"Stories are my passion, and I hold the firm belief that everyone has a story that deserves to be told. Through the sharing of diverse voices and perspectives, we are able to create a true sense of community and belonging."
- Fox Smith
I have always had an unwavering love for stories and storytelling. My parents always encouraged reading - my mother teaching me English and Korean in tandem by the time I was one and a half. From my earliest memories, when I wasn't lost in a book, I recall complex narratives unfolding between toy animal factions, each led by their respective plasticine hero. An painfully introverted child of a single working father, it was my creative outlet - the way I engaged with a world more overwhelming than I knew what to do with. It was my siblings, my companions, and way that I developed methodology and understanding to shape my reality.
When I was old enough to understand the house rules my dad built me a PC, and I would spend late nights cross-legged on my forest green carpeted floor clicking away on a cheap keyboard channeling stories - stories about the powerful women who secretly lived in kelp tangled ponds tucked in deep black forests or dapper werewolves slipping through the blue tinged streets of English-flavored colonial America, trying to escape the persecution of small minds. Then I'd print my tales onto long sheaths of paper that, in those days, had to be delicately torn into individual sheets before I would staple them into booklets and draw pictures all over the margins.
As time passed, I focused my professional sights on illustration followed by performance, modeling, singing, and a whole slew of other activities. However, the desire to tell stories remained a consistent. Throughout each of my pursuits, I began to realize that from the images I conjured to the movement of my body, my goals remained tied to narrative. I still wrote, and I participated in the National Novel Writing Month, but it was taking to the stage as a live storyteller that really lit the spark for my passion.
Beneath the misunderstanding, the lack of inclusion, the fear, the whitewashing, and a slew of a hundred other problems that divided us was that we weren't really hearing or really listening to each other's stories...
The first storytelling event I spoke at was themed Origins for a local event called Second Tuesdays. A night to celebrate the creation of the event itself, the storytellers had all been invited to tell a personal story that spoke to their own origins. There were some who spoke of their childhood through the lens of socioeconomics, some who spoke of world-view defining moment, I spoke of my name and paralleled my coming into adulthood to a Korean folktale that I love.
After that, I would tell several more stories under the themes of local music and women's bodies before starting to host my own storytelling events for the nonprofit I helped to lead, Super Heroines, Etc. - a 501c3 with the mission to empower women and those who identify as women to embrace their inner nerd. Of course, it became so much more than that...
During my time with Super Heroines, Etc., I began do more active work in deliberate education and empowerment developing and facilitating events, workshops, and comic convention panels on topics such as Geek Feminism, the importance of diversity and representation in media, creating safer spaces, the history of Villainesses, women in the video game industry, and so fourth. As I dove deeper into this work, I began to connect the pieces between storytelling and a much bigger social picture. Beneath the misunderstanding, the lack of inclusion, the fear, the whitewashing, and the slew of a hundred other problems that divided us was that we weren't hearing or really listening to each other's stories - stories that bridge the gaps, that represent diverse voices and perspectives, and, in my experience, that's how we learn.
So, in February of 2017 I hosted the very first SHE Stories with the theme of
My goal has been to create an inclusive space in which all stories and perspectives are encouraged to be told and everyone has the opportunity to come together as a community and listen.
The first time I told a personal story live, it was for an event appropriately themed "Origins." It was personal, vibrant, and there was a charged energy that had me hooked. I continued to tell stories and soon after created and hosted a recurring open-mic style story event for the nonprofit Super Heroines, Etc., which successfully ran for three years before shifting under my own storytelling mantle (and transitioned to a digitally streamed format during COVID-19 lockdown).
Hosting storytelling events with as well as continuing to speak on panels nationally, both on topics such as mental health diversity and the importance of diverse representation in media, allowed me to realize just how vital holding space for these conversations are. People desperately want connect over these issues, share their experiences, and know their experiences are shared. Time and time again, however, when I would ask a friend or colleague to speak at one of our storytelling events I would hear how they didn't think they were a good storyteller or that they didn't have a story to tell.
Now if you've spent any time looking around the site you'll have had plenty of chances to see me say that I believe - and I do - that everyone has a story that deserves to be told. I also believe that no lack of learnable skill or opportunities should keep stories from being shared, especially when many who may feel the lack of representation and opportunity tend to be those from historically marginalized communities.
My wheels began to turn, but I had my first opportunity to develop and create a storytelling workshop when I won an artist grant from The Gateway Burners in mid 2018.
From there, I've continued to explore how storytelling methodology can be used in different ways to teach communication skills, community building, diversity and inclusion practice, self-discovery and empowerment, and beyond. It was from here that The Story Bee was ultimately born.
The Story Bee is a storytelling incubator in which participants are trained in a variety of focused workshops that include: walking individuals through the guided process of picking a topic, writing a story, and learning to tell that story live; storytelling as a way to bridge small group dynamics in organizations and the workplace; methods of self empowerment and acceptance through the practice of engaging with one's own story.