Sharing the living art of storytelling   Phone Jenni 0403 328 643


Written on February 17, 2017

This is a guest post by my friends and colleagues Eshana Bragg and Rachel Taylor who co-created the wonderful course that is Joyality.

Late last year I did the course as a participant and was so inspired, I decided to train as a facilitator. I will be co-facilitating with the next round, due to start in Byron Bay Monday, February 20, 2017. Details below. It will still be possible to start on Feb 27 th and there will also be an online course starting Tuesdays which you can join if Monday doesn’t suit or you don’t live in Byron Shire. 


\joy• al• i• tee/


the quality or state of feeling deep and encompassing joy; a feeling of wholeness, oneness and exuberance for life


Joyality is that feeling you get when every cell of your being is joyful, peaceful, and alive. It is that feeling that you can’t quite put words to, because they could never do it justice. It is deeply related to beauty, love, and the pure exuberance for being alive, but exactly what it is will always be something of a mystery.


Joyality is different for everyone as we are all unique individuals whose souls are sparked by a diversity of people, places, and activities.


Joyality is also different than happiness. The word “happiness” comes from “happenstance”- it is something that happens and then is gone, it is dependent on circumstance. Joy is something altogether different. Once joy enters a person it never leaves, it is always accessible to us in the recesses of our hearts and souls, even if we do not feel joyful at that moment. This is because joy is part of the eternal, it is one of the core energies of existence. Think of Joy as one giant entity – the joy in me is connected to, the same as, the joy in you. I may experience it at different times or due to different things, but it stems from the same pot of joy.


Joyality is about developing your relationship with that pot of joy, learning to access it in the darkest of times, and using it to create positive change in the world. Hands and sunWe believe that this joy is more accessible if we dive deeply into life. This means fully embracing the wonder of existence, and also engaging with the troublespots, addressing them, and striving to make the world a better place.


Ignoring the dangers, the crises, the threats and filling our lives up with ‘stuff’, with entertainment, with busyness, does not bring us joy. These things distract us from the personal and planetary problems we face. While they may bring us fleeting happiness, they do not satisfy our deep and gnawing desire for joy.


Through The Joyality Program, we find ways to joy and hope amidst the darkest times.


Joyality™ and The Joyality Program™ are co created by Eshana Bragg and Rachel Taylor


Why I dance on V Day and my Vagina Conversations story

Written on January 26, 2017
Image Tree Faerie 2015 Courtesy Echonetdaily

Image Tree Faerie 2015 Courtesy Echonetdaily

I entreat you. If you have never taken part in the One Billion Rising V Day flashmob dance in Byron Bay before, consider doing so this year. Then make a day of it and come to the rich and stimulating Vagina Conversations in the evening of the same day or the next.

grant macintyre photography

Jenni Left & Zenith Centre.  Image by Grant MacIntyre

This is NOT a man-hating, angry event. It is celebratory, fun, sensual and exciting! Imagine gathering with women and some men, to celebrate the sanctity and wonder of the feminine: dancing on our spectacular beach with it’s breathtaking views of the mountain ranges within our sacred caldera. We are at the most easterly point of Australia, so if you get there early enough, you can see the sun rise, but also we are the first Australians to dance these powerful steps to this uplifting song. As the earth slowly turns, thousands of women (and men) all over the country rise and dance. Globally millions of people dance this dance on the same day, but at different times. What an act of solidarity. What an act of powerful jubilant magic! But it is also having practical, real world effects too.

As Stroma Lawson, one of the local organisers of our event recently posted on FB: ‘If you have any doubts about the effectiveness of One Billion Rising for Justice, listen to these amazing stories from around the world:

We listen to inspiring poems and readings, then dance together. OK the song is from the US and has an American accent but it is awesome: with strong, fun choreography. It is played on a  magnificent sound system right on the beach, generously provided and manned by beautiful woman- honouring, professional DJ and soundman, Sean Latham of North Coast Events.

Images by Grant MacIntyre

Images by Grant MacIntyre

You can get a feel for the vibe if you still have any doubts by watching these short videos.

Byron Bay V DAY videos:

Echonetdaily video. 

Susie Forster video.

BYRON BAY V Day Event Details:

Flashmob Dance on the beach
On the morning of Tuesday February 14, the 5th Annual Byron V DAY Flashmob Dance event will be held on Main Beach, Byron Bay. The event is one of hundreds in a global action to highlight and stop violence against women and girls in particular.  Gather at 6.30am and dance at 7.30am. Everyone is welcome. Wear Red, or something red. To learn the steps (this is optional and ONLY if you want to- women and men who want to come along are very welcome and there is no necessity to know the steps- its just fun to!)
Steps written out with lyrics:
The global movement of One Billion Rising
To understand more about the global movement of One Billion Rising, lead by Eve Ensler, writer of the Vagina Monologues, go here:
Vagina Conversations
This year there will be two performances of original monologues by local Byron women at the Byron Theatre on Tuesday Feb 14 and Wednesday 15th at 7.30pm.
Last year the show sold out a day in advance, so this year there will be two nights. Book early. All new line-up with Zenith Virago as MC, Phillipa Williaqms and Public Act Theatre, Feather, Jannenne As Is, Catheryn Britton & Alison Toft, Annalee Atia, Bintou Burns, Jessica Lu, Jess Simms, Tamar Ben-Hur and ME!  Mandy Nolan will also appear again to finish the night. I have been to two rehearsals so far and it will definitely be a rich, fun, moving revelatory evening!! Book your tickets as soon as they become available.
If you are a local hope to see you there! :)

