In searching for a way to tell these stories effectively, we developed a process of collaboration that is wholly organic to the project's needs. It's been really exciting for everyone involved.
First, the amanuenses* and the participants** hang out together, a lot, and talk about all kinds of things. We share stories with one another, discuss life in Nashville, and laugh. We snap photos if the lighting is right. We jot notes when the memories become vivid. Sometimes we have a video camera and we set that up. Sometimes we have the audio rolling and we might catch an amazing piece of sound. In short, we listen to one another.
Once it feels right, we start crafting a story from the raw material. The participant might set limits on what we can and cannot discuss. Sometimes that's because the material is too sensitive, other times it is for the safety and security of the participant's loved ones. (Keep in mind, many of these Nashvillians have fled dangerous situations, and some of them still have family who live in fear).
At this point, the amanuenses lend their field skills to the participant's vision, and creative collaboration is underway. For most of the participants, English is not a first or even second or third language. Writing creatively in a non-native tongue is notoriously difficult, even for the masters. So in addition to their field skills, the amanuenses (who are native English speakers) lend their sense of language to the stories. The participants provide everything else. Thus, while the story belongs entirely to the participant, the narrative voice that is created in each story belongs not to any one individual, but to the story itself. No details are invented. The facts are left entirely intact. But in this project we seek a flexible kind of truth, one that is arrived at through an experience.
That is the 1stPN process & vision.
*the creators of this project (amanuensis, n : one who takes dictation from another, esp. a literary or artistic assistant.)
**the amazing people whose stories you're encountering on this site