transformation and healing
through writing our personal stories

 

Spirit of Story is a creative space for people to discover and write their personal, life-based stories. Founded in 2009 by Karin Gutman, it began with the first ‘Unlocking Your Story’ workshop in Santa Monica, California and has since expanded to include other workshops, e-courses, private story coaching, and monthly “Story Notes” that keep storytellers connected with the global community of storytelling and the art of personal narrative, aka memoir writing.

Karin’s process-oriented approach guides both fresh and seasoned voices in putting their stories on the page. The safe, supportive spaces she creates allow for this deeply personal work to unfold, as writers peel away the layers, dig deep, and make meaning out of their life experiences.

 
 
 
“I write to discover what I know.”
— Flannery O'Connor
 

I grew up journaling...

As early as I could write.

Raised in the heart of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, I still have my first “Snoopy” diary with a broken lock and missing key. It was the way I processed the world around me and made my inner experience real.

Many years later, journaling segued into professional writing. I started as a screenplay translator while living in Paris. In New York City, I wrote and directed two short documentary films about the sudden death of Jonathan Larson, creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Rent”; and then I landed in Los Angeles where I wrote and created for children’s television (Jim Henson, Nickelodeon and National Geographic Kids). I also published two coffee table books, including one about secret societies! At the same time, I cut my teeth as a story analyst for Creative Artists Agency (CAA), 20th Century Fox and Gaumont Télévision.

 

…I would find my true calling inside the burgeoning spoken word movement in Los Angeles…

But I would find my true calling inside the burgeoning spoken word movement in Los Angeles, largely inspired by the groundbreaking series, The Moth.

During my 13-year tenure as co-executive producer of Spark Off Rose, a popular spoken word series in West LA, I worked closely with writers and often with deeply personal material. It is here that I discovered my love for memoir and personal narrative while cultivating both fresh and seasoned voices and directing the monthly live stage performances. In guiding the writers (many of whom did not consider themselves ‘writers’) through the process, I came to know the power of storytelling—witness to the transformation and healing—as well as the deep sense of community and connection that happens when we share our stories.

 

At the same time, I felt the call to create a space where writers would not feel the pressure of an audience, a place where they could explore, discover and peel away the layers of their stories; a place that put value on the creative process. So in 2009, I began offering workshops in Los Angeles, beginning with my signature course “Unlocking Your Story.” And so “Spirit of Story” was born. The offerings have since expanded to include other live workshops, e-courses, a monthly e-letter and blog, and one-on-one story mentoring.

The road to this heart-centered work has been an indirect and organic evolution. In 2012, my personal story was featured on KCRW National Public Radio's storytelling podcast Strangers. Listen here.

Outside of Spirit of Story, I have taught at California State University (Fullerton), UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, PEN USA and UCLA Arts and Healing. I hold an M.F.A. degree in Screenwriting from Cal State Fullerton and a bachelor's degree in theatre from Northwestern University.

I reside in Marina del Rey, California with my husband and 5-year-old daughter, Skye, who reminds me everyday how to play. I’ve had a longtime yin yoga practice, am a late bloomer to discovering the joy of cooking, and love to spend time deepening my spiritual, healing, and creative studies.

And yes, I still keep a journal.

 
 
 

Kind words…

 

... able to reach through the weeds and pinpoint the true intention of the writer... 

“Oh Karin.. you are a gifted teacher. First, you are the most astute listener; you are able to reach through the weeds of a cobbled-together story and pinpoint the true intention of the writer. The questions you pose of the writer demand that she pull from her own experience and expression. There are no pointed questions where you wait for the hapless writer to arrive at the correct answer... it's all gauged so gently, probing but not poking. You promote an atmosphere of respect among us for each others’ work and our individual processes. We all come to it differently, and there's no judging.

You seem able to meet each person where they are, respectful of whatever they bring to the table. You are responsive and wise. I can feel your years of reading, studying and dissecting as you help us explore what we've written and where we want it to take us.”

Meredith Baxter


“Karin Gutman is the gentlest of word surgeons. How did she know that a critical layer of my story was missing and that the ending wasn’t honest? She just did and encouraged me to go deeper. It made all the difference. She is filled with grace and charm and is a joy to work with.”

 Janet Blake
Former VP, Writer Development and Special Projects,
Walt Disney Network Television

… filled with grace and charm…


…helped me find the spine and arc of the piece…

“Karin has been an enormous help to me with my book. I was in that weird place –- after the first draft and trying to find the courage and stamina to launch into the second. Spending many days staring blankly at my computer screen, I needed a fresh eye, and Karin was the perfect person to go to. She was able to read my messy first draft and see the potential, and ask me wonderful, intelligent questions to help me find the spine and arc of the piece and bring it more to the surface. Her insights, notes and questions have been invaluable.” 

Laurel Ollstein, award-winning playwright and teacher


“I took Karin's workshop more than once and each time I gained clarity and courage to tell my story. The insights and group energy were inspiring. Karin masterfully weaves a sense of play  and discovery in her classes. I entered the class fearful of taking risks in my writing and left feeling empowered. I would recommend Karin's workshop to the most accomplished writer as well as a novice...”

Jodi Harris

…masterfully weaves a sense of play and discovery…


…protects and nurtures writers…

“I love your style of teaching, way of being, and the space you hold and the opening you create. Just so grateful for what you do. I really love how you protect and nurture writers and writing, and the wonderful way you love through your work. You are a transformative person in my life.”

Kelli Bean-Miranda


“Thank you for pouring your heart and soul into your work. It shows. I FEEL it. You are the embodiment of grace and warmth and risk taking. I am so grateful to be connected to you.”

Samantha Weaver

... embodiment of grace and warmth and risk taking...


… a true word whisperer…

“Going into Karin’s workshop, I had no idea what to expect. I was out of practice with my writing and nervous about my ability to produce anything worthy of putting on paper, let alone share with a room full of strangers. Any nervous energy I had was quickly replaced with a sense of comfort and calm. Attending the workshop was like opening a door into a safe hideaway where I could let my thoughts and words run free.  Karin created an environment where I could get organized and focus on ideas, to dig deeper and peel back the layers of meaning and story. Karin’s knowledge and love of writing is infectious. She’s a true word whisperer.”     

Cristina Wildzumas