Storylab


Open to all students from all majors and levels of experience

StoryLab’s mission is to help Stanford students, faculty and staff learn the craft of Storytelling. Let us help you build vivid, compelling stories out of your research, personal experiences, imagination, and insights.

Every StoryLab begins at 1pm with an hour workshop with an accomplished storyteller. We examine the craft of one great performed story or one skill that will make you a better storyteller in any medium. Then, from 2 to 4pm, our staff is available for one-on-one mentoring to help you discover, develop, and deliver any story.

Stanford Students feel free to drop in - non-students need to make appointment by emailing This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Upcoming Schedule

StoryLab Spring 2014

Date Description Facilitator
Apr 4 Become a Sentence Doctor
We all enjoy elegant prose, but we often have trouble achieving it. In this StoryLab, we’ll meet a writer troubled by her inability to write clearly. Together we’ll diagnose her maladies, and, in the process, you’ll discover fundamental strategies for effective writing.
Charlie Mintz,
Senior Producer, State of the Human
Apr 11 History Telling
Sometimes the best way to understand history is through a collection of stories. In this StoryLab we'll hear someone's experience of the day JFK died, and we’ll mine our own memories to illuminate historical events. Then we’ll figure out new ways to remember and convey history.
Nina Foushee
Producer, State of the Human
Apr 18 Walk into a Story
Discover from Sam Greenspan, of 99% Invisible, how to use your feet to tell perception-augmenting stories. With Sam, we’ll learn what we need to go on a quest for sound and story, and how to make a scene. Then you’ll decide if you want to become a radical pedestrian!
Sam Greenspan,
Radio Reporter and Producer, 99% Invisible
Apr 25 The Art of Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie is coming to campus Saturday April 25th! To get us ready for his visit, State of the Human’s Producer Joshua Hoyt will help us unpack the craft elements that make Sherman Alexie’s prose and poetry so compelling. Then we'll try them on for size! Plus you’ll know exactly what to ask Sherman Alexie that evening!
Josh Hoyt,
Producer, State of the Human
May 2 Explore Storytelling Through Fiction and Memoir
The techniques of powerful storytelling are similar in all varieties of the stories we tell -- whether in fiction or memoir. In this workshop, we’ll discuss how to choose the form that’s best suited to your material, and we’ll use exercises and published essays to explore elements such as image, voice, and narrative arc, that are essential to all storytelling. You'll come out of the workshop with a short, finished piece of writing.
Molly Antopol,
Jones Lecturer, "Writer of Seismic Talent"
May 9 Audio Editing Nitty Gritty
Back by popular demand, Pat Mesiti-Miller will delve deeper into the intricacies of sound editing. Together we’ll explore how to loop a tune to create the perfect arrangement between voice and music, and you’ll learn to sound design your way out of (almost) any problem!
Pat Mesiti-Miller,
Producer and sound engineer, Snap Judgment (NPR)
May 16 Dig for Gold
During interviews, it is sometimes hard to get people talking. Really talking -- not just spouting what they think you want to hear. Award winning reporter Marianne McCune (Planet Money, WNYC, and Radio Rookies) has us test drive her interview strategies, ranging from total honesty and candor, to waiting quietly, playing dumb, prodding or even confronting! You’ll learn how to get people to open up, think out loud, and give you the golden nuggets you're looking for.
Marianne McCune,
Producer, Planet Money, WNYC, and Radio Rookies
May 23 Found Sound
There is a wealth of sounds just at our fingertips, and we don’t always know it. State of the Human's Managing Editor takes us on a tour of the Stanford archives. Together we’ll look at how to use historical sounds, and you’ll learn to make your stories come alive.
Rachel Hamburg,
Managing Editor, State of the Human
May 30 Bridge the Techie/Fuzzie Gap
Do you have a great science story that must be told? In this lab, award-winning playwright Gab Cody will show how narrow personal storytelling can illuminate broad scientific topics. Together we’ll use techniques inspired by Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints composition and performance method to help you tell compelling science-based stories.
Gab Cody
Playwright and Film Producer
Jun 6 Open Lab
Come get help on one of your projects!
SSP Staff