Back in 2013, I wrote the blogpost below to explain why I not only dance on V Day, but why I think it is so important that I help the Byron Bay organiser of the event Zenith Virago, where I can. Since then, a number of great videos have been made which will give a sense of the exultant atmosphere. Here is the old post:

Why I am dancing against violence on V-Day …and what V-Day has to do with storytelling… (2013)


V-Day logo

The ‘One Billion Rising’ movement was initiated by Eve Ensler, author of the ‘Vagina Monologues’.The scale of the movement is breathtaking and exciting: currently 187 countries have signed up to join in. Authors, politicians, filmmakers and celebrities have recorded You Tubes about why they will ‘strike, dance, rise’ on Feb 14. The one billion rising org website states:

‘V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sex slavery.’

I am practicing the dance for V-Day so I can join in on our local action in Byron Bay (see FB event page.) The anthem and dance tell a story about the empowerment and solidarity of women. While the song and dance are American, there is the opportunity to create your own version and in many countries woman have done this.

For years, I have seen “Reclaim the Night’ rallies and actions which have not attracted me. I have been a feminist for as long as I can remember. This informs my choices in story: the way I retell and adapt folktales and myths as well as the way I write original stories and songs. I love tales of the feminine. This year I working on a new performance of the Inanna myth cycle, which I closely base on Kramer and  Wolkstein’s “Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth”. The ways women and girls are represented in stories of all kinds has a huge impact on the way we think and feel about ourselves and the feminine. This extends out into the way we act in the world. I have always chosen to tell stories of strong, empowered females.

However, I have never been personally touched by sexual violence. It was of concern to me, but not enough of a concern to turn up to a rally.

The Uprising of Woman in the Aran World logo

Logo for the ‘Uprising of Women in the Arab World’

However, lately a number of things have made me feel much more connected to the issue of sexual violence towards women and girls worldwide.



Summer Solstice

Written on December 21, 2016

A beautiful petal mandala created at a Summer Solstice party I recently attended.

A very happy Summer Solstice to everyone in the southern hemisphere! (Happy Winter Solstice to you northerners.) According to our European ancestors, now is the time to celebrate the abundant ripe energy of the earth. (If you are looking for a forest loving Santa-free Christmas story, read the previous blog post.)sun-sculpture

I live in Byron Bay, once called Cavvanbah by the Bunjalung people, on the most easterly point of Australia. For the local Arakwal and wider Bunjalung clans, this time of year may have been thought of differently. They knew six or more seasons and marked the changes according to bio-indicators rather than a calendar, such as what was flowering or which bird was migrating. I hope to learn more about this, but while I am ignorant, I will ponder what my ancient pagan ancestors believed. Here is a pastiche of information I have sewn together rather roughly.

The mythic Green Man or the Great Horned God was

 born at the winter solstice, unites with the Goddess in marriage at Bealtaine, and dies at the summer solstice to bring fertility to the land as the Sacred King

The consort of the Goddess and symbol of male energy in the form of the divine, The Horned God reigns. He is the lord of the woodlands, the hunt and animals. He provides for the tribe through the hunt and is honored or rewarded for his deed by being permitted to copulate with the Goddess through the Great Rite. The Horned God is is the lord of life, death and the underworld. And is the Sun to the Goddess’ Moon. He alternates with the Goddess in ruling over the fertility cycle of birth, death and rebirth. He is born at the winter solstice, unites with the Goddess in marriage at Bealtaine, and dies at the summer solstice to bring fertility to the land as the Sacred King. He is not just a Celtic representation of the God, nor does he solely belong to Wicca, as he has been associated with many deities throughout the world.He is not just a Celtic representation of the God, nor does he solely belong to Wicca, as he has been associated with many deities throughout the world.

Green Man lantern, Woodford Folk Festival

Green Man lantern, Woodford Folk Festival


A friend gave me a wonderful book years ago called “Circle Round” by Starhawk et al and she says: The Summer Solstice is the longest day and the shortest night. The sun has grown to its full strength, and summer begins…The Summer Solstice reminds us that nothing lasts forever. We do not live in the unchanging twilight realm of Faery, but in the living, dying and fading, and growing realm of earth. Whenever something is completed, we must let it go.

