6th Edition
October 14–15, 2016
Oct 14–15, 2016 Sold out


  • This year's theme: Dare to Wander

Note: The schedule is subject to change. Participants will be notified in advance.


Great stories are about taking the road least travelled, about straying from the usual to reach a sometimes unknown destination. They are journeys – sometimes inward, sometimes outward – where characters face either imaginary or real challenges, and emerge transformed. Living these stories, as well as telling them, takes courage.


Exploring the wild, the unknown, the shadows – in both content and form – is what this year’s edition of The Power of Storytelling is about. It’s the year we dare to wander. Dare to wander the landscape in search of ourselves, as Cheryl Strayed does in Wild. Dare to try out new adventures and become a more courageous person, as Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton advise in The Gutsy Girl. Dare to confront the official narratives of government or society, as Jacqui Banaszynski and Cătălin Tolontan have done throughout their careers. Dare to experiment with the ways stories reach us, as Colin Meloy does in his music, Tara Skurtu in her poetry, or Tim Howard in his audio pieces.


You will see this theme reflected both in the talks and other conference moments, as well as outside the hall, in adjacent rooms, where we’ll have exhibits, screenings, book signings, and more.

14 OctPullman Hotel, World Trade Plaza

17.30 Registration
19.00 Keynotes
Wendy MacNaughton

Wendy MacNaughton

The Art Of Collaboration

People often think of journalists, writers and illustrators as sitting behind a computer, desk or drawing table day in and day out, living a life of artistic isolation. But much if not most of our work is done in partnership with others. Whether we are finding stories, researching, editing, publishing or getting the word out there, our work is largely a collaborative act that requires us to collaborate with other people. And though sometimes this is hell, more often than not it’s an opportunity to expand our ideas, learning and creative output, and make our work better. Wendy will discuss creative partnerships past and present (including her own), and provide insight into the challenges and successes of creative collaboration.

Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed

The Journeys We Take

In her talk, best-selling author Cheryl Strayed will tackle the themes of inner and outer journey, how one can find courage both to explore the wild, or the world around them, as well as one’s inner world. And then, once the exploration is over, how can we find the courage to put together our thoughts, notes, and experiences and create something others can relate to.


Jon Mooallem

Scattering Pigeons

Good magazine journalism organizes reality into stories. The problem is, the deeper you wander into the real world, the more clumsy, contradictory and disorderly it can feel; often, reality defies the story you thought you were telling about it. Using examples from my own writing about wildlife and the natural world, I’ll talk about the power of accepting that complexity, rather than fighting against it.


Colin Meloy

Songs as stories

I’ve always loved finding the story inside a song, no matter how abstract it might be. It took me a while to find those stories in my own songs, but once I did, I kicked something open in my songwriting and I began to find a language I could speak, a world I wanted to populate. I’ll be talking a bit about my evolution as a songwriter and the process of finding my own voice, as well as playing some of the songs that served as waymarks on that path.

21.30 Closing

15 OctPullman Hotel, Convention Center

9.00 Welcome coffee
10.00 Keynotes
Cătălin Tolontan

Cătălin Tolontan

From Dark Alleys to Comment-Anxiety

Strange cars that accelerate on dark alleyways, threats and constant pressure from the authorities, recruitment attempts from the Secret Service. These are in the public imaginary the most stressful moments for investigative journalists. Yet, they do not generate the supreme Anxiety. Maybe because they have always been part of the game.
Anxiety nowadays seems to come from a new source: the unmediated, two-way, real time contact with the public. Irrespectively of one’s industry, to communicate today is as if you were writing, drawing or editing in a giant aquarium hanging high up on a crane at the same time in Trafalgar Square, Times Square, Gendarmenmarkt and University Square in Bucharest. How can we engage with our readers in a sea of incivility and gut reactions? With our business model in shambles, how can we be responsive yet remain in charge of our professional choices and build a respectful interaction?
I invited Marina Popescu to discuss these issues. Marina is a researcher and professor of political science and communication at the Central European University. In the last two years, especially through the Less Hate, More Speech project, her organization Median Research Centre has been pushing us on this road of the uncomfortable communication with the public. We will try to show you how the dysfunctional functions.

