“We are all storytellers. We live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.”

― Jimmy Neil Smith

I am passionate about strengthening community through creative writing, storytelling and wild-nature encounters. I believe it is time to revitalize the ancient art of oral storytelling, which deepens our connection to self, each other and the other-than-human world. Through traditional folk tales and original, mythopoetic biographical stories we weave meaning from our past experiences and visions for our future, individually and collectively.

Current Projects

2019 The Spindle of Spoken Story

A community project in Denmark, Western Australia, co-founded with Theatre Director Silvia Lehmann, in February 2019, to revitalize the traditional art of oral storytelling. Twelve of us embarked upon a journey of story, writing and ritual to develop our skills and repertoire as community storytellers and change makers.

Oral storytelling is a lost art that is beginning to revive across the world. Once it was a rich and integral tradition, passed on through families and communities. Stories carried important cultural knowledge and wisdom to be shared down through the generations. In the space of less than a century, this art has largely disappeared from our communities and families.…read our Vision and Project Overview here.

Weaving the Word performance, Denmark Festival of Voice, June 2019. Photos by Hazel Blake

PARTICIPANT FEEDBACK

“My community has been enriched by both finding our own stories and learning to listen to old old tales in new ways. I think Nicola-Jane has re-awakened and unleashed the storyteller and deep listener in us all, for which I will always remain grateful.”
— Linda Bradbury, Spoken Word Artist
 
 
“This storytelling retreat should be experienced by everyone. It was so enriching: connecting with others and the land in a creative way… To hear another’s story is really a privilege. It’s a wonderful way for us all to connect.”
— Cecile Williams, Visual Artist
Storytelling Testimonials

Signature Project

2009 Unravelling: Denmark Stories

i want to unravel you

like a ball of sky blue wool

i want to tease away the tangles,

and the pain, so cruel

i want to slip my fingers

into every knot of thought

and pull you free, unfettered…

In 2009, for Unravelling: Denmark Stories, theatre director Silvia Lehmann and I developed a collaborative writing process for exploring complex themes and issues in community—collecting stories, memories and reflections, often from dozens of participants, and weaving these into a cohesive whole that included and honoured contrasting voices and perspectives. Read more.

Photos by Nic Duncan, click to view extracts from the collaborative script that was created from writing by fifteen women.

PARTICIPANT FEEDBACK

What I’ve enjoyed: ‘The people!’…meeting new ones and sharing our stories.  Getting closer and the brainstorming that has opened up a new area of creativity for me.  The relationships I now have with words, the enjoyment of using them for expressing myself, colouring my life and allowing me to see into the depth, the hearts of those other women with their stories”

AUDIENCE FEEDBACK

“It was so true, raw, beautifully authentic with a gorgeous Denmark flavour. Different women’s stories, similar experiences, our interconnection with all things. I really enjoyed the visuals and music too. Well done! Thank you for all your time and energy.”

OTHER FEEDBACK

“…the model of personal story telling and public performance embodied in Unravelling: Denmark Stories could be a profound way of nurturing community development – in a whole range of communities… From my experience in Denmark I would be happy to recommend the Unravelling model to other communities which are looking at different and innovative ways to build community cohesion and strength. It is a very grassroots, bottom-up process to empower people and their communities.”
— Faye Overheu  (Program Manager, Lotterywest Grants & Community Development)

Here is a link to Dr Christina Houen’s paper inspired by this project:

Past Projects

2013 Wheel of Fortunes, AUSDANCE WA Future Landings

In 2013, I worked with Perth choreographer Aimee Smith, to script a multi-arts performance for the communities of Hopetoun, Ravensthorpe, and Jerdacuttup. The show was performed outdoors at an agricultural wheat bin. Its corrugated iron textured a series of films, evoking the environment, the rain and the history of the region. Local people, many of them who contributed to the collaborative writing and scripting process, performed in the show, speaking their memories against the backdrop of the film. Over 300 audience members were bussed in to witness two performances by nineteen participants, aged 13-70.

In 2014  the inaugural People’s Choice Award for Outstanding Production (West Australian Dance Awards 2014), was awarded to this community project.

2012 Solace + Yearning: Poetry & Dance of Belonging

A Community Arts Project from Denmark, Western Australia

‘Solace + Yearning’ layers landscape, poetry, eco-art and contemporary dance to create an immersive space for many voices: yearning to connect to country, grief for what is absent, and reaching towards an understanding of indigenous language and culture.

“Along the edges, voices call softly, softly…

the past speaking to the present.”

This multi-arts collaboration explores ‘settler guilt’ and ‘solastalgia’—a sense of loss caused by environmental change—in a small rural community. The work unravels contradictory and complicated feelings about Australia’s stories, the assumed advantage of non-indigenous Australians, and yet our deep longing for the wisdom and connection intrinsic in indigenous cultures.

Download the free ebook here: http://www.vividpublishing.com.au/solace+yearning/

Project directed by Annette Carmichael

AUDIENCE FEEDBACK:

“…I love being able to feel the grief openly with others and begin healing wounds I only know are there because of the intense emotions which swell in me when these  issues are raised. Thank you – I hope these chapters are just the beginning of our community’s healing and empowerment to face the hard stuff together.”

“I found the show deeply moving, healing, thought provoking. I wanted to break down and howl…… I wanted to put on silk and curl into a tree, slip on cool mud and slide into the river……. I was made aware of my separation and the delicate longing to be a part of. Touched exactly my confusion and guilt but so beautifully drew out compassion. …… for the first people and the new who toiled so hard.”

2011 Writing in the Wild: Nature Writers’ Retreat

14-16 October 2011, Centre for Sustainable Living, Denmark, Western Australia

In this inaugural nature writing event at Denmark’s Centre for Sustainable Living, writers engaged with ecologists in a creative and educational exploration of local landscapes. Moving beyond the enclosed walls of a traditional writing workshop, we took our notebooks, pens and souls into the wilds of Denmark – saturating ourselves in forest wildflowers, estuarine bird life and spectacular coastlines.

FEEDBACK:

“Thank you so much for your incredible organising of the Retreat and for your passionate vision to bring writers and naturalists together…The Retreat was a very special and memorable time for me…That the Retreat went so seamlessly is testimony to your dedication, vision and consistent attention to the details involved. My gratitude to you for making the idea become a reality.”
— Dr John Charles Ryan, Guest Speaker & Facilitator

2010 Our Secret River

Through a series of community writing workshops, personal stories and reflections were gathered from Denmark locals, fished from the rivers that flow through us and between us.  Combining dance, music, text and installation in the bush, we created a palette of emotions to explore the contradictions and disconnections of our personal histories upon this land.

From the collaborative script:

Listen Listen Listen!

There’s no story bigger

than the singing

   of the land

   of the stars.

Listen

……….

………

………

………

Listen

We meet ourselves

in the mirror of our community

we discover who we are

unravelled, re-woven and made anew

no longer separate

but integral colourful threads in the community.

Write to Unravel Workshops

WRITE TO UNRAVEL WORKSHOPS

Since 2008, I have facilitated and organised dozens of creative writing courses and retreats in Denmark and Perth, Western Australia. My workshops and projects are known in the Denmark community for forging connections between people from all walks of life and with the local landscape. I love designing and facilitating new courses. Contact me to discuss possible offerings for your group or community.

View details of past courses and community projects here Download.

Writing Testimonials