The Moth: The Promise

In November of last year, I told this story about my high school sweetheart at a Moth GrandSLAM in Brooklyn. I was lucky enough to have the story air on the Moth Radio Hour and their podcast a couple months later. I can't tell you what a honor and thrill that is.

I hear from listeners all the time about the stories that have aired on the radio and podcast - at least a few emails each week - but this is the story that people contact me about most often by a wide margin.

The secret to great storytelling: Make the big moments incredibly small. Or find your tiny moments and tell just them.

Last night I was fortunate enough to win The Moth's GrandSLAM in Somerville, MA.

I told the story of my decision to confess to a crime I did not commit after a $7,000 deposit went missing from the McDonald's that I was managing in Bourne, MA, and a police officer made the decision that I had stolen the money. It's a story about the series of interrogations leading up to my decision to confess to the crime rather than risk jail time, and the moment in the police station, while standing in a mop sink in a dark closet, that changed my life.

After the show, three people - two storytellers and an audience member who is a fan of my work - all approached and said almost the same thing:

"I can't believe you hadn't told that story yet."

A year ago, one of The Moth's producers - a woman who knows many of the stories from my life that I have yet to tell - said almost the same thing to me: 

"I can't believe how many of your big, crazy, unbelievable stories that you haven't told yet." 

It's true.

In five years, of storytelling:

  • I've competed in 43 Moth StorySLAMs and won 21 of them.
  • In those same five years, I've competed in 14 GrandSLAMs and won four of them.
  • I've also told stories at half a dozen Moth Mainstages, almost 50 Speak Up events, and many, many other shows throughout the country and around the world.

Yet it's taken me all this time to tell the story about the time I was arrested for a crime I did not commit.

Kind of a big story to keep under wraps for so long. Right?

But this is the secret that I tell people when I'm teaching them about storytelling:

Everyone has a story, and oftentimes, your biggest stories are not your best stories. Those enormous, unbelievable, insane, life changing moments from your life are probably not as compelling as the smaller moments that happen all the time but go unnoticed by so many of us. 

Some of the stories that I have told that people love most take place at my dining room table, in my bedroom, while standing in a line at a baseball game, and while sitting across from a friend in a restaurant. Seemingly tiny moments like these - when recognized, captured, and crafted well - are oftentimes so much more compelling than the life-or-death moments that I've spent in police stations or hospitals or jail cells. 

Don't get me wrong. There'a a way to tell those big stories, and I've told many of them.

  • A car accident two days before Christmas that left me dead on the side of the road.
  • A horrific, armed robbery that still plagues me to this day.
  • A vicious and unparalleled attempt to assassinate my character and destroy my career by a group of anonymous cowards.
  • A bee sting that left me dead in my dining room when I was a boy.
  • The story of my homelessness.

The key to telling these big stories is to forget why they are "big" and instead find the tiny moments within them. The moments to which people can connect.

My car accident story is not so much the story of the accident. It's about a moment in the emergency room between me and my teenage friends that still lives in my heart today.

The story of the robbery isn't so much about the horrors of that night.  It's about the way that events of that night have changed the way I see my children and the world today. 

The story of the attempt to destroy my teaching career isn't as much about what those people did to me, as unbelievable and unprecedented as it was. It was about the moment when parents, students, and colleagues stood up for me and let me know that I meant something to children when I had begun doubting myself and my career. 

The story of my death by bee sting isn't so much about the way I died and was brought back by paramedics. It's about the connection that my mom and I created in that moment - a connection that was finally broken (or perhaps not) on the day she died.

The story about my homelessness isn't about my means of survival on the streets. It's about the shame associated with being helpless and alone and being saved by people who discover a truth you're unwilling to admit to anyone in your life (even yourself).

And last night, the story wasn't about my decision to confess to a crime I didn't commit and my subsequent arrest. It was about a moment in a closet in a police station, while standing in a mop sink, when I asked a question aloud, received an unexpected answer, and discovered that perhaps I wasn't as alone as I thought. 

Big stories made small by avoiding the focus on the unbelievable and instead finding the part that everyone can understand. The part that everyone else has experienced and connected to. 

Not everyone has gone through a windshield, but everyone one knows what it's like to be disappointed by parents and saved by friends.

Not everyone has experienced character assassination on an enormous scale, but we have all experienced moments of doubt about ourselves and our life choices.

Not everyone has decided to confess to a crime they did not commit, but we have all experienced the sense of being so alone that it hurts. 

The good news about all of this is that you don't need to have led a life of unending disaster in order to be a great storyteller. You simply need to open your eyes to the tiny, incredibly meaningful, oftentimes missed or forgotten moments that people love. 

Find them. Capture them. Craft them. Tell them.

I still have some doozies left. Some enormous, unbelievable, life changing stories. And eventually I'll get around to telling them. But don't hold your breath. I have a million tiny moments, too, and I can't wait to tell most of them.

The Moth: A Strip Club of my Own Making

I have never entered a strip club.

Sitting beside my male friends and watching women who want nothing to do with me remove their clothes has never appealed to me. 

Unified public, unsatisfied arousal is just not my thing. 

I attended a bachelor party at a strip club once, but when we arrived at the establishment, I told the guys that I would be waiting in the car, reading Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. They thought I was crazy, but when I told them that they could drink and carouse all they wanted, and I would be happy serve as their designated driver, they relented. 

