Ithaca College Professor’s New Book Gives Storytellers a Workout

By Casey Verderosa, September 26, 2016

Professor’s New Book Gives Storytellers a Workout

A new book by Ithaca College Associate Professor Elisabeth Nonas helps writers flex their storytelling muscles. “Story Workout: Exercises to Help You Connect to the Stories You Want to Tell” is part exercise in soul-searching, part practical guide.

“Story Workout” encourages readers to think about their lives, the stories they relate to, and feelings they want their own stories to elicit from their audience. Readers of the workbook-style guide are prompted to explore their relationship with stories through exercises like defining their creative goals and making a list of what they respond to as readers of various forms of media.

“This isn’t about teaching you how to write,” said Nonas, who teaches in the department of media arts, sciences and studies. “This really is about finding a way to get to the kinds of stories you want to tell.”

As someone who’s been writing novels, screenplays and teleplays for over three decades, Nonas has developed a talent for identifying the stories she wants to tell. The idea for the book came from a course Nonas has taught in the Roy H. Park School of Communications for seven years, “Story: From Cave Paintings to Emerging Media.” In fact, many of the book’s exercises came from that course.

“It seemed like I had a slightly different take on books on writing,” said Nonas.

Central to her concept of storytelling is that it can take place in a wider variety of forms than we usually think. Stories can be told through more traditional forms of storytelling, such as novels, essays and articles, but also through emerging media like video games, poetry slams, advertisements and even medical case histories.

These newer forms of media are areas Nonas has learned about from her students over the years, which is why she said “Story Workout” is informed by her years of writing as well as over 20 years of teaching. Nonas often keeps in touch with former students after graduation.

One such student is Josh Feldman ’04, who is executive producer of Telltale Games, a developer of episodic, interactive narrative video games.

“Elisabeth is like a yoga instructor for storytelling,” Feldman said. “‘Story Workout’ will bend your mind with new perspectives on writing, pushing you (and your stories) farther than you thought you could go.”

Nonas’ teach style, as well as her storytelling mentorship, earned her Ithaca College’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2008.