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Morningside Alumna Creates an “Ode” to Storytelling

(05.06.2017) By Liv Minshall — Five years ago, Morningside College alumni Ally Karsyn attended her first live literature event during an off-campus semester where she lived and worked in Chicago.

Karsyn attended Essay Fiesta, and afterwards one of the founders, Keith Ecker, told her a story.

“I wish I could remember all the details, but what came through was a message of resilience at a time when I really needed to hear it,” Karsyn says.

After returning home to Sioux City, Karsyn thought she would have to move to a big city to experience the excitement of the big city again.

Karsyn was working at a daily newspaper, on the edge of burnout when she attended a conference on Feature Journalism. During the conference, she heard a fellow journalist talk about a storytelling event, much like Essay Fiesta, that she had started in her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.

“That’s when I realized I could do that too, right here in Sioux City. I didn’t have to move,” Karsyn says.

In late 2015 Karsyn started Ode, a storytelling series where community members tell true stories on stage to promote positive impact through empathy.

The first show was January 28, 2016 and included four storytellers, including Karsyn, a borrowed PA system, and a lamp held together with duct tape to spotlight the “stage.” For recording Karsyn planned to capture the events with SoundCloud on her smartphone.

“In short, I had no idea what I was doing, but I had an overwhelming desire to do something meaningful—nothing else mattered,” Karsyn says.

This show ended up leading Karsyn to her current job at Siouxland Public Media, where she now works as the station’s arts producer.

“Traditional media, especially local radio, faces interesting challenges. One of the main challenges, and this is obvious, is the overwhelming amount of information we have access to,” says Mark Munger, the general manager of Siouxland Public Media (KWIT-KOJI), when asked why he thought a program like Ode was crucial to the station’s longevity. Munger’s goal is to build strong connections between radio listeners and the station.

According to Munger, connectivity is key.  “Local public radio, I think, is obligated to be in a community and to be real. When Ally approached me to talk about Ode, the chance to take Siouxland Public Media in this direction was not only obvious, it was glowing. I was on board before she completed her first sentence.”

“From the beginning, I’ve always said that you don’t need to be a professional writer, performer or public speaker to participate. Before Ode, the last time I got up to address a “crowd” was during a high school speech class,” says Karsyn.

Karsyn also encourages anybody with a story to speak up and share it. “More powerful than my fear of public speaking is my belief that stories can unite us. They can make a difference. They can make us feel something when, some days, it’s easier not to care.”

Ode’s next show is 7 p.m. Friday, June 2 at ISU Design West in downtown Sioux City. The theme is “Stigmas: An ode to the power of opening up.”

Ode is always accepting submissions for their 2017-storytelling series. The themes, event dates and pitch deadlines are as follows:

Stigmas – June 2 (submissions due by April 15)

Little Did I Know – August 4 (submissions due by June 15)

Home – October 6 (submissions due by August 15)

Holiday Joy & Mayhem – December 1 (submissions due by October 15)

Want to tell a story? Pitch your story in 250 words or less. (Final stories must be true, about you and told in 8 minutes or less.) More details at: http://kwit.org/post/want-tell-story-ode-send-us-pitch