Workshop @ Maple Grove Art Center

my POV (point of view)
Digital Storytelling Workshop

Dates: Tuesdays, July 9th-30th
(Video editing conducted remotely the following week)
Time: 7-9pm
Cost: $150 Non-member/$135 Member
Location: Maple Grove Art Center
Instructor: Nan Toskey

Online Registration 
Mail In Registration Form

Join us to learn the craft of first person digital storytelling! 
my POV workshop participants learn how to write, craft, and edit a digital story based on a personal experience into a memorable video to be posted online. Media Artist conducts video editing in collaboration with digital storytellers. Class does not meet for a fifth session, but the instructor will work with students on final editing during that week.

Workshops consist of 4 weekly 2 hour sessions, plus remote video editing with media artist:
1 – Key Ingredients of First Person Digital Storytelling

Workshop participants learn key concepts within the multiple layers of digital storytelling.

2 – Writing Personal Voice Stories

Workshop participants learn how to write a short first person narrative in a  conversational spoken word style.

3 – Crafting a Video Script

Using video script writing techniques, workshop participants develop an audio visual narrative to accompany story narration.

4 – Story Making Production

Workshop participants create and gather media assets and record story narration.

5 – Story Making Video Editing [offsite]

Media Artist edits digital stories remotely and in collaboration with workshop participants.

Exploring FIRST PERSON Digital Storytelling

June 19 – 6-7pm

Training Room 133
Maple Grove Library
8001 Main St, Maple Grove, MN 55369
Map link to Maple Grove Library

Presentation and Digital Story Screening exploring the digital storytelling community arts movement.

Media Artist Nan Toskey will present several Digital Stories made by individuals from around the world, plus showcase four digital stories made by Maple Grove residents in a workshop conducted June 2018 at the Maple Grove Community Center.

Event concludes with details on upcoming my POV Digital Storytelling Workshop at Maple Grove Art Center.

Good storytellers create rapport.

Excerpt from Art of Charm post “How to Tell a Great Story” by Johnny Dzubak

The whole reason to tell a story isn’t to hear yourself speak. It’s to create a connection between you and the listener. That’s the magic of great storytelling. And like any kind of rapport-building exercise, there’s one simple rule in play: high risk, high reward; low risk, low reward.

Basically, the higher the level of self-disclosure in the story, the deeper the connection you’re going to make with your listeners. But there’s also the risk that you might expose too much and embarrass yourself. Alternately, you might come across too strong and alienate or even offend your listeners. Becoming a good storyteller is about mastering that trade-off over time.

Ultimately, that’s a calculated risk you’re going to have to make when you tell a personal story. But I’ve broken it down into three basic levels to help you get a feel for what you’re getting yourself into:

  • Light disclosure involves amusing anecdotes about yourself and the world around you. Light disclosure tends to be brief, with a clearly defined beginning, middle and end. This tends to be a quick little anecdote about something funny or interesting that happened to you in the course of your daily life.
  • Medium disclosure gets more serious, because it involves your beliefs, opinions and ideas about the world. This is a riskier proposition, because there’s someone out there who’s bound to be affected by your thoughts and feelings. Medium disclosure is best for after you have established some degree of rapport with your listeners. You need to feel reasonably safe that, even if they don’t agree, that they won’t be looking for the nearest exit.
  • Heavy disclosure is, as you might guess, the riskiest and most difficult kind of storytelling. This is where you begin sharing your fears, insecurities, failures and pain points with your listeners. There’s a two-fold risk with heavy disclosure. First, you might come across as needy or validation-seeking. Second, your listeners might laugh at you rather than with you. You want to save heavy disclosure for situations where you feel very safe sharing deeply personal and painful parts of your life. You also want your storytelling ability to match the level of disclosure, which is a matter of practice.

For the most part, when you’re out at a bar, business networking event or other place where you’re meeting new people, you’ll want to stick mostly to light self-disclosure with maybe a little bit of medium self-disclosure once you’ve started to make a connection. Heavy self-disclosure is either for people you already know very well, or people that you want to become trusted confidants and companions.

Rapport is ultimately what you want to achieve when you tell a story, so don’t gloss over thinking over this part. One of the most powerful reasons to tell a story is that it allows you to connect with several people all at once. Just how much do you want to connect? A good storyteller is aware of his level of disclosure and uses it skillfully.


Problem Solving Stories

Excerpt from Storymaking.comThe Role of the Problem in Great Stories” by James Bonnet

In real life, a problem is anything that is contrary to the way you want things to be. In a great story the problem is the central, unifying event that holds the story together. In Harry Potter, Voldemort is trying to take possession of the Wizard World. That is the problem that brings about the change of fortune and that is the problem that has to be resolved.

