Online shows and other goodness

Hi All,

I hope everyone is doing ok. I know we hear that a lot these days but it still feels important to say. There are links to some online story shows at the end of this email but I want to say something first before you get to those.

For the past month, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to help all of us stay connected. Fresh Ground Stories has been around for 10 years now and my biggest fear is that many of you will drift away before we can start doing live shows again. We’ve built such an amazing community of tellers (and listeners) that it would be a shame for it to fade away. I know when this is over I’m going to need this show more than ever. It’s a powerful thing to sit ten feet from a stranger telling a personal story they’ve probably never shared with anyone. I can’t wait to get back to that.

But since that’s not possible right now, I’m trying to come up with ways to keep us connected while we’re apart. This month, I’m passing along something that was inspired by a podcast I listened to this week. The host read a long list of all the things people sent in that they loved. They weren’t obvious things like their kids or chocolate. They were the little things that made people smile during the day. A few days ago I made my own list, uploaded it to Google Docs, sent it out to a handful of friends, and asked them to add to it. Not only did I love what my friends added, I loved that it helped me get to know them better. Even though all the entries were anonymous, I somehow felt closer to everyone I sent that link to.

So I decided I would share this idea with all of you. I thought about putting my list online so everyone could add to it but I was worried that someone would add something snarky or sarcastic and that would sadden me. It only takes one comment like that for me to close the screen and not return and I don’t want that to happen to this. So what I’m going to do is paste below the asterisks the text of the document I sent to my friends to show you what I’m talking about and let you do with it what you will. You can copy and paste it into your own Google Doc and share it with friends or you can just take the idea and start your own list from scratch. I hope you get as much joy out of it as I do as I check the document for new entries once or twice a day.


In times like this, it’s important to remind ourselves that there are still many things to love in this world. Recently, I’ve realized that most of what keeps me going are the little moments of unexpected joy that I never tell anyone about. 

So here is a list of things we love, especially the quirky unique-just-to-us things. The first few are mine (I took out the ones my friends entered because I didn’t have their permission to share publically)  Now I’d like to share this with everyone so you all can add some of the surprising moments that you love in your everyday life. This is a chance to leave something sweet on each other’s doorstep. Even if you don’t have anything to add, it’s nice to see what’s helping the people around you keep going.

Enter as many as you want and come back as often as you like.

I love it when a cat I’ve never seen before walks up and jumps into my lap

I love it when I water a plant I’m worried might be dead and within a few minutes it pops up looking perfectly healthy

I love it when I pull into my driveway but don’t want to get out of the car because I don’t want to stop listening to what’s on the radio

I love finding something I wrote 20 years ago and discovering it’s still good

I love sitting by my living room window at night and watching trees swaying in the wind. It makes me feel like I’m in a black-and-white photo.

I love when I click on a story and it tells me I have more free articles left than I thought.

I love when a coworker leaves a treat on my desk and it’s exactly what I want.

I love when I parallel park on the first try. It’s the only time I ever truly want to high five someone.

I love the way air feels in a greenhouse. 

I love watching the last person in the Iron Man Triathlon struggle across the finish line long after everyone else has finished and gone home. It reminds me that I’m not the only person who struggles with things others find easy.

I love when I walk up to a couple of friends and they say, “We were  just talking about you.”

I love when I see a stranger do something courageous. It gives me hope for this screwed-up world.

And now, on to the list of online story shows that are popping up 🙂

I don’t have any more info than what I’m posting here so if you have any questions, contact the people listed on the Facebook or Meetup pages.

Bill Bernat is hosting two online shows of COVID-19 stories this week and next. He’s looking for volunteers as well as people to tell stories. See the Facebook page for more details. If you need more info, email him at

COVID Stories Facebook page:

The first show is April 4 at 7 pm. The second is April 11.

A link to the show stream will be added to that Facebook page before showtime

The Iridescent Robot Storytelling Club has an online storytelling show every Thursday at 5 pm. It’s hosted by Danielle, a former FGS teller who now lives in Canada. She produced many wonderful story shows when she lived in Seattle and I’m sure her weekly Zoom shows will be great too.

North Seattle Storytelling meetup is experimenting with their first online show on April 9. Click on this link for more info.