Previous Labs

StoryLab Winter 2014

Date Description Facilitator
Jan 10 Shortcut to Story
Every story is unique, but there are some moments many of us share: a first kiss, a memorable bike ride… These moments can be powerful shortcuts to stories. In this StoryLab, Victoria Muirhead, will share how to think structurally about moments to identify patterns that can guide our writing and our interviews. Then we’ll do an exercise so you can shape stories of your own.
Victoria Hurst,
Creator of the Poetry and Prose Reading Hour on KZSU
Jan 17 What Master Storytellers Do
Oral storytelling is the most ancient form of the wider narrative arts we now witness in theatre, film and beyond. In this StoryLab, mythologist and storyteller, Dr. Martin Shaw will demonstrate skills and techniques that working tellers have utilized for centuries to keep audiences enthralled. You will learn perennial strategies that create a container for transformational experience in the viewer - the movement from audience to participant.
Martin Shaw, PhD,
Author of A Branch from the Lightning Tree
Jan 24 Pitching Your Story
Sometimes, the hardest story to tell is the story of your story. In this StoryLab, Charlie Mintz will share with you tips on how to craft the pitch that will get your story published. Together we’ll look at what Julie Snyder from This American Life looks for in a pitch, and we’ll take a stab at making your pitch perfect.
Charlie Mintz,
Senior Producer, State of the Human
Jan 31 Poetry and Prose Combat
Get your stories into fighting shape with the Cornermen of Write Club San Francisco. Billed as debate club for sailors, what WRITE CLUB SF truly offers is a new way of looking at your writing: competitively.Casey Childers, novelist, copywriter, and magazine editor, and Steven Westdahl, actor, playwright, and improvisor, share some of their tactics and techniques for delivering knockout texts and performances.
Casey Childers and Steven Westdahl,
Write Club San Francisco
Feb 7 Stories Without a Narrator
Stories without a narrator are hard to pull off, and few people know how to tell delightful short non-narrated stories as well as KALW’s "Hear Here" community storytelling project. Producer Audrey Dilling will show how "A courtroom decision" and "Never give up on others" came to life, and share with us how to craft, emotional, and ear-catching non-narrated radio stories, from interview to post-production. You’ll learn the art of coaxing a story out of a stranger (in 30 minutes or less!) and how to turn that conversation into a powerful story.
Audrey Dilling,
Producer, KALW’s "Hear Here.”
Feb 14 Nailing the Start
Finding the right way to start a piece is tough, unless you save it for last. In this Storylab, we’ll look at how TV creators Aaron Sorkin and Steven Moffat get their stories started. We’ll see how The West Wing and Sherlock hook the viewers in, and then we’ll do an exercise on how to rewrite the beginning of your own stories.
Natacha Ruck,
Senior Producer, State of the Human
Feb 21 Cinematic Soundscapes
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what about a sound? In this StoryLab, sound engineer, producer and artist Pat Mesiti-Miller from NPR’s Snap Judgment will share how to use music and sound effects to create cinematic landscapes that grip your audiences and move them beyond words.
Pat Mesiti-Miller,
Producer and sound engineer, Snap Judgment (NPR)
Feb 28 Jumpstart your stories Sometimes the best way to create is to say “Yes… And.” Join us for engaging improv games: you’ll practice thinking on your feet, trusting your own voice, and learn how to create collaborative stories. Lindsey Yeager,
Oral Communication Tutor Manager, Stanford
Mar 7 Status: The Fuel of Comedy (and Story!)
Whether it's Mark Twain, Monty Python, or Modern Family, status change is what makes your favorite comedies…well…comedic! It's also the lynchpin of great stories. Underdogs making good? Status. Corporations being brought down? status. Jerry Maguire? Les Miserables? Star Wars? Status. Bay Area humorist and filmmaker Ken Grobe will lay out the basics of status change and what it can do for your stories. Then we'll explore how to identify (or create) it in the stories you tell.
Ken Grobe
Head Writer, Killing My Lobster
Mar 14 Braden Grant info session
Meet our grants manager and get ready to apply for a Braden Grant for the study of oral narrative. Grants of up to $3,000 will be awarded in the spring quarter for research to be conducted in the summer of 2014. Applications due April 1.
John Lee
Grants Manager