This and hundreds of other great stories I could name revolve around a problem that has to be resolved. And these are the central events that are holding these stories together and giving them power. And, when these problems are finally solved, it brings the story to a satisfactory conclusion and we know it is over.

The reason great stories are about problems, and what this important pattern is telling us about ourselves, is that life is all about problems. Despite their prevalence, I’m not sure that most people realize how much our lives are dominated and controlled by problems. We are bombarded daily by all sorts of big and little problems. They come at us by phone, via email and the news – everything from finding our lost keys and having nothing to wear to a stolen wallet or a flooded basement.

On top of that there are emotional problems, financial problems, health problems – threats to our lives and our well-being, threats to our families, threats to our communities, threats to our country and the world. All of the professions, in fact – doctor, lawyer, accountant, plumber, psychologist, therapist, auto mechanic, teacher, soldier, policeman, fireman, etc. are built around problem solving. They make their living solving problems for other people.

What problems do storymakers solve?

Well, great storymakers help people solve the most serious problem of all, the problem of ignorance – ignorance concerning who we really are and who we were really meant to be.

The great mission of story is to show us how to analyze, cope with, and solve the problems that stand between us and the values we are pursuing, between us and our dreams, between us and our full potential. And revealing how that problem was created and how it can be resolved is at the very heart of a great story – and at the very heart of who we are and the predicaments we face during our relatively brief visit to this sometimes scary, often delightful, but always incredible planet called Earth.

Anything you need to know about any particular problem is stored somewhere in the DNA, and the creative unconscious self can access that information. You just have to ask your self the right direct questions then play midwife to the new ideas as they come to life in your imagination.

Make your story a definitive revelation of that problem and you will make that story extremely relevant and powerful.


First Person Narrative: Writing Tips

Excerpt from “First person narrative: 7 tips for writing great narrators” by NOW NOVEL

1. Evoke the senses, not only the narrator’s inner world

Writing a novel or story in the first person makes it tempting to let your narrator dwell on their thoughts and feelings extensively. Often characters can feel lacking if all the focus is on their mental and emotional processes, though. Have your character describe not only thoughts but also sights, sounds, smells and tastes where appropriate.

When you use a first person narrator, ask:

  • What senses are strongest in this particular character and what does that say about them?

  • How can I give the reader a greater sense of an embodied narrator and not just a disembodied, storytelling ‘I’?

Remember to ground your narrator’s observations in the material world. Because this will add colour and depth to your story.

Focusing on all aspects of your narrating ‘I’ character’s experience, physical and otherwise, is one way to write a great narrator. It is also important to let readers see through your narrator’s eyes actively:

2. Avoid overusing words that place distance between the narrator and your reader

Because the narrator uses the first person ‘I’ (and sometimes the plural ‘we’) to tell the bulk of the story in first person narration, you may be tempted to begin sentences with ‘I’ a lot. Take this sentence for example:

‘I saw that the door was closed and I heard a faint scratching noise coming from within the house. I thought it sounded like someone trying to dig a tunnel out.’

The words ‘I saw’, ‘I heard’ and ‘I thought’ all place the reader at one remove to the unfolding events. The reader isn’t seeing, hearing or thinking these things through the narrator. The reader is being told about the narrator’s experiences. The scene could be more vivid if the narrator didn’t ‘report’ her or his experience.

The snippet could be rewritten as follows:

‘The door was closed and a faint scratching noise came from within the house. It sounded like someone trying to dig a tunnel out, I thought.’


Continue reading First Person Narrative: Writing Tips


Image Resolution Explained

Pixels determine the image size on a screen

Digital images are formed from lots (tens of millions in some cases) of different coloured dots, known as pixels. The pixels are tiny and tightly packed, so when viewed on a screen, the individual dots are not noticeable, giving the illusion of a perfectly smooth yet sharp image.

It so happens that computer screens are made up of pixels too, so it is reasonably easy to predict how much space an image will take up on a screen.


Let’s use this picture of Archie. This is one of our free downloads, and is 300 pixels wide x 400 pixels high.

Example image 300 pixels wide x 400 pixels high

Example image 300 pixels wide x 400 pixels high

If we imagine a computer monitor that is 1300 pixels wide x 800 pixels high, this picture will take up this amount of space on the screen:

300 pixels x 400 pixels image on a 1300 pixels x 800 pixels monitor

And here is our “medium” sized picture of Archie which is 480 pixels x 640 pixels:

Example image 480 pixels wide x 640 pixels high

Example image 480 pixels wide x 640 pixels high

See how this image takes up more space on the screen:

480 pixels x 640 pixels image on a 1300 pixels x 800 pixels monitorAnd what about our “high resolution” version of this image (3024 pixels x 4032 pixels)?

