Digital Storytellers Meetup & Creative Bootcamp

Who: Ita Ema (View from Above Entertainment) is the mastermind facilitator for anyone interested in crafting their story—whether it is for a business website, blog, comedy gig, feature film or fantasy novel—you see there is no end to genre or medium; all are welcome.
What: The meetup is part instruction, part project-sharing, part accountability and support group for telling the story that entrepreneurs and creatives need and want to tell. The Creative Bootcamp is a 5-hour ‘Get it Done!’ workshop to follow through on creative story-telling projects.
Where: Gangplank, Chandler (usually the conference room)
When: Meetup is every other Monday at 6-8 p.m. Bootcamp is approximately once a month. Check the Gangplank Calendar and newsletter for upcoming schedule.
How much: This is social capital at its best! A valuable investment of time for PEOPLE to PARTICIPATE in LEARNING how to craft their story and DO their storytelling with BOLDNESS along with a COMMUNITY of creatives who COLLABORATE, and Oh! happen to build FRIENDSHIP in the process. (= no monetary fee)

Urbie's blank slates

Urbie’s blank slates

This meetup group brings together an eclectic bunch. We have our regulars, we have our once-in-awhilers, and we always have newbies. And that doesn’t mean they are new to story-telling necessarily, but in some cases new to the craft and this group. Beth, a voice coach, is working on a musical she wrote many years ago decided to pull it out of the attic storage box and re-write it digitally. Ariel who is a programmer, musician and former firefighter shuffles around her many projects including an epic fantasy novel. I cannot count all the comedy guys who bring in their projects, one of which is a story about the comedians themselves.

I bounce around to a different project every meetup, but my first “Get ‘r Done” project was a video I created for a non-profit’s AZ Gives campaign. I wanted to raise money for a “real restroom” at this non-profit’s recycling facility. I brought my ideas to the group one night about a year ago and we had fantastic fun brainstorming and flushing it out—no pun intended! I then narrowed the story down and created a script, did some on site shooting. I brought the footage in for our fearless leader, Ita, to help me with editing software in the Gangplank computer lab and I recorded the voice-over in Gangplank’s podcasting room. It’s not the project per se that sealed the deal for my commitment this storytelling group, it is the honest feedback and collaborative spirit of participation for my own projects, as well as for those of others’. When I see their stories come together and witness the progress they make, it’s a beautiful thing.
Learning the story arch and the beats for fun and fiction is in some sense a no-brainer, yet it is quite the ‘Ah-ha!’ moment when you see a story is crafted into a business plan. We have numerous entrepreneurs creating stories for video and audience-building on their websites and online marketing. April is a long-time Gangplanker and WordCamp 2013 Director plugged in her Powerhouse Posting Process online courses through Made Better Studio.
Self-assigned homework spurs participants onward between meetups and that has organically grown into the ‘part support group’ aspect. Marissa pounded out the story arch for her online tutorials for home-schooling parents and shot the video after one visit to the meetup. BOOM!

During Bootcamp it's 4 X 45 minute blocks of nose to grindstone

During Bootcamp it’s 4 X 45 minute blocks of nose to grindstone

Others of us struggle to fit creative time and energy into our daily or weekly schedules and we’ve found ways to hold each other accountable along with sharing tips and tricks—everything from apps to track and time productivity, to inspirational videos, to online script writing and animation tools. Ariel attributes her writing 15,000+ words in the last few weeks to the learning, camaraderie, and support to Digital Storytellers. Rob, eventually hammered out his Bottom Five Comedy material between meetups and says, “The Digital Storytellers group helped me narrow my focus so that I could complete my first short film script, get my website up and running, and begin a feature. Without Ita and the group, I’d still be stuck with a million random story fragments.”
Even our fearless leader finds himself progressing on otherwise top candidates for procrastination projects such as a feature-length script, Full Field the Basics video series and now a crowdfunding campaign story. Ita says, “Sometimes you don’t know where to start, but it you can just take the first step that’s enough to get the ball rolling.” And he certainly has helped us do just that and more!

Urbie meets success: a finished product in a new medium

Urbie meets success: a finished product in a new medium

The fourth Digital Storytellers Creative Bootcamp was On Sunday, March 15. While all participants experienced successful outcomes, newcomer Urbie ( @urbie ) found out he could be a pirate at Gangplank via #tlap (Teach Like a Pirate Twitter chat), so long story, short teaching pirates connected to Gangplank pirates on the meetup.com app. Urbie came into the bootcamp with a laptop, a phone and a tablet along with a rainbow of sticky notes and pens. But more importantly he came in with true ‘Arrrrrrrr’ spirit! He had never tried comic strips before, but wanted to #BeDangerous and give it a try. He started from zero, added an idea and ended up meeting his goal of a publish-ready strip. I’m inspired!

Code Sisters: Closing the Gender Gap

I am happy to announce that Saturday, May 23rd will be the OFFICIAL kickoff of “Code Sisters,” a monthly, structured tutorial/workshop session for women learning to code. Each month, from 9:00 am to noon, we will teach a beginner level web development topic in a workshop/tutorial format. After a lunch break, there will be time for practice, project work, and mentoring.

