Speak Up Storytelling: Marie Greene

On episode #35 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about our confusion between Tom of Brisbane and Tom of Long Island. We also discuss the origin of "telling stories from scars and not wounds" as well as advice on handling our explicit episodes of the podcast. 

We also announce our Seattle ticketing for this summer's workshop and performance. 

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about finding memories from the past through Homework for Life. We also discuss list-making in storytelling and the importance of having as many options as possible when crafting stories.

Next we listen to Maire Greene's story about grave shopping. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. Subtlety in storytelling  

  2. The power of bringing an audience into a new world

  3. Small sentences that build stakes and momentum in a story

  4. Accessibility of the story (Elysha and Matt disagree like never before!)

  5. Reminding the audience of key characters and plot points if they have disappeared for any length of time

Next, we answer questions about displaying visuals during talks and additional outlets for storytelling. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

Seattle workshop on August 17: https://bit.ly/2E1QU0S

Seattle solo show on August 17: https://bit.ly/2URekLY

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

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Spielberg didn't hire me. Big mistake.

When I was 14 years-old, I went to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom at The Stadium in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

After seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark three years earlier and loving it, I couldn’t wait to see the latest installment in this franchise.

When I left the theater after seeing the movie, I went straight home and wrote a letter to Stephen Spielberg, explaining to him that I thought he was a brilliant director who told fantastic stories but needed someone to watch the finished film to show him all the dumb parts so he could take them out.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is filled with dumb parts.

To her credit, my English teacher at the time found the address of Paramount Pictures and sent the letter off for me, which was not an easy thing to do in a pre-internet 1983.

Spielberg, you’ll be surprised to hear, did not respond.

Honestly, I thought he would. In my 14 year-old mind, I felt certain that I had made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

More than 35 years have passed since that day, but I remain firm in my belief that filmmakers would do well to ask me to watch their movies and point out the dumb parts.

Recently, for example, I wrote about how in both Mary Poppins Returns and Wonder Woman, a white guy ends up saving the day when that job should’ve clearly been put in the hands of the female protagonist. These mistakes were so egregious that I can’t begin to imagine how those films ever made it to the screen without someone correcting the errors in these stories.

Last week Elysha and I watched Spielberg’s latest film Ready Player One. I had read and adored the book a few years ago, so I had low expectations going into the film.

It’s rare that a movie outpaces a book, though Spielberg has managed to accomplish this feat more than once with Jaws, Minority Report (a short story), and maybe Jurassic Park (I’m still not sure).

My low expectations were sadly realized.

Still, even though the film was never going to be better than the book, there were moments of real stupidity in that story that didn’t need to be there. Odd decisions by characters never paid off, shifts in tonality that tilted the film on its side, and at least one moment where an exceedingly obvious solution to an enormous problem was ignored by literally hundreds of people.

All would’ve been easily corrected had Spielberg asked me for advice. Had he answered my letter in 1983 and partnered with me then.

His loss, I guess.

Even so, things have worked out surprisingly well. Today I spend an enormous amount of time helping storytellers revise their stories.

I’m working with a documentarian, reading and revising scripts, looking for ways to improve her storytelling.

I’m working with an ad agency, helping to infuse more effective storytelling into national ad campaigns.

I’m working with small businesses, large corporations, universities, religious institutions, and hospitals to help them craft stories about their products, services, and missions.

I’m working with writers, reviewing their books, book proposals, magazine pieces, and television and film scripts and offering suggestions to improve their stories.

And I work with storytellers, listening to the stories they tell on stages and at the pulpit, in board rooms and in classrooms, at commencements and sales conferences, and everywhere in between.

Oddly, I’m doing the job that I first proposed to Spielberg 35 years ago.

It took me a little longer to get there, and perhaps I’m more skilled today than when I was 14 years-old, but it’s surprising - shocking, really - to realize that I have been on this same path for far longer than I would’ve ever imagined.

Ever since I was a kid, I was watching and listening to stories and trying to find ways to make them better.

It only took me 35 years to realize this.

No wonder Spielberg didn’t hire me back then.

Speak Up Storytelling #35: Ophira Eisenberg

On episode #35 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we hear from a teacher who is using Homework for Life in her classroom and a listener who had to do one of the strangest things I've ever heard of in a storytelling show.

We also get a little more information on Harry Belafonte. 

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about how we're often in the middle of the story, and if we're patient enough, an ending will eventually reveal itself (as unfortunate as that ending might be). We also talk about choosing the structure of a story based upon the time frame of your story.

