One time a story saved my life.

That’s sounds dramatic, I know. It’s still true.

I was 14 when my older sister died. I let grief dictate life for a year. I mean that I did not give in and grieve, rather, I shoved everything to the shelves of my mind, I pretended I was OK, but for a year, I was dying inside. I was convinced that no one could know what I was feeling or experiencing. No one. No one could possibly understand. Until one night, I was up late reading my literature assignment for my 10th grade English class — a novel by Judith Guest called Ordinary People — and there was a simple, 2-page scene that wrecked me. In the story, the protagonist is a high school student whose older brother has died. The protagonist is in a therapy session, believing no one can understand when his therapist says, “let me tell you a short story.”

The therapist goes on to tell this “hypothetical story” about a perfect kid who had a younger brother, the not-so-perfect kid. And then the perfect kid dies. The not-so-perfect kid is left reeling — it should’ve been him. He’s not so perfect, after all. Where’s the justice? So he tries to become the perfect kid for everyone, even for himself. It works OK — they’re similar to begin with, being brothers and all, and the not-so-perfect kid is a good actor. But, this is the thing — the not-so-perfect kid — he’s dying inside. Because deep down, he knows he’ll always fail, because he will always be not so perfect.

I read that and I wept. It was like a bomb had just unleashed the waters of grief my self-made dam had been diligently holding at bay. Because there in front of me was proof that someone understood. A stranger writing a fictional book understood exactly what I was feeling. And the fact that I wasn’t alone — that changed everything. That book — that knowledge that I was not alone — that saved my life.

That’s what stories (true and fictional) have the power to do.

You have a story. You are not alone. Your story could change someone’s life.

On that note, I’m EXTREMELY excited (and slightly nervous) to announce that today is the official launch of an idea that caught ahold of me a year ago and which, through a lot of work, has now become a reality. I’d like to introduce you to:

Stories by Jo: The Story Project

(click above to visit full website!)

We’ve lost the art of storytelling. The Story Project hopes to help bring it back.

Stories are powerful. Seeing our own story helps us to understand ourselves better and to understand how our lives have led us to who we’ve become. And people who understand themselves are better able to share their story and connect with the world around them.


How It Works

This is where I need your help. I’ll be trying to arrange scheduling to do several stories in any given area that I travel to during the 2015-2016 project. I will be trying to focus efforts where I have connections as to try to keep the cost to the project participants down as much as possible while also making sure I’m at least covering my costs.



Read the stories. Share the stories.


Browse the options for length of written piece and prices. Contact me to let me know you’re interested, where you’re located, and what length of piece you’re interested in.


Know someone with an incredible story? Encourage them to participate!


To cover expenses like travel, food and lodging, etc. Donate HERE



Do you have free hotel nights? A cabin or second home that I could stay in for a few days or a week? Hotel discount connections? Transferable Airline miles? Random gift cards for restaurants or cafes that you’re not using? A book publisher friend that might want to help in the process of giving this a print medium also?? (I mean, I didn’t think so, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.) Anything that could make this project work smoother and more effectively is welcome. Shoot me a line about your connections you’d be willing to offer to

Whatever you end up doing, thank you for your involvement in this project!


Visit the website to learn more

Quick Pieces of info:

  • The Stories By Jo website and blog will be exclusively for the stories I’m writing about other people. My story is up there as the first story of the project as an example, but it will be filled with other people’s stories soon.
  • I will continue to use this blog as my own personal blog as usual. It may occasionally feature one of the Story Project stories, but it will remain a separate thing overall.
  • This is not a money-making venture. In fact, I’m just really hopeful that some of you will donate to support the project and that enough people can and will participate that I can break even, but I really do believe in this idea and this project. I’m confident that it will be meaningful for everyone who participates, even as readers. I hope that will continue to include you along the way. Thank you for your support.
  • Thank you for reading. My stories and the stories of others. Truly.


Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon