Christian Winn helped start up Storyfort years ago when Treefort Music Fest was in its infancy. Now, in its seventh year, Storyfort is stronger than ever.
It will host a number of storytelling stages from 10th Street Station to The Egyptian Theatre at this year’s festival, which runs from Wednesday, March, 25, through Sunday, March 29. A full Storyfort lineup will be announced in the coming weeks.
Boise Weekly sat down with Winn to discuss the Storyfort’s earliest days, the merits of a Masters in Fine Arts and what makes a good story.
BW: What are the origins of Storyfort?
CW: This is going to be our seventh year, Storyfort, as part of the festival and the ninth year of Treefort. I went to Treefort, working it with for my friend Russ, who owns Pie Hole, I was working it at the main stage a few hours every day to make a few bucks and to get to go to the festival. At the time, Eric Gilbert (Treefort co-founder) was working there, too. At the same time, Brit Udesen, she used to be the director here at The Cabin, she had had some ideas about The Cabin getting involved with some Treefort stuff, too. We formed a little team around us, a couple people from The Cabin, just some local writer types. It was pretty small the first year.
BW: You got your Masters in Fine Arts from Boise State. Do you see a lot of Boise State MFA grads come through Storyfort?
CW: We do a showcase with the BSU MFA program. We’re doing an interesting panel, kind of just a discussion of the publishing industry and literary magazines with Mitch Wieland, who’s a publisher of the Idaho Review and a tenured professor and fiction writer at BSU and this woman Jennifer Hague, who’s gone on to be this really amazing novelist. … We’ve had some interesting discussions with writers who don’t have their MFAs, there were a couple of writers last year who kind of almost vehemently are anti-MFA and have done well. It is sort of an interesting dig—do you need an MFA to succeed in writing?
BW: Do you think you need an MFA to succeed as a writer?
CW: I really had a great experience, myself. I had waited a few years, six or seven years, before going back to school, so I had some life experience. A lot of people when they get in feel like they’re hot s**t, you know? But you’re a long way from making it when you get in. I didn’t really experience much of that, but my experience was really great. … I didn’t have a wife or kids, I didn’t own a home. It is hard for people who do have families, or are already established as an engineer or a teacher.
BW: Not asking you to play favorites, but are you excited for a particular panel or panelist this year?
CW: I am very excited about many of them. We’re working with the Idaho Conservation League this year on a couple of events, we haven’t really delved into the environmental narratives as much. They’re kind of back to back: Our Rivers, Our Fish, Our Lives, the salmon narrative is pretty heavy. Back to back with that, we have one they’re calling The River Runners: Tales of the Big Water and Howling at the Moon, it’s kind of more Moth [Radio Hour] style. There’s one queer community building panel that’s going to be great, just on the challenges and the joys and the evolution of creating and sustaining vibrant queer communities. There’s a group storytelling down at 10th Street, it’s like Backstage Pass: Stories of Music, Moshpits and Mayhem. There’s a handful of punk rock stories from the ‘80s down in LA. Stories of Engagement, a Road Map to Activism, which is one of the first events; I think that’ll be a great event, it’s a lot of people who’ve worked in the Latinx community—we worked with PODER, we worked with Immigrant Justice Idaho.
BW: Casting it forward, who is a dream Storyfort guest?
CW: I did meet Jennifer Egan this summer. I didn’t ask her directly, I know writers at her level are pretty expensive, but I did try to tell her about how cool Treefort and Storyfort is. She would be a dream guest. I mean, someone like Haruki Murakami would be pretty sweet.
BW: You’ve talked a lot about The Cabin. Does that sort of act as an incubator for Storyfort?
CW: They do. They do help curate a lot of the poets. Then, just people who show up here, they do workshops, readings, events of all stripes. All of the arts organizations we’ve worked with do sort of act as incubators, The Cabin being the biggest one.
BW: To wrap up, what makes a good story?
CW: Not having it too canned. TED Talks, they’re still telling a narrative, but sometimes those feel a little too practiced and measured; obviously there’s a lot of great information and great stories. Obviously your arc of story, your beginning, middle and end, a lot of specificity within the story, on the page but also on the stage, if you will. Really putting the people there, and taking the time to explain, for example, what it was like to be in Santa Monica in 1982 in this punk scene. Digging in, while still keeping the pace going.