Happy 8th Anniversary, StoryMasters!

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StoryMasters Initiation Business Meeting on April 10, 2011

Fun Facts about StoryMasters

  • Club’s Original Idea: Tina Tomiyama
  • Club’s Co-Sponsors: Tina Tomiyama and Hiba Hamdan
  • Club Name: Originally “Storytelling Club”, changed to “StoryMasters”, per Philip Wiest’s idea
  • Initiation Business Meeting: Sunday, April 10, 2011
  • Club Charter-Membership: 25 members joined between April 10th and April 21st
  • First Official Club Meeting: Sunday, May 8, 2011
  • Club Chartering Date: Tuesday, May 10, 2011

That’s right. StoryMasters is a proud eight years old now! To make our celebratory moment even more special, some of the charter members who have been with us physically or spiritually shared some stories and wisdom with us.


Searching for a Home ~ Tina Tomiyama

StoryMasters started out in a Chinese restaurant in Culver City with a rarely-used banquet room. But the restaurant gained popularity and sometimes we got there only to find out that the banquet room was in use.
We tried other restaurants and community centers. Ouch! Expensive. We were running out of options.

“Why don’t we meet in someone’s home?” asked Jeni Stewart. “We could take turns, like a book club.”

I wasn’t sure if folks would want to meet in my home. It’s 90 years old, after all, tucked back into the hills of View Park, really hard to find. But there’s plenty of street parking and we wouldn’t have to rent a meeting place.

“We can try it for a few months,” I said.

That was six years ago. Now, when guests come to meetings, they say things like,

“Oh, this is a perfect place for a storytelling club! Paintings, a fireplace, comfortable cushions and natural light . . .”

And we say,

“Help yourself to some coffee or tea! Would you rather sit at the big table or do you prefer the couch?”

We don’t need to search any more. I’m so happy — District 1’s only advanced storytelling club meets right here in my living room.


The Story of StoryMasters ~ Hiba Hamdan

It took me few seconds to answer Tina Tomiyama’s e-mail. “What a great idea, Tina!” I said. “Let me know how I can help.”

Now, when my dear friend and mentor Tina says “Jump,” I’d say “How high?” Tina always makes you jump to your success. That time, in 2011, I jumped and didn’t even ask! I knew that her idea of creating a Storytelling-oriented club would be a huge success. Tina and I became the club’s Co-Sponsors.

It only took 11 days, in April 2011, for us to gather signed applications from 25 members, which usually takes months.

On Tuesday, May 10, 2011, our Lt. Governor Marketing at the time, David Kitchen, e-mailed us: “It’s official”! In only 1 month, StoryMasters became a Chartered club.

What was the secret for this huge and speedy success? It’s just “Storytelling”!
People love to know about other people and hear their stories. In fact, our hearts and brains have been hard-wired on storytelling since we were children, and since our ancestors lived in caves. A well-told story grabs our attention, fascinates us, and moves us.
Stories help us clarify and communicate our vision, values, and successes. They’re more believable than statistics. In fact, good stories have an emotional content that enables listeners to connect with the teller, while making meaning based on their own experiences. Stories don’t just tell us about a situation or an individual; they show us.

In business, Leaders have found storytelling to be a highly effective management tool.

In movies and TV, it’s all about storytelling! I’ve had the chance to experience this since 2017, when I started to work, part time, as Media Programmer for TV Santa Barbara. When previewing the shows before I schedule them on our channels, I see how hosts and guests use storytelling techniques to better communicate their message. In media training, the first technique that TV producers and directors learn is to create a storyboard for their shows.

The power of storytelling was the reason why so many members, including myself, joined our StoryMasters club so quickly in 2011.

Today, eight years later, our past and new club members continue to learn or teach the best techniques for crafting compelling stories, and continue to share their brilliant stories that entertain us, teach us, and sure inspire us.

Happy Eighth Birthday, Dear StoryMasters!


