IAmSciComm: Storytelling

In May of 2018, Layla Katiraee, Jenny Splitter, and Anastasia Bodnar hosted a week of science communication discussions on the twitter account @iamscicomm. They each had some amazing things to share that can help inform different aspects of science communication (scicomm for short). We’ll share each day of their tweets in a separate post. The second day, shown below, was hosted by Jenny Splitter, who tweets as @jennysplitter.

SciMoms is a project of Biology Fortified, and their goal is to share information in accessible language on the scientific consensus and guidance from medical/scientific community on topics of interest to parents. They use various forms of media to achieve our goals. SciMoms’ members are Alison Bernstein, Anastasia Bodnar, Layla Katiraee, Natalie Newell, Kavin Senapathy and Jenny Splitter.


I’m @jennysplitter: science writer, storyteller and immersive theatre nerd!  Whole Foods Would Look a Lot Different If It Were Science-Based via @thecut

Today I’m going to be tweeting about a very scary thing called live storytelling, and what it can teach you about science communication.

This gif is pretty much how I feel every time I get on stage and tell a story.

So, first things first: what is storytelling? Well, maybe lots of things or maybe not, but today what I’m talking about is what @storydistrict calls “true tales told live.”

If you’re new to this type of storytelling (again, true tales told live), a great place to start is @story_collider, a podcast and live storytelling show featuring true stories about science. Here’s me telling a story at their DC show.

And if you’re in the DC area, the mother of all storytelling orgs is @storydistrict. Great shows, classes and teachers! Wonderful resource for learning the craft of live storytelling.

And if you’re looking to test your lying-detection skills, check out @PerfectLiarsDC.

So, here’s the thing: I’ve been performing as a storyteller since 2012, but every show I’m pretty much like this gif, so why do I do it? Because I learn so much about myself as a writer. I get to connect with the audience in a way that’s totally unlike anything else I do.

And you learn so much about who you are in the process. Speaking of which, here’s a great@story_collider story by @JayRodriguez9 about identity.

Have you been brave enough to try live storytelling? Or are you more of a story-fan? Both (I’m totally both btw)?

Earlier I tweeted that I love storytelling because of the new places it takes me as a writer. Where that begins is with honesty and vulnerability. Well then, here’s a story about that time I ate cake out of a garbage can.

That willingness to be vulnerable is what allows you to build trust with the audience. When I tell this story, people come up to me and confess their own embarrassing truths about diets and food.

Most of my live stories, however, are actually about my parental screw-ups, because lord knows I have plenty!

Something else I’ve learned from storytelling is knowing when to slow down the pace of a story, zoom in on a scene and give the audience all of those juicy details so they feel like they’re right there with you.

Here’s a piece where I included the very frightening and personal scene of discovering my daughter has a food allergy before diving into the science behind genetically modified peanuts.

Food and parenting are obviously two very personal topics. I’ve written in a pointed, argument-driven way about both, but when I take that sense of vulnerability from my storytelling into my science writing & scicomm, I find myself engaging with “the other side” in a new way.

I talked about this a little bit on an episode of @TheBTI‘s podcast. It’s one thing to argue on the internet, but what if the person you’re disagreeing with is also your rabbi?! 😳

Anyone else talking to their rabbis about science? Ok, if not your rabbi, have you figured out how to talk about science with someone in your life without turning into the “well actually” person?

Here’s a great piece by @webmz_ about what scientists can learn from stories about failures and the experiments that don’t work.

While I don’t recommend this author’s approach, I do so love his confessional about anxiety. I laughed and cried reading it.

So, can we talk a bit about my other love, immersive theatre? I’m an immersive theatre maker & Story Director for @TBDImmersive, and I’m a little obsessed with merging #scicomm with immersive experiences. Here’s a really cool example using VR.

This VR experience made me think about the many possibilities for allowing audience members to step into someone else’s shoes.

But mostly I’m excited about all the ways in which immersive allows you to cultivate your fascination. Perfect for #scicomm, right? h/t Kate Gorman @namrogetak

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Anastasia is Policy Director of Biology Fortified, Inc. and the Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. She has a PhD in genetics with a minor in sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. Her favorite produce is artichokes!