Of Powerful Things

by Daniele Berman, Operations Manager

kidsBecause I’m a lover and teller of stories, I want to tell you one. It’s a story about mothers, about social media, about writers, about curiosity, and about children’s books. (The common thread, I think you’ll find, is that those are all powerful things. And they make for a powerful story.)

Once upon a time—is 2013 long enough ago to count as “once upon a time”? all good stories start that way, so let’s say yes—a writer acquaintance of mine posted something on Facebook about submitting some sort of piece of writing to some kind of thing about mothers. That vague description is as much as I knew when I clicked on the link she had shared. But I was curious to see what my writer acquaintance was up to, and I was curious as always to know about writerly things happening here in the Triangle. So I clicked, and I learned about Listen to Your Mother. “Giving motherhood a microphone,” was the tagline for this motherly-writerly thing, and being a mother in addition to a writer and a curious person, I wanted to learn more. This is what I learned on the website:

The mission of each LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER production is to take the audience on a well-crafted journey that celebrates and validates mothering through giving voice to motherhood–in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor–in the form of original readings performed live on-stage by their authors. LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER aims to support motherhood creatively through artistic expression, and also financially–through contributions to non-profit organizations supporting families in need. Each LTYM show donates a minimum of 10% of ticket proceeds to a local cause, as well as providing the cause awareness/fund-raising opportunities.

To make a long story short—isn’t that how all good storytelling goes?—I submitted a piece I had written, and I became a member of the cast of Raleigh-Durham’s inaugural Listen to Your Mother show.

It was the thrill of a lifetime to have the opportunity to share a three-minute-long piece I had written about reading to my children with an audience full of lovers of stories and mothers. But equally thrilling was getting to know the other 14 cast members and their stories: stories of mothers, of sons and daughters, of sisters, of grandmothers, of postpartum depression and dance successes and feuding adult twin children and anatomically incorrect dolls and grief and loss and the love of all sorts of mothers. As did the audience the night of the performance, the members of the cast laughed and cried and struggled and rejoiced our way through auditions and rehearsals and the show; and afterwards, we celebrated and hugged goodbye and said we hoped we’d keep in touch.

Enter the power of social media: because we did keep in touch. Thanks to Facebook, many of us stayed connected despite living in different areas of the Triangle and different layers of life. In the past two years of our online friendships, we have shared moves and job changes and health struggles and marathons run and children off to college and chicken farming and all the other stuff of regular lives shared by regular friends in real life and on social media. And it was when one cast member shared about her work as the chair of the board of a nonprofit that I learned about what would become the next chapter of my story.

Since July of 2014, I have been the Operations Manager of Book Harvest, a nonprofit organization in Durham whose mission is to make sure all children in the Triangle have books. Michele Lynn, my fellow cast member from Listen to Your Mother, is the chair of our board and has been a champion of that mission from day one of this four-year-old organization. Thanks to Michele, our founder and executive director Ginger Young, and dozens of board members and hundreds of volunteers and thousands of donors, Book Harvest has distributed over a quarter million books to children in need in just four years. As a lover of books and children and our local community, it is yet another one of the great thrills of my life to be part of the team that puts the power of stories and book ownership in the hands of children who might otherwise not know that magic.

And here’s where the power of social media shows up one more time in my story: because of the ongoing Facebook friendships between Michele and myself and our fellow Listen to Your Mother alums, Book Harvest has been selected as the nonprofit partner for this year’s Raleigh-Durham shows. Thanks to Marty Long and KeAnne Hoeg, our local producers, as well as the national network of Listen to Your Mother shows—in 39 cities this year!—Book Harvest’s name and mission are being spread throughout our community and beyond. Michele and I will have the opportunity to share Book Harvest’s work with the audiences of this year’s Raleigh-Durham shows, both at a table in the lobby and from the stage with this year’s cast members. We will have the opportunity to share Book Harvest’s story—one of sharing stories with all children—alongside a stage-full of storytellers sharing their stories of motherhood.

Every good story has a moral, right? Or a happy ending, at least, or a lesson learned? I suppose the moral of this chapter of my story is this: stories have power. The stories in children’s books, in writers’ minds, on Listen to Your Mother’s stages, on friends’ Facebook pages—those stories have the power to change lives. And so does each one of us. There are myriad ways you can empower children in the love and ownership of stories—the kind in the books on their bedside tables and the kind in their minds and hearts as they learn to write and share. Would you join Book Harvest and Listen to Your Mother as we work together to share stories with children? Donate books, volunteer your time, make a financial contribution, or just stop by to see the magic that is this place we call Book Harvest. And join us on May 7 or 8 for Listen to Your Mother RDU as we celebrate the stories of motherhood and the children who are part of those stories.

cast

You can listen to Michele Lynn’s piece “Holding On and Letting Go” and my piece “Broken-In” online, if you’d like to know more about our stories and catch a glimpse of the magic that is Listen to Your Mother. I promise these stories will leave you wanting more!