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:

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. 

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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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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.

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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Speak Up Storytelling #23: Laura Terranova

On episode #23 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we discuss a brand new rule for The Moth's StorySLAM series. We also talk about why storytelling is a superpower and the many doors that being an effective communicator can open for you. 

Next, we talk about finding and collecting stories in your everyday life using "Homework for Life." We discuss the possibility of incorporating Homework for Life into a daily to-do list, discuss Homework for Life advice from a listener, learn how a child is now doing Homework for Life, and review how a moment that didn't seem like much initially might be storyworthy after all. 

Then we listen to Laura Terranova's story about finding herself in a hospital bed, unable to communicate to the outside world.

After listening, we discuss:

  1. Elements of an effective beginning

  2. Outstanding transition strategies

  3. Character building throughout a story

  4. Elements of an effective ending 

  5. The power of a name in storytelling

Next, we answer questions about the dangers of dominating conversations when you have many stories to tell and how to handle the moment when you thought you were funny but the audience did not. 

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.

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Many jobs with one important thing in common

It's been a strange and busy weekend for me.

On Friday night, my wife Elysha and I produced an unforgettable Speak Up storytelling event at Infinity Hall in Hartford. Our near-sellout audience enjoyed what might have been our best show ever, headlined by United States Senator Chris Murphy who told a fantastic story about an embarrassing moment he experienced while serving as an intern for Senator Chris Dodd. 

In addition to producing the show, I told a brand new story about one of my most embarrassing and shameful parenting moments ever.

On Saturday my DJ partner, Bengi, and I worked our last wedding of 2018 at the Webb Barn in Wethersfield. I coordinated their ceremony and reception, served as emcee for much of the evening, and played music for a bunch of happy and excited guests.  

On Sunday I traveled to Groton, MA to serve as minister at the First Parish Church of Groton while their full time minister was on vacation. In addition to delivering a sermon on faith, I also delivered a children's sermon, read poems and prayers (one that I wrote myself) from the pulpit, led the congregation in song, and even pulled the enormous cord that rang the church's famed Paul Revere bell, calling all to the service. 

I did everything a minister would do with a little help from the worship coordinator and musical director.

After lunch with the parishioners, I taught a storytelling workshop to interested members and some folks from the community before heading home and discovering that the DVR failed to record the Patriots game.

Quite the weekend. 

It seems like an bizarre combination of roles to jam into a three day period - storyteller, producer, wedding DJ, minister, teacher - but in truth, all of these roles rely on the ability to communicate effectively to a large group of people. The jobs may have been different, but in each case, the skill set required was essentially the same.

Speak. Connect. Engage. Entertain.  

I say in the last chapter of my book, Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling, that storytelling is a super power, and I wasn't kidding. Being able to tell a good story and engage an audience can open up all kinds of doors for you.

It can be the difference between being heard and remaining silent.

This weekend it meant sharing a stage with a US Senator, dancing the night away with a couple on their wedding day, and climbing the pulpit to tell a story and deliver a message on the age old struggle for faith.  

I was also able to help six other storytellers tell their best stories on their biggest stage of their lives and teach a group of folks in a church basement how to begin their own journey into storytelling.

Learn to tell great stories. It truly is a super power. You never know what doors it may open for you.

Speak Up Storytelling #22: Q&A catch-up

Episode #22 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast is now available for your listening pleasure. On this week’s episode, Elysha Dicks and I talk about finding excellent stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." We discuss how a moment can not only be storyworthy for the stage but might be useful in many other contexts in life.  

Next, we break format. Rather than listening to a story and critiquing, we decided to clear out the mailbox by dedicating this episode to listener questions.

We answer questions about:

  1. Telling other people's stories

  2. Storytelling etiquette

  3. Homework for Life best practices

  4. The verbal detritus than can sometimes accompany storytelling

  5. The importance of stories being relatable

Then we end the podcast from a remarkable clip from a popular Netflix series. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you haven't rated and/or reviewed the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work.

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What inappropriate things did I put in my mouth?

Tonight I’ll be taking the stage at Infinity Hall in Hartford to tell a story for Speak Up.

It will be our 60th show, stretching back to April of 2013 when we produced our very first show in an art gallery at Real Art Ways, and I have told a story at every one.

In addition, I’ve also told stories at all five of our Speak Up - Voices of Hope co-productions, as well as showcases for Unified Theater, West Hartford Public Schools, and Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health,

That’s a lot of stories. In that time, I have only repeated stories twice.