Lastly, as a little reward for reading this far, here is a link to last Saturday’s Sound Effect podcast. (it airs every Saturday at 10 am on KNKX 88.5). It features two tellers from FGS. I was having a rough morning the day this aired. Listening to Susan and Maryanne’s voices coming out of the radio was just what I needed.

Ok, that’s all I have for now. Sorry about the thousand-word email. Then again, maybe it was time for you to take a break from Tiger King.

Take care. Tell someone you love them. Wash your paws.


Zoom link for COVID storytelling workshop

Here’s a Zoom link to Bill Bernat’s COVID storytelling workshop (details in my last email.). You can use this if you don’t have a Facebook account.

If you have any questions about the workshop you can reach Bill at

My experience is if my phone has problems logging into an online meeting then my laptop usually works fine. It would be smart to log in a little early to make sure you can fix any issues before the workshop starts.

Hope to see a bunch of you there!



We’re still here! And coming up with ways to stay connected :)

Hi Everyone,

I just want to write and say that I’m sending love and socially distant hugs to everyone in Seattle from down here in Olympia. I promise that FGS will be here when this is all over. We’re all going to have some amazing stories to share. 

I’ve been talking with some of our regular tellers to figure out how we can all stay engaged and together while we work through this. One of our tellers, Bill Bernat, is hosting a free online story workshop next Monday at 7 pm. He’s looking for people with stories about how we’re all getting through this. I love the idea and plan on participating. I pasted the details and link below.

From cookie baking accidents to finding the strength to carry on when you feel hopeless, let’s sound it out. What’s your funniest story about going stir-crazy? Where has COVID taken your depression and how you have coped? Why not ease your anxiety by workshopping a story about your COVID anxiety?”

If you miss hearing familiar voices, click on the link and join Bill for this workshop 🙂

Those of you who have been to the show know that I give away one copy of my favorite storytelling book, “Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling” to a random first-time teller at the end of the night.

Chad, another one of our regulars, just let me know that he interviewed the author on his podcast:

I loved hearing one of my friends have a conversation with my favorite storytelling coach. It’s definitely worth a listen. Matthew Dicks has his own great podcast where he and his wife break down stories from their shows:

Here’s a story I just stumbled on and fell in love with. (I’m a sucker for dad stories)

As hard as it is to keep six feet away from everyone, I find myself laughing at how we wave and nod our heads as we subtly swerve to avoid getting close. It reminds me of one of my favorite Marx Brothers scenes.

Please know that I’m looking for ways to keep us all connected. I’ll send out any info I get about online shows coming up. I might do one too with a handful of tellers sharing stories we’ve heard over the years at FGS. It’d be too hard to do an open mic but it might be possible to do a short show with 5-6 tellers sharing their favorite stories. If any of you are thinking of doing your own online story-sharing please let me know. I’d be happy to pass on the info to everyone.

I miss you all and am looking forward to getting back to our regular schedule when it’s possible. 

In the meantime, take care of each other. Make the calls and write the emails you’ve been putting off. They mean a lot right now.



March FGS postponed to April 16

Hi Everyone,

In the interest of keeping us all safe, I’ve decided to postpone our March 19th show to April 16th. We’ll keep the same theme so everyone can tell the story they were already working on.

Since we often get over 100 people at our shows, it doesn’t seem safe for us all to hang out together in a coffee shop. I also don’t want anyone spending even an ounce of energy trying to decide whether or not they should come. Let’s save that energy for washing our hands and learning new songs to sing with 20-second choruses.

Here are four songs whose choruses I’ve timed for maximum safety 🙂 (22 seconds)  (17 seconds so you’ll need to add a dance step) (21 seconds) (this is the first record I remember listening to as a kid. I was probably three years old. The first verse comes in at 21 seconds. I’ve been singing that first 21-second verse in my head for 50 years. Now it’s time for you to sing it.)

Here’s something else to keep you occupied until our April show. The Washington State Ferries’ Haiku contest is back! I already submitted my three ferry-themed haikus. It would be fantastic if someone from FGS won this thing. Let’s do it!

When you’re done writing your haiku I would love for you to listen to a story we first heard a couple years ago at FGS. The version below is from last week’s episode of NPR’s Sound Effect on KNKX 88.5. It’s one of my favorites. I’ve had a lot of training at work on this subject, but this story is what I always come back to when it comes up. That’s the power of storytelling. I’m so glad Sound Effect’s host Gabriel Spitzer decided to bring Obie into the studio to talk about it.