Love of Storytelling ~ Anna Ziss-Patton

My earliest, best memories of my father are of his stories. Every night before I went to sleep, he would read to me from old, hardcover books that featured classic, detailed illustrations. No watered down, picture book stories, he chose original Grimm’s and Hans Christian Anderson stories—scary and thrilling and oh so spellbinding! He read dramatically, voicing characters, and speeding up the tempo as the tale surged forward to its climax.

It was stories that bound us together and it was how he showed his love. It was our special time together. And his stories taught me about the world. My father gave me a great gift—a love of fine storytelling.

What human being ever hasn’t loved a good story? So, when Tina Tomiyama told me she was starting StoryMasters, how could I not become a charter member? There is nothing more magical and intimate than listening to advanced Toastmasters tell their personal stories, masterfully told, captivating the audience, transporting us to their world. I was IN!

From a back room in a peculiar, old Chinese restaurant to our current home—the cozy, inviting Tomiyama living room, each meeting draws me in with skillful speakers and well-told tales. One Sunday a month, I sit transfixed as I listen to stories. Thank you, StoryMasters, for sharing so many wondrous tales. Thank you for taking me on voyages to places I couldn’t imagine and teaching lessons I’d never known. Thank you for your inspiration month after month. I hope to join the ranks of the true storytelling Masters—the StoryMasters!


Living the Dream ~ Walt Grassl

They say never let the facts get in the way of a good story. But what if the facts make it a good story?

On Wed, Mar 20, shortly before 10 PM, I received an email from Miyo, asking me to contribute to this newsletter. Where was I? At a writers workshop conducted by “We Make Movies.” Coincidence? I think not.

The workshop provides a venue for fresh pages to be read by professional actors — to encourage the writers and explore the material. It was my first visit, and I participated as an actor. I was hanging out with other Storytellers.

Storytelling and I have not always been friends. I started my life as an engineer. I was facts and data focused, not story focused. I first woke up to the power of story many years ago, when I was preparing a customer presentation with my program manager Mike Fleenor. He asked me, “What is the story of the presentation?” I looked at him like he had three eyes. He explained that there should be a theme: things are good, things are normal, or the train is coming off the tracks, and we need help.

Years after that, in Toastmasters, I learned to make a point and tell a story.

StoryMasters helped me learn how to do that better. I always enjoyed the excellent storytellers in the StoryMasters family.

Today, I spend more of my time telling stories through other people’s words as an actor. I even got the male lead in a short film called “I’m Telling Ya” (trailer is on YouTube). My acting journey is still in its infancy, but I am still living the dream.

I am so grateful that Miyo reached out to me. I fondly remember my time in StoryMasters and can only imagine how things have grown.

I hope all of you are living your dreams.


Listening to Stories ~ Lin Van Gelder

“This is the sorcery of literature. We are healed by our stories.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams

When Hiba Hamdan, DTM, approached me about joining a brand-new club that was forming, I knew it would be something special. Hiba’s help and her personal story had been crucial to my early Toastmasters experience, as she mentored our company club at Boeing and taught us to be Toastmasters. I was honored when she invited me to join StoryMasters as one of the founding members.

Yes, we had some growing pains at first, especially with finding the right location. I might call them logistics challenges. Tina’s lovely home turned out to be a perfect place for us.

In several speeches I’ve heard recently, people have said how they found their own voice and finally learned to express their own truth. We all have a deep desire for someone to hear us, for our stories to matter. It is life-changing for those who, at long last, find their voices.

At StoryMasters, we give acknowledgement to those people. We do the most important thing we can do: we listen. We are present. We give loving feedback that assures each speaker that they, indeed, were heard.
When I say to myself, “I am” — what words follow? Do I affirm my power, my success, my beauty? Do I say, I am wealthy beyond measure? Do I have gratitude for health, relationships, family, opportunity, and do I still dream?

Perhaps life itself has no meaning – we give it meaning by how we live and the stories we tell. I grow as a human being from hearing yours, and I hope you learn from mine as well.


Telling Stories at Work ~ Jon Caplan

A.P. Møller-Maersk, commonly known as Maersk, is the world’s largest shipping company. On June 27, 2017 company computers started rebooting spontaneously. Nobody knew what was happening but within minutes the problem spread around the world – taking out more than 50,000 computers – and shutting down the company. Nearly a fifth of the world’s shipping capacity, spread out over 800 ships and 76 ports, was unmanageable.