Next we listen to Ophira Eisenberg's story about a mysterious box in the closet.   

After listening, we discuss:

  1. Effective humor throughout the story

  2. Stakes!

  3. Echoing the thoughts of your listeners 

  4. Effective pacing in a story when the surprise is no longer surprising

  5. Specificity

Next, we answer a question about extending stories told on the stage to the written form.  

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Harry Belafonte on The Muppets

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

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Speak Up #34: Chion Wolf

On episode #34 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we hear from a listener who hosted an evening of stories at this home with great success. We also resume our debate about jokes within a story. 

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about the process of taking a single moment from the week and crafting out the skeleton of a story, including the importance of recognizing, protecting, and enhancing any surprises contained therein.   

Next we listen to Chion Wolf's story about the biggest job interview of her life.  

After listening, we discuss:

  1. Effective transitions of time and space

  2. Telling stories in vivid, easily imagined scenes

  3. The power of effective inner dialogue

  4. The preservation and enhancement of surprise

  5. Effective ways of speaking highly of yourself

Next, we answer a question about ending a story early and leaving the audience hanging on unspoken, final details of a story. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

This Is Going to Suck

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

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Speak Up Storytelling #33: Bobbi Klau

On episode #33 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we thank our listeners, including American military personnel from around the world who have been reaching out to us this week, as well as those listeners kind enough to rate and review Speak Up Storytelling during this past week.

We went over 100 reviews and rating this week!

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about how a simple but powerful statement from a stranger can be enough material for a story. 

Next we listen to Bobbi Klau's story about the search for the perfect gift. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. Pacing, both as it related to authenticity and the ability of the audience to follow a story

  2. The power of humor at the top of a story, particularly when it demonstrates honesty, authenticity, and self-deprecation to your audience

  3. Telling stories in scenes

  4. Strategically humorous moments in stories vs. a joke placed within a story

  5. Kurt Vonnegut's philosophy on short stories

  6. The hazards of cultural references

  7. Avoiding the de-activating of your audience's imagination when you need to provide your audience with information

Next, we answer a question about the difference between stories that end in a moment of emotional resonance vs. a light-hearted observation or decision and a question about the role of EQ vs. logic in storytelling.

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Wire Tap with Jonathan Goldstein: https://bit.ly/2W5pZbz

"Deformed Cow and the Moonlight Deer": https://bit.ly/2Do8OKS

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

  • Workplace lunch clubs

Matt:

Speak Up Storytelling #32: Tom Reed Swale

On episode #32 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about new workshop dates and links, a surprising email from a merchant marine, and a girl crush on Elysha. 

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about finding and collecting stories while visiting familiar locations from our lives and how some of them could be great stories to tell. 

Next we listen to Tom Reed Swale's story about love on a college campus.

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The power of self deprecating humor

  2. The best places to start stories

  3. Enhancing the power of surprise in a story

  4. Capturing mood and tone through vocal inflection 

  5. The hazards of cultural references

  6. Avoiding the de-activation of your audience's imagination

Next, we answer questions about telling stories that cast people in a negative light and the possibility of two people sharing a stage to tell a story.

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

Peter Aguero and Sara Peter's TED Talk:
https://bit.ly/2Ciqgir

She Held My Hand:
https://bit.ly/2TPb5o6

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt

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Speak Up Storytelling #31: David Ring

On episode #31 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about two emails received related to Homework for Life, including a sample of Homework for Life from the 1800's!

Next, we talk about finding and collecting stories in your everyday life using "Homework for Life." We talk about the value of waiting to tell a story, the possibility that you are in the midst of a story, and the way that some stories can stretch across decades. 

Next we listen to David Ring's story about a trial, a possible death penalty, and a hit ordered on his life.

After listening, we discuss:

  1. A great first sentence

  2. The way that choices about description and leaning description in a certain direction can help tell the story

  3. The power of contrast in description

  4. "Nonfiction" in storytelling

  5. The appropriate absence of humor in storytelling

  6. The elimination of "I remember..." from stories

Next, we answer questions about using Homework for Life to recapture recorded memories and the differences between personal narrative storytelling and the telling of folktales, fables, fiction, or informational text. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt

Speak Up Storytelling: Chuck Fedolfi

On episode #30 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about upcoming dates (including a workshop in Seattle this summer) and my weekly storytelling newsletter. 