Thank you for understanding why I’ve decided to postpone this month’s show. I love seeing all of you every month and I don’t want any of you to have to risk your health for a night of stories. The stories will still be there for us on April 16.

Hopefully, Meetup will let me change the date and everyone who already RSVP’d won’t have to do it again. Write me at if you have any questions.

Take care,



FGS: Drowning – Stories of being overwhelmed or in over your head

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to doing a show about being overwhelmed or in over your head. It seems like a space I’ve lived in all my life. 

When I think of all the times I’ve been overwhelmed certain images always come up. I remember one night in the winter of 1998 when I pushed and pulled an old recliner up a flight of stairs because my son and I had nothing to sit on in our one-bedroom apartment. I don’t think I’ve felt more overwhelmed as a parent than when I had no one to call to help me drag that giant chair across a snowy parking lot and up the outside stairs.

I remember the day of my dad’s funeral in 2002 when I walked to the front of the church to give a speech that I knew my family would either thank me for or hate me for. Laughter was never a priority for my dad’s side of the family. Whenever I spent a weekend with dad and his wife, it took me a day and half to get them to laugh. I had ten minutes to make them laugh at the funeral. If they didn’t like anything I said it was going to be a long time before they let me forget it. I’ve played biker bars, strip clubs, nursing homes, and yacht clubs but I’ve never felt so in over my head as I did in that little church in Mt. Vernon, Washington.

In the fall of 2018, I got a Facebook message from a woman I didn’t know. Her name was Tatiana and she lived in Bolivia. I read her email and knew immediately why she’d written me. Four years earlier I’d agreed to be interviewed about my suicide attempt two years before that. The interviewer was an attempt survivor herself and was going around the country talking to people about their own attempt experiences. She was the first person I ever told the whole story to outside of therapy. Reading the stories on her website made me feel less alone so I figured if those stories could help me get through another day maybe my story could do the same for someone else. 

But I never thought I’d have to talk to anyone who’d read my story. It never occurred to me that someone might reach out over the internet and ask me what to do if someone they loved was thinking of ending their life. But that’s what happened. Tatiana had seen my story, searched for me on Facebook, and written to ask what she should do for her boyfriend who had already made one attempt on his life. 

As soon as I finished reading her email I wanted to close the laptop and pretend I hadn’t seen it. What could I possibly say to a woman I didn’t know a thousand miles away that would save her boyfriend? All I wanted to do when I shared my story was to let people know that survival is possible and that you don’t have to decide that you’ll never hurt yourself. All you have to do decide that you won’t hurt yourself today. But now I had Tatiana reaching out to me across two continents and two languages asking me what she should do. I was terrified that I’d say the wrong thing and get a message two weeks later that her boyfriend was gone. 

In spite of my fears, I wrote her back. Half of showing up is just showing up. And most of what anyone needs is just to know that someone cares. So I wrote her back and said I was happy to share what worked for me. I told her what I wished people had said to me and what I wished they hadn’t. I sent her the number of a crisis line I found in La Paz. I told her to make sure she got help for herself too because none of us can do this alone. 

I don’t know what happened to Tatiana and her boyfriend. I didn’t look her up when I was writing this because I need to believe they are both ok. That’s one of the things I’ve learned in my own recovery. I can listen and love but I can’t save. Sometimes I think that all by itself keeps me from drowning.

I hope some of you bring your own story of being overwhelmed or in over your head. What happened and how did you pull yourself out of it? Did someone lend a hand? Did an opportunity show up in the nick of time? What did you learn and how were you changed?

Remember to keep it clean, and practice out loud on friends and family as often as you can. All stories must be under 8 minutes so time yourself when you practice. Stories can be as short as you want but not over 8 minutes. Remember, if your story goes long someone else who practiced for weeks might not get a chance to tell. 

Here are the rules and guidelines if you haven’t read them in a while:

If you’d like help with your story, our next free monthly workshop is March 1.  It’s run by two of our regular tellers who volunteer their time. You can RSVP here:

If you can’t make the workshop, this is the best book I’ve ever read on how to tell a personal story. I always go back to it when I’m stuck on one of my own stories.

I hope to see you all at 7 pm on March 19 at the Olive Way Starbucks 🙂