The one exception to my avoidance of strip clubs took place about 25 years ago in a McDonald's crew room, but in that case, it was sadly a strip club of my own making. 

Here is the story:

The Moth: Sex and Frozen Corn

The first gift that my daughter ever received was a stuffed ear of corn from our friend, Justine. It's been sitting on the corner of her bookshelf for the last six years. 

She knows that it was the first gift she ever received - given to her before she was even born - but she's never asked why someone chose corn in lieu of a teddy bear or a baby doll.

There is a reason. A good one. It's also one that Elysha and I have never explained to her, nor do we plan on explaining it anytime soon. 

The question is when? When do we tell Clara why a stuffed ear of corn made for the perfect first gift?

Watch this video of my Moth GrandSLAM winning story from earlier this year and you will better understand our predicament. Then offer your own suggestion about when we should tell our daughter this story. 

Resolution update: March 2015

Each month I post the progress of my New Year’s resolutions here as a means of holding myself accountable. The following are the results through the month of February.


1. Don’t die.

Didn’t even come close to dying.

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I remain just one pound down. At this pace, I will miss this goal by a lot. It’s mostly been my inability to get to the gym regularly in March due to illness and scheduling.

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.

Done. I’ve added a plank every morning as well.

4. Stop drinking soda from two-liter bottles.

I didn’t drink soda from a two-liter bottle in March, and my soda consumption remains cut by well over half. I’m also drinking more water than ever before.    

5. Practice yoga at least five days a week.

I tried last week to restart my yoga routine after healing from an injury and  realized that I could barely remember it. I’ll be meeting with my yoga instructor in April, I hope.

6. Learn to cook three good meals for my wife.

No progress


7. Complete my sixth novel before the end of the summer 2015.

The book remains about half finished, and I am about to launch back into fiction, but for reasons that are complicated, I may actually be putting that half-finished novel aside temporarily and beginning a new one.

It’s crazy. I know  

8. Complete my seventh novel.

This book remains about half finished as well.

9. Sell one children’s book to a publisher.

I have three books written and ready to go. I have three new ideas that I plan to work on in 2015. We will submit one or more of these books to editors at some point soon.

10. Sell a memoir to a publisher.

The memoir is written and is being polished now.

11. Sell a book of essays to a publisher.

My book of essays did not sell, but the responses that we received from editors were exceptionally positive. In a few cases, it was not a pass as much as a request that the book be reorganized and written slightly differently than it is currently constituted. I will do so. Fiction is now my main focus, but this remains a priority in 2015.  

12. Complete a book proposal for a book on storytelling.

Progress continues.

13. Write a new screenplay.

I’m still revising my first screenplay based upon film agent’s notes. No progress on the new one.  

14. Write 50 pages of a new memoir about the years of 1991-1993.

I have 25 badly written pages for this memoir that must be transformed into 50 good pages in 2015. No progress yet.

15. Write a musical for a summer camp

Excellent progress. It’s moving along well.  

In addition, I completed revisions on the musical that my partner and I wrote last year. In the fall, it will be produced by a local theater company.

We also have interest in our first musical – a rock opera – from another local playhouse.



16. Publish at least one Op-Ed in a physical newspaper.

I published three more pieces in the Huffington Post last month.

How to be a Grownup

12 Things Teachers Think But Can’t Always Say to Parents

Why “Your Child is Not As Gifted As You Think” Is the Worst Thing That a Teacher Can Say

Again, this is not a physical newspaper. Writing pieces for physical newspapers is part of the plan to launch my next novel, so this may happen in the fall if not before.

17. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

No progress.

18. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

My first idea: Backing into a parking spot. I rightfully assume that anyone backing into a parking spot is a lunatic of the highest order. I shall spend a week backing into parking spots and see what wisdom I can glean.

I have not begun this experiment yet.

19. Build an author mailing list.

Third email sends today. Things are good. The job remains twofold:

  • Create engaging content that will keep readers interested.
  • Build my subscription base.

20. Build a new website for

Nearly finished. I will be migrating my blog and website over to the new website at some point in April.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will open this blog one day in April and find an entirely new look. I hope you like. 


21. Produce a total of eight Speak Up storytelling events.

Two down and six to go. We have two more shows scheduled in April, at both Real Art Ways and Connecticut College, and we have two new partnerships with local venues that we will be announcing soon.

22. Deliver my fourth TED Talk.

I will be delivering a TED Talk at Boston University in three days. I have also pitched talks to two other TEDx events in 2015 and await work.



23. Build a website for Speak Up.

Done! It’s a single page on my new author website, and it’s not nearly as robust as we want it to eventually be, but Speak Up finally has a webpage where you can find dates of events, ticket information, an opportunity to sign up for the mailing list, and more. You can find our webpage at

24. Attend at least 10 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

I performed in a Moth StorySLAM at Housing Works in New York and a GrandSLAM at The Somerville Theater in Somerville, MA, bringing my total number of Moth events in 2015 to four.  

25. Win at least two Moth StorySLAMs.

I’ve competed in one StorySLAM in March, receiving the two highest scores of the night from two judging teams (9.6 and 9.4) and the lowest score of the night (7.9, which is also the lowest score I have ever received) from the third team, which landed me in second place. I still cannot understand what happened, and when I think about it, I still get a little upset.

26. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

Like the February GrandSLAM in NYC (and six before it), I placed second in the March GrandSLAM in Boston. I was chosen to tell from second position, which is an exceptionally difficult spot to win from, but I was still in the lead when the seventh storyteller took the stage and beat me by a tenth of a point.

