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New Hampshire Institute of Art: Storytelling Festival Event

on Thu, 03/16/2017 - 23:09


On Saturday, April 8th at 2:00 pm, the New Hampshire Institute of Art is hosting their first Storytelling Festival in the French Hall Auditorium at 148 Concord Street in Manchester, New Hampshire. We asked Monica Bilson, the Chair of Creative Writing at NHIA, some questions about the upcoming festival.


As the Chair of Creative Writing at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, how have your experiences shaped your writing and teachings? What inspires you to write?


I’ve been teaching literature and writing, and building writing programs, for about fifteen years, including almost five at NHIA. My daily work with students, faculty, and visiting writers has had tremendous impact on how I create. I’m not interested in going off and doing research about something that isn’t relevant to my life at NHIA because I’m always figuring out how I think about the world through reading and discussion.

For instance, in the recent past, I taught Leslie Marmom Silko’s brilliant novel Ceremony in a seminar, and the day of the election, wrote a blog post connecting America’s distant past with its present; another time I was teaching Maggie Nelson’s hybrid work The Argonauts and that inspired me to write a half academic, half memoir piece about my father. For me, it’s all connected. I learn so much about what I think from teaching and talking to writers.



What, do you believe, is the importance of storytelling?


I believe we make meaning, make sense of our lives, through storytelling. It’s how we process information most effectively. We tell stories about ourselves in our heads all the time. I read an article recently that suggested, when at a job interview, talk about yourself and your experience through a story. How did you get to where you are today? Where do you want to go? Typically we don’t retain a list of facts. Humans have told stories since they developed the capacity for speech.



What do you believe makes for a “good” story?


Ha, actually, a good story breaks the rules of what makes a “good” story, but I will try.

A good story offers a totally unique perspective on the familiar. A good story isn’t necessarily about something we didn’t know before, but expresses something we did know at some level from a new vantage point. It reveals something profound, but has humor and wit. I look for a quirky voice and tone, and not too many complicated plot points. Less reliance on exposition, more reliance on scenes, dialogue, inner monologue. Suspense, yes, followed by a plot resolution supplemented by an emotional revelation. I think good stories, most of all, help us feel less alone.



Tell us about NHIA’s Storytelling Festival. What can participants hope to gain from this experience?


We want to highlight the personal and cultural stories of the NHIA community as well as those of broader Southern New Hampshire. This isn’t a children’s storytelling hour; some of the submissions we’ve received are pretty gritty. Think Moth Radio Hour on NPR. And we are looking beyond writers to submit, because everyone has a story to tell, and I think this event will be emotionally moving for everyone. Each participant will have five minutes to tell their story, and it can be about anything (with some propriety).


Bonus: NHPR’s Virginia Precott is emcee-ing! I’ll be there too. The festival takes place at 2:00 pm on Saturday, April 8th, in the French Hall Auditorium, 148 Concord Street in Manchester.



How can writers get involved? What are the requirements for submission pieces?


Submissions for this event are open to the public. Writers, storytellers, illustrators, and graphic novelists, as well as creatives working in a wide variety of other media, professional or amateur, are invited to participate. The stories can be true or embellished. Participants may read from a document, memorization isn’t required.


How to Submit: Those interested in participating should send a brief description of their story to by March 17, 2017. Those with images accompanying their story should submit their image files along with the outline of their story for review. Accepted entrants will be notified by March 31st.