Tocher, Michelle 1956–

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Tocher, Michelle 1956–

PERSONAL: Born January 5, 1956, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; daughter of James Douglas and Claire Martha (Allard) Tocher; married Ian Jaffray. Education: University of Western Ontario, M.A. (history), M.J. (journalism).

ADDRESSES: Home—19 Poplar Plains Rd., Toronto, Ontario M4V 2M7, Canada.

CAREER: Creative Premises Ltd. (communications, health promotion, and public education company), president, 1985–98; author, storyteller, and facilitator, 1998–. Storytelling School of Toronto, member; also public speaker.


Brave Work: A Guide to the Quest for Meaning in Work, Canadian Career Development Foundation (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1998.

A Seeker's Storybook: Stories for the Working Soul, Canadian Career Development Foundation (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 2000.

How to Ride a Dragon: Breast Cancer Survivors Tell Their Stories, Key Porter Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Tower Princess: A Fairy Tale Lived.

SIDELIGHTS: Michelle Tocher told CA: "I write to recover the mythic dimension of life. I'm concerned about the loss of myth in the modern world and the need for stories that tell us who we are, where we are, and in the old language, 'from whence we come and whither we go.'

"I have been deeply influenced by the work of Joseph Campbell, especially his understanding of the hero's journey, and many other explorers of psychology, myth, and folklore, including Rollo May, Mircea Eliade, Laurens van der Post, Carl Jung, and Marie-Louise von Franz. I'm also influenced by the myth-tellers themselves, those many unknown tellers who contributed their voices to the folk and fairy tales that have come to us in hundreds of collections, as well as original myth-tellers like P. L. Travers, Frank Baum, J. R. R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, and others.

"Some of my work emerges out of my own reflections, active imaginative experiences, poetry, and dreams. Sometimes I am collaborating with others, spinning my understanding of mythological patterns and motifs with real-life experience, and working with experts in various fields, like health or guidance. For example, How to Ride a Dragon: Breast Cancer Survivors Tell Their Stories was initiated by a friend and colleague who worked at the Canadian Cancer Society and wanted me to write a book on the stories of breast cancer survivors who are dragon-boating. Because of my interest in mythology I was able to bring out the dimension of the dragon which gave the book a universal meaning and appeal. In my current book, Brave Work: A Guide to the Quest for Meaning in Work, I am working with a guidance counselor who has spent a lifetime helping people who are going through a dramatic sea of changes in their work, and I am bringing the hero's journey pattern to that experience.

"Sir Laurens van der Post once told a story about a maiden from the stars who married a human man on the condition that he would never look into the basket she carried. He broke that promise one day when his curiosity got the better of him. When she returned that evening, she knew right away what he had done, and he laughed and said, 'You silly woman! What did you make such a fuss about? There was nothing in that basket!' She turned and walked into the sunset, and he never saw her again. The reason she left him was not because he had looked into her basket, but because when he did look inside, he saw nothing there. That story inspires me to write. Everything I write comes from a fascination with what is real but unseen. I write to make apparent what we experience but can't see or speak about—to recover what our ancestors knew about the power of imagination to see what is hidden and true."

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Tocher, Michelle 1956–

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