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Face to Face with The Facing Project

“Tell me your story. Where would you begin?”

Think about how this question would be answered, in relation to some of the toughest and most important topics in our city, by the people who have lived those stories. Topics like Addiction, Disease, and Poverty, specifically selected by the community, in order to start conversations and generate solutions--this is what The Facing Project is.

Finding an entry point to The Facing Project has been at the top of my list since I found out about it, because this is an initiative that Muncie has shared with the rest of the country. Seriously, you heard me right--The Facing Project was founded in Muncie by J.R. Jamison and Kelsey Timmerman, and is now in 75 communities across the United States. Each community selects their own topics based on relevance, and then partners with local organizations to recruit storytellers. These storytellers then work with writers, trained by The Facing Project, whose mission is to “carry the voice of the storyteller.” Subjects can remain anonymous or give their names, depending on the topic and their comfort level. For example, when the Topic was Autism, several storytellers chose to be named, in order to serve as a resource for local families.

And that’s kind of the whole point. Jamison and Timmerman specify that this is NOT an oral history project, but a way to “think about solutions around these topics.” Is it working? Well, after the Project in Muncie covered Racism, a local writer used the stories to create a curriculum for local students. Need more evidence? Following the publication of the Sex Trafficking issue in Atlanta, a kiosk was installed in the airport (the busiest in the country), which included audio of the stories, informational material, and tangible steps on how to intervene safely in suspected cases of domestic sex trafficking.

Here’s a snapshot of the “rules” of The Facing Project: The narratives are told from the perspective of those who lived them, as their personal truths. As such, third parties are not specifically named, unless they include material facts readily available to the public. This protects everyone, without compromising voice. That segues to a biggie--writers must preserve the voice of the storytellers. This can be challenging, as Jamison explained:

“One story I had written, I was so excited, I felt like i had captured her voice...she said, ‘it doesn’t sound like me.’ We went back and worked it together.”

Stories are typically 1,000 words or less, which is a short time to make a big impact, but believe me, THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THESE NARRATIVES DO. Jamison’s phrasing is poetry, stating that a good story, “Pulls you into a moment in a person’s life, and spits you back out. It should leave you with questions, not give you all the answers.”

Jamison and Timmerman have also gone beyond the printed word to make sure these stories are told--this summer, The Facing Project put on A Midsummer Night’s Narrative, the first storytelling festival in Muncie for at least the last decade, possibly longer. Stories were also staged as dramatic monologues, in partnership with Muncie Civic Theater, and there are plans to continue this work in the coming months.

You will NOT be surprised to hear that I am excited to get trained and participate in the upcoming as a writer. In the meantime, here’s some homework for all of us--ENJOY, AND DISCUSS:

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