It wouldn’t become clear until later what was going on. Russia had unleashed a cyberattack against Ukraine by spreading malware called NotPetya. Maersk was not the intended target. But there was a single machine in a single office in Ukraine that had a financial application installed that the Russians had used to spread the attack.

That was all it took to wipe out the entire company’s operations. It took weeks and $400 million to repair the damage.

I work in cyber security. It is a complex field and one where you are working against active adversaries. There is much you need to know and much you need to do to protect against those adversaries. So how do we remember what is important and where the dangers are and what we need to do? We tell each other stories, like the one above. I left out the details that contain valuable lessons for those in the field. But the point is that by hearing stories, we get to see what others saw and feel what they felt, and in the end,we learn what they learned. And we get to do it the easy way.

Every field has lessons to pass along and there is no better way to pass them along than through stories.


My Road to StoryMasters ~ Margaret L. Mitchell

It was almost inevitable that I would one day join StoryMasters—an extraordinary club of advanced Toastmasters committed to developing their skills in the ancient art of storytelling.

I started down the road to StoryMasters when I was a child growing up during the mid-1940s and 50s.
Surrounded by books at home and with easy access to the local public library, I developed a love of words, language, and stories from the books I read. I also grew to love oral storytelling. Some of my fondest early memories include gathering with family and friends in our kitchen or living room, where my mother told stories about her life and experiences. She knew precisely which stories, vocalizations and gestures would make us laugh, cry, and feel all the emotions in between. While I greatly admired her storytelling skills, I never thought they were skills I could learn.

Many years would pass before I joined my first Toastmasters club in 1999. After conquering my fear of speaking, I began to understand that by using stories, I could make my speeches more interesting and memorable. As my communication skills improved overall, my interest in storytelling increased as well. I attended several storytelling workshops outside my club. Then I attended a day-long storytelling festival, where storytellers from various genres performed.

The storytelling festival was a transformative experience for me. Nearly all the storytellers were good; but Barbara H. Clark, a local professional storyteller, gave the peak performance of the day. After sitting mesmerized by the skills of this remarkable woman, I realized I was much more interested in becoming a storyteller who made points, than a speaker who interspersed her points with stories. But where and how could I begin giving shape to this dream?

Just weeks after I attended the festival, Tina Tomiyama contacted me to see if I wanted to join a new storytelling club. Was I interested? No, I was ecstatic! I wasted no time in giving her my check and application and becoming a charter member of StoryMasters.

Joining StoryMasters is one of the best decisions I’ve made during my Toastmasters journey. What I appreciate most about this club is the ongoing opportunity to learn from gifted storytellers, as well as newer members who are still seeking their voice and style. With six speaking spots available at every meeting, I have ample opportunities to speak and receive valuable feedback. I also appreciate that speakers are videotaped, which allows us to critique our performances later.

I can’t imagine ever leaving StoryMasters. It aligns perfectly with my self-development goals. I love its members. The club’s warm, casual atmosphere and maintenance of high standards suit me well.
Could a burgeoning storyteller possibly ask for anything more?


Thank you for reading our stories! We hope that you enjoyed them as much as we did.
Please join us to hear some good stories on the second Sunday. Our next meeting is June 9, 2019 from 3PM to 5PM at Tomiyama residence, 3720 Monteith Dr, LA 90043.
RSVP: Tina Tomiyama at tomiyama2@mac.com

If you want to learn the essential elements of storytelling and how to use stories for maximum audience impact, check out the StoryMasters Summer Workshop!


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One comment

  1. Congratulations StoryMasters! What an Amazing Toastmasters Club! I visited a few times and was Thrilled at the Warm welcome, the intriguing stories and the great appeal of “telling stories”. What a Dynamic group! Sending Best Wishes for Success for many more years of telling stories and igniting the Imagination of all who come to your meetings. Hope to see you again, real soon!

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