Life on the Road: Adventures with StoryCorps’ Mobile Tour Staff (July 24 – July 28, 2022)
Soap Lake, WA-July 24, 2022
Hello from Soap Lake, WA! We are pretty pumped to have two days of field recordings here!
This little city has been built up around…you guessed it: Soap Lake! The lake boasts the most diverse naturally occurring mineral content on earth, and people have flocked to the lake for its healing properties for centuries, from Tsincayuse or Sinkiuse tribes to World War I veterans suffering from Buerger’s disease.
It’s no surprise, then, that our recording space is a natural medicine practice full of peaceful, healing vibes:
Here, we heard stories about waitressing and bartending the city’s nightlife scene, an adventure that brought one woman here from Yorkshire, England, to Soap Lake, discussions, and plans to create the largest lava lamp in the world (60 feet tall!) After recording, Lea and I jumped into the lake to test out the healing properties for ourselves. We don’t know if it healed us or not, but we sure felt rejuvenated afterwards! We also felt grateful–Lea pointed out how lucky we are to hear stories about such a special place all day, then get to experience it for ourselves.
Leavenworth, WA – July 26, 2022
Lea and I are both off work today, so we are headed to Leavenworth, WA, a nearby Bavarian village.
En route, we got some delicious coffee at Favored Farmhouse.
We also couldn’t resist the urge to stop and take a dip in the Wenatchee River on the way. The air here smelled so splendidly of pine trees that even looking at this picture brings the scent back.
As we eat pretzels and overlook the colorful streets in Leavenworth, we truly feel like we’ve somehow traveled abroad. Life on the road can be like that sometimes–an hour or so away and suddenly we find ourselves in a completely new environment, seeing the world as if with new eyes. It’s wild how we’ve now seen so much, and, yet, there is always another unexpected gem around the corner, just as sparkly as the last experience we’ve had.
Moses Lake, WA – 7/27/22
We all have a way of creating home on the road as we travel to new temporary spaces each month. Teriyana likes to find health food stores where she can find her favorite snacks. Naomi likes to make playlists that remind her of the various places she’s lived. Sonia likes to take walks to explore her new surroundings. Back when she was a Mobile Tour Facilitator, Lea brought her favorite tapestry with her to decorate each room she stayed in. My ritual is to make Sun Art from the plants I see in the area. Since I grew up spending a lot of time outdoors, collecting leaves and flowers as part of the process makes me feel closer to home.
Here’s what I made this month from a bundle of lavender given to me by a kind stranger at the farmer’s market and some Sweet Gum Tree seeds that I collected from around Moses Lake’s Japanese Peace Garden:
Moses Lake, WA – 7/28/22
And just like that, we are done! We had our last day of recordings at the Civic Center today, said our goodbyes, and packed up.
After 10 months on the road, every stop seems to go even faster than the last. Maybe it’s because our days are so full, or maybe this is just how time feels at this stage in our lives. Either way, the car ride to our next destination is always a nice time to slow down and reflect. On Sunday, we will drive to Boise, ID so I’ll get the chance to do just that. I’m sure plenty more thoughts and adventures await that I would love to share with you, but this will be my last blog post for now. Thanks so much for tuning in! Until next time, I challenge you to ask your loved ones, or someone you’d like to know better, some great questions!
Click here to read the first installment of the Mobile Tour series.
Click here to read the second installment of the Mobile Tour series.
Click here to read the third installment of the Mobile Tour series.
Staff Spotlight: Kati Frazier, Associate Director of Public Support at StoryCorps
I was born and raised in North Carolina, but I’ve lived in New York for 10 years. I’ve always been passionate about storytelling: before I came to StoryCorps I spent my whole career working in nonprofit theater. These days, when I’m not hard at work supporting our participants and users, I’m usually puttering in my fire-escape garden, writing a play, seeing an off-off-off-off Broadway show you’ve never heard of, or spending a night in with my wife and cats.
What is your role at StoryCorps?
I’m the Associate Director of Public Support and Solutions which means that—along with a small team—I answer the general email box, support StoryCorps participants, and lead communications with users of our Mobile App and Online Archive.
How long have you been with the organization?
I started at StoryCorps in 2018.
What is a typical day like for you?
Every day, I spend time in ZenDesk [a help desk management tool] reviewing and responding to incoming inquiries from our community and on a given day, I might be meeting with our Digital team about improvements to our Online Archive, working with the Marketing & Communications team on emails to StoryCorps App users, advocating for the user experience, or working with the Recording & Archives team on archival policies that impact participants.
What do you find most fulfilling about your job?
I find it really fulfilling to work with participants; not a lot of StoryCorps staff (beyond our facilitators) interact with our participants on a regular basis. Often, as a remembrance, we hear from individuals who are searching for older interviews recorded by a recently deceased loved one. Helping people reconnect with these precious memories is one of my favorite things about this job.
What is most challenging about your job?
