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Filtering by Tag: story

How do you tell yourself the story you're in?

Aubrey Allison

22 firstchoice How do you tell yourself the story you're in? “Literature differs from life,”says James Wood, “in that life is amorphously full of detail, and rarely directs us toward it, whereas literature teaches us to notice.”In time, the amorphous details will fall into place, or else we’ll forget them. We will be able to frame our life in narrative. The purpose of our pain will be revealed. But until then?

Photographer Uta Barth says “people are slightly puzzled by how to relate to [her] work, because it doesn't give them any of the things that a traditional photograph would give them.”What the photographs offer is basic: light. Light shining onto a wall through a window. Light that is usually the background, or an accent, cropped so that this periphery is now our focus. Her photos are clean and well-composed. The plays of light she captures are familiar. Initially, it seems too ordinary.

Barth makes her viewers aware of the act of seeing. It is the initial confusion, the “questioning and reorientation" that is "the point of entry and discovery....The 'meaning' is generated in the process of 'sorting things out.'"

I find myself now noticing the way light falls on my carpet, the way it composes itself on my wall, shifts and fades throughout the evening. This is more useful to me than encouragements that eventually, I will look back on my life and it will be a grand story. Will this longing be fulfilled? Will I outgrow it? Maybe I don’t need an answer. I can notice the amorphous details without explaining them. I am at a point of entry, and right now, that’s meaning enough.

(Photos by Uta Barth)

Storytelling and Slenderman

Ross Gale

3456614-0146223347-Slend Two 12-year-old girls recently lured a classmate into the woods and stabbed her with a knife 19 times. They left her to die, but she survived. Those who attempted to take her life said they wanted to prove Slenderman exists. They planned to escape to his mansion in the woods.

Slenderman is a character of mythical Internet proportions — a tall figure in a business suit with tentacle-like arms. He preys on children. Created in 2009 in a horror genre Internet forum, Slenderman is a striking example of a fun project taking on a crowd-sourced life of its own in the imaginations of millions. It’s a testament to the power of stories and the possibilities of the imagination to create new, perhaps even unthinkable, realities. It’s shocking, though, how a story can compel children to find meaning in acts of violence and some have called for the censorship of stories like Slenderman. But the answer is not censorship. Instead we need to write better stories.

Creating them is no light task and we cannot do it by pushing dogma and happy endings while ignoring evil. We can’t create better stories by isolating ourselves from reality and by painting perfect pictures of a perfect world. We can, however, offer meaning in spite of the violence and evil we encounter. We need stories that address evil truthfully and directly, stories that equip us to address evil truthfully in our everyday lives.

The young girl who survived 19 stab wounds will have a more powerful story to tell than her classmates. Because she lives, her story will transcend a horrid act of evil. That’s the story we look for — the story the world needs.

Inspired to Give


Bonnie Ponce challenges those who have not contributed to the Love Relief campaign to read these stories and give to Relief.

As I was browsing through the internet, I came across this website of a company who helps charities raise support with capital campaigns.  I thought I would share this story to inspire you about why we ask you to give.  In the stories, the donors give $15,000 and $35,000 but we are only asking that you consider a gift of $25 or $50 or whatever you are inspired and able to give.  This story is from

“If you ever needed affirmation about why we do this for a living, these two tales carry a strong message.”

By: Greg Bowden

Fundraising can become such a mechanical process, in which we focus on rating prospects, writing proposals and scheduling logistics. This is never truer than in the midst of a capital campaign, when the pace of activity must be very high and everyone is focused on the bottom line of the campaign’s financial goal. In these instances, we can lose sight of the fact that we are meeting with real people and challenging them to think about their charitable priorities. Often, those donors take our requests very seriously and make decisions that broaden their philanthropy and demonstrate the impact of successful fundraising.

I am currently conducting a campaign for a YMCA resident and day camp based in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, which serves predominantly Connecticut, Massachusetts and metropolitan New York. We recently had two solicitations that produced surprising and very touching results. It was a reminder to me that our work allows us to have an impact on the lives of our donors as well as our organizations.

A few months ago we met with a couple who are very involved, charitable residents in the local community. While they had not given to the camp in the past, they were friends of the camp’s director. They agreed to meet with us, and were frankly shocked when we asked them for a pledge of $25,000 over five years. The wife commented that was more than they contribute to their church. The husband suggested they might be able to do something in the neighborhood of $15,000 and they would give it some thought.

When we followed up with them, the husband confirmed that they would pledge $15,000 to the campaign. He went on to say that our request had really stretched them, which had forced them to examine what they could truly do, rather than easily saying yes to a modest request. Their deliberations had further prompted them to take a look at all of their charitable priorities. How much did they contribute overall? If they seriously wanted to make this gift, but had trouble budgeting it, what did that say about their philanthropy? What changes were they able to make in their life that would allow them to meet their charitable goals?

