause of the “hibakusha” – survivors of the atomic bomb. I can (and will) write much more about the history of the hibakusha and my experience with them during my visit, but for now suffice to say that all of this culminated in agreeing to help plan a keynote address on the Willamette campus come September. That planning process turned out to be a very enlightening journey in itself, one that was plagued by my absolute inexperience with event planning on this scale and in the Willamette community, but which benefited greatly from the sheer level of interest that people had in the stories of the hibakusha. The World Friendship Center organized a trip like this every three years, but to different locations around the world, so we were incredibly lucky to have this opportunity.

Building on that success, we’re putting together another speaking event at the start of next month that focuses on the stories of those who were involved with the Minidoka Relocation Center, of the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. We have an interned speaking, as well as the son of Reverend Emery Andrews (the name should be familiar to anyone who took a WA state history class), and the current head of interpretation and education at the Minidoka Historical Site. It’s going to be fantastic, and it’s going to be timely: there have been an increasing number of performances of topical plays such as Gordon Hirabayashi’s “Hold These Truths” in the Pacific Northwest; there is the upcoming release of the movie adaptation of Laura Hillebrand’s riveting biopic “Unbroken”; and just in Salem the Halle Ford Museum is bringing in an exhibit about the artist’s life in interment camps and how it affects his identity even today. Willamette University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs is focusing on the internment as part of their theme for the entire year. George Takei, who was in two separate internment camps as a young child, is speaking on campus on November 11th. There is widespread interest amongst people in the area.

My challenge is to put those “people in the area” in a specific area at a specific time – Willamette’s Hudson Hall at 7pm on Thursday the 6th. Unlike last year’s event, which was generously funded in advance of my involvement, I’m tasked with raising a certain amount of funds and selling tickets is one of my limited number of options for the timeline and organizational structure with which we’re working; the other is getting sponsorship. I have experience with neither, and this is a great example of why I termed my blog “We’ll See Where This Takes Me” – the answer is always some sort of an adventure.

What’s the next step after the Minidoka event? That’s where I see the most relevance in the above quote. I have been thinking on and off about taking these two successful events – this one will be successful, I have no doubt – and starting an event-planning nonprofit. Everyone is a storyteller by birthright, and I think that there will never be a shortage of experiences to share – especially those which can educate our communities and their leaders. In fact, I’ve almost finished the first draft of the business plan for such an organization, but I’m going to have to bench it until the right opportunity arises. I know it will, but I need to get my own life in order first.

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[I actually had an introduction to this post, but it didn’t fit well with the rest of the text, so here it is (anachronistically) for your viewing pleasure:]

I just chugged a hefty cup of coffee, so now is as good a time as any to start writing.

 

As one of the many facets of my job, I’ve been laying the foundation of the next book my boss is set on writing. This mostly consists of researching a specific type of quote–no, I won’t divulge any more details about products currently in development–and during my slog through the sound bites I started picking out quotes that don’t necessarily qualify in his framework but seem to inspire mine. Being a philosophy major (and you’re welcome to roll your eyes in exasperation every time I say that) and specifically interested in language and the mind, many quotes, declarations, one-liners, and especially manifestos tend to strike me as either energetic fluff or distillation of once-important concepts that have been reduced past the point of coherence. At least, they did, until I started working for a motivational speaker – his job is to infuse meaning into words and experience, so I imagine that him hiring me is akin to a structural engineer hiring a demolitions crew to help run things.

 

In all of this, though, I’ve decided that these quotes I’ve been pulling out will serve as intermittent inspiration for my writing. Let’s give it a try…

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