In 2006, I created the Six-Word Memoir project (sixwordmemoirs.com), a simple form of self-expression that helps people tell stories in six words. Six-Word Memoirs spark conversation, inspire imagination and get to the essence of who you are and what matters most. When I moved to Columbus in 2015, I knew this city was the perfect place to pilot a new idea: “Six in the City” (sixwordmemoirs.com/cbus). The concept: everyone in Columbus is invited to define their city and what it means to them in six words. The mission: to connect people from all corners of Cbus as we share our stories, values, and visions of our city. In its first year, Six in the City has engaged thousands of people through collaborations with nonprofits, corporations, schools, wellness initiatives, and local businesses. The most powerful evening of the past year was the “Six in the City: Live” story show at the Wexner. Check out this link to three of the stories — including one by the amazing 16-year-old singer/songwriter Chloe White — and you’ll see what I mean. Now, I want to create a new show that features student storytellers coached by mentors in writing, art, theater, music, and more.
2) Describe your Community Initiative Project.
Our live story show at the Wexner on May 19 featured a mix of storytellers who were comfortable sharing a story in front of a big crowd, as well as those who had never spoken publicly before. One of the storytellers was Chloe White (mentioned above), a 16-year-old from the ACPA School, who wrote an original song about Columbus. Watching Chloe go from intense stage fright to standing ovation was amazing: amazing for her to go through the process of telling and owning her story; amazing for the live audience (and later on Facebook/YouTube) to hear it. Shannon Wilson, another storyteller, shared her journey from four years of incarceration to five promotions at Hot Chicken Takeover. With Shannon and Chloe as my muses, I want to create another show this fall that brings together students coached by mentors in their fields (writing, art, music, theater). At the end of the show, we’ll have a “Six-Word Slam,” inviting anyone and everyone in the audience to share six words on Columbus—in that way, we are all participants in this community project.
3) What is your goal for this project?
This project has six goals in mind:
By connecting young people to mentors they receive invaluable career and life coaching, and a meaningful link between generations is created. And at the show, resources will be available for anyone who would like to be connected with a mentor or be a mentor.
By engaging these students to tell a story about their life in Columbus, we remind them that everyone’s story counts, and how important it is to own your story.
By sharing stories in a public venue, the students get the halo effect of being on a big stage, a stage in which they will be introduced by their mentor.
By recording their stories, the storytellers’ words and ideas will travel far, inspiring others in Columbus and beyond.
By inviting the public to hear these stories, we will create a fun, meaningful event in a cool space— e.g. a place like Shadowbox Live, the re-opened Columbus Library, or Hot Chicken — that will be talked about for a long time.
By showing how this storytelling form works, we create a domino effect: this format can be replicated in schools, organizations, and public spaces.
4) How much money do you need and what will you use it for? (talk real numbers)
To make this storytelling show as enjoyable as possible for the students, mentors, and audience (ideally offering a lot of comps to students) I would like to raise $1500-$2,000. That said, I can scale back on things like video, comp tickets, etc. as needed.
Grants funds will have very specific uses.
1. Pay for at least one meal between the student/mentor during the coaching process;
Pay for recording and editing of the show (having that recording is important for the student storytellers as well as for the overall “Six in the City” project)
Create marketing materials (including an elegant “show poster” that will be a keepsake for each storyteller as we did for the Wexner show). And one more nice bonus: Having a grant to fund the preparation and recording of “Student/Mentor” means we can keep ticket prices to the show down, and comp as many students as possible.