These sessions are geared to help participants procure valuable skills, as well as gain the confidence to form their own software projects and join the hacker community at large. We expect women who complete these courses will be able to share their own software projects at events like the weekly Hack Nights that Gangplank hosts on Wednesdays.

In the meantime, the more advanced or adventurous have an open invitation to Hack Night and the “Code Purple” lounge, where Code Sisters and their “bros” can network, connect with mentors and project partners, and practice their skills.

If you know of a woman who might be interested in the group, please let her know about it. If you have skills and knowledge you want to share, please contact Ariel Strong <ariel@gangplankhq.com> or one of the people listed below.

We are actively looking for mentors – male or female – and would welcome your input and help as we put together future sessions.

Help from the Pirate Ship

From talking to ‘Plankers the last two months, I’ve gathered lots of ideas on how to structure an initiative to get more women into coding or just tech in general. I’ve heard many (sometimes opposite!) opinions on how to approach putting a Gangplank group together and lined up a number of potential mentors.

Thank you all. I appreciate the input, especially how to decide on a language and start learning as well as links to resources that we can use.

In fact, the response was so positive with so many good ideas, I wasn’t sure where to begin.

Opening up Code Sisters (unofficially operating at Gangplank since January) to a wider audience seemed like a logical place to start, but we needed a more structured format.

The dilemma was solved on Saturday, April 25th, after a Railsbridge Workshop for women hosted by Infusionsoft. Five Gangplankers attended the introductory Ruby on Rails event – Catherine Leyen, Eileen Kane, Ariel Strong, Trish Gillam, and Christopher Murray (who provided extraordinary technical support!).

There was consensus among Gangplank’s attendees that the format used for Railsbridge would be a perfect fit for Code Sisters’ purposes. The environment was nurturing and proved fruitful for learning a new skill. All of the women left with a decent understanding of the Ruby framework, thanks to the support of the team of volunteers, mentors and organizers who worked with each sub-group of the 50+ attendees.

On top of having a solid structure, Railsbridge provides their coursework online for free. It covers a variety of languages (Ruby on Rails, Javascript, CSS, HTML) and we intend to take full advantage. Soo…

The Shape of Things to Come…

This is only the beginning. We really don’t know how things will take shape, and we will adapt as we go. We want you to join us in this adventure and maybe eventually even steer the ship. In the spirit of Gangplank, we will be dangerous. Yaarrrgh!

 

They’re the People That You Meet Each Day.

I spied him over the top of my monitor. He’d walked in well enough, but I could tell by his confused look that he had no idea what to do now that he was inside. This happens frequently. I’d seen that befuddled look on the faces of Gangplank newcomers countless times.

As a Gangplank veteran, I consider it my duty to make visitors feel welcome. Plus, I needed a break from writing marketing copy.

“Today’s subject is Software-defined Networking, boys and girls!” I’d loudly announced to the 15 odd entrepreneurs working out of Gangplank as I arrived earlier. (The crowd had returned my excitement with odd looks and loud groans.)

“Hi, how’s it going?” I asked as I rose from behind my monitor and walked towards the visitor. Perhaps he was an entrepreneur, looking for a home.

He tells me his name, Todd. He wants to know how much is it to use a computer here. He’d like to download a large file that someone sent him via email.

“You don’t pay anything to use the facilities here,” I tell him. “At least not monetarily.”

His confused look returns.

“Walk with me,” I tell him, laughing to myself. “We’ll get you squared away.”

We walk past the hot desks, large tables with office chairs where anyone who wants to can come in, set up a laptop and get some work done.

“There’s no charge here,” I repeat as we walk. “Because payment is in social capital.”

“Uhhhhhhhh-huh,” he says, in that tone that says “I have no idea what you are saying.”

We walk past the 3D printers that line the back half of the main Gangplank workspace. I continue giving Todd an introduction.

“Basically, if you find Gangplank is a space you like working from, and the people here a community you find valuable, all that is asked to use Gangplank’s resources is that you find a way to contribute something back. What you contribute is up to you.”

He’s not from around here, he says. He’s passing through town on tour. Just wants to use a computer, “How much?” he asks.

I shake my head and chuckle.

We continue straight down the hall, past the free library, buzzing conference rooms, and podcast studio. Finally, we arrive at the Gangplank computer lab. He seems a very nice guy, about 50 years old I’d guess, wearing glasses, a gently worn pair of blue jeans, and respectable short sleeved dress shirt.

I help him log on to one of the eight iMac computers in the lab, all freely available to the public. I make small talk while he accesses his email.

“So what is this file?”

“It’s a pilot for a TV show that I’m in. ” he says.

“Uhhhhh-huh” I say using the same tone he had earlier. An actor, just about to make his big break. Yeah, right.

Todd downloads the video. Over the next 45 minutes I am amazed and delighted at his talent. As we watch, we talk about life, swap stories about our kids, and generally just get to be pals.

The people you meet at Gangplank are random and diverse – and always interesting. I love this place.

Todd Oliver, nationally known comedian, ventriloquist, and past performer on America’s Got Talent.

Upcoming Events

05/29 8:00 AM
Final Friday Breakfast at Yolis

Join us to chat about Gangplank Chandler and meet some fun folks. Yoli’s is just behind Gangplank: 241 S Oregon St, Chandler, Arizona 85225. Final Friday Breakfast at Yolis is every last Friday of the month.