While I love working with the public, it can also be challenging. In this job, we are on the front lines when it comes to hearing about an issue, so there are times when my day has gone sideways because I’m responding to an unexpected message.
What might people not know about StoryCorps?
That public support exists—people don’t always know that we’re here to help them. We also have some great fans. One time, a high school class created a musical based on StoryCorps stories and then showed up at our Chicago StoryBooth [when it was in operation] to sing one of their show’s songs. People have also written songs about StoryCorps and sent them to us. We love receiving those kinds of messages!
Why should every American do an interview?
It democratizes the historical record because—no matter what your story is—all interviews are archived and preserved at StoryCorps’ archive at the Library of Congress. We are always happy to help participants retrieve their interviews. It’s a really beautiful thing that you can do for yourself and for future generations.
What is your favorite story?
The Dr. Tiller story is a good example of how our work can humanize a challenging and complex issue and it made me proud to work at StoryCorps.
Life on the Road: Adventures with StoryCorps’ Mobile Tour Staff (July 17 – July 20, 2022)
Quincy, WA-July 17, 2022
Hello from Quincy Valley! We are in this lovely city for some field recordings. A field recording is when we pack up our equipment and set up at a nearby organization to record with their community members. In the past, we’ve gone to homeless shelters, women’s homes, and small community libraries. We will spend three days at the Quincy Valley Historical Society & Museum (QVHS&M) in partnership with the Initiative for Rural Innovation & Stewardship (IRIS). QVHS&M is the heritage and cultural hub of the Quincy Valley community and IRIS works to foster sustainable, rural communities by gathering and sharing success stories that enhance a sense of belonging, inspire action, and build community. We are excited to see these two organizations in collaboration with each other through these recordings.
Besides being in a new location, these recordings are really special because they have been coordinated by our partner organizations. So far, we have gotten lots of powerful stories about agriculture and immigration here at the museum. For me, field recordings are such a personally moving way to learn more about the communities we are spending time in.
Here are a few pictures of our sweet set-up:
We are thrilled to be here! Each field recording day brings new themes to the space and is rewarding in its own way. Maybe we’ll come visit you someday!
Quincy, WA-July 18, 2022
Today I wanted to introduce you to Harriet and Nancy, who are making these field recording days possible!
Left: Harriet Weber (director of operations Quincy Valley Historical Society & Museum); Right: Nancy Warner (IRIS Archive Program Manager.)
In addition to recruiting so many community members to come out and record, they’ve also been acting as fabulous interviewers for some of our participants. They were kind enough to let me interview them on the process in the midst of our recording days together.
S: So, IRIS is based in Wenatchee, WA and serves many communities. Why did you want StoryCorps to record voices from the Quincy community?
N: Well, a lot of people drive through towns like Quincy and it doesn’t look like that much until you know some of the stories. And then when you know some of the stories and you have some relationships with the people it looks completely different! You just see it with new eyes! I think we all need to be a little bit more cognizant of where we live and our connections with people.
S: I’ve definitely been feeling that as we hear the stories from this community! Before we finish up, I wanted to switch gears and ask you one of the StoryCorps Great Questions: What are you most proud of?
N: Well, I guess I would say that I’m proud of having had this idea in the 1980s…I’m proud that I actually helped turn the idea into reality and created an online archive. It’s been a lot of hard work!
Before we head into Harriet’s interview, here are a couple of visuals of the beautiful Quincy Valley Historical Society & Museum that she directs. Have I mentioned that we love recording here?
S: What made you want to form a community partnership between StoryCorps and the Quincy Valley Historical Society & Museum?
H: Well I think it’s been a multi-year mission of ours to collect oral histories, and I’ve been doing that on my own for probably 15 years…and a quote I’ve always loved is “in the end we’ll all be stories”.
S: I love that! I’ll have to look up who said it! (Update: it’s Margaret Atwood). So, what does having StoryCorps here in Quincy bring to you and your community?
H: It brings a level of professional recording here and nationwide archive of people’s stories, and people who are familiar with StoryCorps, that’s really special to them too because they’ve heard snippets on the radio and they understand the importance of it. This work is really close to my heart and so this has been wonderful because it’s allowed us to have some support and help in making this happen.
S: Before we head out, in the spirit of StoryCorps recordings, I’d love to ask you one question from the StoryCorps Great Questions List: What are you most proud of?
H: I’m most proud of the fine human beings my children turned out to be.
Quincy, WA-July 21, 2022
While Teriyana and I spend time on the ground with participants and the partner organizations we work with, our outreach manager, Lea Zikmund, coordinates with them from our Brooklyn office. Well, usually she does…she’s actually on the ground with us in Moses Lake right now for a surprise visit! I spoke to her about the value of partnering with organizations like Nancy and Harriet’s.
S: What is the purpose of outreach on the Mobile Team?