I compete in another GrandSLAM in NYC this month.



27. Launch at least one podcast.

The MacBook Pro has arrived, complete with GarageBand, which was critical to my podcasting efforts.

I have crossed over to the dark side, at least in terms of podcasting.  

My website is nearly ready to receive podcasts.

This will happen soon.     


28. Pitch at least three new projects to two smart people.

I pitched one of my projects to one person in January. No further progress.

29. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

Nothing scheduled yet.


30. Enroll in the final class needed for certification as a high school English teacher.

No progress. 

31. Set a new personal best in golf.

There are rumors that the golf course may open in April. .  

32. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.


My daughter wished me luck before my most recent Moth GrandSLAM performance then promptly retracted it.

I received this incredibly sweet but slightly parroted message from my kids just before I took the stage in Brooklyn to compete in my tenth Moth GrandSLAM last week.


When I saw my daughter the next day, she asked how I did.

“Second place.”

“Again?” she asked. In ten GrandSLAMs, I’ve only won once and finished in second place seven times. Apparently my six year-old daughter is aware of this. She shook her head in disgust.

“I don’t know why I wish you good luck.”

Resolution update: November 2014

In an effort to hold myself accountable, I post a list my New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of each month, along with their progress (or lack thereof).

With one month to go, it’s looking like I will complete 15 of my 25 goals for sure, with an outside chance of completing as many as 5 more.

1. Don’t die.

Alive enough to write these words, though I nearly rear ended someone last night on the way to the GrandSLAM in Brooklyn. It was only Elysha’s scream that caused me to apply my brakes.

Actually, even if we had hit, we wouldn’t have died. Low speed, airbags, and seat belts would’ve saved us. 

2. Lose ten pounds.

Up two pounds since October, which means I’d have to lose five pounds in December to achieve this goal. Difficult but doable.

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.


4. Launch at least one new podcast.

Author Out Loud, my first podcast, is still yet to launch (and therefore still not my first). Once we have that podcast running smoothly, we can think about adding a second podcast.

Progress so far: The redesign of my website continues, which will allow me to actually post future podcasts.

I’ve also secured a commitment from a cohost for that second podcast.

5. Complete my sixth novel before the end of the summer 2014.

Work on this book continues. It will not be finished in 2014.

6. Complete my seventh novel.

Work continues. It will also not be finished in 2014.

7. Sell one children’s book to a publisher.

Three manuscripts are back in the hands of my agent after further revisions. A sale in 2014 is unlikely.

I also had an excellent idea for a new book that is underway.   

8. Complete a book proposal for my memoir.

The proposal for a memoir comprised of 30-40 of my Moth stories is complete. The process of sending the book to editors for their consideration has begun.

A memoir comprising a season of golf is also complete. My agent and I are in the process of preparing the manuscript for sale.

Work also continues on a memoir that focuses on the two years that encompassed my arrest and trial for a crime I did not commit. These two years also include an armed robbery, the onset of my post traumatic stress disorder, my period of homelessness, and the time I spent living with a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It was a memorable two years.

Work also began on a new book which will be part memoir and part how-to.

9. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

Scheduled for December 27. Just under the wire. If I can get enough friends to commit. 

10. Write a screenplay.

Done! In the hands of my film agent. I anxiously await her thoughts on the piece.

11. Write at least three short stories.

Nothing. What was I thinking?  

12. Write a collection of poetry using existing and newly written poems.

My agent has spoken. Not only does poetry not earn any money, but she doesn’t think my poetry is worth my time in terms of time and money. She encouraged me to send some of my better poems to journals and contests, which I may do at some point.

Many of my poems are autobiographical, and it turns out that at least a few will make excellent Moth stories.

13. Become certified to teach high school English by completing one required class.

Still one class and $50 away from completion.

14. Publish at least one Op-Ed in a physical newspaper.

Done! In October I published an Op-Ed in the Hartford Courant about communicating with students in the digital world.

My third column in Seasons magazine also publishes this month.


I also published a piece in The Cook’s Cook, a magazine for aspiring food writers and recipe testers. You can read the April-May issue here.


15. Attend at least 10 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

I attended a Moth StorySLAM in New York on November 11 at Housing Works and was not called to the stage. 

I attended a GrandSLAM in Brooklyn on November 30.

This brings my total number of events for the year to 16.

16. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

Done! I’m fresh off a victory in last night’s GrandSLAM in Williamsburg.  

17. Give yoga an honest try.

I took my first yoga lesson in November and have been practicing for more than two weeks. I don’t exactly love it, but I’m starting to notice an increase in flexibility, which is huge for me.

18. De-clutter the basement.

My hope is to take a day during my December vacation and finish this off.

19. De-clutter the shed

Done! I dislodged a mouse family, filled the back of my truck with junk, and now I have an empty, organized shed.

20. Conduct the ninth No-Longer-Annual A-Mattzing Race in 2014.

Not going to happen in 2014, much to several of my friend’s dismay.  

21. Produce a total of six Speak Up storytelling events.

Done! We produced a sold out show at The Mount in Lenox, MA last month, bringing our total number of shows to seven. We have one more show planned for this year on December 6 at Real Art Ways

22. Deliver a TED Talk.

I delivered a TED Talk in March at Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville, MA.

23. Set a new personal best in golf.

I played golf once in November. I actually played well but was two strokes off my personal best.

