Story Slams Making Waves (Part 3) – Diving In Head First

It was my first-ever story slam!

Not sure if “wow” or “hm” is my primary response…Wow. Hm.

That was the gist of my Facebook post that night after I got home; and I started planning a 3-part blog series reflecting on story slams. Then…

OHMIGOSH OHMIGOSH!!! I just got home from the 2nd Denver Moth Story Slam – it was so fun!! AND…

That was the beginning of my FB post a couple weeks later, late the night I got home from my second-ever story slam: the 2nd installment of the just-started-up Denver Moth.

(…and in both cases I wrote a bit more, and received several wonderful and thought-provoking comments from other people. )

Why was my reaction so different between the two? It really wasn’t just because the second one was “Ooooh, The Moth”…  A bit of background first:

My Project: Experiencing and learning as much as I can about story slams…to a variety of ends!

Oct 17, 2015 Denver Post

Oct 17, 2015 Denver Post

Now that story slams are happening locally in Colorado and it’s not all so distant and something I’ve only read or heard about for some years (in New York, Boston, etc. etc.), I can experience them for myself and it’s not just theoretical or conjecture or 2nd-hand knowledge anymore. And I’m finding that it’s deeply important to me to seek ways to cross-pollinate (thanks for the term, Laura Packer!) between the kinds and venues and styles of storytelling.

Why do I find this important?

  • Partly it’s selfish, in terms of my own work/gigs, etc. (“Sure, I’d like to be your coach! Or, would you like to attend a workshop of mine?!”) [Speaking of which…Phoenix storyteller Mark Goldman and I are now taking registrations for our March 21 workshop in Lafayette, CO, “Fill the Story – Fill the Time – Fill the Space”]
  • Partly it is curiosity: intellectual, creative, professional. (It’s an exciting/engaging new way of storytelling to learn about, and contribute to!)
  • Partly it is wanting to connect the story slam phenomenon with more traditional storytelling events and “my” organization, Rocky Mountain Storytelling. (A rising tide lifts all boats! A bundle of sticks is stronger than a single one – We’re all stronger when we stick together!  Etc.)

So, even though I will count this post as finally fulfilling my long-ago announced commitment to write a series of at least 3 posts on story slams, it’s now obvious to me that in general this will be a recurring topic for this blog.

Duck divingI really did dive in – and so why the big difference in my experiences of, and reactions to, those first 2 story slams?  (Maybe because I REALLY dove in at the 2nd one…)

1)  At the first slam I was in total-newbie-mode, observing and assessing and conscious of striving to be open-minded while experiencing this story slam stuff I’d been hearing and reading about for so long. The second one was, well…my second one! So, even though its set-up and procedure had some differences from the first one (being two differently-produced slams), I had some familiarity with the general process and expectations.

2)  The Potluck Nature of a story slam (this will DEFINITELY be a future blog post).

3)  What Happened at the 2nd one…

Here’s the full FB post I made that night:

OHMIGOSH OHMIGOSH OHMIGOSH OHMIGOSH!!! I just got home from the 2nd Denver Moth Story Slam – it was so fun!! AND…
– I decided to put my name in the hat; AND
– my name was drawn! (8th one of 10 for the evening); AND
– my story went splendidly; AND
– I came THIS CLOSE to winning it!!!! THIS CLOSE! (see thumb and forefinger very close together) – I came in 2nd place!! The 10th and last teller scored .2 (yes: DECIMAL POINT TWO points) higher than me!!! Came from behind and won by a nose!
I’m flush with near-victory!  😉  It’s ridiculous how happy I felt the whole drive home!
And it was so fun! I’ll be writing more about this in my blog…!

2nd by a nose!!

2nd by a nose!!


So yes, having such a positive near-victorious experience contributed mightily to my different experiences+reactions of the two slams. [And another, perhaps the biggest, difference between the two was the emcee. (Another DEFINITE future blog post.) ]

I’ve begun talking up The Denver Moth and the Boulder Story Slam to storyteller friends and colleagues here in Colorado, because there’s so much to learn, as well as enjoy, as well as think about, as well as contribute…

We are hatching plans…

My friend Cooper is a vibrant, talented, new-to-doing-storytelling young man who is full of good ideas and marvelous traditional stories and myths – I’m not using his last name here because I’m mentioning him without having asked him ahead of time…

image-speakerParaphrasing him: “A couple years ago, if you told people you were a storyteller they’d say, ‘Oh, you read books to children?’ Now if you tell them your’e a storyteller, they’re more likely to say, ‘Oh, you mean like The Moth?’ I call that progress.”

That may be, and at the very least it’s indication that the slam format and style of storytelling has somehow gotten more out into the public awareness than some of our “traditional” folktale-telling has!

Because we’d very much like to bridge and connect and…well…educate the slam-loving public about the existence, riches, and aspects and qualities of other kinds of storytelling, we’re hatching plans to:

  • Encourage more and more experienced storytellers to attend story slams and put their names in the bag – let’s get more delicious and nutritious storytelling into the potluck!
  • When one of us has our name drawn to tell, and we step up to the mic, we’re going to direct our eyes to the tech person and ask, “May I please have the house lights up?” (Cooper, with professional background in tech theater, offers this as a marker of the difference between theater and storytelling: “The house lights. When they’re down and it’s black out there, it’s theater. When they’re up and you can see the audience, it’s storytelling.” Think about it.)
  • Seek whatever ways we can to connect, to enable folks (and especially 20-and-30-somethings like him) to know and learn about the breadth and depth of other storytelling opportunities and events. – Competitive slams of personal narrative are not the only venues and kinds!

Storytelling DOES draw us like moths to a flame!

luna mothI’ve barely scratched the surface. It will be ongoing learning, and I’ll continue to experience and reflect…

…after all, the next Denver Moth is this Friday (tomorrow!), January 30, with the theme of “Blunders.” I may have a report…

Would love to read your thoughts on any of this!

Thanks for reading – Pam

Some aspects of this discussion I’ll be reflecting on in the future include:

  • My experience in the UK, and noting differences in storytelling across the pond
  • The potluck nature of a story slam
  • Yes, cross-pollinating between storytelling genres/formats
  • The emcee – what a difference she or he makes!


Luna moth image courtesy of Maggie Smith at