Next, we talk about finding and collecting stories in your everyday life using "Homework for Life." We talk about fusing a moment of realization onto an ongoing experience to illustrate that realization clearly for an audience. Essentially to create a story.   

Next we listen to Chuck Fedolfi's story about his dog, Boo, and the inspiration derived from Boo's struggle.

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The effective use of time shifts in storytelling

  2. Getting and keeping a story moving 

  3. Turning a potential anecdote into an meaningful, moving, story of vulnerability and heart

  4. The power and hazards of ambiguity

  5. Ways to improve a moment of surprise

Next, we answer questions about the difference between telling stories formally and informally, the ways that my Homework for Life spreadsheet is structured, and the writing of effective storytelling pitches. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha

  • Commemorating important events in your life via Christmas ornaments

Matt

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Speak Up Storytelling: Christina Fedolfi

On episode #29 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about an error in a previous podcast, upcoming show and workshop dates (including a workshop in Seattle this summer), a Pulp Fiction secret revealed, and more.  

Next, we talk about finding and collecting stories in your everyday life using "Homework for Life." We talk about the C-A-B-C format for storytelling and how it can be applied to a simple moment with a father and son. 

Next we listen to Christina Fedolfi's story about mishaps and adventures while preparing for a big bike race. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The effective use of humor in this story in particular 

  2. The B-A b-C format for storytelling 

  3. Creating a mental schema to assist an audience

  4. The power of setting a scene at all times

  5. Ways to improve and enhance a moment of surprise

Next, we answer questions about storytelling and Homework for Life with children, the gender gap in storytelling, and remembering the details in Homework for Life for the future. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

New York City Public Library appearance registration

What Was Inside the Glowing Briefcase in Pulp Fiction:
https://bit.ly/2V5AZFs

Momento app: momentoapp.com

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt

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Speak Up Storytelling: Erica Donahue

On episode #28 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about upcoming Speak Up events, offer insight on Tasmanian Devils, respond to some listener emails about PTSD, and apologize for failing to record a new episode last week.  

Next, we talk about finding and collecting stories in your everyday life using "Homework for Life." We talk about the value of finding "worsts" in your life, then we talk about how to apply perspective to your Homework for Life in an effort to find more stories. 

Next we listen to Erica Donahue's story about attending college in rural Virginia as a fish out of water.

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The effective use of details in a story

  2. The broadening of stakes

  3. The power of contrast

  4. The avoiding of thesis statements

  5. The value of the slow reveal

Next, we answer questions about effective transitions and how and when to tell stories involving trauma. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

New York City Public Library appearance registration

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Your geographic opposite: 
www.antipodesmap.com

This Is Going to Suck:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3J4Q5c1C1w

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

A bittersweet moment for a storyteller, and a magical night for all of us

Thought I'd share this little moment of beauty with all you:

Last night I competed in a Moth GrandSLAM in Brooklyn. It was an evening filled with fantastic storytellers, a hilarious host, and a world class violinist, but the storyteller who stole the show was not on the stage at all.

After winning a Moth StorySLAM earlier this year and thus gaining entry into the GrandSLAM, one of the storytellers was deported after more than 15 years in this country as a result of changes in immigration policies by the Trump administration.

After living and working for years as a New Yorker, first as a student and then as a legal resident, this Iranian-born former resident of South Africa was forced to leave the country.

He's currently residing back in South Africa.

The Moth decided to allow this storyteller to compete despite his inability to attend the GrandSLAM. Instead of standing on the stage, he told his story via Skype to the theater full of people. Though none of us could see the storyteller, we listened intently to his story, and at the end of the night, the judges declared him the winner.

It was one of those evenings of Moth magic that I was so happy to witness firsthand.

That's the beauty of storytelling. Last night I competed in my 24th Moth GrandSLAM, yet it never, ever gets old. Magic can happen at any moment. A storyteller can touch your heart in ways you never expected. You can find yourself gasping or laughing or crying at the most unexpected moments.

And last night, we had the chance to listen to a storyteller from half a world away tell a story of beauty, pain, and hope.

It was one of those rare nights at The Moth when everyone's favorite story was the same story, and that was a truly beautiful thing.

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Speak Up Storytelling #4: Sam Carley [rebroadcast]

The combination of Hanukah and an injury (happily not too serious) to our son's foot has made it impossible to record a new episode for you this week, so please enjoy this rebroadcast of one of our most popular episodes ever.

Elysha and I will be back next week with a brand new episode. 