L: In order to ensure that we are connecting fully with each community we visit, we conduct community outreach. Prior to arriving in a location, we research local organizations that are doing good work in that area and ask them to be involved. Through this model, we bring in unique voices and stories that add to the fantastic mixture of voices in our archive. Our goal is to uplift all of the voices everywhere we go as much as we can.
S: What is the purpose of field recordings?
L: Sometimes when we form partnerships, it’s easier for a community partner to have us come to them. Rather than record at our regular location for the entirety of a stop, our team will take a day trip to another organization and set up there to record.
That’s all for this week, friends! I’ll catch you next week for more updates on our adventure!
Click here to read the first installment of the Mobile Tour series.
Click here to read the second installment of the Mobile Tour series.
Life on the Road: Adventures with StoryCorps’ Mobile Tour Staff (July 13, 2022)
Moses Lake, WA – July 13, 2022
Hi again from Moses Lake! Sarah here. Today, I’m going to show you what a recording day looks like!
Our schedule runs 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM in whichever time zone we find ourselves. Two of us facilitate per day, and we usually have a total of six recordings (three each). However, today we only have 5, which will give me a bit of wiggle room to write to you all!
10:00 AM – When we arrive at the recording space, we set up our equipment, review our schedule notes about each recording, and wait for our first participants.
10:00 AM – While Teriyana is facilitating the first recording, I catch up on databasing previous conversations. For every public recording, we input locations, descriptions, log notes, and keywords, amongst other information, so that archive visitors can use it as a resource. It looks like this:
For me, databasing is a great way to process what happened in a recording. After hearing so many meaningful conversations, it’s easy to feel oversaturated with emotion every now and again. Putting conversation topics into words really helps. Sometimes I also fear that I’ll forget some of the impactful moments to which I’ve had the privilege of bearing witness. However, writing down summaries etches stories a bit more deeply into my memory, and participants’ wisdom always pops back into my mind at the randomest of times–for example, this morning I was working out when I remembered the advice of 10-year-old Sebastian: “You should be helpful to yourself and say, ‘You can do this! Can’t give up!’”
11:00 AM – Time to prepare for my first recording of the day! Teriyana and I hang out here while we wait for participants.
When participants arrive, we walk them through the required paperwork so that we can get to the fun part–recording! After letting participants know how the process is going to look, I adjust their microphones.
Here’s me adjusting the mic for an extra sweet participant in Pensacola:
Next, we do a sound check. I usually ask, “What’s your favorite thing to do in [insert current city]?” and get some ideas of what I should do around town as I adjust their sound levels.
Then, we hit record!
Recordings are 40 minutes long. While participants talk, I take notes for our archive, keep time, check sound levels, and, of course, listen. While I also jump in with a question or two every so often, I try to keep the majority of the conversation between participants, as they know one another’s narratives better than I do, and it’s often their relationship dynamic that makes a story special.
After recording, participants can choose whether they want to keep their conversation private or share it publicly. There are so many places where StoryCorps conversations can be shared, depending on participants’ preferences and life experiences, but I won’t dive into the details for now (unless, of course, you write on our survey that you’re particularly interested in this)!
Finally, it’s time for photos! It might seem counterintuitive to take photos of people after an experience that often evokes both laughter and tears–people might not look like their most polished selves. However, there is something special about documenting what people look like after sharing a deeply meaningful conversation. Unlike the nerves that so often precede recordings, there seems to be a kind of post-recording euphoria. I didn’t realize the full extent of this feeling until I participated in a StoryCorps signature recording myself. If you take a peek at our online archive, you might notice the glow people seem to carry with them after recording.
This is what our photo backdrop looks like. This picture is from when the new backdrop first arrived in the mail and, if you can’t tell, we were excited!!
And here is what our backdrop looks like in photos:
Of course, before leaving participants can feel free to make a donation or grab a StoryCorps pin!
12:30 PM – What a joyful recording! Margaret, the interviewee, both has a fascinating family history and has done so much volunteer work in the Moses Lake area. I always find it so inspiring to hear about how others engage with their communities! Now, it’s time to database while Teriyana facilitates the next recording.
1:00 PM – Lunch time! There’s a sweet park outside of the Civic Center where I like to catch some sun while I eat.
2:00 PM – Time to prepare for my next recording!
3:30 PM – My participants are heading out to take pictures of the StoryCorps airstream. I really adore conversations that remember loved ones. In this one, Chelan and Michael talked about Paul Lauzier, who created the foundation for which they both work. There was a lot of laughter and a few tears too.
…Aaand back to databasing!
4:15 PM – I’m all done archiving both conversations, and this is around the time I’d be ready for my third recording of the day. However, there were only five recordings today, so, instead, I’ll leave you with a few sneak peeks of today’s conversations:
Margaret Schiffner (84) and Ann Schempp (45)
Michael Rex Tabler (76) and Chelan Kleyn (48)
Click here to read our previous installment of the Mobile Tour series.
Click here to read our next installment of the Mobile Tour series.