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Penning Our Stories

"Penning Our Stories: A Transformation Journey" will debut at Auburn Public Theater at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 2.


AUBURN — Before Gilda Morina Syverson began writing books of her own, the Syracuse native read the works of author and literary journalist Gay Talese.

Born into a Catholic Italian-American family, Talese often embraced his heritage in his writing and inspired other Italian-Americans to share their stories.

“(He) said, 'If we don't tell stories, if the Italian American doesn't talk about their experience, then it will disappear,” Syverson recalled. "We all have a story. And if we don't talk about it, then it won't exist." 

So Syverson started writing, and now, the author of “My Father's Daughter: From Rome to Sicily” teaches memoir writing, encouraging her students to share their own stories from around the world.

Syverson is one of several central New York authors featured in a short film about storytelling that will debut at Auburn Public Theater Thursday. "Penning Our Stories: A Transformation Journey" showcases a collection of stories from six local authors and two APT staff members who discuss the importance of writing. 

The idea came from publisher and award-winning author Laura Ponticello, who realized many of her writers shared a common theme: transformation. 

"I had this inspiring idea of taking this theme of transformation and creating a short film using real-life stories," she said. 

Ponticello reached out to APT Artistic Director Angela Daddabbo and Cinema Development Staff Bria Holness for help with her idea. And together, Ponticello, Daddabbo and Holness created the short documentary. 

"Almost without planning it, the universe lined everything up perfectly," Ponticello said. "Bria filmed longer segments of eight people's real-life stories, including our own, and she pieced parts of each individual's film together."

The 30- to 40-minute film shares each person's answers to two questions: "How did you change or transform through the process of writing a book or telling your story?" And "What does transformation mean to you?"

For Barbara Huntress Tresness, author of the memoir "Beyond a Charmed Life: A Mother's Unconditional Love," it meant healing. The mother of a child with special needs, Tresness wrote about her search for hope and published a guidebook on communication. 

"Sharing our stories out loud helped me and helped others," she said. "It got easier as I began to tell some of what had happened to us." 

Tresness described a scenario in which a person said hello to someone, and that someone didn't say hello back. 

"Probably you're thinking they're rude or they're unfriendly, but it probably never occurred to you that they couldn't use their voice to say hello," she said. "That's what I want to shift. I want communication to shift for the world." 

Still, Ponticello said, not everyone has to publish a book to share their story. 

"There's great power in sharing our journeys, whether it's in a book form or with our kids and grandkids at home," she said. "We all come from a different perspective in life and this is about bringing people together for simple conversation. I'm hoping that people who come (to this event) will be inspired in their own way."

Staff writer Megan Blarr can be reached at (315) 282-2282 or Follow her on Twitter @CitizenBlarr


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