The UMD-Duluth Storytelling Project is a collaborative creative writing initiative that matches UMD writing students with adults who have disabilities resulting from cerebral palsy or traumatic brain injuries. Throughout the spring semester, students meet weekly with community participants on UMD’s campus. Students begin by conducting and transcribing one-on-one interviews with their guests. They design their interviews in stages, developing questions to give their conversations a narrative direction. Together, students and guests edit their interviews with the goal of producing a finished story (fiction or nonfiction). Some pairs might also choose to explore a different creative genre such as poetry or drama.
This is a rewarding volunteer experience that gives students the opportunity to sharpen their interviewing, writing, and editing skills. They learn to listen in new ways and to develop new strategies for communicating with people with disabilities. Those individuals, some of whom are unable to write independently, have the opportunity to explore modes of narrative and share their stories with our community. In the process, participants form relationships that cross the lines of ability, teaching and learning from each other.