Because the things we love don’t last forever, we love them all the more while they are here. But letting go of things and people is never easy. The Summer Solstice is a time to practice giving things away, letting go of what is completed and done…

So what did our ancestors get up to and what do modern earth lovers do at this time? Here are some ideas.

NeoDruidic Solstice / Solar Devotional activities


There are many routes by which we can open our minds and souls to the Sun within the context of a modern Druidic spirituality. Here are some starters for personal contemplative and ritual techniques:

  • Meditate on the Sun, its actuality, physical glory and spiritual dimensions in your life. Leave the gods and goddesses, heroes and lore for later. If you cannot approach the Sun in it’s devastatingly present and neces-sary actuality in your life, you are not spiritually ready to appropriate the mythic lore associated with the Solar Principle for personal work. Start by learning to -not- ignore the real Sun.
  • Compose a Salutation of the Sun that you can do at sunrise or sunset, or any time, even while you’re driving to or from work. Sunrise or sunset rites and salutations can be very powerful and personally transformative. Ask a Yoga or OTO practitioner about their experiences with solar devotions. Just as important, share your experiences others.
  • Observe and mark the seasonal progress of the Sun, particularly its rising and setting, from one or several of your favorite locations. The external component of this activity can be referred to as “Henge Building”, even if you are not dragging boulders around but simply keeping notes of the sun’s rise/set points, apparent altitude or shadow lengths on certain days. In so doing, you are bringing the external and the internal solar aspects together in a magical way; you are building a trans-dimensional solar-temple in your life.
  • Get yourself a big (4″) magnifying glass and learn to light your Sacred Fire from the Sun’s rays. Solar Need-Fire building is a rite in itself. Experiment with using the burning- glass to purify your tools and to “store” the Solar Principle in a quartz crystal: putting something away for a rainy day (or The Dark Night of the Soul…).
  • Begin your personal quest for the perfect Summer Solstice sunrise…

Read more here

The Fairy at the Top of the Christmas Tree

Written on December 12, 2016

Each year I repost this sweet Christmas tale, which has no mention of Santa, but a focus on trees and forests, connection to earth.

For five years the recording has been available for free, but this year a little fairy whispered to me, ‘Why don’t you allow people the option of donating for this story? They may like to!’ So I am working now to allow you to make a donation.  Read the story or listen to my retelling via Soundcloud. I hope you retell it yourself to the young ones in your life, perhaps under your Christmas tree or any beloved tree outdoors!

Have you ever wondered, why those of us who celebrate Christmas, bring a tree inside our homes and wind silver tinsel around the tree from the bottom right up to the top? And why lots of us hang a fairy at the very top? I’ve always wondered about that -and maybe you have too. There was no tree or fairy involved at  the birth of baby Jesus and though Santa Claus puts presents under the tree, he doesn’t seem to hang out with fairies.

It was a mystery to me until I met a woman called Morgan who told me this story. She said this story had been passed down by word of mouth for many generations – which means they had never written it down, they just told it to each other. Now Morgan’s family said that the fairies got their name- not because they had fair skin from living in the deep, shady forests, but because they were fair of heart and fair of mind. So the Gods and Goddesses had given them the gift of the knowledge of magic. Here is the way I tell it many years later.

The Fairy at the Top of of the Christmas Tree

Long ago in the lands we now call Europe, before Santa Claus and even before baby Jesus, no-one celebrated Christmas yet. What people did celebrate was Mid-Winter’s Eve. Children got especially excited because they might meet the Queen of the Fairy- and even have a wish granted! Back in those olden days, there were many great forests and only a few human tribes. Deep in those forests lived the fairies. Now fairies love eating, they love dressing up, they loveto sing and dance and they love to have parties. For each season and each time the seasons changed, they would have a big party.  But the party for Mid-Winter was one of the biggest.

As you have probably noticed, when Winter comes, the days get shorter and the nights get longer. But mid-Winter’s Eve is the exact time when the days get longer and the nights get shorter.  So the people and the fairies celebrated. Now the fairies, at least most of them, quite liked children because they were playful and funny.  So they would invite all the children of all the human clans and tribes to their mid-Winters Ball in the middle of the forest. The children dressed in their warmest clothes and thought a lot about the wish they would make.  This sometimes caused a lot of sighing, jiggling and twiddling of hair. The Queen of the Fairies knew that human children would get lost in the dark or trip over tangled roots and vines. So she asked the spiders to weave their webs from the outside of the forest in to the center, where the Queen sat on her magnificent, carved wooden throne. Then with a graceful wave of her wand she would turn the webs into threads of silver that sparkled under moonlight and starlight.

The children waiting at the edge of the forest with their parents knew then that they could make their way in. The older children helped the younger children. They waited as patiently as they could for their turn to meet the Queen. Some children took little presents for the Queen- even though they didn’t have to. Older children took little things they had made by hand during the long, dark Winter nights. Then as each child made it to the throne they would whisper a wish in the ear of the fairy. If she thought it was a good wish she would use her magic to help it come true.

