Nonprofit to hold storytelling event at Sewickley library

Tuesday, April 2, 2019 | 6:00 AM

While sharing a personal story about a difficult situation with strangers may, at first, seem like an uncomfortable undertaking, Joan Miles believes the experience could actually be therapeutic — for the storyteller and the audience.

“One thing that we all share is that we face certain struggles in our lives, but we kind of often hide those,” said Miles. “And we thought that it’s just another way for people to kind of connect and understand each other better when we understand the types of struggles that we’ve had to face as a part of living and being human.”

Welcoming Everyone, a nonprofit co-founded by Miles in 2018, is seeking submissions of stories about adversity.

Community members will gather to hear them during the organization’s “Many Stories, One Community” event, to be held April 28 at the Sewickley Public Library.

Welcoming Everyone has partnered with other nonprofits for events in the past. “Many Stories, One Community” is their sixth community event, but the first it has organized in partnership with the library.

“When we were contacted by Welcoming Everyone about collaborating on a project highlighting the diverse stories our community has to tell, we knew we wanted to be involved,” Richelle Klug, Sewickley Public Library communications librarian said in an email. “What better place to share the community’s unique stories and perspectives than at a place that exists for all — regardless of age, race, gender, belief, political views or other ideologies?”

The weekly “Moth Radio Hour” series, which features true stories told in five minutes or less, provided inspiration for “Many Stories, One Community.” However, unlike the “Moth” format, Miles said community members who participate in the April 28 event will not need to memorize their stories.

Submissions are due by 5 p.m. on April 17, and the library has posted guidelines on its website. Stories must be no longer than 650 words and should describe a life struggle or triumph over adversity.

The Welcoming Everyone steering committee is assembling a group of Sewickley Valley writers to review the stories.

“So far they’ve been really receptive, so I think we’re going to have a panel of about five to six readers,” said Miles, who preferred not to disclose their affiliations with any local group.

The number of stories selected by the panel depends on how many submissions Welcoming Everyone receives, but Miles said three to six stories will likely be featured. Anyone who feels uncomfortable reading their story aloud can have it read by someone else, she said.

Hors d’oeuvres and nonalcoholic beverages will be served at the event, which is scheduled to run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Attendance is free for those who register by April 25 and $5 at the door. To register or submit a story, email [email protected]

As with other Welcoming Everyone events, “Many Stories, One Community” gives attendees the chance to engage in dialogue. Community members can share their own stories and their thoughts on what they heard during small-group discussion sessions after the story readings, said Miles.

“The goal of all of our events is to basically connect people and to create a greater sense of community amongst people who would not ordinarily meet each other in their day-to-day lives,” she said.