After one decade as a school librarian and another as a professional storyteller, California-born Cathryn Wellner found herself on a ranch in the middle of British Columbia’s Cariboo region. Although an urbanite by inclination and preference, she lived 30 miles from the nearest town and 300 miles from any major urban center. She soon learned how to midwife sheep, buck hay bales, and cook for a hungry crew.
While all of that was good story material, it did not pay the bills. So Wellner re-invented herself as a community development consultant. At first she did not have a clue what that meant, but one contract led to another. By the second contract, she realized that community development was about stories. Communities and organizations with stories that limited their options needed new stories.
Wellner’s reputation as a facilitator, project leader, and trainer became inseparable from her reputation as a storyteller. She led many successful projects, including the award-winning HEAL (Healthy Eating and Active Living in Northern British Columbia), a diabetes prevention program that takes a population health approach. After a brief and satisfying stint as director for Stagebridge, an Oakland-based senior theater company, she returned to British Columbia to accept a position as food and health project manager for the Interior Health Authority. Now living in Kelowna, British Columbia, Wellner uses a narrative-based approach to promoting a healthier food culture throughout the region. She also teaches storytelling skills and practice to health professionals, community organizers, educators, and social services workers.