With snow on the ground, my window for realizing this goal might be closed.

24. Find a way to keep my wife home for one more year with our children.

25. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.


My story was featured on The Moth’s podcast this week. I still get goose bumps.

I was thrilled to learn that one of the stories that I told at a Moth StorySLAM in Boston last year was featured on their podcast this week. I’ve seen a much younger version of myself on The Moth’s homepage once before, but it’s very much like seeing one of my novels on a bookstore shelf.

I still can’t believe it.


Five years ago, I started listening to The Moth’s podcast after a friend recommended it to me. She thought that I might have stories to tell someday. I spent two years listening to the podcast, reveling in the stories told by people who I thought were gods.

I still do.

Three years ago, I went to New York and told my first story. I thought it would be my last story. I thought I was simply checking an item off my lifelong list of things to do.

Tell a story at The Moth. Move on.

Twenty-five StorySLAMs and 13 victories later, The Moth and storytelling have become as important to me as any of my creative endeavors. I’ve told stories in eight GrandSLAMs, two Main Stage shows, and my stories have been featured on the Moth Radio Hour twice. I’ve told stories for many other organizations since then, including This American Life, and my wife and I have launched our own storytelling organization in Connecticut.

Yet I still can’t believe that my story is on The Moth’s podcast again this week, alongside storytellers who I still think of as gods.

You don’t get to rub elbows with the gods very often. The Moth has given me the chance to do so routinely. I am fortunate enough to know some of the finest storytellers in the world through my work at The Moth. Truly some of the finest people who I have ever met. I have the opportunity to stand on the stage alongside giants and tell stories to the best audiences that a performer will ever know.

I still get goose bumps every time I do.

I got those same goose bumps upon seeing my face on The Moth’s homepage this week. It all started five years ago by listening to amazing stories piped into my ears.

This week my own story will be piped into people’s ears.

If it happened a thousand times, I still wouldn’t quite believe it.

Resolution update: July 2014

In an effort to hold myself accountable, I post a list my New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of each month, along with their progress (or lack thereof).

1. Don’t die.


2. Lose ten pounds.

Six down and four to go.   

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.


4. Launch at least one new podcast.

Author Out Loud, my first podcast, is still yet to launch (and therefore still not my first). Once we have that podcast running smoothly, we can think about adding a second podcast.

Progress so far: I found a much easier way to podcast that eliminates the need for much of the equipment and a producer. I would really like to start this month if I can get this website ready to receive.

5. Complete my sixth novel before the end of the summer.

Some progress. It’s more than half finished.

6. Complete my seventh novel.

Progress continues on this one as well. It’s possible that I’ll finish my seventh novel before I finish my sixth, which makes no sense. 

7. Sell one children’s book to a publisher.

Work continues on five manuscripts now. My writing camp generated many new ideas. Quite a few are good, I think. Sending at least one manuscript to my agent by the end of the month.

8. Complete a book proposal for my memoir.

The proposal for a memoir comprised of the 35 or so of my Moth stories is complete. I await news of its sale.

Work also continues on a memoir that focuses on the two years that encompassed my arrest and trial for a crime I did not commit. These two years also include an armed robbery, the onset of my post traumatic stress disorder, my period of homelessness, and the time I spent living with a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It was a memorable two years.

I’m also writing another golf memoir about this season of golf. Since I haven’t played enough golf this summer, I may stretch it to encompass the entire year rather than just the summer.  

9. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

Nothing scheduled yet.   

10. Write a screenplay.

More than half finished. Still going well. I met with my screenwriter’s group last week. They approve of my progress so far. I’m over-writing, but I knew I would. Better to have too much than too little.   

11. Write at least three short stories.

I am still nearly finished with one short story.

I still hate this goal.

12. Write a collection of poetry using existing and newly written poems.

Done! The collection is complete and in the hands of my literary agent. I still await her response. She probably hates it.   

13. Become certified to teach high school English by completing one required class.

Still one class and $50 away from completion. My wife is actively looking for a place online where I can complete this relatively obscure requirement.

14. Publish at least one Op-Ed in a physical newspaper.

My first column in Seasons magazine published this month.


I also pitched a column idea to a major online magazine that is seriously being considered.  

I also published a piece in The Cook’s Cook, a magazine for aspiring food writers and recipe testers. You can read the April-May issue here.


None of these are Op-Eds. Please ignore that fact in the event I need to use these publishing credits in order to claim that I have completed my goal.

15. Attend at least 10 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

I competed in a Moth GrandSLAM in Brooklyn last month, bringing my total number of Moth events to 10 and completing this goal.

I have plans for two more Moth events in August.

16. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I competed in the aforementioned GrandSLAM in July. Unfortunately, I had to tell my story first, which made it impossible for me to win, even if I could have won. But given my record of second place finishes, I probably wouldn’t have won.  

I have another GrandSLAM this month in Boston, and that might be my last chance at a championship for 2014. There may be one more GrandSLAM in New York before the end of the year, and if so, I will be entered based upon my previous StorySLAM victories.

But my chances for winning are becoming limited.  

17. Give yoga an honest try.

No progress.

18. De-clutter the basement.

Small progress made.

19. De-clutter the shed

No progress.

20. Conduct the ninth No-Longer-Annual A-Mattzing Race in 2014.

No progress.

21. Produce a total of 6 Speak Up storytelling events.

Our total stands at five after our most recent July show with additional shows planned for September and December at Real Art Ways and October at The Mount in Lennox, MA.

