Founder Sarah Syverson Talks About the Art of Storytelling Through Live Raven Narratives

“I really dropped into remembering the details of that time in my life. So many of the details became really vivid. And owning the experience was really rich for me. Some of the highest highs and lowest lows of my life were in that story.”  Jane Daily, from the article on Raven Narratives by ZuMAg – Fall 2016.

Story by Lizzy Scully, photos courtesy of the Raven Narratives.

In 2017, Sarah Syverson and Tom Yoder approached Mancos Valley Resources with a neat idea, to connect people through the ancient art of storytelling.  They wanted to create an organization, The Raven Narratives, where people of all ages, colors, and perspectives could share their authentic experiences and understanding through dynamic storytelling in front of a live audience. Now, they hold these live storytelling events at the Sunflower Theatre in Cortez, the Durango Arts Center in Durango, Colorado, and various venues. Check out our Q&A with Syverson below.

Mancos Valley Resources: You held your first event in Mancos on October 19. How did it go? It seemed a lot of people in Mancos were really pleased to have it held here.

Sarah Syverson: It was a powerful evening of storytelling in Mancos. Both Tom and I were so deeply happy to be finally hosting a night in Mancos as part of the Raven Narratives. The stories were particularly poignant, powerful, funny and moving. The camaraderie and honestly the love in the room was palpable to us. We felt filled up and heard from many of the audiences members as they were leaving that they, too, were deeply moved by the stories they heard.

MVR:  Can you tell us a bit about the upcoming story slam?

SS: The story slam is a really fun, off the cuff, kind of evening. We don’t work with any storytellers ahead of time for story slams. Instead, audience members are asked to put their name in a Cracker Jack Box as they enter the event if they have a four- to eight-minute story they want to tell around the theme of FAMILY. Audience members are invited to think outside the box about the theme, and often the first story that comes bubbling up is the one that they want to tell. Storytellers must follow the guidelines we set out, which are: 1) stories must be true; 2) stories must be told in the first person; 3) no rants or raves or soapboxing; 4) must be told in eight minutes or less; and 5) stories must relate meaningfully to the theme of FAMILY. It’s a really fun night for everyone as you root for folks standing up to tell their own personal stories and you don’t know what is coming next. So fun! So meaningful! It’s really a great evening!

MVR: Could you tell me a bit about the history of the formation of this organization? Why, when, was it you who started it?

SS: Tom and I started this three years ago over a desire to be a source of connection in our region. We felt this divisiveness in the world and a sense that true stories shared by the human beings that lived them could be a source of healing balm in a world that is so often disconnected through technology and political as well as socio-economic and cultural divides. We wanted to offer a sense of unity and honestly, I think we selfishly wanted to feel more of that in our own lives. So we launched into planning our first event in the fall/winter of 2015 and rolled out our first ever event in February of 2016 with the theme of Wild Places.

MVR: What inspired you?

SS: The storytellers themselves really inspire us, along with the stories they tell. The deep listening of the audience and their reactions to different stories inspire us. There is a material feeling of connection in the room that translates out into the world that inspires us. People being real, sharing who they are–both their mistakes, hardships and their triumphs and moments of luck/prosperity/truth/unfolding–these experiences inspire us.


“The emotions of it all, the wow-ness of the experience really came alive to me and the shock and the grief came alive. It came to a culmination on stage in the telling of it,” Jane Daily, from the article on Raven Narratives by ZuMAg – Fall 2016.