creativity

How writers using multi-sensory storytelling will save the planet

Photo by Marc Wieland on Unsplash

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” ~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry, author of The Little Prince (among many others)

Today I want to talk to you about how storytelling has a vital role to play in saving the planet. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been consumed with getting ready to start my new graduate program in Sustainability Leadership at University of Cambridge. I’ve completed my first set of assignments and the first (very long!) reading list. I’ve read well over a thousand pages of documents, reports, data collections, and science journal articles. I have 10 new books on my to-be-read list, many relating to the connections between the economy, nature, and societal structure. It will come as no surprise that much of it is bleak, and there is some hope sprinkled in here and there.

Here’s what I didn’t find on a single page I read: what will our world look, feel, sound, smell, and taste like when humans learn how to live on this planet in a sustainable way?

The science matters. We have to have the reporting and data to show what’s happening in real-time right now, and explain what can happen if we don’t turn things around and fast. We need the urgency provided by the dire warnings. The doomsday scenarios are true possibilities and we’re on a collision course with them.

We also have to give people hope by explaining all we stand to gain if we change our ways, systems, governments, businesses, cities, economies, and — here’s the kicker — our values.

For decades we’ve been obsessed with efficiency and convenience, and in the process have caused a massive number of extinctions and destroyed priceless ecosystems that we’ll never see again. We stand to lose much more if we don’t realize we must value nature because nature underpins every aspect of our lives and livelihoods.

We have no future without nature and we need to wake up to that reality.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it would take to give people an experience of what a truly sustainable world will be like. How can we make it an experience that sticks with people long after the experience is over, motivates them to make changes in their lives, and causes them to demand change from the businesses they patronize and the governments of which they’re citizens?

How can we, in the words of Antoine de Saint Exupéry, make them long for the healthy, thriving, clean sea, literally and figuratively?

I’ve been immensely inspired by the immersive exhibits that are all the rage right now — Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience and Imagine Picasso are two examples of the tech-centric, projection-based exhibits that are everywhere. In February, The New Yorker wrote a long, exceptional piece on this trend. For many years, I’ve been a fan of immersive theater like the wildly popular Sleep No More that’s a bit like Clue meets haunted house meets Eyes Wide Shut, complete with masks for all guests so you feel like you’re at a costume party. Since I was a child, I’ve loved choose-your-own-adventure stories. And let’s be honest; I still love choose-your-own-adventure stories.

So here’s my proposal — what if we take the:

  • technology of immersive art exhibits
  • participatory storytelling of immersive theater
  • user-guided choice of choose-your-own-adventure stories
  • science of climate change

to not tell, not show, but allow people to experience how climate change will look, sound, smell, taste, and feel if we continue on our current trajectory and if we make the needed, massive changes to save the planet, save ourselves, and save all the species who call Earth home? There would then we an online component that would connect people to one another and provide support for making the changes we need and charting collective and individual progress because as we know, what gets measured gets done.

Would that be a way to use multi-sensory storytelling as a tool to motivate people, open their hearts and minds, and give us a fighting chance at building a sustainable society together? If executed flawlessly and meaningfully with heart, I think this might be part of the solution we need that doesn’t yet exist. What do you think?

creativity

JoyProject podcast: The Joy of Photography with Amy Selwyn

The Joy of Photography with Amy Selwyn

Smartphones have turned all of us into photographers. We take pictures of our friends and family, our food, pets, art, selfies, sunsets, gorgeous vistas. If we can see it, we’re taking photos of it. Smartphones changed the way we see and capture our world and experiences. 

Less than a year before the pandemic started, photographer Amy Selwyn gave herself a gift that completely and unexpectedly changed nearly every aspect of her life. A trip to Cuba not only transformed her career, but it gave her a totally new way of seeing the world and her place in it.

At the end of the podcast, I share something that brought me joy this week related to the episode. As she adjusts her life to make room for making more art, she’s downsizing her home. That inspired me to re-arrange my own home and declutter my life. Apartment Therapy is an Instagram account and website that offers fantastic ideas on how to organize and decorate a small space for it’s beautiful and functional.