Then the children were invited to stay for the party. The fairies would light a big bonfire. They put on a feast of delectable treats- pastries and cakes and sweet ambrosia drinks. After the feast, the musician and singers would begin. They made the kind of music that makes your heart sing. The children listened to the fairy harp and sweet singing at first and joined in when the dance music started. When it was time for the children to go home, the fairies would wave them goodbye. As the parents and other adults waited at the edge of the forest, they watched the flickering golden torches as the children made their way back out along the silvery webs.

They were remembering what it had been like back when they were children and theyhad gone to the fairies party. So that is why we bring a tree into our houses. Some part of us remembers those olden days and those wonderful Mid-Winter’s Balls. We bring a tree inside to represent the forest, we wrap silver or gold tinsel around the tree to remind us of the silver spiders’ webs,  flashing lights to remind us of the flickering golden torches, presents under the tree to remind us of the gifts of the fairy and a fairy on the top to remind us of the Queen of the fairies and those parties. Nowadays there are grown-ups who like to party and dance the night away in forests wearing fairy wings.They wear  their hair in bright colours or dreadlocks and sometimes wear fairy wings and they dance all  night long.   How do you visualise the Queen of the Fairies?

So when you put your tree out this year ready for mid-Winter -or mid-Summer here in the southern part of the Earth, remember to put a little food and drink for the fairy and remember to be on your best behaviour. You wouldn’t want to wake up as a frog on Christmas Day would you?


NB:  Feel free to read or tell it to your family- or create YOUR own version and let me know. Folk tales are dynamic and grow better with each retelling. Write a comment here or share your ideas on my FB storytree page. Happy Solstice!


Listen to my retelling for FREE via Soundcloud.

Images: greenlady_blankismet- photobucket, Fantasy forest and throne mega11 dreamstime,, greengrass woman chelsea flower show, soulseasons-yiota143.blogspot

A Labyrinth, a Goddess and a Descent to the Underworld in Byron

Written on October 14, 2016
PHOTO CREDIT: U.S. labyrinth teacher, Catherine of Creative Pilgrimage

PHOTO CREDIT: U.S. labyrinth teacher, Catherine of Creative Pilgrimage

For many years, my friend, Jacquelina Wills and I have dreamed of building a public, local labyrinth in Byron Shire. We recently scored a small grant from the Byron Shire Council’s Placemaking Seed Fund, as one of seven catalyst events for the Byron Bay Town Centre Masterplan to create a temporary labyrinth on the grassy foreshore in Byron near Clarks Beach. Yippee!!

However, we’d also really love to offer a range of events and activities: two ceremonies, twice weekly guided labyrinth walks and other clay modelling activities. Also I want to record the related ancient descent myth of the Goddess Inanna will also be broadcast on The Bohemian Beat on BAY FM Community Radio. To do all this and pay modest fees for creatives and materials involved in the project, we need another $2 000.

We are looking for both individual and business sponsors to support the project with cash and in-kind donations and has created a crowd funding page, which you can find here:

While this is a pop-up place activation, if the community embrace it, an application will be made to Byron Shire Council for permission and seed-funding to install a permanent labyrinth next year.

If you can contribute, please visit our Chuffed ‘Temporary Labyrinth, Byron Bay’ crowd funding page or contact Jenni on 0403 328 643 or

Opening Ceremony

Please join us at our Opening Ceremony on Saturday, November 5 from 4pm.

Come and stand in circle with Jenni Cargill-Strong and Jacquelina Wills, local Arakwal custodian Delta Kay and other locals as we dedicate our temporary labyrinth with a short ceremony and then we can all walk it! We will be painting a labyrinth design on grass on Friday and on Saturday Jacquelina will create an ephemeral mandala within it.

OPENING CEREMONY: Delta will give welcome to country, Whaia Whaea will sing, I will tell a story, Jacquelina will lead a water ritual and meditative music will be played as we begin to walk. We will let you know details of other guests as they are confirmed.

THEME: Our theme will be “Honouring the Sacred Waters”

WHERE: The grassy foreshore (Denning park) along Lawson Street, at Clark’s Beach end, between the two kayak companies.

WHEN: The Ceremony will begin at 4pm
Jacquelina will build the mandala all day, but from 1pm on you can come and paint a stone with a water fractal design.

WHY: Read more about the project and events here.
More details will be slowly revealed as we get closer to the Opening.

SUPPORT: We have not yet reached our crowdfunding target and some unexpected insurance costs just came in. Please support our crowdfunding campaign which ends NOV 2: Here is the FB Event page so you can keep informed.

Jacquelina's water mandala Uplift Festival, Byron

Jacquelina’s water mandala Uplift Festival, Byron










BUSINESS SPONSORS of our Crowdfunding Campaign so far:

Big warm thanks to our business sponsors who have contributed the following cash and in-kind donations. We welcome lots more sponsors in cash or see our In Kind Wish List above.

Spiral Foods have made a very generous pledge which will go far.

The Crystal Castle will supply crystals and flags for Opening event.