Once accidentally, and once at Space Ballroom, our new venue in New Haven, CT, where we will be bringing stories first told in the Hartford area to a new audience.

Add to that the 22 Moth GrandSLAMs and 66 Moth StorySLAMs, half a dozen Moth Mainstage performances, and dozens of one-off shows. Some Moth stories have migrated to Speak Up, and some Speak Up stories have migrated to The Moth, of course, but it’s still a boatload of stories.

In all, I have told 116 different stories on stages around the country and the world.

“How do you find so many stories?” I am constantly asked.

My usual answer is Homework for Life, an exercise that first developed for myself and then began teaching. Add to that two other exercises that I detail in my book Storyworthy, and that makes up the bulk of my story finding techniques.

I also remember a lot. I have one of those memories for moments in my life. My sister is the same way. We simply recall more of our past than most people. Part of it has to do with the fraught, strange, challenging, ridiculous, and trauma-filled past that we both share.

If your life hasn’t been lovely and idyllic, you’re likely to remember more of it.

But also this:

I relentlessly look for stories. I seek them out. I turn over rocks to find them. So when I see this amusing carousel sign last weekend, I turn over a rock. I ask myself:

“What inappropriate things have I put in my mouth?”

Some have already been told onstage.

  • I swallowed a penny when I was about seven years-old, and I won a Moth StorySLAM with that story.

  • I choked on a bay leaf (and nearly had my chest cracked open by surgeons) about ten years ago. I told that story at Speak Up last year. I’m still waiting for the right moment to take it to The Moth.

  • I once drank spiked punch from a trashcan that contained a block of ice with roadkill at its center. I told that story at The Moth way back in 2011, failed to hear the timer, and spoke for eight minutes. I’ll need to re-tell that one someday.

  • I was once tricked into eating my pet rabbit by a girlfriend’s father. I won a Moth GrandSLAM with that story this year.

But then I thought:

  • I sucked my thumb well into third grade and only quit when a teacher shamed me, which led to me punching a kid in the head. That’s a story.

  • I once drank a mug of communal leftover drinks at a bachelor party and got so drunk that I started running around the VFW thinking I was being chased by evil men in bear suits. I also gave a guy a nickname that night that stuck for the rest of his life. That’s a story.

  • When I was a boy, I took communion at the Catholic Church, trying desperately to fit in but not realizing why I was even in line and what I was about to receive. The priest placed the wafer on my tongue, and I was so disgusted by the taste and the meaning of the ceremony that I spit the half chewed wafer into my hand and stuffed it into a Bible. That is a story.

  • At my best friend’s wedding, my friend, Scott, and I engaged in a stupid drinking competition which led me to drink 22 kamikaze shots over the course of eight hours and still lose the competition. That is a story.

  • Then I recalled the time about 15 years ago when my dog, Kaleigh, ate a Sudafed gel caplet. When I called the veterinarian (at 10:30 PM) to find out how serious it might be, she said, “You have about 10 minutes to get her to the hospital before her heart explodes.” That’s a story.

One sign. Five stories. Not bad.

Granted, the ability to craft these moments into full-fledged stories isn’t something everyone can do, but read my book, take a workshop or two, and start listening to stories like I do, and you’ll eventually be able to.

But the important part is to look for stories. Open your mind to them. Ask yourself questions. Explore your past. Until I saw that sign, I had forgotten four of those stories completely, and I hadn’t thought about the fifth in years. Even if I never tell them on stage, I’ve recaptured little bits of my life. I turned over a rock and found more of myself than I knew existed.

I love that. You will, too.

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Speak Up Storytelling #21: Don Picard

Episode #21 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast is now available for your listening pleasure.

On this week’s episode, Elysha Dicks and I talk about finding excellent stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." We discuss how a moment that didn't seem initially storyworthy can prove to be storyworthy with a little consideration. We also receive two outstanding Homework for Life recommendations from listeners. 

Next, we listen to Don Picard's story about his unusual family composition, followed by commentary and critique, including:

  1. Breaking longer stories into two or more shorter stories

  2. Encapsulating big ideas into small, specific scenes

  3. The funneling of a story from fast paced, episodic moments that advance time quickly to the specific heart of the story

  4. The purpose and effectiveness of summarizing unique, odd, and incomprehensible moments in story

  5. Preserving surprising by allowing your audience to draw their own conclusions

  6. The importance of maintaining time order to avoid confusion

Then we answer a listener question about what we do for a living when not working on Speak Up and our podcast.  