22. Deliver a TED Talk.

I delivered a TED Talk in March at Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville, MA.

I have also been contacted about speaking at two other TED conferences in the fall and am still awaiting word on my pitches.

23. Set a new personal best in golf.

I shot a 47 last week, which was one off my personal best. I have made enormous improvements in my game this month despite only having a limited amount of time to play.

I have a chance at this goal in August.  

24. Find a way to keep my wife home for one more year with our children.

We still don’t know how we will afford this, but we made the decision to keep Elysha at home for one more year with our son.

25. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.


Three years ago, I dreamed of telling a story on a Moth stage. Today I am a storyteller. Life can change quickly if you give it a chance.

Three years ago today, I wrote a post asking for readers to vote on a story pitch that I had submitted to The Moth via their website.

I wrote:

The opportunity to tell a story for The Moth is a big deal to me. So if you have a moment, please click over to The Moth’s website and vote for my story (if you think it worthy) by clicking on the stars beside the story itself.  Rating my story pitch will also register one vote for me.

This represented my cowardly attempt to tell a story for The Moth. Even though I lived close enough to New York City to compete in a StorySLAM by simply dropping my name into a hat, I was desperately attempting to avoid taking the stage and being assigned a numerical score for my performance.

It’s amazing to see how quickly your life can change when you decide to face your fear. Less than a month after pitching that story on The Moth’s website, I decided to stop acting like a coward and went to New York City with my wife to tell a story.

When we arrived at the Nuyorican’s Poets Café, I placed my name in the hat and immediately prayed that it wouldn’t be drawn. When it was, I stayed in my seat for a moment, hoping that the host, Dan Kennedy, might become impatient and choose another name instead. Then Elysha told me to get out of my seat and on the stage.

I did. This is what I saw. 


I told a story about pole vaulting in high school. When the scores were tallied, I was astounded to discover that I had won.

I had become a storyteller.

This victory led me to my first GrandSLAM, where I competed against nine other StorySLAM winners. I placed third that night. I met two storytellers on that stage who I am proud to call my friends today.

My life has changed profoundly since the night I took that stage less than three years ago.

I have gone on to tell stories at 22 Moth StorySLAMs in New York and Boston. I have won 11 of them.

I’ve told stories at six Moth GrandSLAMs and placed a frustrating second in four of them.

I’ve told stories at two Moth Main Stage shows.

I’ve gone on to tell stories for other storytelling organizations like The Mouth, The Story Collider, Literary Death Match, and more. I’ve delivered talks at three TED conferences throughout New England. I’ve been hired to deliver speeches for a variety of reasons. 

Last year my wife and I founded Speak Up, a Hartford-based storytelling organization. Since then, we have produced six shows at Real Art Ways in Hartford. All have been sell outs.

We now teach storytelling workshops to people who want to become storytellers for a variety of reasons. Other venues throughout New England have reached out to us, asking us to consider bringing our show to them.

When someone asks me where I see myself in five years, I laugh. If you’re wiling to say yes to opportunities, as frightening or silly or impossible as they may seem, your life will change constantly.

The future will be impossible to predict. 

Three years ago, I was a guy who wanted to tell one story on one Moth stage. Someday. 

Today, storytelling has become an enormous part of my life.

It’s incredible to think that just three years ago, I was staring a website, asking friends and family to vote for my story, hoping that someone at The Moth would like my pitch enough to choose me.

Life can change fast if you give it a chance.

Upcoming appearances

On Saturday, May 31, I’ll be speaking at the Barnes & Noble at the Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester, CT at 2:00 PM. My agent will be with me, so if you have any questions for her, I’m sure that we could pester her with a few.


That same evening, Speak Up will be at Sedgwick Middle School in West Hartford, CT for a charity storytelling show. I’ll be telling a story about my high school days along with seven other brilliant storytellers.

Proceeds from the event help to send four middle school students to London this summer to compete in an international literature competition. Three are my former students, so I am thrilled to be able to help them

Tickers can be purchased here.


On Saturday, June 7, I’ll be teaching a workshop on publishing at the Mark Twain House. I’ll be discussing the path that a book travels from the first words written on the page to its first appearance in a bookshop. Including in the workshop will be the sale of the book, the author-editor relationship, the complexities of publicity and marketing, the finances of publishing and much more. Perfect for the curious reader or the fledgling writer.

Call: (860) 280-3130 for more information & ticketing or click here for tickets.

On Monday, June 30, I’ll be attending a Moth StorySLAM at The Bitter End in New York hoping to tell a story if the tote bag is kind. The theme of the night is Money.

On Saturday, July 5, I’ll be performing in The Liar Show at the Cornelia Street Café in New York.

At each show, four performers tell short personal stories, but  one of the storytellers is making it all up. The audience then interrogates the cast and exposes the liar to win a fabulous prize.

Information on the show and ticketing can be found here.


On Saturday, July 19, Speak Up returns to Real Art Ways. The theme of the show is Who’s the Boss? Tickets are not yet available, but mark your calendars. It is sure to be an excellent show!________________________________

On Monday, July 21, I’ll be competing in a Moth GrandSLAM at The Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

Tickets not yet available.

Upcoming speaking events

In case you’re interested in hearing me blather, here are a few of my upcoming storytelling and speaking engagements:

February 18: Literary Death Match at Laugh Boston (7:30 PM)
I’ll be competing against three other authors for the title of Literary Death Match Champion.
Ticketing info here.


