NOTE: The schedule is subject to change. Participants will be notified in advance.
FRIDAY, OCT. 18
Registration & Welcome Coffee
KEYNOTES - The Soul and the Body I
The Needle and the Thread
There are stories you put children to bed with. Funny or sad, mesmerising or enchanting. There are stories which you repeat for comfort, like a favourite tune, in dark, insane times. But there are also stories that have only a beginning, not an end. Stories you hold hands with throughout life, and you never stop writing them. My grandmother, when she was deported to Siberia, took a needle with her. For her and later for the whole community, that needle represented the connection with home and everything they left behind. My grandmother survived. She gave birth to a wonderful daughter, Vera, who survived as well. They came back home together and they took the needle with them. Now the needle is mine. It became my story, which I'm still writing, and it’s one of the threads that keeps our family close. And this is the story that I’d like to tell you here.
Picking at wounds
If somebody were to ask me what I believe ties all artists together, I’d say it’s picking at wounds. As a singer and songwriter, the process of creating and perfoming music finds me tearing my own wounds open over and over again, only to give them an opportunity to heal differently every time. Just like the ends of a broken bone need to be realigned before being put back together, the pieces that break inside of us need a bit of shifting around too: this is where music comes into play.
KEYNOTES - The Soul and the Body II
From Heroin to Healing: How My Patients Transformed the Way I Provide Care
One of the first lessons I learned in medical school is that listening is the most important skill every physician must grasp. The second important lesson: your patient is your best teacher. Fast-forward many years, many patients, late-night pages, nursing calls, pharmacy requests, medication refills, etc., and those first two key lessons quickly dissipated. They didn’t completely disappear, but they were sadly diluted. Things began to change when I became a doctor to homeless men and women. When I started to actively listen – with compassion, without judgement – to society’s most vulnerable men and women, many of whom came from good families, had advanced degrees and who were simply good people who experienced difficult, traumatizing life events. My patients taught me the true definition of health: it’s not really about medicines, but rather where are you sleeping tonight, where are you getting your next meal, and who’s your support system? Later, when we learned that the leading cause of death among my patients was drug overdose, I continued to transform the way I provided care. Stigma, pain, trauma, mental health, criminal justice reform and compassion soon formed the foundation of my clinical practice, speaking engagements and perceptions of humanity… including myself.
Wounding to Heal
Seven decades ago, in hospitals and asylums across America, my grandfather embarked on a campaign of human experimentation. He performed radical brain surgeries of his own invention on hundreds of people, becoming in the process the second most prolific lobotomist ever. While most of the recipients of these operations have been lost to history, one became a historic case. In 1953, my grandfather excised the medial temporal lobes – including the amygdala, the entorhinal cortex, and the hippocampus – of a young epileptic named Henry Molaison. The operation did little to ease Henry's epilepsy, but it did do something unexpected: From the moment he left the operating table, Henry was unable to create new memories. This was tragic for him, but revelatory for the rest of us. Henry went on to become the most studied human research subject of all time, and his profound amnesia taught us much of what we know about how memory works. While reporting my book – Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets – I uncovered a much darker story than the one every psychology and neuroscience student is familiar with, a story not just of scientific discovery, but of unimaginable hubris and unbridled exploitation. In this talk, I'll lay out some of the troubling things I found, and discuss the often difficult experience of conducting an investigation into the history of my own family. I'll also discuss the backlash my book provoked. Journalists often say sunlight is the best disinfectant, but are some stories best left in the dark, to molder and be forgotten?
Lunch & Story Time
2pm Book signings by Tatiana Țîbuleac and Luke Dittrich
KEYNOTES – A Discipline of Courage I
Journalism that Tells Emotional Truths
We live in a world that is more fragmented and tribal than ever before. In this divided world, journalists have a duty to do more than just report the facts. Too often, stories and drama are used to prey on people’s fears and anxieties, or rile up their anger. Instead of responding to this with cold objectivity, what if journalists used the power of emotional storytelling to spark people’s curiosity about the facts, to connect, and to heal? Robin will talk about projects that pushes the boundary of journalism through games, poetry, theatre, data, and art, to better convey emotional understanding.
