Phoenix Storyteller Rachel Egboro on How to Find Stories Everywhere

Rachel Egboro finds stories in life's little things.EXPAND
Rachel Egboro finds stories in life's little things.
Gary Pratt

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 73. Rachel Egboro.

For storyteller Rachel Egboro, life in recent years has gotten curiouser and curiouser. Or rather, she has.

As half the team behind Phoenix's Storyline Collective, she tells stories from her own life and encourages others to do the same. Despite her affinity for The Moth and This American Life, she didn't come to the stage by choice. 

After a few years of eagerly awaiting new episodes of her favorite podcasts, Egboro sought out a local community and quickly found a storytelling slam at Phoenix Center for the Arts. Her plans to attend and observe were thwarted when an acquaintance put her name on the list of performers without her permission. 

"I was frantically trying to outline a story when my name was called," Egboro recalls. "At the end of the show, Dan Hull and I were the only storytellers left standing. I was hooked!"

Nowadays, the 29-year-old splits her time between serving as a community outreach coordinator for First Things First, where she raises awareness of the importance of early childhood development, and as cofounder with Hull of The Storyline, putting on events such as the weekly open mic Yarnball and sharing her own personal tales. 

The jobs overlap more than you might think. "The majority of my work takes place in Central Phoenix and it’s fun to see my worlds merge," she says. "I often run into yarnballaz [Egboro's term for Yarnball-goers] at community meetings and professional events."

She seeks stories everywhere she goes. "I’m curious about how people got to where they are today," Egboro says. "I want to know their journey."

And new stories are never too far out of reach — whether she encounters them in her podcast queue, from a fresh face at Yarnball, or while scrolling through Instagram. 

Which is why it's not so surprising that her favorite book is Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton. Egboro's brother gifted it to her last Christmas. "He had no idea that I’d already been following HONY on Instagram for a couple of years because the feed fed into my nosiness," she says.

Egboro came to the account after following street-style photographers who would document everyday fashion. But here she saw something different. "Brandon’s work provided a level of depth the fashion pics were missing: snippets of who someone is, where they’re from, or where they’re going," Egboro says. "I’m amazed at how honest and real people are when they’re facing Brandon’s camera. They challenge me to share my stories in their purest and rawest form."

I came to Phoenix with a large smile and my whole life ahead of me … at least that’s how my dad put it. I’m a native Phoenician and I went to Tempe High — for those natives that want to know.

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I make art because I’m easily distracted by the day-to-day tasks and deadlines. I tend to rush through my days without taking the time to reflect on where I’ve been or where I’m going. Storytelling helps me slow down to take stock of my experiences and appreciate what they mean to my life.

I'm most productive when I participate in other storytelling shows either as an audience member, podcast listener or as a teller. These opportunities present new challenges and perspectives that I apply to my work with The Storyline Collective. As a producer, it’s nice to not worry about the ins and outs of a show and just focus on the craft.

My inspiration wall is full of newspaper clippings, AZ-themed buttons, and cheesy/inspirational quotes. One of my favorites is on a crumpled Dove chocolate wrapper that says “Be the first to hit the dance floor”.

I've learned most from my father. He is such a character, and plays a huge part in my stories. Growing up he would tell us tales from his childhood to teach us morals. Whenever my family went on a long road trip, I’d say “Tell us a story about Bio and Io [pronounced eye-o]!” They were two friends from school that always got into some sort of trouble.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Dan Hull, my partner in storytelling. Working with him to build The Storyline Collective has taught me a lot about my own process in creating a story. I used to think that I didn’t have a story — that my life was boring. But these past few years have taught me to appreciate the seemingly mundane tasks of life and to build them into a compelling story.

Good work should always keep working and stay humble, with a little bit of Kanye.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more diversity and integration. I remember walking downtown during Super Bowl in awe of all the different kinds of people. It didn’t feel like Phoenix! Every culture, class, and community seemed to merge into one mass of humanity. It was a beautiful sight, and I’d love to see more inclusion of our suburban neighbors.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak

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