February 20: The Moth StorySLAM at Housing Works in NYC (7:30 PM)
I’ll be putting my name in the hat in hopes of getting a chance to tell a story on the theme “Escape.”
Ticketing info here.


February 28: The Mouth at The Mark Twain House in Hartford (7:30 PM)
I’ll be telling a story on the theme “Sex and Lust.”
Ticketing info here. 


March 20: Plainville Public Library in Plainville, CT (6:00 PM)
I’ll be speaking about my latest novel, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, as well as writing, reading, storytelling and anything else you want to ask.

March 29: Speak Up at Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT (8:00 PM)
I’ll be telling a story and co-producing the show with my wife and host, Elysha Dicks. The theme of the night is Law and Order.
Ticketing info TBA.


March 30: TED Talk at BKB Somerville in Somerville, MA
I’ll be giving a talk on the importance of saying yes.
Ticketing info here.


April 5: Moth Mainstage at Music Academy in Northampton, MA (7:30 PM)
I’ll be telling a story on the theme “Don’t Look Back.”
Ticketing info here.

May 17: Speak Up at Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT (8:00 PM)
I’ll be telling a story and co-producing the show with my wife and host, Elysha Dicks. The theme of the night is Bad Romance.
Ticketing info TBA.

Second place sucks. I am a jerk.

I came in second place on Monday night at a Moth StorySLAM in New York City. I was in first place after four stories but gave up the lead to the eighth storyteller, who told an amusing and revealing story about her battle with herpes.

Last week I finished second at a Moth StorySLAM in Boston. I went first and held the lead until the ninth storyteller took the stage and told a fabulous story about her father.

Back in April I came in second place at a Moth StorySLAM in New York City. I was in first place after five storytellers but lost to the ninth storyteller, who told a story that I have since forgotten.

I also won a StorySLAM in Boston last month, but that victory does not fit into the narrative of this post. More notably, it doesn’t make any of those second place finishes feel any better.

There are many problems with finishing in second place in a competition.

Research shows that Olympic silver medalists feel worse after their Olympic performance than bronze medalists, because silver medalists know how close they came to winning.

I understand this sentiment precisely.

Jerry Seinfeld is famous for saying that second place is the first loser.

I understand this sentiment, too.

I am the King of Second Place. Throughout my life, I have constantly found myself in second place, the runner-up position and as one of a handful of disappointed finalists.

Rarely do I find my way to victory.

I’ve competed in 14 Moth StorySLAMs over the past two years. I’ve been fortunate enough to win 4 of them and finished in second place 6 times. I’ve also finished in second place in 2 Moth GrandSLAMs.

See the problem?

I’ve been exceptionally lucky over the past two years. I should be grateful for my record at The Moth. I should be grateful simply for the opportunity to take the stage and tell a story about my life.

I have absolutely no right to complain.

Except all those second place finishes KILL ME. They hurt my heart. They linger in my mind, serving as constant reminders about how close I came to winning again and again,

Sadly, tragically, and pathetically, I remember the second place finishes better than the first place finishes.

But no one wants to hear this. Complain about second place to someone who has finished fifth and you feel like a jerk. Complain about second place to someone who didn’t even have the chance to compete and you feel like an even bigger jerk.

Complain about second place in almost any context you’re a jerk.

I was recently complaining about a second place finish to a fellow storyteller, lamenting about the fact that I had lost despite posting scores of 9.8, 9.5 and 9.4.

The storyteller glared at me and told me that he was still waiting for his first score in the 9 range.

I felt like such a jerk. I still do. That moment may have irrevocably confirmed my jerk status forever.

But am I supposed to feel gratitude about a second place finish?

Should I rejoice in my excellent, albeit not entirely winning, performance?

Should I just smile and keep my mouth shut?

The latter is probably the best advice, but it is also advice that I have never been able to follow.

I should be happy with all those second place finishes. I should be thrilled with my overall record. I have stumbled upon something I do well and something I unexpectedly love. Two years ago storytelling wasn’t even on my radar. Today it’s an enormous part of my life.

This should be enough.

But it’s not because second place sucks. And I am a jerk for thinking so.

The three day, three month, three year test

Last year the New England Patriots played the Kansas City Chiefs on a Monday night in Foxboro. My fellow season ticket holder could not attend the game for less than acceptable reasons, and I could not find a soul who was willing to attend the game with me.

The freezing temperatures and the probability of arriving back home in Connecticut well after 2:00 in the morning (if we were lucky) deterred anyone from wanting to take the extra ticket and join me.

I hemmed and hawed all day about going to the game alone, knowing that if I went, I would be driving home from the game in the dead of night by myself. I’d also be watching the game from the icy confines of Gillette Stadium without the benefit of a friend’s companionship or a pre-game tailgate party.

In the end, I chose to remain home.

Last week I planned on attending a Moth StorySLAM in Manhattan. I had a story prepared and was ready to make the trip on my own (again, no one was willing to join me), but at the last minute, I chose to stay home. I had spent 5 of the last 6 days on the road, camping with my fifth graders, attending the Patriots home opener and traveling to Troy, NY for a book signing. With so much time spent on the road, I decided that I would be better off staying at home rather than enduring another long, late night drive on my own.

In the past two years, these two decisions represent two of my greatest regrets. I’m completely annoyed with myself for each decision, and I cannot foresee a time when I will not feel this way.