Dvora Meyers

Dvora Meyers

Serving Two Masters At The Same Time: Writing about and for your niche

I grew up in two communities that few outsiders understand very well—the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn and the gymnastics world. When these groups receive mainstream media coverage, a premium is put on explaining them to the uninitiated with the assumption that the reader knows nothing and must have everything dumbed down. But as someone immersed in both of these worlds, I wanted to write about them in a way that helped deepen outsiders’ understanding of them while also remaining relevant to those who live in these insular communities and participate in these niche activities. In this talk, I’ll speak about the challenge of writing about niche topics and groups—be they small religious communities with unusual dietary restrictions or Olympic sports with nebulous rules and corrupt judging—for broader and broader audiences without oversimplifying them.


Tim Howard

Foolish Expeditions

A good explorer spends most of their life lost. It’s really the key prerequisite to discovering something new that you want to share with the world: get lost, and wonder if you’ve made a big mistake. Radio and podcasts, to me, are cut from the explorer’s cloth: every narrative reported piece benefits tremendously from giving voice to the part of yourself that feels confused, unsure, and curious – even the most important stories. In this talk I’ll discuss the times we have gotten truly lost at Reply All, and the strange ways it has paid off.


Brian Lindstrom

The Power, Privilege & Responsibility of Witnessing: Telling Someone Else’s Story

In my years of entering the lives of people society puts an “x” through – recovering addicts, incarcerated moms, people struggling with mental illness – I’ve been confronted by big questions: “What does it mean to tell the story of another person? How can the story be both respectful & revelatory? Are strength and struggle mutually exclusive?”

12.30 Book signings
13.00 Lunch
14.00 Book signings
15.00 Keynotes
Carson Ellis

Carson Ellis

Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying

At age 17, illustrator Carson Ellis moved across the United States, from a comfortable New York suburb to the rocky mountain town of Missoula, Montana where she didn’t know a soul. Why is it important to wander? When is it important to stay put? Ellis considers these questions as they relate to geography and to art.

Caroline Paul

Caroline Paul

You Really Should Run Off That Cliff (With A Hang Glider)

The best preparation for my life as an author was not graduate school. It was years of flying experimental planes, fighting fires in a big city, and rafting remote rivers around the world. Writing takes courage, resilience, collaboration and creativity – all of which can be learned – and what better place than through adventure? I talk about the forces that conspire to keep us from venturing outside our comfort zones, how fear permeates too much of what we do, and why choosing bravery helps you finish that book.

Tara Skurtu

Tara Skurtu

Why is poetry so important?

I think about this every day. Poetry scares a lot of people, but here’s a secret: it’s just storytelling. I used to be terrified of writing poems. I wandered around trying not to be a poet for most of my adult life, thought I’d be a doctor instead. During my medical school preparation I was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, and in the process of regaining my health I realized poems could also be as healing as medicine. Eventually I gave in to poetry, and through it I discovered teaching. But here’s the thing: to teach poetry is to unteach most of what we’ve learned about writing, to discover that we can create stories without knowing their exact beginnings, middles, or ends. In this interactive talk I’ll challenge you to find this space and give poetry a try.

17.00 Coffee break
17.30 Keynotes
Jonah Sachs

Jonah Sachs

Unsafe Thinking: How to be nimble and bold when you need it most

We can’t get different results if we continually approach challenges with the same mindset we’ve always relied on. But changing ourselves is really hard. The more our world demands change, the more we tend to rely on conventional wisdom, the lessons of our past and safe approaches. But we don’t have. We’ll explore how to break out.

Jacqui Banaszynski

Jacqui Banaszynski

On wearing mascara in Antarctica and how not to let gender define your dreams

Jacqui has wandered all seven continents for stories. But her most significant journeys have been as a woman daring to push beyond traditional female boundaries into the competitive world of men.

19.00 Drinks

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