Gathering Stories:
The Art of the Interview

This Conference is a conversation with those who are fascinated with stories. These are stories of people's lives, stories of discovery and secrecy, stories of heroic efforts and cowardice, stories of loyalty and betrayal, stories of artistry and creativity, stories of scandal and proud public moments, stories of fulfillment and disappointment, stories of enlightenment and stories of "not getting it", and stories of bullies and those who resist them. These are stories about family life, communities, or isolated individuals.

 

They come from the minds of writers make up the novels, short stories and non-fiction essays we enjoy reading because their authors have found a way to resonate with our inner experiences and interpersonal life. These are the stories that entertain us, teach us, or deeply move us.

 

These stories are gathered by print journalists for their newspaper columns and by radio or television journalists for their on-air programs. These stories go beyond the headlines to capture the complexities of people's lives - their tragedies, heroics, and conflicts.

 

These stories are gathered by anthropologists as they seek to understand the culture and stories of any variety of groups - from German -Russian immigrants, to inner city African American families ­ to homeless men or cocktail waitresses. These ethnographies give us a glimpse into the daily lives, special language, and cultural patterns of these diverse groups.

 

These are stories listened to by psychotherapists as they ask questions about the "dominant" stories of pain and suffering, of anxiety and depression, of anger and conflict in their clients' lives. The art of psychotherapy is in fleshing out the "alternative stories" that don't match with the dominant stories. These are stories of experiences in which clients have fought off depression's deadening influence or anxiety's frightening grip, when they have stood up to bullies and have overtly or covertly resisted them, refusing to be a victim. These are stories when conflicted men and women have managed to listen to and respect each other instead of tuning out or dismissing their partner.

 

This conference will offer an opportunity for participants to have conversations about the stories of people's lives ­ or the stories that are people's lives. The plots and counterplots of stories fascinate us with their complexity or ingenuity or appall us with their banality. The characters in these stories can never be captured in a simple phrase from the headlines or diagnostic category of mental disorders. Interviewing to capture the "passionate, accurate story" is an art practiced in each of these professions. This conference will give us an opportunity for each in our professions as writers, journalists, anthropologists, and psychotherapists to learn from each other about the art of interviewing and the gathering of the story.


Sponsored by ­ Southwest Family Services, Minnesota Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and at the University of Minnesota: The Department of Family Social Science, the Consortium of Children, Youth and Families, and The School of Journalism.

Conference Organizers ­ Curiosity Productions: Ken Stewart, Ph.D. & Sara Wright, Ph.D.

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