Moontime Diaries donated 5 diaries worth
Byron Kinesiology (Australian Wellness Centre)

Painted Earth (also known as Green Building Centre) donated non-toxic, eco friendly paint for decorating stones with fractal designs and painting the footpath and clay paint to lead people from busy Surf Club area towards us.

Byron Bay Council with line-marking

Community Partner: Mullum SEED Inc has kindly stepped in to auspiced our event

When stories are bread for a thousand

Written on August 20, 2016
Though this article is a reworking of the blog post below it,  I have posted it here due to popular request. It has enjoyed some good editing, thanks to American environmental storyteller Pete Griffin and the editors at theNational Storytelling Network (NSN) magazine. NSN is the  peak storytelling body in America, and they published this article in the last issue of  ‘Storytelling Magazine’ Aug/Sep 2016. 

Environmentalists often assume that to motivate people to make environmental choices, they just need to be provided with more scientific information.  This assumes the problem is one of ‘information deficit’. (1)   In the Information Age, however, we suffer the opposite: information overload.  Most of us know the facts all too well, but may lack emotional engagement with that information.  English poet, David Whyte describes this in his poem, ‘Loaves and Fishes’.


This is not the age of information.

This is not the age of information.

Forget the news, and the radio, and the blurred screen.

This is the time of loaves and fishes.

People are hungry and one good word

is bread for a thousand. (2)


Climate angel dance end march

Climate Guardian Rosie Lee leads a post Paris Climate Summit rally earth dance; Photo: Jenni Cargill-Strong

Storytellers regularly experience how a well crafted tale can be ‘bread for a thousand,’ but how do we use our tales to amplify an environmental message and furthermore foster environmental understanding and behavior?


Last year, I did a two-day training with corporate trainer and change agent, Margot Cairnes.  Margot explained the strategic importance of persuading independent thinkers (also called cultural creatives). They represent about 25 percent of the population.  Independent thinkers weigh evidence.  Even if their conclusions are opposite to the status quo, they are capable of changing their minds and changing their behaviour.  This is enhanced when they become emotionally engaged.  Once a critical mass of independent thinkers take on an idea, the rest of society will follow, sooner or later.  This shift can be swift and dramatic.  Naomi Klein, in her book “This Changes Everything,” documented an ‘effervescence of rebellion’ arising on a global scale in response to climate change. (3)   The grassroots actions of thousands of independent thinkers at the Paris Climate Summit had a powerful effect on the outcome.  We must first target independent thinkers and work to get that critical mass.


Next, consider whether we need a big “S” story or a little “s” story.  Shawn Callahan co-founded  Anecdote, is a world leader in business storytelling, and recently published “Putting Stories to Work.”  Shawn says, “to change a culture, you need to change the stories told.”  In a corporate setting, however, Shawn says we will have much more success with little “s” storytelling.  By this he means short, informal anecdotes, told naturally without fanfare, rather than big “S” stories which are grand, dramatic narratives. (4)  This is in alignment with what Steve Denning teaches.(5)


I agree with Shawn in that little “s” stories are best in a business setting.  But I argue that in non-corporate settings, it is possible to use big “S” storytelling for environmental messaging with adults as well as kids.  My mentor, United States biologist and environmental storyteller Fran Stallings, teaches environmental educators ways to repurpose simple, short folk tales to communicate scientific facts.  Fran uses a strategy reminiscent of Malcom Gladwell, who created a simple and effective formula: tell a story, then use it to illustrate your point.(6)  Fran often uses folktales to illustrate Barry Commoners Four Laws of Ecology.

In my experience, as long as the point is clear and the story serves the message rather than overwhelming it, a little fantasy and whimsy can delight and enchant adult listeners who are generally more starved than they realize for soul food.  When I explain the ways to interpret that story to unlock relevance for modern real world situations, their delight is only deepened.

Jenni-Cargill-Strong-March in March 2014 Echo

Jenni tells three fables to illustrate social change at a political rally; Photo credit: Tree Faerie, Byron Shire Echo


(1) Lussier,P teacher at Yale College quoted in Dennehy, K .Reframing the Climate Story 

(2) Excerpt from ‘Loaves and Fishes’ by  David Whyte. (1996) The House of Belonging  (Many Rivers Press)

(3) Klein, N. (2014) This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus Climate Change, (Simon and Schuster)

(4) Shawn’s slideshare presentation (slide #13)

(5) Denning, Steve. (2000) The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations (Butterworth Heinemann, 2000).

 (6) Malcom Gladwell Tipping Point quoted by Shawn Callahan in his blogpost ‘Sharing stories so they can be retold’


About  Jenni Cargill-Strong

Jenni Cargill-Strong is an Australian storyteller with five recordings. Four received “Honors” from “Storytelling World,” and her fifth album was a “Winner.”  She teaches environmental storytelling, works as a sessional academic, and operates “Stories on Foot: Tales of Byron Bay and the Rainbow Region,” a walking tour for visitors.


