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April 20, 2023
Introducing: InDeep, Volume 1, Article 1: Good Stories with ROOTer Shannon M. Turner
“Everyone needs to understand that they have a good story to tell.”
–Shannon M. Turner, StoryMuse
InDeep is a bimonthly series of features highlighting ROOTers and their dope work, dreamed up and developed by Alternate ROOTS Membership Team.
The 2023 series of InDeep will focus on collaboration. In this first-ever issue of InDeep, we are excited to speak with longtime ROOTer and seasoned collaborator, Shannon M. Turner, Founder and Creative Director of StoryMuse.
Shannon is an Atlanta-based consultant and coach who conducts workshops and training for individuals and organizations seeking to use true, personal stories for transformative potential.
Good Stories: InDeep with ROOTS Member Shannon Turner of StoryMuse
StoryMuse, “Everyone needs to understand that they have a good story to tell.”
The ROOTS Membership Team is thrilled to share our first feature of InDeep, ROOTS’ new feature highlighting ROOTers and their dope work. The 2023 series will focus on the theme of collaboration. We are excited to speak with our very own StoryMuse, AKA Shannon M. Turner, in our first installment.
Shannon is an Atlanta-based consultant and coach who conducts workshops and training for individuals and organizations seeking to use true, personal stories for transformative potential. She can be often found taking long walks with friends and snapping scenic pictures of the Atlanta Beltline and other surrounding landscapes. We are honored that Shannon took some time out to speak to us about collaboration, her passions, and the beautiful work she does as the Founder and Creative Director of StoryMuse.
Membership Team (MT): Firstly, Shannon, you have been a ROOTS board member since 2006, a voting member shortly coming up on 20 years. How did you come to know about and eventually join this unique network of individuals and communities?
Shannon Turner (ST): In the summer of 2005, I was studying arts administration & public dialogue at Virginia Tech under the direction of Bob Leonard, one of ROOTS’ founding members. Bob talked about ROOTS often in our curriculum. I had a summer internship experience which involved working with a few different organizations, including the Swannanoa Gathering and Alternate ROOTS. After having interned in the office for about a month, I came to what was known at the time as the Alternate ROOTS Annual Meeting & Artists Retreat (these days, called ROOTS Week).
As you can imagine, I was tremendously excited to see this beautiful thing I’d been working on in the office come to fruition. The coordinator, Vanessa Manley, asked me to facilitate what was a tradition at the time: the camp craft. As a former candlemaker, I was delighted to have the opportunity to set up a candle-making station under the porch at Lineberger Hall. It also meant that I passively sat most of the week, waiting for people to come by and make their candles. I was able to meet and chat with a lot of folx* one-on-one. I can’t think of a better way to come to know the organization and its smart, creative, generous, forward-thinking artists. Back then, you had to come back to the Annual Meeting a second time in order to become a member, so I formally joined as a voting member in 2006.
MT: It must have been an amazing experience being surrounded by so many passionate artists and activists. It seems a given that exchanges of ideas and skill sharing were happening all around you. What does it mean to be in community and possibly collaborating with other passionate folx*?
ST: When I think of collaboration, I sometimes think about potluck dinners. I’m a potluck devotee. Everyone doesn’t bring the same thing to the table; better if they don’t. But, if everyone brings the best they have to offer–down to the plates, the space, and the playlist–a beautiful, collaborative experience will be had by all. As such, a collaboration is successful if each of our own unique offerings comes together into a cohesive whole, where we all feel honored for our contributions. I try to be up front about the fact that my approach to collaboration is about a remarkable, holistic, process, not just a successful product.
MT: That was a beautiful illustration of what collaboration is to you. Do you have any tips or advice on developing or maintaining this beautiful picture of collaboration?
ST: The advice I have about collaboration is be humble, be joyful, be creative, but above all else, be patient. The thing about bringing ideas and work to the table is that it’s not always easy, fast, or fun to try and fit into other people’s capacities, budgets, calendars, and/or timelines. And that doesn’t mean that they have any less buy-in. It just means that part of my job is to wait, to listen, to follow up, to look for how I can help fill in gaps, but also to trust in other people’s resilience. As a white person, I think it’s especially important for me to listen deeply and not make assumptions.
