Sometimes, when the career you want isn't available to you, you have to make it. Dana Norris did exactly that five years ago when she founded the intrepid reading series, Story Club. Since her bold decision to go her own way, Story Club has found a home, not only on the North and South Side of Chicago, but Minneapolis and Boston as well. It was only a matter of time before Norris decided to found Story Club Magazine as a wise way to further her reach. In this interview, Norris reveals how the idea of Story Club came to her and what we can look forward to with her new online magazine. Interview after the jump.
What inspired you to create Story Club Magazine and why?
I created Story Club Magazine because I wanted to provide a way for people who don’t have access to live lit a way to experience the storytelling revival. There are so many amazing pieces of nonfiction being performed in Chicago and around the country every day and the only way to experience them has been to be among the few who are in the room during the performance. I wanted to create a way to allow those who aren’t in the room to still be able to be entertained/engaged/moved by the amazing work that these writers are doing.
Tell our readers a little more about how Story Club came to be?
I started Story Club about five years ago because I was a frustrated writer/performer. I wrote stories that I wanted to tell to an audience but I was struggling to find a place to allow me to do that. I searched through the local papers for open mics and those I found were usually either poetry-focused or weren’t reliable. I showed up to so many open mics only to find out that the event had been cancelled. It was hard work to find a place in which to tell my stories and I was complaining about the lack of venues to a teacher of mine, Brigid Murphy, and she gave me the best advice I’ve ever received, “Stop bitching and start one.” I started Story Club and, little did I know, at the same time many other live lit events were starting up. This Much is True, Essay Fiesta, and Write Club all started the same year. We all felt a need and we all set about fulfilling that need.
Does producing Story Club help inspire your writing?
It absolutely inspires my writing. Having to stand up in front of an audience every month means that I have to write at least one new piece every month. I’m also continually impressed by the talent that performs at my show. At least once a show there will be a turn of phrase, or a performance style, or a method of structuring a piece that will blow me away. I have to continually up my own storytelling game because the people who perform at Story Club are continually upping theirs.
If you could have anyone contribute to Story Club, who would you choose and why?
I’d also love to have more pieces from people who don’t identify as writers because I think that there are a lot of people who are amazing storytellers who wouldn’t ever think about trying to get published. For example, I would love to have a piece by a stand-up comic who’s doing storytelling or from a person who knows that he/she tells a good story and is interested in sharing with a wider audience.
What is the most valuable thing live literature gives us?
Live literature shows us that we aren’t alone. You come to a show and you hear someone telling you a true story about something that’s happened to them and in listening you realize how much alike we all our. This city is so large and we protect ourselves from the throngs of other humans that we share it with by ignoring each other. But at a live lit show you can’t ignore the other – you have to hear their story and then you realize that they’re telling the same story that you would tell. Most stories are about our failures – the times that we made mistakes, or were wrong, or were disappointed. And it’s so important to realize that this sense of loss is universal. When you watch someone else share a story of a time that they failed you realize how similar all of our experiences are and how connected we can be.
Use five words to describe Story Club.
Live, visceral, embracing, necessary, hilarious.
What do we have to look forward to with Story Club Magazine?
Our next issue comes out May 7th and this time we’re having audio accompany each of the stories. We have some live audio recorded at the show and we have some recordings we’ve made just for the magazine. We’ll also begin to publish pieces from live lit events across the country, as well as pieces from other Chicago storytelling shows.
A little more about Dana Norris...
Dana Norris is the founder of Story Club, a monthly storytelling show in Chicago, Boston, and Minneapolis. She is the editor-in-chief of Story ClubMagazine and she teaches at StoryStudio Chicago. She has been published in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Rumpus, the Tampa Review, and her stories have been featured on Chicago Public Radio. You may see her upcoming performance schedule at dananorris.net.
Filed under: Interviews