Lastly, we each offer a recommendation. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you haven't rated and/or reviewed the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work.

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Speak Up Storytelling: Valerie Gordon

Episode #19 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

On this week’s episode, Elysha and I talk about finding excellent stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." We discuss how small moments with universal appeal can often make great stories.

Next, we listen to Valerie Gordon's outstanding story about a surprising encounter with Neil Diamond, followed by commentary and critique, including:

  1. Telling stories that include extraordinary events that are not specifically about or depend upon the extraordinary event

  2. The purpose and power of repetition

  3. The brilliant use of internal and external dialogue

  4. Breaking my "stories must be told in scenes" rule

  5. The power of uncertainty 

  6. Ending a story with heart

Then we answer listener questions about crafting rhythm in stories and what it's like to be married to someone who shares so much of his life with the world. 

Lastly, we each offer a recommendation. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 60 or so people to rate and/or review the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

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Speak Up Storytelling: Ron Apter

Episode #18 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

On this week’s episode, Elysha Dicks and I talk about finding excellent stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." We discuss how the stories we find in a day can sometimes be the building blocks of much larger stories. We also hear from two listeners on how Homework for Life is changing their lives. 

Then we listen to Ron Apter's outstanding story about fatherhood, followed by commentary and critique, including:

  1. Building a story from a single moment

  2. Stories that take place in narrowly defined settings

  3. Strong beginnings

  4. Two strategies to create humor in storytelling

  5. Vocabulary choice

Next, Elysha and I answer a listener question about using swear words and racial, ethnic, and religious slurs in storytelling. 

Lastly, we each offer a recommendation. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 60 or so people to rate and/or review the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

Speak Up Storytelling #17: Robin Gelfenbien

Episode #17 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast is ready for your listening pleasure.

We start by talking about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." We talk about the Homework for Life submitted by a listener, and I offer up three Homework for Life moments from the week and discuss why one is better than another.

Next, we listen to Robin Gelfenbien's story about finding love with the help of Marie Kondo, then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of this fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer a listener questions about storytelling in everyday life and offer some recommendations.

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you haven't rated and/or reviewed the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work.

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Storyworthy: The audiobook has arrived, narrated, perhaps unfortunately, by me

The audiobook for Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling is now available for your downloading or compact disc pleasure, and for the first time, the book is narrated by me.

I'm afraid to listen. 

After spending three days in a recording studio in Grand Haven, Michigan, misreading words, tripping over my own sentences, and finding many words impossible to pronounce, I'm worried that I might sound terrible. 

The director and sound engineer were sitting in the adjacent room, of course, helping me correct my mistakes and trying to make me sound excellent, but still, I'm not a professional narrator, and my verbal limitations quickly became apparent. 

Having grown up in the Boston area with a pronounced Boston accent, it turns out that 25 years later, remnants of that accent still remain and can be especially troublesome when perfect pronunciation is critical. The letter R is still hard for me depending on where it's placed in a word, and particularly when multiple words contain multiple R's fall one after the other. 

And when an R and an L are combined in a word like "ruling" or "rolling," forget it. I can pronounce these words just fine when spoken independently, but attach them to other words, and the pronunciation falls apart.     

Other words that I do not pronounce correctly include "middle," "little," "Hartford," "park," and "sixth." 

And the word "horror?" Almost unpronounceable.  

Despite these struggles, I managed to complete four days of planned recording in just two days, allowing me to come home early and surprise Elysha and the kids. After the plane landed, I made my way to the restaurant where I knew she was having dinner with a friend. Appearing two days early with flowers in my hand at the side of her table is a good way to surprise your wife.

Although I often felt incompetent and foolish in the recording studio, my director and sound engineer thought I did exceptionally well, and since we managed to finish well ahead of schedule, I was starting to believe them.

Then I made the mistake of asking to listen to one of the professional narrators in an adjacent studio. I couldn't see the narrator but only hear her through headphones. She sounded like an elderly British lady, performing alongside about half a dozen other narrators. But when the door opened and the narrator emerged, she turned out to be a 23 year-old woman with a flat, midwestern accent who is capable of sounding like almost anyone from anywhere.

These audiobook narrators are remarkably talented.  

And my time in Michigan was not all spent alone in a soundproof booth.

I went swimming in Lake Michigan on one steamy afternoon. I ate the best salted caramel ice cream of my life. I saw three movies. I explored the area a lot. And I performed three standup sets at two different comedy clubs, including one night when the owner asked me to perform again after my first set.