All of these deliberations resulted in a lifestyle change for the couple. When the husband informed us of their decision, he explained that they had decided to sell their new BMW and buy a used Volkswagen, freeing up additional funds to make this pledge possible. As we were running a campaign for a children’s camp, I immediately thought of that saying, “A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car you drove, or what sort of house you lived in, or how big your bank account was. But the world may be better because you were important in the life of a child.”

The second story came from an alumnus of the camp, who now lives in a town in coastal Connecticut. Both his parents were now deceased and, without siblings, it fell to him to sell their home and resolve their estate. He decided that he would put some of the proceeds from the house sale toward certain charitable projects. Despite the fact that he had no idea they were conducting a capital campaign, his first thoughts were of the Camp that had provided him such a significant experience in his childhood. He called the Camp’s executive director—actually calling twice before he got the director on the phone—and told the director that he wanted to make a significant charitable gift.

The donor’s objective was to make a gift to the endowment, the income from which would fund scholarships for less fortunate children to attend Camp. He was considering giving $15,000. The Camp’s executive director pointed out that, in order to maintain the principal in perpetuity that would not generate much income each year. With some polite probing, the Camp’s director was able to learn that the donor’s true intent was to fund four scholarships each year. That would require a gift of about $35,000. Once the Camp’s director was able to communicate what would be necessary to achieve the donor’s goal, the alumnus readily agreed to make the gift.

We do so much work changing the lives of those people who receive our services, it is easy to forget that we are often changing the lives of our donors as well. Helping people raise their sights in these ways is a critical step in their philanthropic lifespan. It will have a leveraged impact far beyond the value of their current gift, as they will apply their new philosophy to all future charitable decisions, as well.

Bonnie Ponce is the Director of Support Raising for Relief and lives in Huntsville, Texas with her husband and betta fish. She has a BA in English from Sam Houston State University. After work she enjoys relaxing with a good book or working on her novel.

It All Began with a Picture

Stephanie Smith

I have a question for all you writers out there: how do your stories begin?

Do they begin inside you, with a striking thought, image, or scene? Do you observe something in the world that makes you want to put in onto paper? Do you imagine your characters to life, or do you see them on the street, at the Farmer's Market, the corner coffee shop?

Many of my favorite authors, it seems, birth their stories like this: a curious image arises in their mind, an image they see and cannot forget, and they write to discover the story behind the image.

Beloved author C.S. Lewis says that his enchanted world of Narnia began with a picture of a faun carrying an umbrella in a snowy wood.  "This picture had been in my mind since I was sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.'”

Kate DiCamillo was lying in bed one morning, her life in a state of depression, when she suddenly saw a magician, joined by an elephant.  They looked as real to her as anyone, and this curious introduction gave her the motivation to get out of bed and start writing again. The tale of these two characters entwine in what became The Magician's Elephant, a whimsical story about magic, homecoming, and belonging.

Sue Monk Kidd's award-winning novel, The Secret Life of Bees, began with an image of a girl going to sleep in her room amidst a swarm of hovering bees.  Right now I'm reading Traveling with Pomegranates, the author's memoir which gives the reader the backstory behind the creation of her bee novel. I find myself fascinated with the way Sue Monk Kidd collects the smallest of details and finds a home for them in her book.  Simple things like a pink house she saw in a magazine, a childhood memory of bees that hummed through the walls of her old house, and a story about a black Madonna struck something in her and she wove them into her novel.

As much as I love reading fiction, this genre has always been the hardest thing for me to write.  Characters do not appear to me in dreams, or start talking to me in the shower, or hover over my bed in the form of circus animals.  But I do often see images in real life that I pause over and tuck away for later, for a story that will be woven with bits and pieces of things in the world that catch my curiosity.

Here are some of them:

A man sitting on a porch that is covered with wind chimes.

The way a book in my hand vibrates with the live music of a cello playing in a bookstore.

A snippet of overheard conversation, “Once when I was seventeen and wild, I cut off all my hair.”

What sparks your stories into life?

Stephanie S. Smith graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a degree in Communications and Women’s Ministry, which she now puts to work freelancing as a book publicist and writer through her business, (In)dialogue Communications, at After living in Chicago for four years, traveling to Amsterdam for a spell, and then moving back home to Baltimore to plan a wedding, she now lives with her husband in Upstate New York where they make novice attempts at home renovation in their 1930s bungalow. She is a member of the Young Professionals of the Southern Tier and blogs for Moody Publishers at