When it comes to making decisions like these, I use a “three day, three month, three year” test.

As difficult as it might be to travel to and from Gillette Stadium or New York City on my own, late at night, will I regret my decision three days later? Though I may be tired or even exhausted the next day, how will I feel about my decision three days from now, when I am well rested? Will I regret not having chosen the more difficult road?

What about three months later? When I look back on the missed opportunity, will that restful evening at home come close to matching what could have been? Will I even remember what I did on the night that I could have spent watching Monday Night Football or telling a story on a Moth stage?

What about three years later? What will mean more to me?

A forgotten evening at home amidst a thousand other evenings at home or the memories from a rare Monday Night football game?

Or the missed opportunity of taking the stage at a Moth StorySLAM and entertaining an audience of strangers with a story from my life? Perhaps even winning the StorySLAM and earning the right to perform in another GrandSLAM?

I am not implying that an evening spent at home with my wife and children is a forgettable, wasteful experience. Those evenings are some of the most cherished moments of my life. But I also believe that we must take advantage of the considerably less frequent opportunities like a Monday Night Football game or a Moth StorySLAM when they present themselves. The time we spend with our families and friends creates the fabric of our lives, but those moments we spend doing things that so many do not punctuate our lives and create the bright, specific memories that last a lifetime. We cannot allow a few hours of lost sleep or chilly temperatures or the promise of a bleary-eyed day at work prevent us from doing those things that so many people skip in favor of an evening in front of the television or surfing the Internet.

When making a decision about whether or not to do something that is hard, we cannot allow the subsequent 24 hours to dictate our decision. We must look ahead, three days, three months and three years, to see how we might then feel about our decision.

Perspective is a powerful tool in decision-making. While we can never know for certain how we will feel, we can predict how hindsight might make us feel. This is what I do when deciding between something that is easy and something that is difficult.

Tomorrow doesn’t matter. I can always survive tomorrow.

Will I regret this decision in three days, three months or three years time?

In terms of last years Monday Night Football game and last week’s StorySLAM, the answer is decidedly affirmative.  

Psychoanalyzing my Moth GrandSLAM performance

Last Tuesday night I performed at The Moth GrandSLAM, and while I did well, finishing in second place, I also failed to tell my story in the way that I had planned for the first time in my brief Moth career. It was also the first time I had ever taken the stage for any occasion (and there have been many) and not felt entirely in control. My almost six-minute story ended in less than five minutes, and it was only through luck and a bit of verbal jujitsu that I was able to string together  enough facts to keep some semblance of the actual story.

I assumed that it was because I had become emotional onstage, but there have been other times when emotions have gotten the best of me before. This time was different. I had also lost all focus onstage. I had begun to tremble. To be completely honest, I couldn’t keep track or entirely remember what I was saying. The words were coming from my mouth, but it was as if I was only half aware of what they were. Rather than telling the story, I had somehow drifted into the story and was listening to it as it was being told.

That’s not quite right, but it’s as close as I can get to describing the feeling.

It was all very strange, and ever since that night, I have been concerned that I had somehow lost my onstage mojo. I wondered if my inability to remain calm and focused in front of a large group of people was a sign of things to come. I worried that this may happen every time I took the stage to tell a story, and if that were the case, my brief storytelling career would be over.

Regardless of the scores that I received for Tuesday’s performance, I never wanted to feel that way again, and I was afraid that I might.

I wrote about my Moth experience a couple days after the performance, and a friend and psychologist who knows the story that I told onstage well weighed in on my experience. Her words brought immediate understanding and comfort to me.

She wrote:

With all you've been through, those events were among the most traumatic, if not the most. And the body remembers trauma, even when the mind has figured it out. For whatever reason, the Moth triggered some PTS.

What (Tuesday night and the actual experience) had in common were you as the focus/center of attention in both cases. While that's usually fine, in fact you’re very comfortable in that place, you haven't talked about that subject in front of a lot of people. I think the crowd plus the topic triggered your PTS. And it wasn't simple PTS, it was prolonged, intense, potentially destructive, scary, icky, despicable, so-called "complex PTS " in my business. It's as if you had a body flashback.

I have suffered with post traumatic stress disorder since surviving an armed robbery in 1993. For years I would wake up every night screaming, and my nerves have always been on a hair trigger as a result. For more than a decade, my life was governed by a complex set of rules and precautions designed to keep me safe and in charge of my environment. I was an over-planner and hyper-vigilante to a level that is difficult to imagine.

When I met my wife, she finally convinced me to receive treatment for the condition, and after two years of incredibly hard work, I managed to recover. The nightmares, for the most part, have stopped. While I am still easily startled and remain more alert than most people, the rituals that I once undertook upon entering a new environment in order to feel safe have fallen by the wayside. Most important, the deafening click of an empty gun being fired, which used to fire off in my head at several times throughout the day, is thankfully no more.

But when my reputation and career came under attack in 2007, many of my PTS symptoms returned, and I went back to my therapist for a while in order to deal with the issue. It was a brief and surprisingly manageable flare-up, but my friend is right. The anonymous, public attack on me and my wife during the summer of 2007 was one of the most traumatic events in my life, and when I took the stage last Tuesday night to describe them, it was almost as if I were experiencing it all over again. 

