Add a Fun Ingredient to Your Dinner Menu: Storytelling

Exclusive Offer: 2 for 1, Parent/Teen six-week storytelling class begins January 9, 2021. Schedule an interview to see if the Lab is right for your family. (


Somewhere around May or June or a time we once thought of as spring, I started thinking: What if Covid was around when I was a teenager? What if I had to be isolated in the house with my parents 24/7, going to school via Zoom and only seeing friends on a screen? What would we talk about night after night after night around the dinner table?

I felt isolated from my parents even without Covid. As a difficult and rebellious teenager, I was frequently at war with parents. My constant refrain was “you just don’t understand.”

The arts were our only common ground. Film, music, theatre, literature. It was impossible to walk into my house and not hear music. It was as though my entire life had a musical score. My best memories of my parents were our Thursday nights. No matter how angry I might be on any particular Thursday, I’d nonetheless plop down on the sofa next to my father, just in time for us to ‘sing’ the theme of The Untouchables or The Fugitive. Later, we’d discuss characters, the themes, the plot. We’d good-naturedly joke about the wooden performances of Robert Stack and David Jansen, both of who we loved. Or we’d watch an old black and white film, which led to stories about my father’s experiences in North Africa. Those stories implanted themselves deeply into my psyche. They’re the reason I read Paul Bowles. They’re the reason I went to Morocco and was desperate to explore North Africa.

My father’s stories had an additional benefit. They allowed me to see my father as somebody outside the single lens through which I viewed him. He became three dimensional. A person of substance with an entire life of experience before I came into the picture. I’ve taught screenwriting at a major university for fifteen years, and in all that time I’ve never had a student who created the parents in a speaking role called Mother or Father. Even students who want to be writers viewed parental figures as one-dimensional stereotypes. Maybe Covid offers an opportunity to connect with our children in ways we might not have otherwise.

Maybe Covid offers an opportunity to connect with our children in ways we might not have otherwise.

Science has proved we are hard wired for stories. Stories actually ignite and stimulate our brain. That’s not just my opinion or experience. Actual scientists have proved it! We’ve been telling stories for 40,000 years! In the pre-Covid era I’d visited the Tritylate caves in France and saw the extraordinary cave paintings. They were stories. There was no language. No clever metaphors. Did people sit around camp fires and talk about what they watched on Netflix? No. They created a story or passed along a story, and that is what fueled their imagination.

"Stories" Existed Before Snapchat!

Each of has a treasure trove of stories. We need the tools to access them. Now that isolation has removed so many of the distraction in our lives, why not try and connect again through stories?

Stories live on long after they’re told. In this difficult and stressful time, they provide an opportunity to bring families closer in unexpected ways.

Suggested Family Activities

Choose a film with a film score you liked or would like to hear. Listen together. Discuss the music’s impact on the storytelling.

Write up a list of subjects from a list. Each person can tell a story about the same subject from their own individual point of view.

Bonnie Garvin

Benita (Bonnie) Garvin

Garvin is best known for her work in film and television. An award-winning writer, she has credits in the U.S. and Europe. Her work has also appeared on stage and her personal essays published in numerous acclaimed anthologies. She’s taught screenwriting at the University of Southern California for the last fifteen years, as well as numerous independent writing workshops around the country. She created the Storytelling Lab to inspire creativity during Covid and just concluded her first two classes.

Bonnie is also a painter, whose work has appeared in several group art shows. She named her art website after what she loves most- stories.

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