FGS: Wake-Up Call – The things we can’t avoid

This month’s theme is “Wake Up Call – The things we can’t avoid”

One of my favorite moments from last month’s show was when I announced the next theme and there was an audible whispering that came up from the audience that let me know I’d hit a nerve. Good to know that I’m not the only one who’s had a few wake up calls in his life. Normally, I would include a story in the invite but since an old friend is coming down from Alaska for this show I’m going to save it for the stage and tell it that night.

If you’d like to join me onstage that night, bring a story about a time when life gave you a wake up call. Did you ignore it and let it ring through to voicemail, or did you pick yourself up and head over to the Barnes & Noble self-help section?

Remember to keep it clean, practice out loud and on friends as much as possible, and time yourself so you know it’s under 8 minutes.

Here are the rules and guidelines for telling a story if you haven’t seen them in a while.


I’ve had a number of people recently ask me for a good book on storytelling. This is the best one I’ve seen:

I hope to see a bunch of you on Thursday, July 26, 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea



Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who came out and made last Thursday such a great show. Half the tellers were first-timers and all of them did great. I wish you could see their faces up close like I do when they get to the end of their story and they realize they did the hard thing.

I’ve seen FGS audiences spontaneously applaud when first-timers momentarily forget what comes next. I’ve seen them yell out “You’re doing great!” when tellers get nervous and begin to stumble. It’s one of the kindest things I get to see on a regular basis. I say it at the top of every show, but it’s worth it to say again here, thank you for all the kindness and patience you show to everyone who walks up to that microphone.

We started out, as we always do, with a veteran teller and that night Rich graciously agreed to open the show. He told the story of how he recently had a UN collection of doctors helping him choose the best way to go forward with his upcoming open heart surgery. I lost track of all the different countries his doctors were from but I do remember being shocked when he revealed the terrible connection his ancestors had with the countries those 21st-century doctors came from. It was one of the most remarkable twists I’ve seen in a story and I’m glad Rich was there to share it.

Our second teller of the night was a first-timer named Claire who told us about a particularly rough morning shift at McDonald’s she had once and how sometimes the toughest bosses turn out to be the best people. Just as importantly, she revealed The Secret of the Ice Cream Machine which I can’t share but can briefly summarize as: do NOT order the M&M McFlurry! Go with Oreo. Trust me. The employees will silently thank you. I won’t retell Claire’s story here but I will say she co-produces the Nearly Sober Comedy Show at the Pocket Theater and if you go to their next show you might find out why some of those morning shifts were so tough on her.

One of our regulars, Chris, told a beautiful story about a love affair gone sideways for the most surprising of reasons. Like a lot of great stories, it was both heartbreaking and hysterical. Her ending got a huge laugh and a giant smile on my face because I know how hard she worked on that story. I remember when she told it the first time a few months ago. It was good then but the editing and rewriting she did since then turned that story into a gem. It’s exciting when a teller comes back months later with an old story that’s totally reworked. I love the craftsmanship that goes into storytelling and when I see someone putting in as much time as Chris did on this story it makes me happy that we can offer a showcase for that work.

We had two Rebecca’s at the show that night and both of them were first-timers. Rebecca #1 told a story about the ups and downs of being a writer. Naturally, I identified immediately. It’s funny how the definition of Writer changes throughout the life of the writer. Sometimes it means you’re a published author on your way to fame and fortune and some years it means you’re just slogging away at the keyboard every night after your day job. I once worked with a comic who said you should only call yourself a comic if you make enough to declare it on your taxes. I remember thinking that a little under half my income came from doing stand-up and not knowing if that qualified me as a comic in his eyes. I also know that even though I stopped doing comedy in 2007 I still consider myself a comic at heart. I put in 13 years of performing around the country in every bar, club, casino, and VFW hall that would pay me. Am I still a comic or am I just a guy who used to do comedy? I do know that I consider Rebecca a writer regardless of whether she wins another award or gets that second novel published. She writes every day and cares about doing it well. That’s enough for me. I don’t think the IRS gets to decide who we are.

Rebecca #2 is someone I’ve been trying to get to the show since we worked together last year at the FARwest storytelling conference. She usually tells traditional Filipino stories, but this night she told a personal story about how she discovered she wasn’t a white male. White male is not the first thing you’d think of if you saw Rebecca standing in front of you but that’s the kind of person she thought she needed to be in order to be successful in this world. Luckily, she got a wake-up call in 2000 and realized it was possible to be happy and successful being exactly who she was. Years later, she went on to discover that the deeper she went into her cultural identity the more successful she became. Now she’s one of the few tellers of Filipino folktales in America and audiences around the country are better for it.

