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2009 Storytelling (Un)Conference. West Coast. Let's Do This.

Given that the National Storytelling Network will not be holding a National Conference in 2009 in Los Angeles (or anywhere else, apparently)*...
let's go to Plan B:

we meet in Los Angeles anyway, without NSN.

Or San Diego. Or Oakland. Or Portland.

Who's in?

At this stage, it's a discussion. Add your thoughts, ideas, suggestions for location, format, time of year, length, etc.


* See Margaret Meyers and Jo Radner comments of July 21 and July 23 here.

Tags: conference, unconference

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We would love love love to help make this happen, live and in-person in Portland! Portland is ready for this (and a lot less expensive than LA or San Francisco). Early Fall would be perfect. We have PICA's TBA-Time-Based Art and the Creative Conference happening at that same time. And why not take advantage of the technology that's available (podcast/live cam video). We're a techy town with the possibility of a lot of support from Apple, Tektronics, Intel. Portland Story Theater is celebrating it's 5th Season this year. We've been building audience and this town is ready for something like an UN-Conference; a very NW / West Coast kind of idea, Tim.
Well, if you are starved for a meeting on the West Coast in 2009, there is always the 17th Annual Storytellers of Canada/Conteurs du Canada Conference, July 8-12, 2009 at the University of Victoria - Victoria, British Columbia... just a quick ferry ride from Port Angeles, Washington.

It is always a great conference, and this year's should be no exception. We'd let you in Tim, even if you aren't Canadian. Yet.
and apparently Al already posted something! Go Al!
We'll be doing the live version of the Outside In Storytelling Marketing Boot Camp February 26-28, 2009 in Phoenix. Come join us.
I think the NSN conferences are being hit by mulitple factors- Cost is number 1- flights and everything else in todays economy, make it hard for folks to travel. For a long time I kinda felt that the NSN conferences were kind of stifling in some aspects (the "rock star tellers" and the who has the right to tell stories thing, yada yada.) and not enough of the networking and educating folks who need basics on a whole range of things- picking sound systems, doing dialects, collecting on dead-beats, you name it. We as storytellers need the R word. Relevance. I've thought that we needed to take the "gingham colored glasses at NSN for a while now." What ever folks in the storytelling community come up with, change is needed. Our role as storytellers is being affected by gas prices and a million diversions of electronic entertainment. We had a strong movement for a while there, but it's losing momentum, and not just because the boomers are aging. I'm for the Un-conference idea, and would say- hey- let's invite dance/mask makers/people who do av/interactive storytelling, yada yada. If you folks ever get a chance, check out hundreds of the best and brightest get together, do a 30 minute presentation, and then it gets disseminated. Now, in the ted model, there's a lot of sponsership, folks who are vetting what is good and what is not, etc. But I've seen stuff on TED that makes you go off and beat your head a while. Some of it is out and out brilliance. So, let''s look at TED/Make/Burning Man/Unconferences,
etc. Portland is great, I would say the priorities are 3 things- 1. Needs to be on flight routes that are affordable (jet blue, swa) 2. We need a fair number of class rooms, etc, and folks willing to herd this. 3. If this is going to happen- market research- honest research- what is going on out there thats working. What can we doto put tellers into the mix of "needed" people who are generating our next step past the internet generation. Just a thought.
You've listed a couple of things very squarely. In some ways, the national conference has served the social needs of many storytellers with a few 60-minute workshops thrown in. It's been more about "seeing old friends" and keeping the hay-wagon concept alive than it has been about moving things forward into new models and techniques. We now have more people who are thirsty for info on how to use storytelling and succeed at storytelling than we do folks who are seeking a religious or social experience- and we've been unable to provide that. So, smaller and focused conferences in easy to get to cities are the requirements. I think the days of a singular national conference are finished- as people seek deeper and more relevant content.

In support of that, look at how well the master-classes are received at the start of the national conference. I believe they have sold out for every year they have been offered- costing participants more in fees and travel costs- which folks pay gladly.

TED conferences might be a model- but even those are 18 minute hits with some discussions afterwards. I also sense now that TED is becoming a place to be seen at and seen as intellectual- they, too, may be victims of their own success, but I don't know that (or anything) for sure. When a reality-tv show features Rosie O"Donnell (sp?) trying to manipulate her way into the audience of TED (she got in), then I know TED is moving into a trendy thing, imho.

Burning Man is also a religious (in the broadest sense of that word) and social event. I think we already have a "burning man" in our current national conference 'cept folks won't let me go around blue and naked or let me light a stack of August House books on fire at the end of the event.
Why do you think the Burners moved to the desert in the middle of Nevada? They had to, because of "The Man" and his decidedly unhip "fire safety" laws.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the discrimination against naked conferencegoers was simply an attempt to placate the conference volunteer room monitors who weren't prepared to deal with the implications of stopping an attendee with no visible conference badge from entering a workshop.

I'm all for your right to attend a conference blue and naked, just give me some advance warning, so I can get a video camera there and capture the whole thing for YouTube.
leaving aside for a moment what the movement needs, what three things would you need to get out of a conference/unconference to justify the trip to Portland-- for your own professional development?

1. Networking 2. Several hours of listening to tellers (many ofwhich are not easily available in my neck of the woods) 3. demanding workshops (long or short) RW
I think it's terrific that western folks are thinking of a regional conference in 2009! I hope that you all are familiar with NSN's "Year of the Regions" stimuli for 2009, announced after the Gatlinburg conference, because we're looking for some applications from the Pacific region.

For years, the NSN board has been talking about varying the pattern of annual blockbuster national conferences that only 15% of our membership can get to, and finally we've acted on our wish to take a year to support innovative regional programming, make the network better, and see what our members come up with. There's a preliminary description of the "Year of the Regions" concept on the NSN Board Blog (, and more specifics will be arriving later today or tomorrow. Basically, during 2009 NSN will support one event in each region with a 40/60 match of funds (up to $1000 from NSN, therefore, for a $1500 match from local sponsors). NSN will give various kinds of support -- including publicity, registration, etc., as well as money. There's a preliminary application deadline of Sept. 24.

That said, it's pretty clear that True Thomas and Sean haven't been to the NSN conference! What they describe could in no way account for what happened in Gatlinburg, where about 350 people experienced a huge range of activities that ranged from master classes and fringe performances, to workshops on contemporary internet opportunities and the business of storytelling, to a remarkable competitive story slam. And we are hoping for a huge (and extremely innovative) conference in Los Angeles in 2010!

There's room in our storytelling community (and in its natural expansions to so many other kinds of organizations and activities and art forms) for big conferences, intimate gatherings, electronic marvels, and -- yes -- performances by the great, award-winning, generous founders of the modern movement!

Hope we'll hear from you all with a Year of the Regions proposal for that event in Portland --

Jo Radner
Jo, puhhleeze. I've been to plenty of NSN conferences (and poured thousands of dollars into the merchanting, promotion and follow up podcasts, Amphitheaters and more) as well as decades of experience in the field talking to hundreds of storytellers.

You know better, my friend. I've been an unacknowledged promoter of the national conference for a long time.
Dear Sean:

Jo only meant the 2008 National Storytelling Conference. A lot can happen in one year. You have attended a ton of conferences, though it is the most recent one that is easiest to figure out where to go for the future. That is what we are talking about--the future.

Of course, your experience from past conferences can remind us what to do and what not to do.

You were missed this year and I look forward to seeing you at the next one.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman




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