The best story wins: amplify your environmental message using storytelling

Written on March 13, 2016
Photo Naomi Klein speaks at Paris Climate Summit 2015, Democracy Now

Naomi Klein speaks at Paris Climate Summit 2015, Image Democracy Now

As the power of story has been increasingly recognised, the quote ‘the best story wins’ (1) has enjoyed high circulation. Organisational storyteller, Annette Simmons used it in the title of a book and subsequent workshops. So let’s unpack for a bit, why stories are such a powerful way to communicate.

We are hard-wired to process information in the form of a story.

Information skilfully encoded into an emotionally engaging story is retained for far longer than facts alone. Educational research has shown that told stories ‘enhance recall, retention, application of concepts into new situations, understanding and learner enthusiasm for the subject matter.’ Coles (1989).

OK, so stories are good. But how can we use them to amplify an environmental message?  How do we successfully evoke, not only understanding of an environmental message, but new behaviour and action that is in alignment with that awareness?

Know your audience: cultural creatives, big ‘S’ and little ‘s’ stories 

Firstly, it is important to clearly understanding your target audience. Last year, I did a two day training with corporate trainer and change agent, Margot Cairnes.

Margot explained the strategic importance of persuading independent thinkers (also called cultural creatives).

They represent about 25% of the population. Independent thinkers weigh up evidence. Even if their conclusions are opposite to the status quo, they are capable of changing their minds and changing their behaviour. But this is enhanced when they become emotionally engaged.

Once a critical mass of independent thinkers take on an idea, the rest of society will follow, sooner or later. This shift can be swift and dramatic. Naomi Klein has documented an ‘effervescence of rebellion’ arising on a global scale with attitudes and action on a grass roots level in response to climate change. Independent thinkers are taking the lead with action on climate change and this had a powerful effect on the outcome of the Paris Climate summit.

So, target the cultural creatives or independent thinkers first and work to get that critical mass.

Little ‘s’ stories for corporates

Next consider whether you need a big ‘S’ story or a little ‘s’ story. I heard Shawn Callahan of Anecdote, speak recently. Shawn is author of “Putting Stories to Work” and one of the world’s leading business storytelling consultants. He says, ‘To change a culture, you need to change the stories told’. However, in a corporate setting, Shawn advises you will have much more success with little ‘s’ storytelling. By this he means short, informal anecdotes, told naturally without fanfare, rather than big ‘S’ stories which are grand, dramatic narratives. (2)

I agree with Shawn that little ‘s’ stories are best in a business setting. But, I would argue that in non-corporate settings, it is possible to use ‘big ‘S’ storytelling for environmental messaging not just for kids, but with adults as well.

My colleague and mentor, US biologist and environmental storyteller, Fran Stallings, teaches environmental educators ways to repurpose simple, short folk tales to communicate scientific facts. She uses a strategy reminiscent of Gladwell, who created a simple and effective formula: tell a story, then use it to illustrate your point.(3) Fran especially likes using folktales to illustrate Barry Commoners Four Laws of Ecology.

Jenni-Cargill-Strong-March in March 2014 Echo

Jenni tells three fables to illustrate social change principles at a rally. Photo: Echo

As long as the point is clear and the story serves the message, rather than overwhelming it, a little fantasy and whimsy can delight and enchant adult listeners who are generally more starved than they realise for soul food. It is my experience, that even though adults assume storytelling is just for kids, when they hear a tale told with deep layers of meaning, they are usually enchanted and gratified. It is deeply rewarding to watch the faces of adults, who don’t expect to enjoy storytelling, sink into their chair and listen with an unmoving ‘reptilian gaze’. After the story, when I explain ways  to interpret the tale for modern real world situations, this delight is only deepened.  There is an ‘aha’ moment, as it sinks in that our ancestors addressed perennial issues, using the code of metaphor.

Many environmentalists have assumed that the way to transform peoples understanding and behaviour is by giving them more scientific information and trust that they will then make rational decisions, based on the evidence. They are assuming the problem is one of information deficit. But this is not the way we humans work! In this Age of Information, we suffer the opposite: information overload! What we lack is emotional engagement with that information. (4) Poet, David Whyte puts it beautifully.

‘Loaves and Fishes’. 

This is not
 the age of information.

This is not the age of information.

Forget the news, 
and the radio, 
and the blurred screen.

This is the time 
of loaves 
and fishes.

People are hungry 
and one good word

is bread for a thousand. (5)


Weaving your message into a well crafted story is a potent way to make that ‘bread for a thousand’, so that people can become emotionally as well as intellectually engaged, retain and act on your message.

Contact me if you’d like me to teach these skills to your group, staff or organisation.

