Multimedia journalist Billy Calzada makes his way into a classroom at the Advanced Storytelling Workshop at Texas State University in San Marcos on the first day of the workshop. Billy of the San Antonio Express-News was the last participant added to the list. The workshop sold out this year.

After introductions Steve Sweitzer, the chair of the workshop, focused on focus statements. Sweitzer talked about the value of taking the time to express what the story is about in a complete sentence. Taking it further Sweitzer asked us to explore not only the, “Why should we care?,” aspect of a story, but to ask ourselves, “Why is it interesting?,” not only once, but many times until we reach a story idea that is sharply focused and worth telling.

John Goheen and Bev Chapman discussed enterprising ideas. From the two of them we learned ideas are everywhere but your mind must be open to them. Geehan says anything that seems out of place always catches his attention. During a morning run he came across a couch parked along his running path. He did not just wonder what it was doing there but he investigated and learned that it belonged to a local fraternity. The guys from the frat put it there so they could watch the baseball games in the field that was located just below the running path.

Chapman says her radar is always on, even when out to dinner with her husband, where she learned that there was a different tax for different beers by turning over her drink coaster. She also reminded us that we are surrounded by sources; family and friends.

Shawna Woodall, a junior at IUPUI, participates in a workshop exercise. Chapman asked the attendees to quickly jot down three friends and then asked a few in the audience to share some information about the friends they had written down. The exercise proved that we are surrounded by people who probably have interesting stories.

The last speaker of the evening was Scott Rensberger of the BBC. Rensberger used Hollywood movie clips from Amistad and a Bug’s Life to get his point across; the story is everything and get past preconceived ideas. Rensberger said the best stories tell us something we don’t already know.

TSU Professor David Nolan was a gracious host ending the first evening serving the hungry workshoppers. Because of the threatening rain the planned outdoor picnic at a local San Marcos park was held indoors. The crowd was fed Kip’s BBQ available with the hottest jalapenos around for the daring.—Anita Baca

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