Storytelling school

Oregon’s Hearth Community Storytelling Project is launched and invites you to speak your truth

Mark Yaconelli is a story catcher. As director of the Hearth Community Storytelling Project in Ashland for 12 years, he coached everyday people to tell hidden truths they want to share.

The community organizer and retreat leader has seen firsthand that when people put aside their built-in arguments and really listen to someone vulnerable tell a true story about themselves, a connection is created. Feelings of anxiety and isolation are temporarily lifted. Wounds can heal.

In recent years, the Oregon Health Authority has asked Yaconelli to help high school students in southern Oregon describe their lives before and after their families were affected by the Almeda Fire and the coronavirus pandemic.

Yaconelli was asked in 2015 to help the Roseburg community deal with the trauma of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College. He trained volunteers to be compassionate listeners in cafes and libraries to accept the pain people had to say out loud.

He has been called in to help groups understand each other across racial lines and to inform frustrated scientists that their data-filled climate change reports are being ignored.

Their approach: speak from their hearts about why they want to protect plants, puffins and the planet.

Mark Yaconelli, the author of the new book, “Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us,” has left his Ashland home to launch his Stories on the Road Tour.Janet Eastman / The Oregonian

On Tuesday, Yaconelli, the author of the new book “Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us,” and his wife, Jill, hopped into their van with a freshly applied sign that reads Stories on the Road Tour.

Over the next year, Ashland’s empty nests will encounter strangers looking for a way to counter defeat, elevate hope, and tap into the collective desire to belong.

The way forward, says Yaconelli, is through the emotional language of storytelling.

Simply, storytelling is an opportunity to authentically connect with others, to travel together to “explore what it means to be human,” says Yaconelli.

Author Anne Lamott calls Yaconelli a teacher with wisdom, patience and humor who wrote “an owner’s manual for the soul.”

One small town, one heart at a time, Yaconelli will allow people gathered in art guilds and bookstores, churches and house parties, to feel seen and be heard.

It will set the stage for an audience to accept someone else’s loss, worry, or low self-esteem. It will remove the noise and help people find the words to release what has been buried in their hearts.

But above all, he will listen.

Mark Yaconelli, founder of community storytelling The Hearth and author of

Mark Yaconelli led an interactive presentation on the power of storytelling on August 9, 2022 at the Chetco Library in Brookings.Jill Yaconelli

Here are Mark Yaconelli’s upcoming events in Oregon:

Saturday, August 13: Mark Yaconelli will present an author talk from 1 to 3 p.m. at Books by the Bay in North Bend.

Sunday, August 14: Yaconelli will speak beginning at 10:30 a.m., followed by a one-hour workshop on sacred stories at First Congregational Church in Corvallis.

Wednesday, August 17: The author will speak from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Canvasback Books at Klamath Falls.

Thursday, August 18: Yaconelli will host an hour-long interactive presentation on the power of storytelling beginning at 4 p.m., followed by a reception and book signing at the Grants Pass Museum of Art. The free event is open to the public.

Friday, August 19: The author will present at a fundraiser for the Friends of the Children Mentoring Program.

Sunday, August 21: Beginning at 11:30 a.m., Yaconelli will speak at Great Spirit United Methodist Church in northeast Portland.

Residents of Oregon or Siskiyou County, California can receive a free copy of “Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us” if they agree to provide book reviews. Go to tfff.org, the website of the Roseburg-based nonprofit Ford Family Foundation.

For more information on the Mark Yaconelli and The Hearth tour, visit thehearthcommunity.com.

— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072

[email protected] | @janeteastman

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