Why You Should Want to Tell Other People’s Stories

There is nothing I have been anticipating more than the final product for our project on Soraya Rendon, the owner and the brains behind Chilam Balam and Shaman. The day is finally here, and our video will be presented to the class. Alex and I may make a couple of changes in the next week before we post up the video online, but, rest assured, the video is coming soon. I cannot wait for everyone to see it.


Soraya Rendon, proud restaurant owner, outside of Shaman.

I have learned a lot from working on this project. In terms of narrative techniques, I have become a better storyteller. Returning the fundamentals made an astronomical difference for us. In a story, you want to grab the attention of your audience, give them a little bit of background, have a significant conflict that builds up to a climax, and then have that conflict come to some sort of a resolution. It seems basic, but I can honestly say that for the hours of rearranging our story, it was when we went back to the ground rules of storytelling when we finally got the product we were looking for. It definitely takes more than one, two, or 15 tries before you get the product you are looking for.



I also learned a lot from listening to Soraya’s story. Soraya, as a restaurant owner and a Mexican immigrant, speaks from an atypical perspective in the Chicago food scene. Before doing this project, I thought of owners of most of the prominent Chicago restaurants as following a traditional path of obtaining a higher education in business and business owning, specifically restaurant owning. Here is Soraya, one of the most successful restaurant owners in Chicago, self-taught in English and previously in the mortgage business. Her food is inspired by her mother and traditions from back home, and her food is GOOD, so good that there is a line out the door on Saturdays and Chicago food critics are raving about it.



Soraya taught me about true hard work and grit. Both of her restaurants she pours her whole heart into, and it makes me happy to see the success it has brought her. It is amazing what language and cultural barriers she has overcome to get where she is today. She truly lives by the motto that you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it.



I cannot leave out what Alex has taught me. Working with Alex has been a real blessing. When your idea is not working out the way you want it to, sometimes a fresh perspective can change the whole direction of your project in a way that you never imagined. Two minds are better than one mind, and it is fun to work with someone who brings a different skill set to the table. Alex is a filming and editing master, while I prefer the writing components of journalism. Seeing him operate in his “zone,” I learned a lot about filming and editing that I did not know before. I hope I taught him a bit about writing as well. 🙂


Alex hard at work.


I truly believe that with each person that you encounter, they leave a little gem of knowledge with you that in some way, shape, or form molds you into the person you will become down the line. With this project, I will carry many pieces of wisdom with me for the rest of my life. Special thanks to Soraya, executive chef Natalie Oswald, and the other forces behind Chilam Balam and Shaman that so graciously allowed us to take over their restaurants with all of our camera equipment for days on end. Special thanks to Alex for putting up with my craziness, and for going on this journey with me. Special thanks to my followers on social media and my blog, and stay tuned! The video is coming soon!


The official mask of Chilam Balam.

Published by Ally Spiroff

I am Ally Spiroff, and what seems like seven short years ago I created a Twitter account, @runningforlife2. I tweeted how I felt and what I was doing. I tweeted about my greatest passion in life, running. I also tweeted about my other passions, food, music, movies, books, pop culture, writing, traveling, and life. Before I knew it, people (mostly those people in the running community but others too) began to latch onto my life. Then, I realized, “hey, this Twitter thing is pretty cool.” I get to write about what I love. I get to tell my story. The world around me, all of my people, get to ride along with me as I take on the world, one day at a time. People can watch me grow. I can watch other people grow. The Twitter handle has evolved into @allyspiroff over time. With it, the content has also evolved, but the same crazy woman is behind the content. :) So what exactly is my story? Who exactly is Ally Spiroff? I graduated with a Master's in Communication from Loyola University Chicago in May 2017. I was a Division I collegiate athlete there for five years, all four of my undergraduate and one of my graduate years. I graduated with honors in May 2015 with a Bachelor’s in English. In the winter/spring 2015-2016 due to a redshirt season of indoor and outdoor track, I returned to run a fifth year. Since I have always thought that it is more fun to jump over water and other obstacles than just run normal laps around the track and I like a good challenge, I am a steeplechaser by nature. I got to chase fast steeple times for one more season at Loyola, as well as run the 3k, 5k, and even the mile/1500 with my teammates that double as my best friends, sisters, inspirations, and the greatest people you will ever meet. Now, you might ask, how did I still run at Loyola if I graduated in the spring of 2015? I started the cutting-edge graduate program Digital Media & Storytelling in the fall of 2016 at Loyola. It was a two-year program, so I was blessed with another year at the wonderful Jesuit institution to finish up my Master's degree. After obtaining both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I have become an experienced writer and researcher. Through graduate work, I have become well versed in Adobe Creative Commons software programs, specifically Photoshop and shooting and editing video in Premiere Pro, and in Google Analytics, along with other search engine optimization tools. Through an abundance of internship experience, I became extremely proficient in news editing software programs. I have lots of experience in the newsroom and writing for news producers as well as out in the field on assignment and in working with a variety of people. My experience as an undergraduate and a graduate student while simultaneously being a Division I collegiate athlete on Loyola’s cross country and track teams as well as in a variety of jobs/internships and volunteer work has helped develop my confidence, drive, responsibility, time management, sense of teamwork, people skills, communication, troubleshooting skills, attention to detail, critical thinking skills, leadership, planning skills, and even a sense of humor. I also have extensive experience with all outlets of social media. As I mentioned before, I am an avid tweeter and Instagram user, with 1,450+ followers on Twitter. I have lots of experience with creating and building content for websites. I also run the website I created for my graduate school capstone project, titled "Wise Old Women." I am on Pinterest, Foursquare/Swarm, and Facebook as well. I wrote in the arts and entertainment section of my university’s award-winning newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. You can find my running profile on the Loyola Ramblers website. You can find all about my collegiate running career on TFRRS. Of course, you can also catch me on LinkedIn. I am lucky because I get to tell people’s stories for a living online, through digital media and other means. Currently, I live in New York City and I'm the Digital Editorial Assistant at Runner's World magazine, and I'm a freelance writer for VICE's health vertical, Tonic. I really love life. I have big dreams. I do not know where my dreams will take me, but I am confident that they will take me far. I am an open book. I like sharing myself with anybody who wants to listen. I am enjoying the opportunity to further my education every day and perfect my craft. I love learning something new every single day about myself, others, and the world around me. Besides being a multimedia journalist and a city dweller, I am a literature (Hemingway and Plath are my favorites) and grammar nerd, a hippie, a music fanatic, a foodie, a concert-goer, a traveler, a huge sports fan, a fashionista, an art lover, and an urban explorer who likes natural adventures (like hiking up mountains in Alaska) as well. Wherever I go and whatever I do, I conquer it. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, though, and no matter where I go, I never forget my roots. Milwaukee will always be my city and where my heart truly lies. I have quite the eye for unique knick-knacks. My spirit animals are the grasshopper and the gazelle. When I take the Essential Enneagram Test, I am #3. I am a hard worker with relentless energy. I am everyone’s sister. I am nutty but in a way that I like it. I think that God is so good and we are blessed to get to walk this earth every day. I believe that every person has the right to be exactly who they are. I am dreaming big, with my head in the clouds, but there is still some common sense in there somewhere. ;) Turning over a new leaf in my life, at the start of grad school, I wanted to create a comprehensive website where I could connect you to all of my social media outlets. I will continue to share my running experiences and life journey through this awesome outlet we now have called the World Wide Web, and I hope that everyone continues to enjoy all things Ally Spiroff. Peace, love, and running (fast), Ally Spiroff

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