Every good thing happens in its own time. Some of my best projects were easy because they were meant to be. Sometimes, if it feels like I’m pushing too hard to make a thing happen, it might mean that it’s just not the right idea or the right time. But even the exploration can generate new models for future collaborations.
MT: Thank you for sharing; many ROOTers have expressed the desire for more connection and possible collaboration. Some are even asking for guidance on how to approach or develop relationships that can lead to collaboration. I think this advice hits the nail on the head.
Shannon, tell us what you’re working on at the moment.
ST: Some of the deepest, hardest, most exciting work I do is with the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. For five years now, we have been partnering to tell the stories of people with intellectual & developmental disabilities in a variety of formats–more than a hundred profiles through writing and photography; a podcast; a documentary film; and multiple pop-up, interactive, outdoor theater experiences. We are still working on the concept for 2023, but it’s looking very likely that we’ll be using puppetry to investigate and lift up the caregiver crisis, which is a huge part of the field’s conversation right now.
I’m also going to be working this spring with a consortium of small arts nonprofits to provide training in storytelling for team building and brand development. I’m looking forward to that engagement tremendously because some of my favorite Atlanta-based groups, including the National Black Arts Festival, are involved.
Finally, I’m working with Zaban Paradies, a shelter that serves unhoused couples, this spring to coach stories with their staff, board, and clients both for an event and for their online content.
MT: This sounds exciting and full of potential; what are your overall dreams for your work?
ST: Everyone needs to understand that they have a good story to tell. Storytelling is one of our most ancient forms of communication, culture, and values-transmission. It’s a sad byproduct of our broken education system and society writ large that people often say to me, “I’m not a good storyteller.” It makes me want to cry because storytelling is an inherent legacy, even if it’s something we can all work on or get better at.
I am on a mission not only to help people tell better stories, but also to hear stories better. As such, I always take a moment for a deep listening exercise during my workshops. We live in an increasingly successful distraction machine. It drives us apart from each other, into our own little siloes and bubbles. I truly hope that, by holding up the mic to all kinds of stories, we can get better at sitting with the awkward, authentic, messy truths we find in each other and in ourselves.
ROOTS’ Five Principles for Working in Community are listed on my website under Mission & Values. The one I always resonate with most is “personal and community transformation.” A lot of my work does have to do with working with individuals to help them tell their stories. Thanks to the coaching and legacy of Jo Carson, I see us all on a spectrum between being hapless victims or bystanders, to becoming the s/heroes, to becoming the powerful narrators of our stories. The more we as individuals have a healthy relationship with, and power through our stories, the more we will be and build healthy, resilient, and just communities.
MT: That is an awesome vision and you are doing quite a lot there. Now turning back to collaboration for a moment, is there any way folks can connect with you to support your work or even possibly develop a collaboration with you?
ST: I’m eager and ready to travel the region, so if storytelling can help serve your goals for professional development, community building, advocacy, etc., let’s talk! Also, based on previous work, I have a new project–ready to go at any time–with an Atlanta organization serving queer youth building their way out of being unhoused. If anyone knows of some good potential funders, please send them my way. Please do connect, support, get involved!
MT: I’m excited that you are open and so passionate about collaboration. This makes me want to know, besides potlucks, what else are you passionate about?
- Movie nights, taking walks with friends, dancing, and the show “Kim’s Convenience.”
- Storytelling as a means for personal and community transformation
- Social and environmental justice
- Being an active citizen, whether that means voting, volunteering, or being a good friend and family member
- Seeing and participating in art and creativity of all kinds
MT: Shannon, this has been amazing – thank you again for your time and for sharing with all of us. I feel like I got to know you on a deeper level. I’m excited to share this first feature with the ROOTS community and beyond. We will continue speaking with other ROOTers about their work and ideas, learnings, and experience with collaboration. Thank you for helping us kick off this new initiative!
Remember, through StoryMuse, Shannon offers storytelling techniques as a tool for personal discernment, team building, and community development to cultivate a world where all stories are heard and honored. You can check out the StoryMuse website for available services and additional information, follow StoryMuse on social media, and reach out if storytelling can help serve your goals for professional development, community building, advocacy, etc. Shannon is ready to talk! Check below for StoryMuse details.
Shannon M. Turner | she/her
Founder/Creative Director | StoryMuse
540-552-3482 / 678-837-6681 | email@example.com
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