Let me tell you a story… November 21, 2014 – It was my first Moth story slam.
The Moth! The storied, premier story slam event! I’d heard tell of it for a long time. Every now and then I’d caught “The Moth Radio Hour” on my public radio station. And now it had come to Denver, having just starting its monthly series in October (I’d not been able to attend that first one).
The theme was “Scars.” Five people had their names drawn and told their stories and that took us up to intermission; there would be five more in the second half. We’d heard funny stuff, pathos, and some cringe-inducing TMI descriptions as well, all knit together with the emcee’s deft humor and commentary.
Every time the judges’ scores were announced and recorded on the onstage whiteboard the crowd cheered and applauded (and everyone did mental math to calculate who was in the lead as each subsequent teller’s score was added to the board).
When each teller finished their story, he or she would draw the next name from the bag. After intermission there was teller #6, then #7 (I wish I could remember their stories…too much time has passed) – and she drew my name! Number 8!
I went and stood “on deck” at stage left while the emcee’s comedy and the judging of the previous story took place. And looked out at the audience. And felt that combination of joy and empowerment and eagerness that moment brings me as I see who is there, and I “read the vibe” – I do not know how to describe or define that, I just know that it’s what happens.
Then the emcee called me to the mike.
And I crossed the stage, loving every step.
And I told my “Scar” story…of when I was 6 and thought I had killed my dog. I know: sounds maudlin, sorry – but it’s a really good story! It has humor and warmth and shock and pathos and a couple of unexpected twists…and it was a really splendid telling! Ah, feels so good when that happens! They loved it! They gasped and laughed and sighed at all the “right” points… Ah, thunderous applause!
And I sat down (and here you might want to read my previous Game post if you haven’t already, because a game is what it felt like as I waited for people to judge and assign numbers to my telling of the story – what a curious, strange thing that is!)…and when the judges announced my scores…
…I was in first place!!
Even-more thunderous applause! The crowd roared! Yippee yeehaw!
Then…Teller #9 told, and scored lower than I. At that point everyone near me in the audience was clapping me on the back and giving me thumbs up and cheering me on (a story slam really is a curious way to experience storytelling!) – and I confess it was loads of fun. And victory was starting to smell good!
Then…Teller #10 got up, and started into his story…about coming home to his house in the foothills and finding a baby bear tearing up his kitchen…!!… And I must tell you – that guy, Michael, told this hilarious story with such a deadpan, dry humor and honed language and timing…and it got funnier and funnier and I was laughing till the tears ran and I leaned over to my friends and said, “That gold medal is slipping from my grasp before your very eyes!!”
And indeed, Michael beat me by .2 points!
I came THIS CLOSE to winning it!!!! THIS – CLOSE! (see thumb and forefinger very close together) He came from behind and won by a nose!
I wuz robbed!!!
Actually…no, not at all. It was such a good story, and so very well-told. It was a pleasure to “lose” to him! I was flush with near-victory and it’s ridiculous how happy I felt the whole drive home! – and that was my very fun baptism into story slamming!
P.S. #1 – As I congratulated Michael at the end, he told me that he had taken a workshop from me in the past, and that at the previous spring’s Rocky Mountain Storytelling Conference (the board of which I had been serving on – *and the next one is very soon! May 1-2!) he had taken careful notes from Elizabeth Ellis’ keynotes and applied them to the crafting of this story. (SCORE! – for learning from experienced, traditional storytellers! Let the cross-pollinating commence!)
P.S. #2 – My story was recorded, and the producer told me that it will be in The Moth archives and may very well air on the radio at some point. So stay tuned!
Thanks for reading – Pam
[Theme for this A-Z April Daily Blogging Challenge: “Story Slams & Traditional Storytelling – Bridging the Distance”]