   About  Jenni Cargill-Strong

Jenni Cargill-StrongJenni is a professional storyteller. She is also Principal of The Story Tree Company and under that label, she has recorded and self published five award-winning recordings for children and adults. She is Owner Operator of “Stories on Foot: Tales of Byron Bay and the Rainbow Region”, a storytelling tour for visitors. In the academic realm, Jenni has worked at Southern Cross University (SCU) since 2009. Her roles include being a featured presenter for UniBound Hero’s Journey program for Year 7 & 9 students run by Equity and Diversity. She teaching Storytelling to pre-service teachers through the Education faculty​ and is also a Guest Lecturer for SCU Occupational Therapy students.

Jenni co-founded and leads the Byron Circle of Tellers who convene ‘The Golden Tale’​ local storytelling concerts in Brunswick Heads in Byron Shire. Her passions and expertise are focused on storytelling for environmental education, community building, healing, myths and tales of the feminine.

Denmark COP, Kris Krug

Denmark COP, Kris Krug

Read more posts by Jenni on Environmental storytelling workshop

  1. Green Stories and The Hero’s Journey here
  2. Video of interview with Jenni by Manly Councillor Paul Joseph, plus transcript here

 Connect with Jenni

Facebook: storytreetales
Instagram: jennistorytree



(1) ‘The best story wins’ is a quote from the Stephen Spielberg film ‘Amistad’, based on a landmark court case during the Abolitionist movement,

in which slaves rebelled against their cruel treatment on a ship of that name.

(2) Shawn’s slideshare presentation (slide #13) illustrates this. 

(3) Gladwell quoted by Shawn Callahan in his blogpost ‘Sharing stories so they can be retold’.

(4) Paul Lussier, teacher at Yale College quoted in Reframing the Climate Story by Kevin Dennehy

(5) Excerpt from ‘Loaves and Fishes’ by  David Whyte, The House of Belonging ©1996 Many Rivers Press

Klein, N., 2014, ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus Climate Change’, Simon and Schuster.

Participants at Jenni's workshop at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney

Participants at Jenni’s workshop at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney


‘Stories on Foot’: connecting visitors and locals to place through story

Written on March 10, 2016
Stories on Foot foreshore walk

Stories on Foot foreshore walk

This year (2016), I have begun a new business called “Stories on Foot: Tales of Byron Bay and the Rainbow Region”. Here I make a start on the story of why I started it and what I want to offer people through these tours.

When my kids were still quite young I had the idea of a walking tour of Byron Bay, but for various reasons I didn’t pursue it. Then slowly, over the years, the idea kept resurfacing in my mind. When I was 19, I travelled in Europe (as you do!) and enjoyed several ‘walking tours’ where great storytellers regaled us with well crafted tales of the places and the people who had lived there. Some of the stories were historical and some were ghost tales but they were all immensely enjoyable. Later when I had young children we travelled to Tasmania to perform in a Storytelling Festival, where I got to join some wonderful historical tours.

As a professional storyteller, as soon as I moved to Byron Bay as a pregnant Mum in 2000, I began wondering about the history of the people and the land. By the time my kids were a few years old, I had started taking notes in a large bound book from history books from the library and from talks I attended by Frank Mills. I started taking clippings from the newspaper about anything historical.

The idea was really gathering momentum in my mind last year, when I went to Melbourne to teach early educators environmental storytelling, and found myself with a few spare hours and no-one to hang out with. I googled ‘walking tours’ and up came Dave’s ‘Melbourne by Foot’. I had such an intensely wonderful time because Dave is such a relaxed, friendly, amenable guy and I kept thinking, ‘I could really do this! This could really work in Byron!!’

However being a perfectionist, at least about my work- not so much the housework! :), I set about doing much more research about the history of Byron right back to it’s geological formation 23 million years ago. I attended more history talks, researched avidly online, and poured over articles, documents and books in the wonderful room dedicated to history of our Byron Bay library.

Jenni enjoying her work as tour guide for storiesonfoot

Jenni enjoying her work as tour guide for storiesonfoot

Hear me talk about the tour with Mayor Simon Richardson on his Bay FM show the Bubble here (I come on at 16 minutes but I have set this link to start at that spot). You can also see photo’s of the tour at my Stories on Foot FB page, jennistorytree Instagram page  or watch video testimonials at the ‘Stories on Foot’  playlist at my You Tube channel.

To be continued- but for now I am off to hear the fabulous Delta Kay and her wonderful Dolphin Dreaming show at the Pass! Lucky me!!

Explore my ‘Stories on Foot’ website



Written on December 19, 2015

I wrote this poem in winter at the 2015 Byron Bay Writer’s Festival. It celebrates some transformations going on in my life and in me. I am posting it today to celebrate my birthday.

I worked as a volunteer this year, and wrote it inspired by a Vollies Poetry Competition organised by Louise Jane Moriarty. Thanks Louise! Enjoy.


Steven DaLuz 'photo'

Steven DaLuz ‘photo’


by Jenni Cargill-Strong


There are little nubs growing where my shoulder blades should be

Little nubs and upon them hang wings:

translucent, tremulous, wet, wrinkled, folded.


