Mark Yaconelli’s ‘Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us’ debuts at Bloomsbury Books
A book launch event featuring Mark Yaconelli, founder of The Hearth, an Ashland-based nonprofit storytelling project, is set for 7 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7, at Bloomsbury Books 290 E. Main St., Ashland. Yaconelli will tell stories and read passages from the book, which has a forward by noted author Anne Lamott.
The appearance is the first in a book tour that will take Yaconelli to eight other Oregon cities over the next 10 days to discuss “Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us.” A national tour starting in September continues into next year with dates across the country and also to Iceland.
One of the dates is in Ashland, where Yaconelli will give a talk entitled “How Stories Can Save Us: An Evening with Mark Yaconelli” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at Temple Emek Shalom. Yaconelli’s presentation is intended to show how people can recover the practice of storytelling to transform the world, their families and themselves. Signed copies of the new book will be available. Admission will be $10 at the door, with all proceeds benefitting The Hearth’s programming in Southern Oregon. 7-8:30pm.
To hear a recent Jefferson Exchange interview with Yaconelli discussing the value of storytelling, including a story of how he coped with an unexpected disruption at The Hearth’s first-ever event at the old downtown Caldera’s in Ashland, click here.
A discussion with Mark Yaconelli about “Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us”
By Sarah Moll
When I first picked up “Between the Listening and the Telling,” I was not in a particularly hopeful place. It was late, and I had spent some time scrolling through social media feeds that emphasized again and again how divided and distracted we all are, as a nation and within our communities.
As I read, emotions I had barely been aware of began to tumble out. The stories and message in the bookopened up a longing for connection and community that ran deep inside me — a longing that is hidden within all of us. I kept thinking, “yes, yes, of course!” as though the book’s revelations were truths I’d already known but hadn’t been able to name.
I sat down with the author on a sunny February morning. Mark Yaconelli is well-spoken and thoughtful, with easy, generous laughter and an obvious kindness. But perhaps most remarkable is his ability to listen. In an era where most people keep one eye on their phone while they have a conversation, Yaconelli brings the whole of his attention to bear on the person speaking to him, a singular yet compassionate focus that acts as a spotlight, drawing stories out onto a stage.
“You feel honored,” Yaconelli said of his work as a “storycatcher,” a thoughtful, trusted listener who holds narratives of transformation, sorrow, and hope. “You feel this sense of awe and wonder. It’s a sacred interaction.”
For more than a decade, Yaconelli has been in community with countless people in Ashland and across the country, using story as a force for healing both the individual and the greater community. He’s run workshops and a Storytelling Certificate program, hosted story nights and been called to the sites of natural disasters and violence to help survivors through compassionate listening and story work.
“Between the Listening and the Telling”was born out of that body of work and is the next step in Yaconelli’s journey to bring story as a force for healing to a nation that seems hopelessly divided. The book is a rare treasure, a missive that is both sincere and practical, mapping out our yearning for connection to one another and showing through heartfelt stories how that connection can be built.
“Telling stories is a way of walking each other home,” Yaconelli said. “Everyone is looking for a listener — that’s the point of the book.”
Among the bite-sized pieces of spite that so often fill our social media feeds and the constant catastrophes on the evening news, “Between the Listening and the Telling”gives us another way to connect to each other. In reading the book, I found compelling glimpses of evenings where people sit not around a television set, but a dining table, sharing personal stories to bridge the differences that divide us. It’s what Yaconelli calls “the old technology” — food, friends, and story.
“It’s possible to miss your life,” Yaconelli said, as we spoke of a culture that is separating, splintering, and distracting us. “I want to recapture the extraordinary within the ordinary.”
While “Between the Listening and the Telling”is deeply personal, it also lays down a framework for storytelling as a way to heal from collective trauma and bring communities together. Yaconelli reminds us that personal stories can wash away stereotypes and assumptions to show us the dignity of the human being beneath. The stories of immigrants, refugees, people affected by violence and natural disasters — all of these and more can inform both public policy and the way that we understand and interact with others. Yaconelli understands this — he has done this — and in “Between the Listening and the Telling”he shares both his expertise and the deep, heartfelt knowing that a decade of working as a storycatcher has given him.
Yaconelli introduces the idea of “grassroots listening,” a way to reclaim our shared humanity through the telling of personal stories. He speaks compassionately about a waitress who approached him with the story of her life as an undocumented immigrant. Given a listener and a platform, she found empowerment in telling her story. Now she’s a lobbyist for immigrant rights. There are many others just like this — people who found a home for their story and discovered the power of their voice.
I asked Yaconelli what he wanted to leave his readers with, when they turned the last page of his book. His answer was simple. “I want people to come away with hope for humanity.”
With unquestionable and unshakeable sincerity, Yaconelli makes the case for our shared humanity, for empathy, and for the power of community storytelling. The medicine Yaconelli shares in “Between the Listening and the Telling”is simple but undeniably potent. In reading this book, I found the “wells of hope and resistance” that he says are within all of us and can be revitalized through story. I believe that we can mend the broken places within us and between us if we can set aside our distractions and divisions and listen to each other with open hearts.
Sarah Moll is a fiction writer and graduate of The Hearth’s Certificate in Community Storytelling program. Email Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling at email@example.com or call or text him at 541-631-1313.