Tell Me Your Truest Story

If You Don't Tell Your Story, Someone Else Will -- Episode 2: Joseph Bruchac & Lyn Ford

Both Joseph Bruchac and Lyn Ford, long-time storytellers, writers, and people of place, embody how essential it is to tell our own truest stories, and in doing so, invite all voices to the table, especially those historically silenced or ignored. “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will tell it for you,” Joe said, and Lyn echoed in their interviews with me.

Telling our truest stories – the stories that name and claim who we are – is about representation but also transformation, healing, and liberation. “Story is one of the best vehicle for recovery, regaining balance, and for understanding who you are and where you are,” Joe told me.

Lyn and Joe tell and live stories rooted in place. Lyn is a 4th generation Affrilachian storyteller, an African-American Appalachian woman who also has native American heritage. Joe, an Abenaki citizen and elder, lives in the same house where he was raised by his maternal grandparents in upstate New York. Reflecting on how home and heritage informs her work, Lyn says, “It’s the language of the people, the memories of the places, and the heart that still connects me to the region where I was born. All of that integrates into who I am and how I share myself with others.”

Joseph Bruchac, a poet and storyteller, explores his Abenaki ancestry and Native American storytelling traditions in his work, writing, and life. A long-time scholar, who earned his PhD in comparative literature from Union Institute, Joe is a beloved storyteller and a prolific author of more than 170 books for adults and children. His publications includeTell Me a Tale: A Book About Storytelling and Keepers of the Earth (co-authored with Michael Caduto). He’s performed as a storyteller and musician around the world and has garnered honors from the Rockefeller Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. Founder of Greenfield Review Literary Center and Greenfield Review Press, he lives in Greenfield Center with his wife Nicola, both of them licensed wildlife rehabilitators who help out animals from bobcats to porcupines. 

Lyn Ford is a nationally recognized Affilachian storyteller, a teaching artist with the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, and a Thurber House mentor. Her writing has been widely published in storytelling magazines, teachers’ enrichment books, anthologies, and collaborative projects. Her many books include Affrilachian Tales and Beyond the Briar Patch, and with Sherry Norfolk, she editedSupporting Diversity and Inclusion with Story andSpeak Peace. She performs and gives keynote presentations around the country, telling stories to adults and children that illuminate hard-won truths and magical understandings. She’s also an award-winning recording artist as well as a Laughter Yoga Teacher and breath mechanic. She describes herself additionally as “a happy partner-in-life, mama, grandmama, great-grandmama, and good cook!”

The World is Made of Story -- Episode 2: David Abram & Stephanie Mills

Our first episode gets its title from something one of our guests, David Abram, says in his interview. I also knew from my first inklings of this podcast that the first episode needs to focus on where we are, our literal ground, the living earth, which endlessly guides and inspires me to find the real story of being alive. Thomas Berry, in his landmark book, The Dream of the Earth. writes,

For people, generally, their story of the universe and the human role in the universe is their primary source of intelligibility and value. ...The deepest crises experienced by any society are those moments of change when the story becomes inadequate for meeting the survival demands of a present situation.

Thank heavens for visionaries such as Stephanie Mills and David Abram, who embody new stories for meeting our deepest crises and questions and understanding our world. “Evolution has engendered bat wings and Laurie Anderson," Stephanie says. We talk about what we can learn, are learning, and need to learn from where we live about how to live in greater balance with the earth, particularly in times of such upheaval and danger. We also dish about place-based wonders and where we find our greatest meaning and homecoming.

Stephanie Mills caught the public eye with her 1969 commencement address at Mills College before becoming an editor of Co-Evolution Quarterly and writing widely for ecological journals. After falling in love with a place by way of the first North American Bioregional Congress in 1984 – where I first met her – she moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Northwest Lower Michigan, where she lives in a small home, surrounded by books and trees. Her books include Whatever Happened to Ecology?, In Praise of Nature, In Service to the Wild: Restoring and Reinhabiting Damaged Land, and Epicurean Simplicity. Stephanie has been called by her alma mater “a visionary ecological activist and pioneering bioregionalist whose unswerving advocacy for the preservation of our shared planet and powerful message of personal responsibility teach us that a single voice can transform the world.”