I find great comfort in this newfound awareness. While experiencing a post traumatic stress attack on stage is not something that I would ever want to happen again, it is unlikely that it ever would, since there are only a small handful of stories that I could tell that might trigger my PTSD. The story of the robbery, perhaps, which I have yet to tell, and possibly the car accident that nearly took my life in 1988. These two events have been identified by my therapist as instances that triggered my first bouts with PTSD, and so they are likely the only stories that might cause a similar reaction onstage. Even so, now that I am aware of this potential, I think I can be better prepared for it and manage it more effectively than I did on Tuesday night.

My hope is to tell the story of the summer of 2007 onstage again someday, and hopefully in a longer format. Ideally, I would need 10-12 minutes to tell the story in its entirety, and though I initially thought that I might never want to speak of it again in any context, the understanding of what happened on Tuesday night has already ended my concerns about taking the stage again and has me convinced that next time, I will likely become emotional again, but those emotions will not be accompanied by the lost, unfocused, detached, harrowing sensation of Tuesday night.

My hope is to be able to tell that story again someday, with all the emotion of Tuesday night, but to also tell the story in its grim but ultimately triumphant entirety.

Thanks to the understanding that my friend has provided, I think I can do that now.    

Thoughts from my second Moth GrandSLAM

Thanks so much for all of the interest in my performance at The Moth’s GrandSLAM on Tuesday night. Sorry it’s taken all day to sit down and write about it, but we arrived home late after the show and have been running around ever since.  

Suffice it to say that it was an odd evening for me. I finished second in terms of the competition, which is thrilling considering the caliber of competition on the stage that night but also frustrating after coming so close and losing by a few tenths of a point. 

But I also felt quite fortunate considering I did not come close to executing the story as I had planned.

As I took the stage to tell the story about an anonymous person’s attempt to destroy my teaching career, I became unexpectedly emotional, almost to the point of being unable to tell my story at all. I had to stop and start at least twice during the story, and at one point I thought I might not be able to continue. What was supposed to be an almost six minute story ended up coming in at less than five minutes as I found myself dropping entire paragraphs as a result of my inability to focus and concentrate.

I never expected to become so emotional about this story. I have told it many times before, and though it is still something I live with on a daily basis, I haven’t been emotional about it in a long, long time.

For the first time in my life, I felt like a mess onstage. This is not a feeling I wish to repeat ever again. While I work hard to bring an emotional component to my storytelling, I never want my emotions to get the best of me. It was a miracle I even made it through to the end with some semblance of the narrative intact.

Thankfully, it was the emotion that I managed to convey while butchering the actual story that appealed to both the judges and the audience in general. Several people told me that they had been moved to tears while listening to me, and the overall theme of my story seemed to connect with a great many people. 

While winning would have been great, I was fortunate to have done as well as I did. I will hopefully have an opportunity to tell that story again someday, perhaps in all its agonizing detail, and while I would like to convey the same emotion as I did last night, I would also like a chance to tell the story as I had originally planned.

This was my second GrandSLAM appearance, and my sixth Moth appearance overall in my short career of storytelling. In fact, I didn’t realize it at the time, but Tuesday night’s performance came within a couple days of marking my one year anniversary with The Moth. On July 12 of last year, I told my first Moth story at the Nuyorican Poets' Café in Manhattan and was fortunate enough to win.

I competed in the GrandSLAM in October of that year and finished third and went on to win another StorySLAM at the Bell House in Brooklyn this past April and finish in second place in two other StorySLAM competitions.

The most amazing part of The Moth, and the one I least expected when I began this journey, is the number of remarkable people who I have met while participating in these events. Many of the Moth producers, hosts and storytellers are people who I now call my friends, and the relationships I have built with them have opened doors into new and amazing opportunities for me.

Fellow storyteller Erin Barker, for example, offered me advice while preparing for last night’s competition, and her words proved to be more prescient than I could have ever imagined. She knew exactly which details to include in the story and which to remove. She predicted when the audience would laugh when a one second pause would be worth more than one hundred words in terms of dramatic effect, and in each and every case, she was right. She is a master storyteller, and I have learned so much from her in such a short time.   

If you’d like to hear Erin (and Josh Blau) tell a story, you can listen here.

My next two attempts at a StorySLAM will take place on August 14 and 23, both at Housing Works Bookstore Café in SoHo. The themes of the shows are “About Time” and “Yin/Yang.” If you’d like to join me for the event or have a suggestion for a story that might fit the theme (it must be a true story from my own life, but oddly enough, my friends are better at suggesting stories than I am at choosing one on my own), please let me know.

Competing against my hero

Storyteller Steve Zimmer is a hero of mine. I’ve listened to him several times on The Moth’s weekly podcast and have heard him tell stories live at Moth events around the city. I adore this style of storytelling and am always impressed with his performance.

But Steve is also my competitor at the upcoming Moth GrandSLAM Championship in July, which I find both exciting and daunting.

Steve has told stories at more than 75 StorySLAMs and has been to 10 GrandSLAM championships.

By contrast, I have told stories at four StorySLAMs, and this will be my second GrandSLAM championship.

In the experience department, Steve has quite a leg up on me.

I’ve always wondered how veteran storytellers prepare for competition, and in this short video, Steve discusses several of his techniques, as well as admitting to the level of nervousness and competitiveness that he experiences when he takes the stage.

Overall, I suspect that I am slightly less nervous than Steve when I take the stage but at least as competitive, if not more. As much as I enjoy taking the stage and telling a story, the competitive side of The Moth has always appealed to me as well.

But competing against one of my storytelling heroes next month will probably increase my level of nervousness considerably.