_____________________________________

On episode #4 of Speak Up Storytelling, Elysha and I talk storytelling!

We talk about about finding excellent stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life" and the importance of transformation in storytelling. 

Then we listen to Sam Carley's story about a challenging bus ride through an Indian desert with the possible girl of his dreams, followed by commentary and critique, including:

  1. The ideal arc of a story

  2. Describing human beings in stories

  3. Limiting unnecessary description

  4. Advancing time in a story

Next, we answer listener questions and offer recommendations.  

LINKS

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Speak Up storytelling: http://speakupstorytelling.com

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

RECOMMENDATIONS

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy:
https://www.netflix.com/title/80160037

Evernote:
https://evernote.com

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Speak Up Storytelling: Kathy Binder

On episode #27 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling alongside storyteller Kathy Binder. 

In our followup segment, we talk about upcoming Speak Up events, respond to listener comments, and offer another shout-out to our fans down under. 

Next, we talk about finding and collecting stories in your everyday life using "Homework for Life." We talk about a single word (spoken on episode #26 of this podcast) can amount to a Homework for Life moment, and how that might be used in a story (including how to frame the story)

Next we listen to Kathy Binder's story about breaking down on the Taconic Parkway on a frigid, winter night with a newborn. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The effective use of humor in storytelling

  2. The beauty if a story's imperfection

  3. Coincidence stories

  4. The preservation of surprise

  5. Maintaining important ideas throughout a story 

  6. Nervous as a part of public storytelling and speaking

  7. The importance of stating stakes early 

  8. Techniques for shortening stories

Next, we answer questions about hints to winning Moth and other competitive storytelling events and the responsibility of the storyteller and the audience. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

New York City Public Library appearance registration

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

The Robbery: https://bit.ly/2DWczc2

The Promise: https://bit.ly/2zGe4au

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

Kathy Binder

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I’ll be speaking at the NYC Public Library Main Branch alongside storyteller Erin Barker… join us!

I’ll be appearing at the main branch of the New York City Library on Wednesday, December 26 alongside the great Erin Barker to talk about my book Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling.

About the event:

We are always telling stories. In communicating with family and friends, we are constantly narrating events and interpreting our personal feelings and actions. We make choices about what to emphasize and what to gloss over. We tell stories to entertain, express ourselves, and make sense of the world. Elementary school teacher, author, and award-winning Moth storyteller Matthew Dicks believes everyone has a story to tell, and has tips and techniques for narrators of all stripes on constructing, telling, and polishing a tale. He will be in conversation with writer and editor Erin Barker, two-time winner of The Moth's GrandSLAM and the artistic director of science storytelling organization The Story Collider. 

The event is free, but register here to guarantee yourself a seat.

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Speak Up Storytelling [rebroadcast]: Renae Edge

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our listeners in the United States. 

Elysha and I are taking the holiday off and rebroadcasting episode #14 of Speak Up Storytelling, which features the joyous story of Renae Edge. 

We thought it would be perfect for a Thanksgiving Day listen. Maybe share it with your family. Find us a few new listeners.  

We'll be back next week with a brand new episode. 

______________________________________________

On episode #14 of Speak Up Storytelling, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk about finding excellent stories in your everyday life using Matthew's strategy "Homework for Life," including moments that storytellers see but non-storytellers might not. 

Then we listen to Renae Edge's story about finding her voice for the first time, followed by commentary and critique, including:

  1. The effective use of backstory or flashbacks in a story

  2. The components of an especially effective beginning to a story

  3. Singing in stories

  4. Strong feelings about dream sequences

  5. Specificity of names

Elysha and Matt then answer listener questions about building a story with flashbacks and telling effective best man speeches. 

Lastly, Matt and Elysha each offer a recommendation. 

If you haven't rated or reviewed Speak Up Storytelling on Apple Podcasts, PLEASE do! Reviews and ratings help others find our show.

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Get Storyworthy for less than a dollar!

I am excited to announce that Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling is being featured in a special 99-cent Autumn eBook Sale, which offers 12 amazing eBooks, from bestselling authors like Shakti Gawain, Don Miguel Ruiz Jr., HeatherAsh Amara, and more, for just 99-cents each (in the US only), from now until Thursday 11/15!

Order here! http://www.superbooksale.com

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Speak Up Storytelling: Jenny Steadman (with special guest Danielle Dnes)

On episode #25 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks are joined by storyteller Danielle Dnes to talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about upcoming Speak Up shows and messages received from around the world. 

