Tonight, Gainesville-based storytelling group Self Narrate will be hosting one of its monthly meetups at Third House Books & Coffee from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. This event will feature stories told live by Gainesville residents on the topic of leaving home. Each story will be approximately five minutes long.
These storytelling meetups are held by Self Narrate on the third Thursday of every month. The first half of these events feature stories that have already been submitted to the organization, while the second half allows audience members to get up on stage and share their stories in the style of an open-mic night.
“Our Storytelling Meetups are open to anyone and everyone,” said Brandon Telg, Self Narrate’s executive director. “We normally have five to six story submissions sent to us ahead of time, which doesn’t fill the entire hour, so we open the floor up to anyone in attendance after we’ve gone through our ‘setlist.’”
Self Narrate has been putting on events like these since February 2014. It all started when the co-founders of the organization, Brandon Telg and Jaron Jones, met in a UF graduate course on interpersonal leadership. One of the class’ assignments was to tell a short personal story about something that was significant to each student’s life. After a revelation on the importance and catharsis of live storytelling, the two decided to organize their own storytelling events, first around the UF campus, then around Gainesville. This is how Self Narrate was born. “Sharing your story is a powerful experience and we want everyone in Gainesville to have the opportunity to do that,” Telg said. “There’s no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.”
While Self Narrate hosts storytelling meetups monthly, in addition to its pop-up style “My Story Is…” events on Turlington Plaza at 9:30 a.m. every Thursday, the organization also works to help marginalized groups in Gainesville. Self Narrate often works with hospitals to provide story development services to patients to help with their recovery. The group also coordinates story-based projects with senior citizens and offers free workshops to students at elementary, middle and high school levels.
“I have worked at rehab hospitals as an agent of Self Narrate to conduct oral histories with rehab patients,” said Syraj Syed, a regular storyteller with Self Narrate. “I value narrative expression in working with patients across spaces like addiction, recovery, rehabilitation, mental health and with veterans suffering from PTSD.”
Self Narrate aims to emphasize the therapeutic effects of telling personal stories. Each storytelling meetup serves as a “safe space” for all members of the community to feel welcome sharing their personal narratives. All are welcome to participate or simply be in the audience. It is a goal of Self Narrate to encourage everybody to share a story, as those who put this group together believe everybody has a story to tell.
“I really think storytelling and story hearing is one of the biggest missing links in our modern world,” said Benny Torres, another regular Self Narrate storyteller. “I think the only thing that can really break through on a heart-to-heart level is stories. There have never been more ways to tell stories. We just have to imagine ourselves as storytellers and seek out the audiences that need to hear them.”
Self Narrate’s Storytelling Meetups are free and open to the public. For more information on Self Narrate’s events, missions or its submission guidelines, visit selfnarrate.com.