Topics discussed in this episode:
– How Amy got interested in photography
– Traveling to Cuba and falling in love with street photography
– The joy of being a beginner
– Discovering and living out your passions at any age
– Mental health and the artist mindset

Links to resources:
– Amy on Instagram – @amyselwynphotographer
– Amy on Twitter – @amyselwyn
– Amy’s website – amyselwyn.photography
– Christa on Twitter – @christanyc
– Christa on Instagram – @christarosenyc
– Christa on Facebook – @AuthorChrista 
– Christa on Medium – @christaavampato
– Christa on TikTok – @christanyc
– Christa’s website – ChristaAvampato.com
– Apartment Therapy – www.apartmenttherapy.com

About Amy:
Amy Selwyn is a writer and fine arts photographer, and an utterly devoted dog mom to a sassy and adorable French Bulldog. 

Amy spent over 35 years working for and with news organizations around the world, including the BBC, The New York Times, the European Broadcasting Union,  and The Associated Press. Stories and storytelling are a lifelong passion. 

Amy is currently in a 3-year MFA program at Maine Media in Rockport, Maine, studying photography. This month, Amy will have one of her works in a juried show at the South East Center For Photography in Greenville, South Carolina. 

Originally from Hartford, CT, Amy and her beloved pup are currently based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. 

creativity

How writing my Emerson Page novel trilogy saved my life—my conversation with Dr. Ed Freeman on The Stakeholder Podcast

In June 2022, I had the great good fortune to speak to my professor, mentor, and dear friend, Dr. Ed Freeman from the Darden School, on The Stakeholder Podcast.  

Link to the podcast episode: https://stakeholdermedia.libsyn.com/christa-avampato

Ed and I chat about:

  • how writing my Emerson Page novel trilogy saved my life
  • my live storytelling shows, screenwriting, and passion projects
  • my love for history, being a NYC tour guide, and how I got a tattoo live on stage
  • how product development helps me as a writer, and how being a writer helped me as a product developer 
  • living through difficult times and mental health challenges through creative work
  • my multi-faceted and varied career
  • making a living through a creative life
  • business and product development
  • building a better, more sustainable world

Ed is a treasure. He’s been one of the greatest influences on my work and life. He recently won University of Virginia’s highest honor: The Thomas Jefferson Award. Ed’s pioneering work on stakeholder theory changed the way we think about business and how businesses all over the world make decisions to create value. 

If you’ve ever used the word “stakeholder,” you can tip your cap to Ed. His writing about sustainability and stakeholder theory is what put UVA’s Darden School on the map for me, why I applied, and why I was honored to attend and graduate from the school with my MBA. He changed my life in incredible ways and I’m forever grateful for him. Thanks to Ed and producer, Ben Freeman, for having me on the podcast as a guest. 

creativity

JoyProject podcast: The Joy of Airports with Felicia Sabartinelli

Felicia Sabartinelli

The latest episode of the JoyProject podcast is live—The Joy of Airports with Felicia Sabartinelli!

Think you can’t find joy in an airport? Think again! Felicia Sabartinelli is a seasoned world traveler and once you hear her wax poetic about airports, you’ll see them and experience them differently. She explains that airports are the rarest of gems that help us to discover “a state of childlike wonderment.”

At the end of the podcast, I share something that brought me joy this week. It was a stressful and frightening one for me, and I say a heartfelt and grateful thank you to the Animal Medical Center of New York doctors and staff who saved my dog’s life when I was afraid I may have to say goodbye to him too soon.

The Joy of Airports with Felicia Sabartinelli

Topics discussed in this episode:
– Felicia’s definition of joy
– The importance of finding joy during the most challenging times
– All the places to find and experience joy in an airport
– How airports are becoming a destination
– Felicia’s travels to Spain, Turkey, Iceland, Sweden, China, Alaska, Finland, Mexico, Jamaica, and Austria
– Her upcoming book, Good Girl
– Writing while traveling
– The Denver airport and the mysteries it holds
– The art of the Seattle airport
– Her upcoming Masters program in the UK
– How the joy of musicals found their footing in society after WWII