How to Turn Yourself Into a Podcast
Aaron Lammer has been the co-host of the Longform Podcast for more than 5 years, but in 2018 he decided to go all-in on podcasting about things that interested him. He started a show about marijuana and creativity (Stoner) and tried to learn about cryptocurrencies by inviting experts on a podcast to explain them to him (CoinTalk.) In this talk, he'll talk about what it takes to produce over 100 podcast episodes in a year on your own, from equipment to episode format, and the ins and outs of asking total strangers to talk to you for an hour.
The Art of the (Incredibly Awkward) Interview
After conducting hundreds of interviews myself and directing hundreds more as a producer, I’ve come to believe that the best moments in an interview – the ones you immediately tell people about afterwards, the ones listeners will remember – come when the guest is thinking out loud. And sometimes, the only way to get them to do that is to make a complete ass out of yourself. Or at least that’s what I like to tell myself.
KEYNOTES - A Discipline of Courage II
Listening as Healing: Personal and Cultural Memory
Interweaving personal narrative and collective storytelling, Ioanida’s talk explores memory, history, identity and heritage, but also the cracks and fissures in the stories we tell about ourselves about our society. This talk asks: How do we as individuals and as a society enact the meticulous work of repairing the sinews that tie us to our personal, family and ethnic histories while also filling in the lapses in narrative that have come to define Romani people in order to heal together.
Much of the harm individuals face is the result of poorly designed systems. When systems are built without the benefit of feedback from all stakeholders, they are likely to have negative impacts for those who weren't heard from when decisions were made. One critically important system that has had devastating consequences globally is the corporate finance system of the USA. For decades, it has prized shareholder value above all else, and the startup ecosystem has mutated accordingly. Jennifer Brandel started her company Hearken in the belly of the hyper-growth culture beast, Silicon Valley, but questioned the logic along the way. She and three other startup founders started dreaming and writing about an alternative model, which has now gone global. Instead of "unicorn" companies, they are building "zebras." Jennifer will share lessons from her journey and ways to build more inclusive systems.
SATURDAY, Oct. 19
Registration & Welcome Coffee
KEYNOTES - Villains and Heroes I
The Dark Arts of Storytelling
Human beings are storytelling animals. Narrative capacity helped a soft, weak, biologically insignificant hominid overrun the planet. But story has a considerable dark side: we use stories, but they also use us. Stories are our greatest weakness precisely because they are our greatest strength. We think of stories as one of the best things in life – right up there with frolicsome puppies and giggling babies. But as one psychologist puts it, “there is nothing less innocent than a story.” Telling stories doesn’t make you one of the good guys. Stories are not ethically good or bad. They are just powerful, with equal potential for harm or good.
Lengthy tales of hideous men
I spent roughly five years of my life chasing, and then writing, the story of a global criminal savant who built a vast illicit empire, stretching from the Philippines, to the U.S. to Romania, to Somalia and beyond. This man oversaw thousands of people, made hundreds of millions of dollars, and engaged in lawless mayhem that began with drug dealing, moved to arms dealing, and ended in unspeakable violence. To trace his path I travelled across the world to sit down with mercenaries and hit men, innocent victims and unsuspecting underlings, liars and dupes. But why? In this talk, I will take the audience along into my own obsession with this dark world and its inhabitants. Along the way, I will try to illuminate the reasons to tell their stories—the ways they are meant to heal, and the ways in which they are meant to shatter.
KEYNOTES - Villains and Heroes II
Description: While editing the documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? we discovered a narrative gem in the midst of endless archival footage. It was our central character Fred Rogers expressing the core idea behind his work creating children's TV programming for decades. As he sits at the piano in his living room he explains that his job is to help people navigate the difficult modulations in life. This became the opening to our film and is analogous to the role of the documentary feature film editor. Over the last 20 years I have honed my craft as an emotional communicator with the goal of helping audiences navigate complex ideas and feelings. In this talk I will use work-in-progress examples from various films to show how to nudge ideas towards peak resonance.