David Abram is a cultural ecologist, geophilosopher, performance artist and magician, he is the author of Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology and The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World. He’s widely recognized as a visionary presence, teacher, and writer. His work, according to the Alliance for Wild Ethics, which he co-directs, “engages the ecological depths of the imagination, exploring the ways in which sensory perception, poetics, and wonder inform the relation between the human body and the breathing earth.” He lives with his family in the foothills of the southern Rockies and travels the world to teach and speak. I first met him in 1988 at a bioregional congress held his (and my) favorite places, Squamish, British Columbia.


This podcast focuses on exploring, unearthing, and at times revising the stories we tell ourselves and are told to find greater freedom, justice, wisdom, and homecoming. Explore with us ways to better align our narratives with our callings and the callings of our time and the living earth. Listen to on these apps: 

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About Tell Me Your Truest Story

This podcast comes out of my calling to grapple with the stories that define or limit, free up or shut down, and otherwise come between us and our life callings as well as the callings of our time and this beautiful earth.

How did I come to doing this? I came by it honestly and over many decades. As a kid, my favorite word, besides "dessert," was "why?" So much didn’t make sense to me except losing myself in the making of something -- art, music, writing -- which also became a pretty nifty survival mechanism.

Poetry gave me a way to circle around meaning. In Judaism and other religions, there are hundreds of names for God or the sacred, each one a way to encircle what can't be named directly. Not to say that my early poetry was all that holy or profound, but I was circling the fire, trying to find the warmth and light, sources of sustenance, as I wrote about the trees and wind.

I ended up going to journalism school but ended up getting too involved in my stories and protecting my poetic sensibilities. No wonder I ended up studying labor history, because I figured that the stories we tell ourselves about work are so pervasive that it was worth figuring out how to revise some of those stories.

But then there were the trees and the wind, still calling me to the page; over time, I realized that the real ground was home. When I stumbled across bioregionalism – a movement on learning how to live through where we lived, I found a story that made sense for my life.

Way led to way, writing led to teaching, teaching led to facilitating people writing their truths and witnessing each other, and over time, I was led to found Transformative Language Arts, an emerging field, movement, and profession. Transformative language artists use writing, storytelling, theater, music, and other arts to build pathways for healing and health, community-building and keeping, social change and ecological awakening. Riding sidecar is Right Livelihood, work, art, or service that shares our gifts, challenges our edges, and betters the world.

I’ve also written a whole lot of books, poems, essays, songs, and other things because putting things into words is a way of knowing as well as unlearning what no longer serves me. What feeds my writing and work is the power of deep listening.

As a post-institutional woman – having left my teaching job to write, facilitate, coach, and keep storying my way into right livelihood – I’m living a story I couldn’t have imagined as a baby poet teenaging my way through the mid-1970s in Springsteen land. Almost all of our work – whether leading a workshop for people living with serious illness or planning a Brave Voice  retreat with Kelley Hunt or writing on my front porch – circles around the holy fire of what we create and change through our stories.

What do I want to know? Your truest story, and for us all to witness what’s truest for us and this world, our home communities and the bioregions where we live.

I invite you to listen to what resonates with you, then write or speak or otherwise wander through your stories to find where to step next and how to bring greater presence and soul to this ailing and healing world.

Special thanks to Kelley Hunt for the use of her music from our co-written song, “The Road is a River,” and thanks to Dianna Burrup for logo design. Big hugs to my patrons, who made it possible for me to work on this over the last two years. Please join us for as little as $3/month; you'll get weekly care packages for your creativity, cool perks, and a comprehensive writing guide. More here.

Please subscribe to my podcast at carynmirriamgoldberg.podbean.com. You can also find “Tell Me Your Truest Story” on Instagram and Facebook.