I had to find ten more minutes of material in an hour, which actually worked well.  

If you plan on listening to the book, I hope you enjoy. And I hope you'll forgive any of my imperfections. I tried like hell. 

Speak Up Storytelling #15: Roquita Johnson

Episode #15 of Speak Up Storytelling is now available for your listening pleasure.

Elysha Dicks and I talk about finding excellent stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life," including moments that storytellers see but non-storytellers might not. 

Then we listen to Roquita Johnson's story about finding her calling, followed by commentary and critique, including:

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

  2. Outstanding use of dialogue in stories

  3. Variations in tonality

  4. "Seeing" your story

  5. The best moments to add description to a story

  6. Preserving surprise in a story

Then we answer listener questions about becoming emotional while telling a story, the past and present tense, and how to pitch a story to Speak Up.  

Lastly, we each offer a recommendation. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 60 or so people to rate and/or review the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

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An anonymous note about a possible murder

I arrived at Kripalu, a yoga center in the Berkshires, on Sunday night with a bag full of my novels, magazine columns, and comic books. I spread them on the table for my students to see, and then I stuffed them back into the bag and tossed the bag into the corner of the room.

It sat in that corner, untouched, for a week.  

On Friday, I grabbed the bag as I was packing up to leave. Tucked into my copy of Storyworthy was a sheet of paper. Written on the paper was this: 

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Crazy. Right?

In addition to my ten students, the room had been used by several yoga classes, and on our final evening together, my students performed for a group of friends, family, and folks staying at Kripalu that week. I had also performed for a group of about 70 people earlier that week, telling stories and teaching lessons after each, including a lesson on the importance of telling stories. 

A lot of people on campus knew who I was, what I did, and where I could be found. 

There's no telling who left that note in my book or why.

But it seems as if the note might have been left for me and might apply to the work I do. In addition to our organization being called Speak Up, I spend enormous amounts of time convincing people that they have stories to share. Stories that need to be shared. Stories that the world wants to hear.  

This note would seem to fall along those lines. 

I cannot find a Rosalie Gomez who was murdered on the internet. Maybe this is referencing something that happened pre-internet. Maybe it's fiction. I have no idea who Rosalie Gomez might be or if she's even real. 

But I've often said that odd things happen when you begin telling stories. Strange coincidences. Surprising connections.

Earlier that week, while my friend and teaching assistant, Jeni, were swapping stories, we learned that I had been the DJ at her cousin's wedding 20 years earlier, and she had attended that wedding. She barely remembered the day, but I remembered a lot, including details that she couldn't believe I recalled.

"Just think," I said. "Twenty years ago, we were in the same room, at the same wedding. You were 17 and I was 27. Now we're sitting here today at a yoga center in the Berkshires as friends."

That kind of thing happens to me all the time. Tell a story to 100 or 200 or 500 people, and you will find someone in the audience who somehow connects to that moment for often than you would expect.

The world is a surprisingly small place.

But this note is beyond a simple coincidence or unexpected connection. It's something else. Perhaps a bit of fiction scribbled on a piece of paper and tucked into a book called Storyworthy on a whim.

Maybe something more. 

Sadly, I'll probably never know. 

Speak Up Storytelling #13: Leland Brandt

Episode #13 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast is ready for your listening pleasure.

Elysha and I start off this week's podcast by talking about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." I talk about how a storyworthy moment can sometimes consist solely of a thought that you had in your head. 

Next, we listen to Leland Brandt's story about falling in love with the character in a movie and then meeting his childhood crush later in life. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement, including:

  1. Summarizing stories within a story
  2. Telling stories that span years chronologically 
  3. Maintaining delight and surprise through pacing
  4. Inhabiting the story for emotional effect
  5. Finding universally connective moments in stories
  6. Seeing storytelling as a matter of engineering or choice

Finally, we answer a listener questions about preparing and practicing stories for the stage and the nature of Moth storytellers today. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you haven't rated and/or reviewed the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work.

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Speak Up Storytelling #10: Kristin Budde

Episode #10 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

On this week's episode, we talk about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." I describe how searching for stories in your present day life can unearth moments from the past that you can't believe that you've forgotten. We also discuss how not every storyworthy moment needs to be a full story in order to be useful. 

Next, we listen to a story by Kristin Budde about a day of doctoring gone wrong. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer a listener question about our marriage and the rules that I establish in my new book Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you haven't rated and/or reviewed the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

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