In conjunction with local organizations (such as United Cerebral Palsy Duluth) and group homes, the Storytelling Project will match UMD writing students with people in the community who have mental and/or physical disabilities from Cerebral Palsy.
Students will meet once a week with a group of adults with disabilities from local organizations. During these meetings, which will be held on the UMD campus, students will conduct one-on-one interviews with their guests and transcribe responses. Students will design their interviews in stages, developing questions to give their conversations a narrative direction. Together, students and guests will edit their interviews with the goal of producing a finished story (fiction or nonfiction). Some pairs might also choose to explore a different creative genre such as poetry or drama.
Participants will meet 10 times throughout the spring semester, on Thursday evenings from 7 to 8 p.m. (This date and time are tentative and may change, depending on participant availability.) At the first meeting, students and guests will gather as a group and discuss the project. During the second meeting, pairs will start working together, beginning with an informal conversation. By the third meeting, students and guests will start to focus on an opening idea for their story, and they will work on that story throughout the remaining meetings.
This promises to be a rewarding volunteer experience and will give students the opportunity to sharpen their interviewing, writing, and editing skills. They will learn to listen in new ways and to develop new strategies for communicating with individuals with disabilities. Those individuals, most of whom are unable to write independently, will have the opportunity to explore modes of narrative and compose stories for others to read. The finished work will be published in an anthology and shared at a public reading on April 25.
Students interested should send a brief cover letter noting their relevant experience to Professor Katie Van Wert at kvanwert @ d.umn.edu.
Participants with cerebral palsy who are interested should send a brief introduction to Katie at the same address.