Unlocking Your Stories
with Ann Diamond
is not about putting words down on paper, so much as it's a process
of feeling, remembering, and shaping our experience. Unlocking
Your Stories is a workshop in developing
our awareness of those inner and outer processes of thinking, feeling,
knowing and sensing that give birth to stories.
is probably the oldest art form, and although it must have been preceded
by the development of speech, dreams came before verbal storytelling.
In writing stories, we can draw on the fluidity and inventiveness of
dreams to create an experience for ourselves, our listeners, and readers.
group can be both an audience and a team of practitioners. In
Unlocking Your Stories, we get together to explore
techniques, approaches, and strategies for storytelling, drawing on
personal sources as well as advice from established writers. This workshop
is a place to experiment, grow and see ourselves through a different
kind of looking-glass: the inexhaustible mirror of narrative.
to this page, and hope to see you in my workshop!
An Interview with Ann Diamond:
1999 Interview with Ann Diamond by Samaa Elobieri
I was eight years old. It was after I read "The Little Mermaid", the
fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. After reading it, I cried for
2 hours non-stop, and I decided there's something strange about telling
a story, if it can make you cry like that maybe there's something in
it. I decided to be a writer, so I could make people cry.
You want to make people
think I've really succeeded in making people cry, but maybe sometimes
I've made them laugh. I think that's also important. Miss Diamond, you
are helping people who are writing or thinking about writing, to unlock
their potential. We usually tend to think that somebody who is a writer
is born like that, that you either can write or you cannot write.
Obviously you think that
there are those who can write better, or can all of us be brought to
write in a wonderful way? Would you like to comment on that?
been giving workshops in the Montreal area which I call "Unlocking Your
Stories" and they're aimed at anyone who has a story or something they
are carrying around in their heads that they want to bring out. As to
whether writers are born, I think maybe they are. I think people are
born with certain talents that get handed down through families, or
maybe for different people sometimes quite early on decide that writing
is their preferred form of expression, just as you get children at age
5 who sit down at the piano and start to play music. That's an innate
talent. But at the same time there are different kinds of talent and
different kinds of story talent. What we think of as writers, people
who make their living from writing, but maybe we'd call that literary
talent. And we have examples in Canada of people who have made great
contributions, people like Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies. But on
another level, story-telling, the way I think of it is something that
is, well, widespread in the population and it doesn't necessary belong
only to an elite. The variety and multiculturalism that we have here
is a richness and a heritage that we would like to preserve, and people
should be encouraged to write about their past, about their life here,
about how they integrate -- this is how I see it.
It's true. I completely
mother was French Canadian and my father was Scottish Canadian. Both
came from small villages in Quebec and Ontario. Both of them were good
storytellers and came from families and communities where people told
stories. As we get to be a bigger country and we have our media telling
us what we should think about our past, our present and our future,
it seems to be we're losing that village tradition of storytelling which
is underneath all the great cultures of the world.
Certainly, in the Middle
East, this is true... I come from Egypt and storytelling is part of
the tradition, and it runs in the family, so I remember the stories
that my grandmother used to tell me. They're so precious.
it's part of the heritage, and the oral tradition is very important.
And what I find here is
that we are overcome by so much noise, it's loud, it's fast, and we
really have to sit and take the time to relate things, simple things
but stories with a moral, stories with a significance, stories that
make you cry, as you said.
right. You could say also that writing belongs more and more to academics
and critics -- we're discovering that we have a literature in Canada
or we're in the process of creating one -- and the universities have
played a very important role. But it's a certain perspective on writing
and on stories, and I think in some ways it denies the emotional side,
the emotional power of storytelling. And that's one aspect of what I'm
trying to do, trying to get people to connect with the personal. So
we're trying really to democratize writing. It's for anybody who wants
Yes. I see in your workshops
that you talk about "from Diary to Drama". People tend to write diaries
when they are young and then they put this aside. Am I right?
think that's true. It's certainly been true for me. I just had a story
come to me today in an e-mail from someone who put some pieces together
from her diary that were so powerful and they made such a wonderful
story. That's one of the things I go after in these workshops. There
are a lot of secret diaries. People write things down they have no real
intention of sharing. It's a private thing and they think no one would
be interested. But sometimes in that diary there's an amazing richness
and quality of lived experience that can really turn into great stories,
novels, dramatic scripts.
What are the elements that
make a simple diary become really interesting to other people?
every diary entry is interesting, some are so private they don't translate
outside the mind of the writer. But some diaries are just full of anecdotes,
daily events, relationships with children, parents, what people really
say and what they really feel. Of course it takes talent, it takes an
eye, a certain kind of gift to turn that kind of daily material into
something special, but there are people everywhere who have that gift.
If nothing else, when you write about these things, sometimes you release
the frustration and tension and sometimes you find joy in writing. The
best thing that's happened to me in the last few years has been these
workshops because I get to hear people express themselves and tell the
stories that are important to them. And it's not work, it;s fun, and
I think I'm learning more from it than I've learned from almost anything.
You also mention that "dreams
become stories". I thought it was only Egyptians who dreamt a lot and
talked a lot about dreams -- I don't find anybody in the west saying
"I dreamt this" or "I saw this" or "I had this premonition." Is that
have to join one of my groups. We don't talk much about dreams, it's
not a dream workshop, but my groups attract a lot of women and women
tend to be very sensitive to things like dreams, premonitions, messages
from the unconscious. And some of it's very funny, it can be touching,
it's a source of wisdom. I encourage people to give value to those experiences.
Do you think dreams are
what we're wanting and longing for?
think our dreams can reveal our desires and wishes, a hidden side of
our lives that we're not prepared to face, and as a result they can
sometimes disrupt, but all of that adds drama. I'm addicted to drama.
Our subconscious is always creating drama for us.
I see you talk about the
fourth dimension. What is the fourth dimension?
the fourth dimension the side of story telling which reveals a spiritual
dimension to life. And it comes out when we face the darkness in ourselves.
In great stories, people pass through darkness and get to the divine
and the divine is the fourth dimension. Through the process of writing,
getting to know ourselves, we come to an awareness of a larger self.
And I think that's part of the reason people write.
You also talk about silence
and the unknown.
the deeper part of ourselves where there aren't any glib, easy answers.
You have to dig and you have to listen. And to tell great stories you
have to have a bit of an ear for silence. One of my teachers has been
Raymond Carver, a great American short story writer who is also a master
What about vocabulary.
Did somebody tell you "I don't know what to write" or "My language is
not expressive enough or fluent enough". Do you work on vocabulary or
choice of words in your workshops?
so much because I find that when people begin to connect with their
feelings, their true perceptions, the words come. The main problem is
not knowing yourself, not listening to yourself. I say, Just start.
Move your hand. Use your dreams, the daily things that move you, that
confuse you, that make you sad. You don't need a vast vocabulary. As
far as I'm concerned you can be writing in very simple language. You
can tell stories in cartoons, they're still stories. If they reach into
the truth about themselves, they will move other people, others will
understand. I find that through the process of writing, vocabulary expands
Who comes to your workshops
and who should be coming to your workshops?
with a deep and sincere interest in storytelling and in being honest.
Those are the two criteria.
Do people come in order
to be able to make more money, or is it for personal satisfaction?
never know. I've never had anyone leave my workshop and sell a book
and make a million dollars. But I've seen some very powerful stories
that have managed to move everyone in the room and change us, just by
listening to them. Or reading them. So I know that there are great stories