Women! Want at your own Risk!
Of all the female sins, hunger is the least forgivable; hunger for anything, for food, sex, power, education, even love. (L. Penny)
I drove across the United States six times, speaking to hundreds of women about their desire. While I learned very much about what women wanted, a quieter and darker story began to emerge – the virulent, pitiless judgment women levy at other women for wanting. Especially when what another woman wanted was sex. There was, for example, the discussion group I began after moving to Indiana. The first of the women I spoke with, Lina, was a housewife whose husband no longer wanted to kiss her on the mouth. As a young woman she’d been raped and now as a wife she was untouched. She felt like a cadaver. When she cried over her husband’s lack of intimacy, the other women in the room held her. But the next time she came in after seeing a new lover – in tears, this, time, of joy – the other women leaned back in their chairs. Privately and later, they confided in me that she was a whore. What I found, time and again, is that we don’t want to validate some women’s needs unless they’re cloaked in a language that half of us have deemed socially responsible. Finding oneself via orgasmic meditation is fine but driving three hours to meet the only person who has made us feel not raped or not ugly, is not. I began to wonder why other women had so many bold opinions about people they barely knew. And after nearly a decade of listening, I believe I have something of an answer.
Lunch & Story Time
2pm Book signings by Lisa Taddeo, Evan Ratliff, and Jonathan Gottschall
KEYNOTES - The Road Ahead I
Ann Marie Lipinski
"Why do you do what you do?" This is a very difficult question and for eight years I have been asking it of journalists and pushing them to move past the easy answers. The revelations have come forth in regular Tuesday night gatherings we call "Soundings" and witnessing these stories has taken on a near-sacramental quality. The magazine writer whose work would be forever shaped by her magician father. The radio reporter who found a quiet religion in realizing "every story is a prayer". But telling the tale of why you do what you do—in work as in life—should not be restricted to the professional story tellers. Each of us can benefit from the deep reflection necessary to honestly answer that question. This takes time, time we almost never allow ourselves. And the answers may surprise us.
Building Alternate Worlds
Kate Samworth is an artist who tells stories through pictures. In her work she explores our natural surroundings, our impact on it, and builds alternate worlds, often different and better. She will discuss Aviary Wonders Inc., her faux catalogue and instruction manual to replace lost bird species, and the development of narrative through images.
Confessions of an Angry Man
Six years into hormone replacement therapy, I have learnt one thing: what matters is running, digging, flying, spinning towards yourself. Your true self. As a trans person living in Romania, however, you cannot escape trauma and anger. It scars the body and the soul. My journey taught me to wear these scars with pride. But will I ever find peace?
KEYNOTES - The Road Ahead II
The Odd Power of Ignoring Instinct
Every reporter faces a barrier in reporting, themselves. Their own biases, fears, passions, limitations, instincts. These nearly invisible instincts begin cutting us off from reaching stories before we've even begun. These instincts tell us what questions to ask (and what questions not to ask), who to consult as an expert, who to trust, where to look for stories, and beyond. But what if we disobeyed them? It's not an easy thing to do, to behave in exactly the opposite way as you feel you should, to head into fear and discomfort and confusion and uncertainty. But I have come to believe that incredible stories are waiting just on the other side of instinct. In this talk, I will be exploring techniques that have helped me get beyond my own biases, curiosities, and instincts, to a world of wild and wonderful stories that I could never even think to look for.
Checked or carry-on? Lessons from a Storyteller’s Baggage Allowance
Journalists wander the world with little more than a notebook and a notion of mission. We work to stay detached, and to leave any personal baggage – some might call it bias – behind. But a lifetime in the field has taught me that we never go anywhere without lugging ourselves along: Our backgrounds, our ambitions, our insecurities, and yes, our biases. So maybe what we really need to do is learn how to pack. And to understand that we can’t fully tell the story of others until we understand our own.