Mary Alice Arthur is a storyteller.
She tells stories from all over the world.
What she’s learned through her years of collecting stories is that EVERYONE has stories.
Even people who don’t think they’re interesting.
Even people who don’t think they have anything to say.
Find out why everyday stories are just important as life-or-death stories…
How the stories we tell ourselves shape the world we live in…
How to uncover the stories that shape who you are…
And what it means to be a story activist, harnessing the power of story to bring forth a better world.
What You’ll Learn
“There are some people who feel like they’ve grown up in storytelling,” says Mary Alice…
But she wasn’t one of them.
She felt like she “grew up in the house of secrets, not the house of stories.”
Her grandfather was in the First World War, and her father was in the second. So the stories were there, but they weren’t spoken.
She didn’t get bitten by the storytelling bug until later in life, when she went to a storytelling festival in New Zealand. It was the first time she ever really saw a story in action, and she was mesmerized.
From then on, she traveled the world collecting stories.
She was an intentional nomad, traveling to where she felt called to be of service. She had a prayer for herself:
Let me tell the story that needs to be told.”
She imagined that her role as a storyteller would be to make up the perfect story for an occasion, but that’s not how it played out.
Instead, she says, “I would take a story from Japan and and tell it in Chicago, and I would take Chicago’s story and take it to Stockholm…
“I had to learn to trust myself that the stories I’d collected along the way would offer themselves at exactly the right time in the group I was in.”
Big Stories and little stories
We all have stories to tell.
Not just stories from our culture or stories we’ve heard, but stories about our lives.
But what if your life is boring? What if nothing exciting ever happens to you?
Then you need to discover the power of little stories.
Mary Alice distinguishes between “Big S” stories and “little s” stories.
Big Stories are the ones that are incredibly dramatic and riveting. Think of movies or reality TV.
But that’s not the only kind of stories.
There are also little stories.
Like “your story about how you handled an upset teenager … or your story about how you handled that moment in the office … or that story about how you looked yourself in the face in the mirror in the morning and you tried to convince yourself you were enough.”
Those are good stories to share, too.
“There’s gold in our lived experience,” Mary Alice says. “Your story could be the key that fits in the lock that opens the door for somebody else.”
Changing the World Through Story
Mary Alice isn’t just a storyteller.
She’s also a story activist.
She looks at how the stories we choose to tell shape our world.
“Right now is a critical point in time, in history, where we’re asking ourselves, ‘Okay, we’ve just been through something—we’re still in the midst of something—huge… Who do we choose to become as a result?’ That depends very much on the narrative that we choose.”
She adds, “Especially for us as women—and I think women are a powerful force, and we’re going to be even more powerful [with time]—we need to claim the power of our story.”
Your story is part of your identity. It explains why you are the way you are, why you do what you do, what’s possible for you.
When you’re clear on your own story, you don’t get as triggered when other people try to impose their stories on you.
Stories intersect with each other and challenge each other.
Whenever there’s more than one person in the room, there are competing stories at work.
If 10 people attend a meeting, there will be 10 different views of what happened.
When we don’t acknowledge the existence of multiple stories, we assume that everyone believes the way we do or experienced an event the same way we did.
There is no word in the English language for “not story.” We can’t get outside the story we’re telling to a purely objective space.
That’s why it’s important to acknowledge the stories we’re telling ourselves and how those are shaping our experiences and our creations.
The Stories Women Tell about Themselves
When Mary Alice hit her 50th birthday, something shifted inside of her.
“Watch out, world!” she thought to herself. “Because now I am more concerned with what needs doing than what you think about it.”
That sense of freedom isn’t always part of the stories we tell about older women.
“In North America, specifically, we have very often made our elders into elderlies,” Mary Alice says.
Being older does not mean becoming irrelevant. It opens up opportunities for service and stewardship. It’s time for “re-firing, not retiring.”
The future is intergenerational. Elders give wisdom to the young, while the young bring energy.
And women are ideally suited to the challenges of guiding and inviting.
Start Your Storytelling Journey
Are you ready to excavate the stories already within you?
Mary Alice has a 52-week guide that will coax out your inner storyteller.
It’s not so much about “‘How do you tell the story?’ as, ‘How do you find the story?'” she explains.
It includes quotes, images, questions, and resources to spark your imagination and get you brainstorming.
“The more you actually work with your own stories, the more they’re going to arise, because you’re priming the pump,” she says.
Telling the first story makes it easier to tell the second, and the third.
If you’re worried that you don’t have anything to say, or your stories aren’t important, be reassured.
“The story is out there hiding in plain sight, and all you’ve got to do is listen.”
Mary Alice Arthur
Mary Alice Arthur is a Story Activist working with story in service of positive systemic shift and for focusing collective intelligence on critical issues. She is the author of 365 ALIVE! Find your voice. Claim your story. Live your brilliant life. Her TedX talk on storytelling has been viewed 8K times. Mary Alice hosts THE STORY DOJO, an online community focused on the power and practice of story. Find out how you can work with Mary Alice.