DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: ‘Heart stories’ wanted

TELLING THE TRUTH is a revolutionary act, wrote George Orwell.

We hear much about the need to “speak your truth” — but that doesn’t mean it’s simple to stand up and announce the hard stuff of life.

Yet in recent years, story slams, podcasts and phenomena such as “The Moth” and StoryCorps have flung the door open.

Like the liberated Elwha River, real people’s truths are flowing out to nourish the land.

A world in which we share the challenging things in our lives — step out from behind curtains of shame or denial — is a better world.

Enter Storyborne, a creation by Bonnie Obremski of Port Townsend. It began as www. Storyborne.com and has its big, offline coming-out party on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, with a free event called “Heart Stories.” A lineup of performers is taking shape for the 6 p.m. gathering at the Cotton Building, 607 Water St.

Meanwhile, Obremski invites submissions of stories and visual art by Jan. 29. We’re talking personal prose and poetry inside 250 words.

She also welcomes photography, graphic art, comics, paintings and sketches to accompany the text.

“I see this as a playground for artists, and for people who forgot they were artists,” Obremski said, adding that Storyborne will expand its web presence, add a podcast, printed publications, workshops and more live events.

A submission form awaits at Storyborne.com, along with more about contributing, engaging and supporting the venture.

To start it off, Obremski, 35, posted her own saga of freeing herself from an abusive marriage. Reading it, I held my breath and gritted my teeth. When Obremski walked at long last into her new life, I let out a sigh of elation.

This is a prime example of what Storyborne is about: transporting people forward on breaths of fresh air.

I met Obremski last summer when she was working at Centrum. She’s since stepped down from her staff job to start Storyborne. At first I was dazzled by this woman and shy about approaching her.

I learned that she and I have stuff in common: We’ve both worked in newspapers and restaurants. We’re travelers; she’s been a deckhand on the tall ship Lynx, and ordinary seaman on the U.S. Brig Niagara among many other gigs.

Obremski and I hold out fierce hope about the power of stories. In the wake of trauma, sharing them can be the healing balm for our wounds. Listening goes a long way, too. Hear your adversary’s life story, and forgiveness is a little more possible.

Endeavors such as Story borne.com aren’t all about the heavy. The site’s “Granny Chic” photo spread, starring Judith Bird and nine other local women, illustrates insouciance, style and popping colors.

Now, I will not gloss over the fact that some will lash out when they hear us speaking our truths. When Obremski posted her story online, the criticisms were few — and harsh.

“It was a huge challenge for me to handle it,” she said, but Obremski responded to her critics on Storyborne.com. Unfolding publicly as it did, the experience helped her reclaim a part of her voice she’d once lost.

“There is risk in sharing,” she said, “but I’ve found people tend to admire risk-takers, especially when your intention is to foster understanding.”

A story well told does something primal, Obremski believes. In it, we may recognize ourselves. Bravely, the tellers remind us we are “not alone on this crazy journey.”

It’s a practice, this exchange. And “we can all use practice in speaking honestly, fearlessly, from the heart.”


Diane Urbani de la Paz,a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Feb. 6.

Reach her at [email protected]

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