Why I love storytelling, and why I especially love The Moth

Ever since I told my first story live back in July of 2011 at the Nuyorican Poet’s Café in New York City, I’ve fallen in love with storytelling. On Thursday night I was fortunate enough to win another Moth StorySLAM, my second in a row and sixth overall.


Here’s what I love about live storytelling so much:

Back in April of this year, I completed my fourth novel. I also wrote my first short story in more than a decade.

My novel is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2014. A handful of people have read the first draft, and I expect to hear from my editor soon about revisions (though I’m sure it’s already absolutely perfect). But the vast majority of readers will have to wait more than a year to read the book. 

I submitted the short story to a literary magazine. I should receive a response in September. I have no idea when it would be published if accepted.

That’s a minimum of a 17 month wait for the novel and a 5 month wait on the short story.

On Monday I wrote a story about the time a girlfriend and I went to the Virginia State Fair to see a two-headed cow.

I revised the story on Tuesday and Wednesday and then told the story to Elysha on the drive to New York on Thursday. She assisted with further revisions, making suggestions for sections to cut and assisting me with word choice to maximize humor.

About an hour before the StorySLAM, I walked about 40 blocks over to Housing Works from my sister-in-law’s apartment in midtown, speaking and revising the story along the way. I actually removed a large chunk of the story during my walk after realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to keep the story under six minutes. I texted Elysha to see if she approved of the change, and she did. 

About two hours later, I took the stage and told my story.

When I was finished, the audience’s reaction instantly told me how I had performed. I didn’t know if I would win the competition, but I knew that my hard work had paid off. The volume of their applause and cheers instantly told me that I had done well.

The judges confirmed the audience’s opinion by awarding me with high scores, and I was fortunate to maintain my lead throughout the night.

Immediate feedback. That’s what I love about storytelling. I prepare a story over a period of a week or so and then receive immediate feedback about my performance in the form of audience response, and in the case of The Moth, numerical scores.

Having grown up playing a lot of videogames, I’m the kind of person who wants to know how I’m doing at all times. I want to know my score, my opponent’s score, the all-time highest score and everything in between.

Storytelling, and especially competitive storytelling, affords me that opportunity. When I have finished telling a story onstage, I know exactly where I stand. 

It’s the lack of immediate feedback that makes novels and short stories so challenging. Even when my next novel publishes in the fall, the response from readers will trickle in over the course of a year or more.

Granted the novel allows me to reach more readers, and in the case of my last book, in more than 20 countries around the world. but the waiting is hard. Many authors will tell you that it’s one of the hardest part of writing.

When I have a story to tell, fiction or nonfiction, I don’t want to wait to share it with my readers. I want to tell it now. Have it heard now. Receive feedback now.

Storytelling fulfills this need while I wait for my other stories to wind their way through the agonizingly slow cogs of the publishing world.