The little man in the computer tells me I’m close to 1,000 words so I better wrap this up and let everyone get back to their lives. I do want to mention one special story from last week that I just got permission to put up on our website. It was a story from one of our new regulars, Bruce. (I sometimes introduce him by his full name which is Bruce From New Jersey) It was a story from 1985 when he and his girlfriend lived in NYC. His girlfriend’s adult daughter was gay and asked them to walk in one of the first gay pride parades. As Bruce told the story of walking with the PFLAG group I could hear his voice shift from nervousness to surprise to pride to laughter, and finally tears. It was a story many people talked about afterward. I’m glad Bruce is allowing me to share it with you online.

Special thanks to all our tellers, especially our first-timers who worked up the courage to do something they’ve wanted to do for a long time. Thanks also to our special guest teller, Sam Blackman who closed the show with two sweet stories that he told earlier this year at The Moth.

Here is one of the stories he told that night:

The last line of this story always kills me. It’s beautiful. The only thing I don’t like about watching this video is that I can see he only has 8 people following him on YouTube. Eight! Do you know how sad that makes me? Not only that, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only subscriber whose last name isn’t Blackman. Could we at least give this guy a couple clicks and get him up to double digits?

I hope to see a bunch of you at our next show on July 26. The theme is “Wake Up Call.” I’ll get the official invite out as soon as I can. You might want to show up because I just found out a childhood friend of mine invited two of the popular girls from our high school class to come to the show. Can you imagine how awkward this will be for me? I haven’t seen either of these women in 34 years. David and his wife are flying down from Alaska to see how this all plays out. Do I tell a story that night or play it cool and just have fun hosting? If I do tell a story, should it be deeply personal or do I keep it light and funny? Will I be able to nudge one of those cools kids from my past to get onstage and tell a story that will make me rethink everything I thought I knew about them? I have no idea what’s going to happen that night but there’s a good chance you’ll get to see me work through an anxiety attack in the middle of telling a story. If someone could bring an extra couple Lorazepam to the show that would be great. Just toss them onstage if you see me start to spin out.

In the meantime, I want to pass on some links to other storytelling shows in the area. I can’t always get people on stage at FGS because of time constraints or subject matter but I do value everyone’s story and I want to find as many places as I can for you to tell them.

Maryanne Moorman hosts a show much like ours but she allows a much wider range of stories than I do at FGS. This is a great place for the social commentary stories I know some folks want to tell. You might also get to see the amazing Ms. Moorman tell a story herself. You know those Masters class ads you see on Facebook all the time? Watching Maryanne onstage is like attending a masterclass in storytelling. So go watch her tell. Sometimes her show is on the same night as FGS but go anyway. It’s worth it. You get to tell stories you can’t at FGS as well as meet some amazing tellers who have been doing this for decades. The show is held on the last Thursday of each month (it’s on hiatus in July and August) and it’s free to attend. Details are at the link below.


If you want a complete list of story shows in the area go to the Seattle Storytelling Facebook page:

If you’re not on Facebook this link might open up the spreadsheet for you. I’m not sure but it’s worth a try. The spreadsheet changes as shows pop up so keep coming back for the most recent info.


That’s all for now. Thanks again for making this show such a special place.


See you this Thursday!

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick reminder that our next show is coming up this Thursday. I hope to see a bunch of you there. This month’s theme is Not What I Thought it Was: Stories of being under the illusion https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories/events/251355130/

Not only do I have a special guest who will be closing out the show, but I’ll also be giving away a great new book on storytelling because I accidentally bought five of them on Amazon. How does this happen?! It’s a mystery. But my digital misadventures are your bonus prizes. I’ll be giving away one a month for the next three months. All you have to do to qualify to win is tell a story. Whatever name I pull out of Mr. Coffee at the end of the night will get the book 🙂

Special shout out to one of our regulars, Dave Kreimer, for telling the author about me and Fresh Ground Stories. Thank you, Dave! Matthew Dicks, the author, mentioned FGS on his podcast and I couldn’t have been happier or more surprised to hear my name while I was listening to episode five. I was so happy that I emailed him and told him if he was ever in Seattle that I would get him onstage at our show to tell a story. Cross your fingers.

If you want to hear great advice on how to tell stories on stage, you won’t find a better podcast than Speak Up Storytelling. The link to the podcast is below.