High resolution image

As you can see, the high resolution image is much bigger than this computer screen. So does this mean that you never need high resolution images for screen use? In many cases, that is correct, one of the smaller versions is likely to suffice. However if you were using an image for a full screen background, you may well need the high resolution version, but might want to reduce its size yourself.

3 Actions Steps To Help You Decide What’s The Best Resolution For Your Photo Scanning Needs

  1. If you use 300 DPI, you’ll be safe. You’ll get HDTV quality images. And you can re-print them out at the original size.

  2. But if you want to double or triple the size of your original photo, use 600 – 900 DPI. And it’s always better to have too many pixels, than too little. I personally scan all my 4×6 photos at 900 DPI.

  3. If you have photos smaller than 4×6, use 900 DPI or more. I personally use 1200 DPI to scan all my smaller photos.


Visual Impact

What are the visual qualities that best capture one’s attention?

Visual design elements and principles describe fundamental ideas about the practice of visual design.

outline showing design elements and principles

Elements of Design = Line, Shape, Color, Tone, Texture, Direction, Size

Design elements are the basic units of any visual design which form its structure and convey visual messages. We can think of the elements of design as a collection of abstract tools. They can be combined and arranged in any way we like to create some sort of visual statement. The elements of design are the raw materials or building blocks for any form of visual expression.

Diana Eftaiha outlines how these design elements can turn a simple subject into a striking photo in her article:  6 Elements of Design .

Principles of Design = Contrast, Harmony, Balance, Repetition, Dominance, Gradation, Unity

Design principles integrate design elements into one composition. How one applies design principles determines how successful a design may be. Important considerations are:

Focal point – the center of interest of the design. Be aware of where you want the viewer’s eyes to look.

Contrast – engages the viewer by making the design more visually interesting.

Balance – the use of space in the distribution of objects and colors. The sense of balance or symmetry affects the viewer’s emotional response. For example, a perfectly symmetrical design may result in tranquility or boredom while an asymmetrical design may create excitement or anxiety.

Rhythm – the use of lines to direct the viewer’s eyes around the page or screen. Vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines direct the eyes in different directions and convey different emotions.

Perspective – providing a sense of depth (usually thought of in terms of foreground, middle ground and background). Methods for providing perspective include using a horizon line, relative size and scale of objects, linear perspective (converging lines to convey distance), and color and value (darker, richer colors appear to be in the foreground).

Unity – consistency and cohesiveness in the overall design. Everything works together to make one unified whole.

Trent Sizemore outlines how to effectively incorporate design principles into photography in his blog post The Principles of Design in Photography.


How to Write Winning First Person Stories

Excerpt from “How to Write Winning First-Person Stories
by C.S. Paquin

The essence of good first-person narrative is sharing an experience, letting the reader see and feel it, and reaching a resolution from which both reader and writer grow or have an ‘aha’ moment. Writers often confuse essays with a recollection of an event — they fail to share how the experience enlightened them, affected them, changed their opinion. An essay is an internal journey of discovery. To work well, the reader takes that journey with you.

What to write

The topics are endless. Almost anything can be the subject material for an essay — nature, climbing, sailing, death, parenting, relationships — but ask yourself what you feel passionate about, or what you have experienced that has universal appeal. Ask yourself what makes you happy, or what makes you sad. When you have a clear idea of what you’d like to share, begin a draft.

The draft

The draft essay is the first step in clearing your head for a final, tightly focused piece. Don’t hold back in your draft, don’t critique it, just let your emotions and thoughts run unchecked. Write where you are comfortable; perhaps try longhand if you usually type. Then, when you think you’ve said all you can say, close the file or notebook and walk away.
When you’re ready, perhaps in a day or so, read your draft. You’ll find paragraphs that make you wince, and others that shine with brilliance. You might find you sound dogmatic or overly emotional. It’s good to recognize this now before you submit your piece. If you don’t, the editor will.

Many essays for commercial publications are not lengthy — perhaps 1,000 to 1,200 words, often less. To share all you want to share, you must keep focused on three elements — the beginning or hook; the conflict or the internal journey; and the ending, what you find at your destination.

1. The hook

Look at your first draft and see what parts of it are crucial to set the scene — people, places, events — and what will distract the reader with unnecessary detail. The balance lies in giving the reader enough information so they can know you at least a little. Remember, your neighbors, spouse and children may be familiar with you and your experience, but your readers are not, yet are about to embark on an intimate journey with you. On the other hand they don’t want tedious details about your Aunt Marge or her canary, unless they’re coming on the journey too.

The most successful essay I’ve published had this introduction:

I sob in Sydney International Airport as my 5-year-old daughter Bee and I bid our friends and family an emotional farewell. At age 30, I am leaving my native Australia, after a whirlwind romance, to join my husband in his native Minnesota.
Immediately, the readers (Minnesota Monthly) knew they were going to hear about a physical journey as well as the internal one, and the key players were myself, my daughter and husband, and a relocation to Minnesota.