StoryLab Autumn 2013

Date Description Facilitator
Sep 27 How do I tell my story?
Together we’ll explore how to turn little moments of life, scientific facts and imaginary characters into a great story. First we’ll listen to This American Life’s “You Call That Love,” by Jonathan Goldstein, and discuss the different ways you can make a story come alive. Then we’ll do a short exercise so you can start on a piece of your own.
Natacha Ruck,
Senior Producer, State of the Human
Oct 4 What makes a great story?
A great story is one that sends a shiver down your spine. Together we will listen to Aaron Wolfe’s MOTH GrandSLAM winning story "The Wagon," and look at how Aaron uses, scene-setting, character development and plot to create powerful emotion and insight. Then we’ll do an exercise to see how you can make your own audiences shiver.
Charlie Mintz,
Senior Producer, State of the Human
Oct 11 The secret ingredients of story: Surprise!
Since Aristotle, authors have debated which element of storytelling is most important and usually plot or character wins the day. But many storytellers, including Ira Glass, will tell you the most important element is actually surprise. To investigate the kinds of surprise you can develop, we’ll listen the prologue of Send a Message and the last part of Trail of Tears, from This American Life. Then we'll explore how you can surprise you own audiences.
Jonah Willihnganz,
Director of The Stanford Storytelling Project
Oct 18 Capturing life stories
Learn how to get everyone, from your grandmother, to your roommate and your favorite professor to tell you their story. We will listen to StoryCorps' "The Usher Goes Down to the Dugout, Comes Back With the Babe..." to illustrate fantastic interviewing techniques that anyone can develop. Find out what to say, when to say it, and when to hold your tongue.
Will Rogers,
Senior Producer, State of the Human
Oct 25 From interview to story
Learn the quick and easy way to turn your interview into a story. Listen to Radiolab's On Repeat, and we’ll reverse engineer how the producers turned an interview into the story that you hear. Then we’ll listen to a short raw interview and you’ll figure out how you would turn it into a story, using Hindenburg editing software and some narrative structuring tools.
Rachel Hamburg,
Managing Editor, State of the Human
Nov 1 Make stories come alive through sound
How do you use sound to bring our stories to life? In this StoryLab we'll take off to Thailand to hear the hidden story of how fireflies glow in Radiolab’s “There is no Lord of the (Fire)Fly.” Then, we’ll do a quick exercise to find out how to use music, sound effects, dialogue and ambient sound make your story sing.
Charlie Mintz,
Senior Producer, State of the Human
Nov 8 Reading as an invitation to performance
Come experiment with how to interpret a text like a conductor reads a musical score. Together we’ll look at Shakespeare's Richard II, with Sir Derek Jacobi. Then bring a piece of your own and together we'll do exercises to find out how you can use your voice to give your stories melody, rhythm and pizzazz.
Tom Freeland,
Actor and Oral Comm lecturer
Nov 15 Stealing strategies from fiction
Together, we’ll explore how to spot the best strategies from fiction and make them our own. First, We’ll listen to This American Life’s "No, of course I know you" by Scott Carrier and figure out what makes this story so good. Then we’ll do an exercise to see how you can use this knowledge to create stories that breathe, stutter, and palpitate.
Christy Hartman,
Senior Producer, State of the Human
Nov 22 Thanksgiving dinner stories, dos and don'ts
Before you set out to enjoy thanksgiving with your family, find out how Jodie Foster uses storytelling to rock the Thanksgiving dinner in Home for the Holidays. Together we’ll do an exercise so you can have your say at the dinner table!
Natacha Ruck,
Senior Producer, State of the Human
Nov 29 Happy Thanksgiving!  
Dec 6 Open Workshop
This is the final stretch of the quarter! Come from 1PM to 4PM to get help on one of your projects!