My He(ART)-Full Life

Monday, April 25, 2011

Interview with Jen Lee

"I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and you laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom. "
                                                                                                -Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

                                             (Storyteller, Archival Print available here!)
Like so many of us, I place a high value on storytelling. When we lay claim to our stories with truth and vulnerability, when we share them and the lessons we have learned from them with clarity and courage...we open ourSELVES up to powerful forces within us. It is in the claiming and the telling that we can create the magic of healing and connecting. When we collect all of our pieces; our shame and resilience, our joy and vulnerability, our potential and our promise...then we can truly see ourSELVES. We, all of us, are storytellers. It is in our collective history and we, yes we!!, are the story keepers. So you see, when I first stumbled across storyteller, writer, photographer, truth-teller Jen Lee's blog about 6 months ago...I was smitten! She was gracious enough to allow me to interview her, goes!
                                                                       (Jen Lee)
Do you feel that the role (and the art) of storytelling in our culture has been diminished or do you feel that blogs have replaced oral storytelling as the forum for claiming and sharing our stories?
Storytelling is definitely experience a resurgence in our culture as we reclaim the value of narrative. I don't think blogs have replaced oral storytelling at all, but I do believe they have played an important role and ushered us into a new era of media that is no longer under the complete control of gatekeepers. Our access to people's stories was previously quite limited--one could only access memoirs of people who had done something "of note". But through blogs we remembered that you don't have to have climbed Mt. Everest to tell a story that is compelling or universal. Early bloggers wrote candidly (unedited) about their often ordinary or common experiences, or they wrote about topics no one else would touch, and we were captivated.

 Do you feel that maintaining your authentic voice requires that you reveal all in your storytelling or can we just share the lessons learned? I think so many of us struggle with wanting to share our truth while still protecting the privacy of our family members.
I think this is a common struggle--it's definitely one I share. I'm not in the Reveal-All camp. Privacy IS a consideration, especially as we consider the impact our words can have on others, and the wide availability and permanence of online media, especially. When I think about keeping my voice intact, I think about finding a way to say what I need to say so that I don't feel silenced or censored. That doesn't mean I say all those things publicly, and sometimes I may write more about the experience than the exact situation, as you mentioned. I try to preserve my freedom *and* honor the connections which are so important to me.

                                                       (Finding Your Voice, Multimedia Course)
How do you prepare yourself for the writing process? Do you set aside a certain # of hours daily to write no matter what or do you write when you feel like it?
My work now has a lot of ebb and flow. Some seasons are more dominated by writing, some by teaching. I have really wordless spells (often on the tail end of the previous two) where I do more with photography or design and layout work. I used to worry a lot about writing every day, especially when I felt wordless, but I've learned over time that I usually need to rest and refill my well in those times and the words always come back. When I haven't been writing enough, I've learned to recognize that twitchy feeling I get as a result, and I attend to that as soon as I possibly can.
What do you think are some of the most important aspects of storytelling?
I think self-reflection is important--it helps to know why a story is important to us, and why it might matter to someone else. We need to know how the story changed us or what it means to be able to tell it in a way that strikes a universal chord.
(Jen Lee, Grand Slam)
You go up on stage and tell stories. Wow!! That takes big huge courage! What is that experience like for you?
It's like coming home, every time. It might sound strange, but I don't know how else to say it. It feels like being made for a moment, having everything that's come before for me align in some momentary fit. It defies explanation.
You recently published Finding Your Voice. From what I understand, it’s a multimedia resource which replicates the whole workshop experience. Can you share a little about it? What inspired this work?
Well, I'm not sure it replicates the workshop experience, but it's as close as I can get, short of actually being together in person (which itself is huge). This is really a path that has emerged as I've been on a journey of recovering my own voice from many, many years of reluctant silence and dealing with so many of the dilemmas that come along with that kind of shift. It's about finding a third way that's not Reveal and Tell All Leaving Whatever Bodies in Your Wake, and it's not If You Don't Have Something Nice to Say, Don't Say Anything at All. I needed another way--to feel true to myself and honor my connections, to treat my dear ones with compassion. Finding Your Voice is for anyone who could use that kind of path, too.

Jen Lee is a Brooklyn-based writer, photographer and a regular performer in NYC's storytelling scene, including the Peabody Award-winning Moth Radio Hour and The Moth Mainstage. Jen is an instructor for Squam Art Workshops and the creator of Finding Your Voice. She invites you to follow her on Twitter, and to download The Story Catcher.


bella said...

Oh.. I enjoyed this interview so much. Thank you for sharing it here.

Jen @Sadie Inspired said...

Thank you for sharing another great interview with Jen Lee. Loved reading it. :)

kelly said...

I love Jen! I think I need that book! ...what she said about going on stage, that it felt like coming home...what ever it is, I want to know that feeling. Great interview! :)

patty said...

Way to go, Soraya!! I had read a little about Jen before but not this extensively. Great questions, great answers. Thanks so much for sharing this heartfelt interview!!

Lis said...

Great interview Soraya ... you always ask The Best questions!

I have started Jen's workbook and already it has been a powerful experience ... she does a beautiful job of encouraging and inspiring you to uncover the layers of restrictions we have either erected or taken on through our experiences, culture, family. It's like wadding upstream into my past and removing the boulder that have blocked my flow. It really is an amazing opportunity as she is supporting the workbook with an online discussion forum and podcasts addressing topics raised by the group.

And just listening to Jen ... she has such a gentle, but powerful and awake presence. She inspires me to be that attentive to the details, the moments in my life where magic is born.

xo Lis