What wasn’t important in this piece is what got to me the airport — why my daughter and I were going to Minnesota, and not my husband to Australia, or whatever. What mattered was that I was at the airport, and that I was leaving.

If you are writing about coping with infidelity, don’t talk about the ten good years before your ex-spouse’s affair; start from when you discovered the betrayal.

In short, begin with the phone call, the letter, the diagnosis, the news, and the event… not what led up to it.

2. The journey

We’re packed, ready and off we go. This is where we experience your challenge or conflict with you, grapple with the curveball, struggle to make sense or laugh or cry with you. To recapture your emotions and make us feel them, the body must be lively and interesting. Again, don’t bog down your story with unwieldy descriptions; keep focused on your emotions and the drama to keep the reader moving forward. Make sure you occasionally remind of us of the theme of the journey, but succinctly.

It’s OK to pause, recollect your thoughts, or comment on where you thought this journey may have led you, but you do have to press on. You’ve taken us this far and we’re engrossed, so you have an obligation to see us to the end.

3. The destination

Aah, so we discover that it is possible to survive a Minnesota winter; a broken heart; beat the odds; or change a belief about yourself. Tie the ends together, remind us where we were when the journey began and how far we’ve come. The ending or resolution doesn’t have to be happy, but there should be evidence of growth or a new understanding in the author.

And if the reader can apply that growth and understanding to his or her own life, then your essay has achieved its goal — a journey worth taking.

Editing your essay

Now for the hard work! You’ve written what you think is close to a publishable piece, but don’t be hasty in sending it off. Put this second draft away and then reread it, removing yourself from your experience as much as possible. Look for the following pitfalls:

1. Emotion vs. emotional

It’s fine to be angry, sad or happy. We want those emotions, but remember the reader is more removed from your particular experience. If you are too emotional, you will appear to be venting, possibly irrational and to not have grown from your challenge. If you haven’t grown, neither can the reader.

2. Passive vs. active

There is a tendency for essays to be passive because they describe past events, which offers no immediacy to readers and less chance to engage them. Look at your sentence structure, if you have a lot of “was” or “by” in your essay, revise it. Look at the following:

“I was being lied to by my wife” is passive. So break it down: Who’s doing the action? The wife: the wife is lying. What is the verb or the action word? Lying. Who is having something done to it? I am. Sentence structure should be subject/verb/object: “My wife lied to me” — offering less to wade through and bringing the action (the verb) closer to the reader.

3. Adverbs

Writers often think if they use adverbs they’re heightening emotion when, in fact, the opposite is true. Use of words ending in “-ly” weaken prose. If you shout because you’re angry, the reader should know that from your actions and not be told, “I shouted at her angrily.”

4. Show, don’t tell

Sheila Bender, author of Writing Personal Essays: How to Shape Your Life Experiences for the Page, says that a good essay is one with imagery appealing to the five senses. To engage readers, offer enough detail so the audience sees, smells, hears, etc., what you are describing. Don’t “tell” the reader what’s happening; use verbs that “show.” Don’t say, “it was a hot day,” instead, tell us, “the sun beat down.”


Writing Tip: FILTER Words

by Ruthanne Reid as posted on “The Write Practice

What Are Filter Words?

A filter word puts distance between the reader and your character, filtering that character’s experience. Let’s look at an example to get a better sense:

This was magic school? I stood and stared at it; I thought it seemed to be set up to depress us. I saw the green hill rising from the earth like some kind of cancer, and I could hear the voices of students on the wind, chanting soullessly, as if the wonder and awe of true magic had been whitewashed from their lives.

Not sure what to look for? Here it is with the filter words removed.

This was magic school? It seemed to be set up to depress us. The green hill rose from the earth like some kind of cancer, and the voices of students carried on the wind, chanting soullessly, as if the wonder and awe of true magic had been whitewashed from their lives.

What did I remove? I thought, I saw, I could hear. In other words, I removed anything that had you, the reader, looking at her looking at things, rather than looking at the things she saw.

This is true first-person: being behind the character’s eyes.

How to Spot Your Filter Words, with Examples

Filter words can be difficult to see at first, but once you catch them, it becomes second nature. “I heard the music start up, tinny and spooky and weird,” vs. “The music started up, tinny and spooky and weird.” One is outside, watching him listen; the other is inside his head, hearing it with him.

“I saw the dog, brown and shaggy.” You’re watching the character see the dog. “The dog was brown and shaggy.” Now you’re seeing what the character sees, and there is no space between you and the character.

I’m going to give you one more example from my own work.

Continue reading Writing Tip: FILTER Words