In more good news, one of my favorite tellers, Bill Bernat, is producing and performing in a new show called Nearly Sober Comedy. This Saturday I’ll be telling a short version of one of my early stories at the show this Saturday at the Pocket Theater at 8pm. Tickets are $10 and you can get them here: nearlysobercomedy.com.

There’s also an opportunity for some of you to tell a story at the show. I would love to share the stage with anyone from FGS who has a story to tell about recovery. I pasted the text from their website that explains the show and what to do if you want to tell a story there.

That’s all for now. I’m looking forward to a great show Thursday. It’s a topic that means a lot to me and I hope it’s been bring up stories for people to tell.

See you soon!


Nearly Sober Comedy

Show Description -Have you ever had a problem with drugs and alcohol? Connect with laughter and community in an an hour long comedy show featuring comedians and storytellers in recovery. Join us whether you’re thinking about recovery or have been sober a long time. You’ll remember that recovery is not only possible it’s funny.


***Want to tell a story at Nearly Sober Comedy Show?***
NSC combines performances of experienced comedians and storytellers with an opportunity for sober community members to tell stories of their own (not to exceed 5 minutes). We’ll have four storytelling spots peppered throughout the show – for a chance to tell your story, please place your name in the bucket.

*What’s the difference between a story and a share?*
If you’ve been to a meeting, you know what a ‘share’ is. It’s an opportunity to talk for a few minutes about your experience, strength, and hope, or on the subject of the meeting.

You might not have had a chance to tell a story to a group before! Although a story might deal with a similar subject as a share, it has a few extra components:

-Setup, suspense, and resolution
-Polish or practice

*What if I don’t want to perform?*
We’ll only call on people who have indicated they want to tell a story – there’s no need to perform if you don’t want to!

FGS: Not What I Thought it Was – Stories of being under the illusion

Hi Everyone,

June’s theme is “Not What I Thought it Was – Stories of being under the illusion.”

I don’t know if I hold the record for most times being fooled in one lifetime but I’m pretty sure I’ve at least made it to the medal round. Work, love, kids, food, the more sure I am about what I’m getting the more likely it is that I’m getting something else.

Earlier this year I went in for my annual checkup and all my doctor talked about was how often I checked my moles. At first I thought he was talking about my lawn. But no, he was poking around on the top of my head like monkey looking for bugs. I thought all he was going to do was take my blood pressure, look up my nose, and send me on my way. Suddenly, we’re talking about hats? Now I need to take a physics class to figure out the proper angle to hold three mirrors so I can see the top of my head.

Even worse was is this meditation stuff I’ve been doing since the beginning of the year. Apparently, I have to keep doing it forever. I had this vague idea I could meditate for a couple months and then I’d be enlightened. After that I could move on to other pressing life issues like figuring out where that smell in the fridge is coming from. But according to the 99-cent app I purchased, there’s no end to this meditation stuff. If I want to keep getting the benefits I have to keep doing it. This was definitely not addressed in the iTunes description and I’m feeling a little taken advantage of.

Lately, I’ve been trying to write a story about my asthma. What I’m discovering is that my emotions play a bigger role in keeping me out of the ER than my inhaler does. I’ve been under the illusion that my ability to breathe is completely disconnected from my ability to stay calm. That isn’t listed in the fine print on my Albuterol but I think it ought to be. “Caution: Effectiveness of this product may be linked to your current emotional state.”

This revelation is actually a big deal for me. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now. It’s changing how I think about my breathing and how much my health is affected by who and what I let into my life. You wouldn’t think you could get a story about being short of breath but I think I might be slowly working one up.

Luckily, this month’s theme is all about coming out from under the illusion of something. Think back to a time where you had a strong belief that you no longer have. What do you see differently now than you did in the past? Did you change your mind about a person? A job? A belief system? How did you get from there to here?

Bring a story about how your eyes were once closed but now they’re open and tell it at our next show on June 28 at Roy Street Coffee and Tea.

Remember, if you bring a story, keep it clean, practice out loud, and use a timer to make sure you keep it under 8 minutes. Here are the rules & guidelines to help you get started. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.


See you on the 28th!


Catch this storytelling class coming up

Hi Folks,
One of my favorite tellers is running a two-day storytelling class and I want everyone to know about it. Kent is a Moth StorySlam winner and one of the people I trust to know what he’s talking about when it comes to telling stories onstage. The text below is his so if you have any questions please contact him directly
Learn how to share “stage-worthy” stories that are genuine, generous, and vulnerable in a fun creative space. June 10th & 17th. $125.
We use writing tools from Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones, narrative improv games, the use of sense memory and terrific storytelling techniques to create stories and open creativity.