Texas Folk Life is sponsoring Stories for Creative Forces — a two-day storytelling workshop for veterans, service members and their families — at the Cultural Activities Center.
Eight pre-registered people attended the Saturday session. The docket is already filled for the second session, which will be 10 a.m.-3 p.m. today. A Listening Party open to the public will be 6-8 p.m. Monday at the CAC.
“The point of this workshop is to give military veterans the tools in using folklore as an approach to storytelling about yourself or learning about others,” said Charlie Lockwood, executive director of TFL, Austin.
Participants learn about audio production and storytelling, he said.
“We’re trying to get at the heart that everyone has,” he said. “What are some of the real stories behind the military vets and their experiences?”
Stories for Creative Forces is one of many similar projects in the country being funded by National Endowment for the Arts grants, he said.
Eric Eliason, co-editor of Warrior Ways: Explorations in Modern Military Folklore, led the workshop session at 11 a.m. Saturday.
When searching for stories, jokes can be a rich field, he said. A standard joke format is the Marine, soldier, airman and sailor, he said. Then you can look for variations, he said.
Another feature of folklore (equated with customs and traditions) is that it tends to happen as part of everyday life, he said. Yet another is that it is often useful in building community, he said, to let people know they are part of the group.
“It’s almost impossible to do this without excluding people,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to talk about military experience with people who haven’t had it.”
When he went to Afghanistan, he said, the stereotype was of the military guy who didn’t want to talk about his experience.
“I naively said I wasn’t going to be one of those guys,” he said.
He had a good experience in Afghanistan, he said. Members of the U.S. military were popular there, he said. The people were appreciative.
Back home, a woman asked him what it was like. He told her that except for his family it was probably the most rewarding experience of his life. He said the woman drew back as though shocked.
“There’s a huge cultural gap between civilians and the military,” he said.
Instead of using acronyms, for example, people might want to spell the words out, he said. They might also avoid using technical jargon.
When searching for stories, he said, one technique is to “prime the pump.” Share your own story, he said, and hope it inspires them to tell one of their own. A website to look at is www.folkstreams.net, he said.
One of the persons attending the workshop was Gary Emmert, who retired as a sergeant first class after 21 years in the U.S. Army, including three tours in Iraq. A journalist and broadcaster, he is program director for KNCT-FM, a public radio station of Central Texas College in Killeen. Most of his work is in production, he said, and he wants to get behind the microphone.
“I want to find people and make stories,” he said.
Colleen Saffron of Harker Heights, a caregiver for wounded vets, said she’s done a lot of writing, mostly fiction.
“I’m working on a piece right now that fits with this,” she said of the workshop. “It’s neat just to be in an environment that teaches you how to record information and create a story that others would want to listen to.”