I’m writing this from a mash-up of a magazine newsroom in Bucharest. The walls are smelly and stained from a recent flood in the apartment above. Desks are cluttered with grungy coffee cups, cold pizza crusts, giveaway pens. Ghosts of stories past haunt the whiteboard alongside a mock-up of the next cover, which is drawing protests from the government even before the magazine hits the street. The reporter who wrote the cover story is a hot mess of insecurity and has no idea how good she is.
Sound familiar? This may be in a walk-up in Romania, but it’s the universal newsroom, and the universal creativity and anxiety that comes with those stale pizza crusts. (Someday someone really must write an essay about journalists and pizza. Pitches welcome.)
But what does this have to do with my first post as incoming editor of Storyboard?
The quick answer: This happens to be where I am. I have come here every year for the past nine, to work with a crew of young creatives who dared launch an independent magazine and, with it, plant the seeds of a narrative movement. All that in a country that has no tradition of either, and that still seems uncertain about its dance with democracy. I first came here to teach the how of story craft; I return each year because it renews my faith in the why.
The deeper answer: Home, as the clichés go, is what you return to and where they have to take you in. For more than 40 years, I’ve found my home in newsrooms, regardless of language or deadline or platform. I’ve found it in the international community of storytellers who do this work because they believe in it. I’ve found it at the kitchen tables of generous folks willing to share their own stories with us – and, by extension, with the world.
And for more than a decade now, I’ve found it at the virtual kitchen table that is Storyboard.
I’m jazzed, and a bit intimidated, to be asked to host that table. I could strain this metaphor to compare my writing to my cooking, but we’ll save the Thanksgiving dinner dramas for another time. When we get there, the first to be toasted will be the editors who sat here before, since the first Narrative Digest posted a dozen years ago.
For now, I hope you continue to feel welcome, and invite others to join us. I’m all about potluck, so bring your pitches for individual pieces, and thoughts on the site itself. What is of most value to you? What would you find useful that isn’t there? And where do you want to find us besides here?
As I settle in, there will no doubt be tweaks. I am not the music aficionado that outgoing editor Kari Howard is, but hope she will continue to share her turntable. I follow the narrative standards – the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the New York Times Sunday magazine and more; but I want to explore and celebrate stellar work done in smaller markets, on emerging sites, in formats beyond text. I am, as the gentle-sounding French saying goes, d’un certain age; I want to capture the wisdom of the masters of yesterday and today. But as someone who has taught for 20 years, I also want to tap the energy and insight of tomorrow’s storytellers. As someone who often sees the world through the prism of an airplane window, I want to hear more voices from more cultures from our giant but small world.
I believe the old saw: We teach what we need to learn. I want to host the Storyboard table as a place we gather to do both.
So pull up a chair. Given the chaos of our times, we need each other more than ever. Let’s continue to make Storyboard not just a potluck, but a potlatch, where we give all our wisdom away, knowing we will receive far more in return.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at email@example.com. You can find me on the Storyboard Twitter account @niemanstory, or my personal account @JacquiB. Ignore, for now, my neglected StoryLines website (www.jacquibanaszynski.com) unless you want to help me update it. I’m easily available on Facebook, and would love thoughts on whether/how to make better use of Instagram or other spaces.