Next, we talk about finding and collecting stories in your everyday life using "Homework for Life." Danielle recently reached the 100 day mark in her Homework for Life and shared it with Matt and Elysha. We poke through the 100 days to find some stories that Danielle didn't initially see upon first glance. 

Then we listen to Jenny Steadman's story about the pressures of playing golf with her grandfather and his pals. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. Effective character and location descriptions

  2. Planting seeds early in a story that will sprout later

  3. The best way to repeat a laugh line throughout a story

  4. Pacing and pausing 

  5. "The curse of knowledge" in storytelling

Next, we answer questions about a storytelling improv game that we use in workshops and is detailed in Storyworthy. We even play a round to demonstrate. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

If you haven't rated or reviewed Speak Up Storytelling on Apple Podcasts, PLEASE do! Reviews and ratings help others find our show.

How I fight crazy, strange, and beautiful people

Yesterday I wrote about my unusual Uber ride from the Jacksonville airport to Amelia Island.

In response to that post, friends and reader commented on how often I seem to meet such “interesting” and “strange” people and how my life can oftentimes seem more storyworthy than most.

This is not true, but I understand the perception. Two things make this so:

I open up a space for others to speak.

My Uber driver didn’t volunteer his conspiracy theories to me, and he didn’t launch into his misguided political diatribe unprompted. After getting into the car, I engaged in conversation. I asked him his name. I asked him if he drove for Uber for a living, which led to him describing his two other jobs.

Then I asked about those jobs. I demonstrated genuine curiosity. I learned a lot about the process of iPhone screen repair. I can now tell you the economics of mall kiosks in the Jacksonville area and the way that Apple ships parts to repair technicians. I can explain to you why repairing an iPhone screen is easier than repairing a Samsung screen, and I can explain how a nail salon can pay more than $200,000 in rent each year and still turn over an excellent profit.

All of this came from me asking questions and demonstrating a genuine interest in his life.

Then I asked him what he did in the little bit of free time he had. “Do have time for hobbies?” I asked.

“Do you like conspiracy theories?”

“Not really,” I said. “But I’d love to hear what you think.”

This is how I ended up with a story.

I open up space for people to talk and tell me stories. Instead of staring at my phone for the duration of the ride, which would’ve been easy, I decided to leave the damn thing in my pocket and engage with a human being. I did the same thing on the four flights to and from Florida. On each leg of the trip, I opened up a space for my seat mate to speak.

The first was not interested. He was watching a movie on his phone, so I did the same.

The next one spoke limited English, making conversation impossible.

The third, a young woman, fell asleep almost instantly and ended up awkwardly draped across my chest (a story in itself).

But the fourth, a man named Dave who lives in Meriden, chatted with me for a while, telling me the story of his visit with his ailing mother and “impossible sister.”

Not exactly conspiracy theories and iPhone economics, but he shared a story with me before turning back to his phone.

I talk to people. Part of this is a learned behavior after spending 15 years with my wife, Elysha, and part of it is my desire to hear stories. Engage with people. Make the moments of my life more meaningful and memorable than a screen ever will.

I tell my own stories.

While in Florida, I told a story about a challenging time during my childhood to an audience of a few hundred. I was honest, authentic, and vulnerable. I spoke about things that many are not willing to speak about.

In response, at least a dozen people shared their own stories with me. Some told me deeply personal stories about their own childhood struggles. I spoke to one man about our mutual love for the Atari 2600 game Adventure (and have since downloaded the game using an online emulator). The general manager of a hotel on the island offered me a free room if I bring my family for vacation.

One woman told me a secret that she had been carrying for more than 40 years. She had tears in her eyes as she spoke to me.

When you tell your stories, others are compelled to tell you their own, and as a result, connections are made. Doors are opened. The chance for storyworthy moments increases significantly.

It’s true that my life has been filled with some unusual moments. My life has been saved by paramedics twice. I was homeless for a period of time. Arrested and tried for a crime I did not commit. Carried from my childhood home in the middle of the night by a firefighter. Survived a horrific armed robbery. Been victimized by an anonymous, widespread attack on my character and my career. Fed my pet rabbit at Thanksgiving.

A lot of crazy stuff. You have some, too, I’m sure.

But eventually you tell all those stories. All those storyworthy moments from your past become known.

Then what?

When people say that my life seems more storyworthy than most, I point out my willingness to say yes to whatever opportunity crosses my path. My ability to see stories in moments that others do not.