As I walk here,

the crunch of gravel beneath my boots

the song of the earth reverberates up my legs

and yet how I long to fly


There are words here

floating freely

through the air

through radio waves

through cyberspace


There are words here

golden threads of words, stories that flow

from ear to mouth,
from old to young and

young to old


As I walk those shimmering threads of words

weave themselves into the fabric of my wings


Words have peeled off my coat

that cumbersome heavy black one

words have swept it off my shoulders

it lies discarded, unraveled at my feet


revealing my wings

naked to the kiss of sun and the gentle caress of the breeze


This updraft of words, ideas, inspiration

is building

I long to fly

a bit too high like Icarus

I am forewarned

Respect the Sun: beware your hubris


There are little nubs where my shoulder blades should be.

Upon them hang wings: delicate, intricate, magnificent, unfurled.

I am ready for the updraft

ready to soar









Happy Solstice for Monday 21 Dec, 2015.

Happy Summer Solstice for those of you in southern hemisphere and happy Winter Solstice to all in the northern hemisphere.

Holly Sierra art

Holly Sierra art


Written on December 13, 2015

VeganFreeRangeHere is an updated version of this post I wrote last year.

Do you need ideas for a last minute, low stuff, low impact Christmas? As we transition not all our choices may be 100% green but with some awareness we can still minimize our Xmas impact! It is a bit late but there are many things you can buy online to speed things up. Here are some ideas and links.

(Scroll down for giveaways: Story Tree colouring in page to download and a sweet and quirky, nature-loving Xmas story.)


If like me, you have been so busy with work that your Xmas shopping got behind and you’d rather not go hunting the shops for junk no-one really needs or wants, here are some last minute ideas.

Buy digital downloads- you can email them tracks or print details and put into a card for the day. Story Tree downloads are here.

Buy idevice audiobook subscription Tales2GoDoes your family love stories and also use idevices- ie ipod, ipad, iphone? Here is an idea to boost literacy and enjoyment for whole family with a free trial to test it out first. StoryTree tales are on there. Search catalogue for Jenni Cargill-Strong here.

Buy experiences, not things: eg tickets to a concert, buy a gift certificate for a massage or workshop voucher from a local OR check out Red Balloon. Hand them a voucher on Xmas day.

Buy donation certificates from charities- especially good for the person who has everything. I love Kiva, a microloan system; Greenpeace and Orangutans. However Peter Singer wrote about a new organisation, ‘Give Well’, which attempts to rate the effectiveness of charities, in his book ‘The Most Good You Can Do’. Which is your favourite?

Story Tree CD’s: Environmentally friendly gifts  You won’t be harming the environment by buying my album. All Story Tree album covers are printed in Australia, on recycled cardboard and printed with soy-based ink in a cover which uses no plastic or wrapping. The disc is the only plastic involved. This means the CD’s are very thin and extremely cheap to post, if you are looking for a quality present to send. If you buy digital downloads there will be no plastic involved and your download will last a lifetime also. CD BUNDLE: ANY 4 CD’s for the price of 3, STILL only $65, including FREE postage! Order soon to receive for Xmas: dates on the my story shop page. ORDER NOW


My favourite online sites:

 Stories and songs from Australian teller Annie Bryant

Dragonfly Toys

Natures Child for babies and young kids

Planet Corroboree Aboriginal and local art, craft, books, clothes

Stainless steel lunch boxes

Go Green at Home

DIY Xmas presents with Epsom salts 


xmas_waste and recycling


Learn more:

Australian Ethical Xmas Shopping Guide

Story of Stuff

Great Article with ideas Help! I Don’t Want More Stuff for Christmas

1 Million Women– Australian organisation mobilizing against climate change.

Minimalist movement video Australia





General Ethical Buying Principles

Buy local: reduces carbon footprint from transport and supports local economy, driving the ‘multiplier effect’- the more money you spend locally, the more jobs you create locally, so the more the money there is in the economy which if spent locally creates more jobs and income etc).

Buy from artisans, independent artists and small businesses: with multinational corporations responsible for huge impacts on the planet and society, spread the love to smaller businesses.

Buy fair trade and local goods: avoid Made in China where workers conditions are poor and carbon footprint very high.

Buy long lasting, quality goods: Ask yourself how long will this last? Will it biodegrade?  

Buy local and/or organic food and minimise food waste by catering conservatively, rather than extravagantly.

Buy recycled stuff

Use recyclable wrapping: eg fabric

OR Buy NOTHING: the most radical of all!

As my US environmental storytelling colleague Fran Stallings likes to say, “There is no ‘away’ to throw things to.” It will all end up in our overflowing landfills.



Story Tree Colouring in Sheet

Would like to download and print out a blank version of my Story Tree backdrop for your children to colour in? Follow this link to my Resources page and see it under heading “Colouring in Sheet”.

“The Fairy at the Top of the Xmas Tree”

If you haven’t gotten it from me yet, read and listen to this tale here. YOU could tell by your Christmas Tree this year.

xmas trees sustainable three

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