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StoryCorps returns to Boise to listen to the story of our lives

Danielle Andersen is the StoryCorps Mobile Tour Director
StoryCorps, Boise State Public Radio, Danielle Andersen
Danielle Andersen is the StoryCorps Mobile Tour Director

There’s something magical about the StoryCorpsexperience. To be sure, it’s very real … and there are so many talented professionals who make the experience accessible.

But when one person truly wants to listen to someone else – particularly someone they think they know very well – it becomes as StoryCorps puts it, “the conversation of a lifetime.”

“I want to hear what you think of when I ask that question and let's take the time to really dive into that,” said Danielle Andersen, director of the StoryCorps Mobile Tour. “We don't get to do that very often, and it's special when we do.”

As StoryCorps prepares for its return to Boise - August 4 to September 2 – Andersen visits with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the wonder of “open-ended” questions and, yes, the magic of those “driveway moments.”

“We will talk through everything with you to make sure that you feel ready and prepared to share your story in the way that you want to do it.”

An Introduction to StoryCorps from our Founder, Dave Isay

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. We are thrilled to report that StoryCorps, which is to say the StoryCorps mobile tour, is returning to Boise in just a few days. Danielle Andersen is here. She's the director of the StoryCorps mobile tour. Danielle, good morning.

DANIELLE ANDERSEN: Thank you so much for having me.

PRENTICE: I'm looking at your 2022 tour: Tampa, the Gulf Coast, Tulsa, Springfield, Missouri, Missoula, Moses Lake, now Boise. Then you're off to Salt Lake City, then Vegas. Finally, San Antonio for the holidays. Wow. You're back in a big way.

ANDERSEN: Yeah, we cover a lot of ground. We call ourselves the mobile tour. We are not joking.

PRENTICE: You are in this wonderful position, which gives you a unique lens to see America. And while we hear so much about our differences, I'd like to ask what you see… and in particular what you hear… about what we have in common.

ANDERSEN: Yeah, that's a great question. It's also a really important question because I think it's something we lose sight of a lot. But you're right, we do have a really unique lens, a unique position that we are in as facilitators and as people who get the honor of sitting in and listening to a lot of these conversations. And I think what strikes me, and I've definitely heard other people say this that have been facilitators for some time, is that the world will throw a lot of things at us, can be really hard, painful things happen. But the resilience that we hear in people, in the stories that they tell, their ability to kind of roll with these punches that we get and keep going and keep moving and finding strength in our family and our communities and the love of those around us, just basically just our ability to keep going and to keep thriving despite everything that gets thrown at us.

PRENTICE: I was taught a long time ago, “When in doubt, tell me about…” which is to say a conversation or an interview that begins with the words “tell me about” usually gives you a pretty good piece of sound and usually cuts to the core. So, I'm thinking that probably works well for StoryCorps when someone asks their friend or their mom or their grandfather, “Tell me about your dad, or tell me about how things have changed.”

ANDERSEN: Yeah, it's those open-ended questions that I think… it sounds silly, but we don't ask a lot of them in our day-to-day lives. Everything is very…”Yes, yes, no. ”Everything is a yes/no question. We're making plans. We're running around. And just those… just like you said.. those open “tell me about” questions. Sometimes they really open up space in people to share some surprising things. I'll give you a really short example. I know my dad really well. We have a great relationship. We talk all the time. I have done one StoryCorps recording with him, and my first question was, “Tell me about your mom.” And he immediately started to cry… and it caught us both off guard. It was just… I think just that space that I want to hear… I want to hear what you think of when I ask that question and just let's take the time to really dive into that. We don't get to do that very often, and it's special when we do.

PRENTICE: The thing that struck me the first time that I stepped into the mobile booth. Was, how comforting it was, how comfortable it was. I was really surprised. And I'm guessing that none of that is by accident.

ANDERSEN: No, I mean, we really want to strip away a space so that the only thing people are really focused on is their conversation partner. You know, they usually will come in and they're a little bit there's a microphone in front of them. And for most people, that's a that's a new experience. And so, there's a little bit of getting over that. But aside from that, once they're looking into their partner's eyes and just kind of focused on that conversation, everything else seems to melt away. I should share with you, though, that we are right now. Unfortunately, we're not actually recording in the mobile booth itself, but we are going to be recording in your studios. And so another intimate, special place, we will create that atmosphere wherever we'll go.

PRENTICE: It's my understanding that for the first time, folks might have the option to record remotely in a virtual recording booth. How does that work?

ANDERSEN: Yeah. So, we are doing what we call hybrid stops these days. We know we are still living in a time when COVID is there. So, trying to take that into account and also just in general increase accessibility to our recording process. So, we when people sign up, they will have two options. They can either come and record in person with us or they can choose to record from the comfort of their own homes. We'll just need them to use some kind of an Internet connected device, be it a computer or a phone or really anything they can use to access our recording platform similar to something like Zoom, but only used by StoryCorps and just for this purpose. So, it's designed kind of like we were talking about before without any of the other distractions, just really a StoryCorps recording space just on your computer.

PRENTICE: I can't tell you how many people I've had this conversation about StoryCorps returning. And to the person they say, “I would love to do this, but…” And my response is, “Don't overthink this.” So, what's the best advice that you could give someone listening… to encourage them to participate?

ANDERSEN: That is so funny you say that. We hear that all the time. “Oh, yes, I would love to. That would be great. But you should talk to so-and-so instead.” They have a great story, and I think there's two ways to think about it. Number one, and this is one of the easier ways to think about it is just think about somebody who'd like to come in with. Think about somebody either that you would like to talk about a shared experience with or somebody that you would like to learn more about. A friend, a family member, somebody, like I said, that you would want to spend that intentional time with, you know, that time away from everything else. Or if you want to share a story of your own, just like you said, don't overthink it. Think of somebody that you'd want to share it with. Bring them in and then just go for it. There's no right or wrong way to do this. There's a reason that we let people decide what they're going to talk about. You know, we never dictate what people should talk about because they know what's important to them. They know what's meaningful to them. They know what they want to preserve, and they know what they want to share. That said, we know it can still be intimidating. So, if you want to come and share a story, but you're uncertain how to do it, we reach out to everybody that makes an appointment with us and we share lots of resources. We will talk through everything with you to make sure that you feel ready and prepared to share your story in the way that you want to do it, or to interview that person that you care about the way that you want to be able to do it. So, we'll help you along.

PRENTICE: Can I assume the pandemic has triggered even more personal conversations.

ANDERSEN: Yeah. It's interesting. You know, we were curious when we started back out on the road how much we would hear directly about people's experiences of the pandemic. And while we've certainly heard a lot of stories directly addressing how people moved through that time and continue to move through that time, we have found, too, that it just kind of winds its way into people's recordings in interesting ways. I mean, it's really just impacted all of us in ways that I think we're still grappling with. People don't need to talk about that experience. We don't need nobody needs to talk about that at all. It's just been interesting to hear how it has found its way into a lot of the corners of our lives.

PRENTICE: I can't wait August 4th through September 2nd. And she is Danielle Andersen and she and her colleagues will make StoryCorps happen here in Boise. This is why we do what we do, right? It's when I say “StoryCorps,” people's eyes widen in a flash.

ANDERSEN: People love StoryCorps, but honestly, it's the people that make StoryCorps. We don't write these stories. People bring them. So, it's the people that make StoryCorps what it is. And so, we are very honored that people love what we do, but it's you guys that make it happen.

PRENTICE: Thanks so very much, Danielle Andersen; and have yourself a good rest of your morning.

ANDERSEN: You too, George. Thanks so much.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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