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Nanaimo storyteller recalls overcoming shyness in order to become a ‘diva’

Christine Clarke-Johnsen’s ‘The Reluctant Diva’ included in latest ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’
Christine Clarke-Johnsen holds a copy of ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul, Get Out of you Comfort Zone,’ in which her personal story ‘the Reluctant Diva,’ was published in July. (Submitted image)

Christine Clarke-Johnsen is no stranger to storytelling.

The retired teacher is not only a member of the Nanaimo-based storytelling group Around Town Tellers, but a published author with Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Her fourth short story with the series, titled The Reluctant Diva, is part of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and details her experience of challenging herself and joining the SoundWave Choir.

As a self-described “naturally shy” person, singing in front a group of people was nerve-racking enough, Clarke-Johnsen said, but being selected as a ‘diva’ for a specific number – which called for singing and dancing mere feet away from the audience – was enough to make her want to quit.

Despite her trepidation, however, the writer went through with her ‘diva duties’ and recalls the experience as being a pivotal moment in reclaiming her confidence.

“There’s the inner voice and there’s the outer voice. The outer voice says, ‘You can’t do this. You can’t be a go-go dancer – you’re 67 years old. You don’t know how to dance, you only know how to sing,’” Clarke-Johnsen said. “And then there’s this other little quiet voice inside that says, ‘How do you know you can’t do it? Unless you try, you don’t know and you will have a regret.’ So, that pushed myself to do it.”

The writer’s first story for the book company, titled A Storyteller is Born, was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul The Empowered Women in 2018, and also addressed her fear of being seen and speaking in public. In it, she recounts how attending her first storytelling event made her “feel alive inside” and the inexplicable desire to get involved.

Although Clarke-Johnsen has written about several personal experiences for Chicken Soup for the Soul, she hasn’t shared The Reluctant Diva on stage yet with Around Town Tellers.

“It’s easy to put in writing and send off because nobody knows you out there. But it’s another thing to stand in front of friends and people who know you and say, ‘Well, I felt this way and that happened.’”

Although, the writer said she might just have the courage one day.

READ MORE: Storytellers get ready to weave tales for Nanaimo audiences