Links to resources:
– Felicia’s website – https://www.feliciasabartinelli.com
– Felicia on Instagram – @Sabartinelli
– Felicia on TikTok – @Sabartinelli
– Christa on Twitter – @christanyc
– Christa on Instagram – @christarosenyc
– Christa’s website – ChristaAvampato.com
– The Animal Medical Center of NY

A little bit about Felicia:
Felicia Sabartinelli is a fifth-generation Coloradoan whose poetry and personal essays have been published in major magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. Many of her personal essays are still in wide circulation today like, My Miscarriages Ruined My MarriageThe Invisible Hierarchy of Grief which recently won a Writer’s Digest award, and I’m So Allergic, Event Fruits and Veggies Can Kill Me.  When she is not writing, you can find her acting, painting, traveling the world, binge-watching her favorite TV shows, or speaking on the topics of creativity and self-realization.

creativity

The Joy of Podcasting and Neurodivergent Stories with Carolyn Kiel

“I find my joy in podcasting.” ~Carolyn Kiel

I’m happy to share this week’s JoyProject podcast interview with the wonderful Carolyn Kiel, creator & host of Beyond 6 Seconds: a #neurodiversity podcast.

In this episode, Carolyn shares her journey and joy behind the microphone as she lifts up the stories of her guests.

At the end of the episode, I share the tools I use to create JoyProject: Zencastr for interviews, Otter_ai for transcripts, WordPress for the website, Headliner Video for audiograms, Unsplash for photos, Anchor for podcast hosting and distribution, Canva for quote posters that I share on social media, & Twisted Wave for audio editing.

Listen to the episode at https://christaavampato.com/the-joy-of-podcasting-and-neurodivergent-stories-with-carolyn-kiel/ and wherever you get your podcasts.

creativity

Sharing my biomimicry journey

This year marks 25 years since the release of Janine Benyus’s book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. The Biomimicry Institute is marking the occasion with a set of videos from biomimicry practitioners about how they got interested in biomimicry. I’m honored to be asked to participate and have them share my journey in this short video. Learn why I decided to pursue biomimicry and how storytelling can help us build a more sustainable world.

creativity

Write every day: Are you in the messy middle?

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John Bucher

Are you in the messy middle, at the gateway of contemplation (which is my tattoo!), in the space between “no more” and “not yet”? Then listen to my brilliant and inspiring friend and writing mentor, John Bucher, on the Story Gatherings podcast. Link to podcast episode here: http://storygathering.libsyn.com/a-conversation-with-john-bucher-on-liminal-space

creativity

Joy today: I finished my third National Novel Writing Month

The day before Thanksgiving, I wrapped up my third run at NaNoWriMo and hit my 50,000 word goal for my third novel. I’m giving the novel a good long rest on my desktop until I pick it up again to begin editing in early 2020.

Here’s the draft synopsis:
“After a succession of personal tragedies, Libby Farina runs her family’s Italian bakery on Mulberry Street in the year 1910 in New York City’s Little Italy. As the city around her swirls with innovation and its often dire consequences, a stranger arrives on her doorstep near death. Who is he and how will his presence in her life, however brief, forever change her world?”

creativity

Joy today: Two weeks of heads-down writing

Here’s to two solid weeks of heads down writing to finish my second novel by 8/31. This weekend I completely revamped the plot line. Tough work and worth it. Don’t be afraid to do this. If what you’ve written isn’t working, toss it onto the slush pile and try again. Don’t let the good keep you from the great.

creativity

Joy today: I’m going to Sci Comm Camp in November

Screen Shot 2019-08-17 at 9.26.49 AMI found summer camp for science nerds – but even better because it’s during the Fall, my favorite season. And I’m going!

Yesterday I was listening to Ologies podcast and Alie Ward mentioned Sci Comm Camp, a gathering that takes place over a long weekend in November outside of LA. There are workshops, fun presentations, and plenty of downtime to connect with people who love science and are passionate about sharing science with others.

Given my graduate studies in biomimicry at Biomimicry 3.8 and Arizona State University, my desire to spread this practice as far and wide as possible, and my love for collaborating and learning from others, this seems like the perfect event for me. Plus, I’m hoping to sneak in a trip to see some L.A. pals while I’m there. Already looking forward to November!