But I also point out my willingness to listen. My desire to open up space and time for others to tell me their stories, and my willingness to share my own.

A storyworthy life is one filled with people. Connection and engagement. It’s about getting out of the house, turning off the television, lifting your face from the screen, and finding someone new. Doing something new. Opening your heart and mind to opportunities.

It means asking your Uber driver questions about his life rather than reading email or scrolling through social media. And finding out some disturbing facts about him in the process.

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Speak Up Storytelling #24: Erin Barker

On episode #24 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about upcoming Speak Up shows and messages received from listeners from around the world. 

Next, we talk about finding and collecting stories in your everyday life using "Homework for Life." We talk about the value of preserving memories for future storytelling but also because throwing away memories is something we all do every day but inevitably regret later on.  

Then we listen to Erin Barker's story about finding her love for learning thanks to a man with an axe. Erin is a two-time Moth GrandSLAM champion and the Artistic Director of The Story Collider whose stories have been featured on PRX's The Moth Radio Hour and in The New York Times-bestselling book The Moth: 50 True Stories.

After listening to Erin’s story, we discuss:

  1. The effectiveness of a clear story arc

  2. The difference between a funny story and a funny story with real heart and meaning

  3. The humor of specificity

  4. The power and inherent strength demonstrated in authentic, honest self-deprecation 

  5. Embedding learning within a story

  6. Chekov's gun 

Next, we answer questions about starting stories with the word "So" and the economics of storytelling. 

Finally, Elysha and I each offer a recommendation.  

If you haven't rated or reviewed Speak Up Storytelling on Apple Podcasts, PLEASE do! Reviews and ratings help others find our show.

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Reach for the masses...

Back in May of this year, Elysha and I launched Speak Up Storytelling, a podcast about telling your best stories. Each week we teach strategies for finding, crafting, and telling stories. We also play a story previously told at a Speak Up event and use that story to teach lessons about what the storyteller has done well and what might be improved for next time.

Our goal was to produce at least 25 episodes in 2018. This week we published #24 and will be recording #25.

But in addition to sending 24 podcast episodes into the world and garnering thousands of listeners, amazing connections have been made.

Just this week, we have heard from:

  • A man in Africa who using is storytelling (including my book Storyworthy and our podcast) to “forge community connection between whites (westerners) and blacks (locals).”

  • A woman in Brisbane, Australia who’s read my book and listens to the podcast with friends who has been inspired to launch her own storytelling show in January.

  • A teacher in Chicago who is using my book and our podcast as part of her spring curriculum.

  • Two different podcast listeners in the Seattle area who have each shared some remarkable ideas and bits of art with me.

  • Just this morning a listener in Maine who hit her 100 days using my Homework for Life strategy.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep on saying it:

Find a way to put your voice out into the world. Find a way to take your passion and turn it into something that reaches beyond the cozy confines of your home. Whether it’s a podcast or a blog or YouTube or Instagram, find a way to bring your expertise and your joy to the masses.

The potential returns are immeasurable.

We’re so fortunate to live in a time when each one of us can be writers and broadcasters with the potential for reaching millions of people. Less than two decades ago, gatekeepers kept the vast majority of human beings silenced. Reaching a large audience required enormous sums of money, technical expertise, years spent climbing the ladder and paying your dues, and access to networks controlled by a small number of businesspeople.

Almost exclusively white men.

Today you can reach the world with an Internet connection and a phone. A laptop and a microphone.

We forget how lucky we are.

Elysha and I are not special. We are not uniquely talented or especially well equipped for podcasting. Our operation is not a sophisticated one:

Once a week, we sit at the dining room table with about $200 worth of audio equipment and a laptop and try to record a podcast as phones ring, children who are supposed to be in bed interrupt us, and cats knock over microphones.

And our audience isn’t very large yet. We are finding listeners slowly, primarily in the United States but also in 49 other countries worldwide.

But relatively speaking, the audience is small but growing.

But when you receive an email from someone on the other side of the world explaining how your words are changing their life and the lives of others for the better, it doesn’t matter how many people are listening.

Just those few would be enough.

So find a way to put yourself into the world. Take the thing that you do well and find a way to share it with others.

A photo of your garden.
A blog post about the lesson plan that went especially well.
A YouTube video on the booties that you’re knitting.
A podcast of your cringe-worthy high school poetry.
A Twitter account specializing in your accounting best practices.

You have something to share. Find a way to share it. You never know what might happen.

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