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StoryCorps' Dave Isay On Love, Laughter And Making You Cry

More than 40,000 interviews have been conducted by StoryCorps in the last 10 years. Of those interviews, founder Dave Isay says love is one of the most common themes.

The paperback version of of Isay's book "All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps," was released this month, just in time for Valentine's Day.

StoryCorps' Roots

Isay says he got interested in storytelling one Thanksgiving when he was around 12 years old.

"I had this grandmother who was like this wild character and her sisters were wilder than she was," says Isay. "Aunt Birdie insisted she invented fruit salad, I mean, just insane."

Laying around the Isay house was a tape recorder, and little Dave picked it up and recorded an interview with his grandmother and her sisters.

Isay says he was around 14 or 15 when that generation started to die off, and when he went to look for the interview tape he couldn't find it.

He says StoryCorps makes sure no one makes that dumb mistake by archiving every interview at the Library of Congress.

The Digital Age

Listening to a simple audio interview seems almost antiquated in an age of mobile video and streaming television. But says Isay, for all its wonders, there are certain things technology can't teach us.

"Certain human things," he says.

The StoryCorp set up is very simple: two people in a recording booth. And that booth often produces intimate and touching stories.

"Many people think of them as, if I had 40 minutes left with this person, what would I say?" says Isay.

The Future Of StoryCorps

StoryCorps was intended to be a time-limited project, but it continued on and on.

"A year, 18 months after starting I realized how powerful this thing was," says Isay, "and our dream is that someday StoryCorps will be a sustaining American institution."

Each interview done through StoryCorps is archived at the Library of Congress. Of the 45,000 interviews that have been done, 42,000 are already housed there.

Over the next couple years StoryCorps and the Library of Congress will make digital archives of the interviews available.

"We see it as a sacred bond with people who have participated in StoryCorps," says Isay.

He says there are some security concerns, but those are being worked through so the public can have access.

A Love Story

Isay's book, "All You Need: Love Stories From StoryCorps" is out in paper back this month. Isay says love is a common theme in StoryCorps interviews because people are told to talk about what they always wanted to talk about, and that often has themes of love.

Isay says a line about StoryCorps that he hears constantly is that every story makes you cry. But he says, most of the stories aren't sad.

"Most of the stories in this book aren't sad, but StoryCorps stories in general evoke a lot of emotions in people," he says.

"There are tears and laughter and all those good emotions, but not from a syrupy kind of place, but from a really authentic kind of place."

Test your resilience against tear-jerking content with this StoryCorps animated short: