FGS: You Gotta Be Kidding Me – Things you swore would never happen until they did

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to getting around to this theme. It feels like most of my life could be summed up by muttering, “you gotta be kidding me.” Obviously, there are things going on in the world right now that we thought would never happen but the stories we’re looking for are the more personal ones. 

Come tell a story about something you lived through that you still can’t believe actually happened (or didn’t happen.) Did you get married at 17? Divorced at 87? Were you valedictorian at clown college? Maybe you were eaten by a lion once. Whatever it is we’d love to hear the story and what you learned from it.

Here are the rules for telling at FGS: https://freshgroundstories.com/2013/01/22/storytelling-rules-and-guidelines/

I’ll send out a registration link to everyone in the Meetup group on the day before the show. Feel free to RSVP on Meetup if you want the automatic reminders but I’ll be sending the Zoom link to everyone in the group regardless of your RSVP.

We only have 100 spots in each show (98 actually since me and my assistant each take one spot) so the first 98 people to register for the show will be the only ones who can attend. If you want to tell a story, email me ASAP so I can send you the registration link before I send it to everyone else. 

Please write me if you have any questions.
See you on the 20th!



Thank you :)

Thanks to everyone who tuned into our Zoom show Thursday. We heard some sweet stories and got to see some great new people who just discovered us. I knew it was going to be a fun night when I saw that Connie and her horse Saruq logged in from Idaho. Once again, she rode down the holler to the neighbor’s house to use their WiFi and catch the show. Even better was that we got to finally meet her neighbors. 

Colleen started us off with a story about how her car dying on I-5 led her to finally selling that car and using only the bus for transportation. I love it when someone turns one of my beliefs upside down. Even though riding the bus takes more time and planning than hopping in your car, Colleen has somehow managed to re-engineer her life to get more done than she ever did before. She started doing more art, telling more stories, and finished a book she’d been working on for 20 years. Maybe we don’t actually need to do all the things we think we need to do. Is it possible that by combining the little trips and completely putting off others that we can find more time to focus on the stuff that really feeds us? It’s a shame that Nathan the Storytelling Bus Driver wasn’t with us Thursday. I bet he would have loved this story.

Cavan, one of our storytellers who has been with us for many years, told his last story for FGS. He’s moving to Michigan this summer. I remember when Cavan first started coming to the show somewhere around 2012 or 2013. At the time, we were both telling stories about recovering from personal tragedies. I was always happy when I saw him throw his name in Mr. Coffee because it meant I was going to find out how he was doing that month. His recovery seemed to be on the same timeline as my own and I often compared each of our little baby steps back to sanity through our stories. Today, years later, we’re both doing well. This show has been around for ten years and I’ve seen many lives change during that time. I don’t know of any other place where I get to see people’s lives unfold over the course of time like I do with FGS. 

Yael, one of our first-timers told a story that had me smiling all the way through. It was about how she learned to speak English and ended up falling in love with all the grammar, idioms, and general wackiness that our language contains. I always bristle when I hear people imply that English is a lesser language because it doesn’t have a word for certain foreign expressions. Sure, German has schadenfreude but do they have a phrase for “stick that in your pipe and smoke it”? Or a word for the subtle dismissiveness of, “Yeah, that’ll be the day.” I think English is just as complex and interesting as any other language. Can you imagine trying to describe to a Belgian what calling someone a dipstick means? I could probably write an entire essay on the history and emotional context of calling someone a long metal rod used to check the oil level of a ‘67 Ford Fairlane. Anyway, I loved hearing Yael talk about the joys of Roget’s Thesaurus. 

Chris told the story of how sumo wrestling may have inadvertently saved her life. I can’t explain all the ins and outs of it here, but I will say that I am now watching way more sumo on YouTube than I was a week ago. One of my favorite things about FGS is hearing how the strangest, most inconsequential things, can lead us to places we never knew we wanted to be.

Behnaz, one of our newest tellers, showed us how learning to put the tragedies of this year into a story has helped her better deal with them. She’s new to storytelling but she already sees the power it gives us. When we take memories and experiences out of our hearts and put them into stories they no longer control us. Turning those moments into stories forces us to come up with an ending. When we decide on the ending, we also decide on the meaning. Storytelling is about making choices. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we actually have choices.

Harjas, in his second story with us, reminded me that sometimes it feels like we all have the same parents, or at least the same mother. He and I grew up on opposite ends of the earth but his story about the pressure of getting good grades and making it into a prestigious college felt very familiar to me. I love that once a month I get reminded of how easy it can be to connect with each other if we just open up about our lives a bit. I know that’s hard to do out there in regular life, but the more we do it with each other on the third Thursday of each month, the easier it gets everywhere else.

Zoe, one of our tellers from Olympia, shared a story about reaching middle age and not having children. She has had, however, a number of dogs and they’ve been the grateful recipients of all the love and nurturing she has to give. Until I heard Zoe’s story, I never really understood why some people call their pets fur babies. Now I think I have a better understanding of it. As a guy, I’m not always conscious of the pressure on women to have children. I can see how hard it might be to have to explain to people that not having children doesn’t mean you’re not loving or nurturing. It just means that it’s not the right choice for you. Luckily, there are lots of people and creatures in the world who need love and attention. I’m glad Zoe has found some good creatures to take care of 🙂

Bill C was a first-time teller with FGS who tuned in from California. He had a story prepared for last month’s show when the theme was drowning and somehow his name didn’t make it into Mr. Coffee. I felt horrible that he had gotten his story together and I had somehow forgotten to put his name on the list. I had to write a very uncomfortable email to him apologizing and guaranteeing him a spot on this month’s show. He was very gracious about it and I was excited to hear his story on Thursday. I think we can all agree that it was well worth the wait. Bill told the best great white shark story we’ve ever had at FGS. Or maybe it was the best mistaken-for-a-seal story we’ve ever had. I’m not saying abalone diving in shark-filled waters is the safest way to get a story but if you do end up doing that, you’ll probably come back with a great one.

Bill Bernat was our final teller and it’s always a joy to watch him perform. He’s one of Seattle’s best tellers and we’re lucky he stops by as often as he does. He runs a free weekly online workshop that I recommend to everyone: https://www.meetup.com/Stay-Awesome-Storytelling-Virtual-Workshop/

We also have our own monthly workshop which is really helpful to anyone wanting feedback on a story: https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories-Storytelling-Workshop/

Our next show is August 20 at 7pm. The theme is, “things you swore would never happen right up until they did.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as possible.

See you soon 🙂





Silver Linings – Stories of finding the good in the bad

July’s theme is “Silver Linings – Stories of finding the good in the bad.” It’ll be on July 16, at 7 pm PST.

I had another theme in mind for this show but I think we all need to hear some positive stories right now. I know I do.

Come tell a story about a time in your life when something bad turned out to be good. Did losing your job lead to a better one? Did getting dumped make you available to find someone better? Maybe someone died and you were finally free to become yourself. One day I’ll tell the story of how that last one happened to me. 

Here are the rules for telling at FGS : https://freshgroundstories.com/2013/01/22/storytelling-rules-and-guidelines/

Here are the main rules:

  1. Stories have to be true and happened to you
  2. You can’t use notes. We want you to tell the story, not recite it.
  3. Keep it clean in language and in content (no sex, poop, body functions, etc.)
  4. No social commentary. FGS is where we take the energy we usually use to judge others and instead use that energy to find out something about ourselves.
  5. Stories have to be under 8 minutes. Practice out loud on friends and time yourself.

I’ll send out a registration link to everyone in the Meetup group on the day before the show. We only have 100 spots (98 actually since me and my assistant each take one spot) so the first 98 people to register for the show will be the only ones who can attend. If you want to tell a story, email me ASAP so I can send you the registration link before I send it to everyone else. 

I tried to get a Zoom account that gave us more than 100 spots but it was much more expensive than I thought it would be. So we’re stuck with 100. Fortunately, we haven’t had more than that sign in to our online shows so we should be ok. Thanks for all the patience and understanding you’ve shown me since we took our shows online. The tech stuff is always hard to deal with even when everything is working fine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent 30 seconds complimenting someone on their story only to find I had myself muted the whole time. So frustrating!

I’m really looking forward to this show. We already have a special guest teller lined up as well as a number of people I had to bump from the last show. Thank you all for supporting everyone connected with FGS. We need each other more than ever now and I’m grateful for the hour or two you grace us with every month.

See you on the 16th



Thank you :)

Thank you all for coming out and supporting our first online open mic show last week. We heard some great stories and got to welcome a bunch of first-time tellers to the stage. As always, we learned some important things that night.

We learned that only the power of love can get you to doorbell ditch a foreign embassy and end up running from an armed government anti-terrorist team through the streets of Prague. We also learned that if you don’t have enough blood going to your hippocampus it can look like you have a learning disability. I wish my fourth-grade teacher in Lathrop Elementary in Fairbanks, AK had tested me for blood flow to my hippocampus. I might have been let out for recess a little more often.

We also learned about the influence our parents have on us. As a parent myself, I’m always finding that it’s the things I don’t remember doing that my son remembers best. No matter where you grew up in the world, there are things our parents say and do that we don’t know the full relevance of until we’re long into adulthood. Two of our first-timers told stories that began in childhood but only took on special meaning more recently. While I listened to their stories I found myself wishing my parents were still alive so I could talk to them about that.

We also learned what happens when you lose a parent. Katie’s story of her dad’s unexpected death stopped us all. It was her first story and I was touched that she chose to share it with us. Even with the shaky internet connection I had, I could see how hard it was for her to tell that story. After she was done, her boyfriend leaned in from across the couch and give her a hug. I was glad she had someone there with her. He also gave her a Scone of Courage which was just about the sweetest thing ever. If you’ve been to our live shows you know that I buy a scone before the show (our show is held at the Olive Way Starbucks) and give it to the first first-timer to tell a story that night. I couldn’t give one away that night so I’m glad Katie got her own.

Ed, one of our tellers who tuned in from California, told a heart-warming story of being a drug mule in Africa in his 20s. If I remember, correctly, he never completed his first and only mission because he almost drowned in a river before he got anywhere. I kept laughing during Ed’s story because he looks like my State Farm agent. Now I’m wondering if my insurance agent has a secret life I need to worry about. Ed is a member of the California Association of Storytelling and likes to stop by and tell stories with us when he’s in Seattle. If you’d like to watch their online shows you can check them out here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/152681024925954/

Thanks for joining us from 1,000 miles away Ed 🙂

Indu told a beautiful story about how the closet was always her safe place when she was growing up. Recently, she made the choice to invite someone into her safe space. Instead of trying to get her to come out, he agreed to join her inside. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is meet someone where they’re at, in the place they feel safe. It might be inconvenient to do that sometimes but love and friendship aren’t built on convenience.

The story that surprised me the most was from first-timer, Silvana, who joined us from Bellingham. She and her husband are foster parents who have turned their home into a safe place for many kids over the years. I know I wasn’t the only one who got choked up during her story. I think everyone listening that night wishes they could have spent a few nights at Silvana’s house when they were growing up. I know I do.

Thanks again for all the support and patience you showed me and the tellers last Thursday. There were a few tech problems on my end that I’ll be trying to fix before the next show. The first thing I’m doing is getting a higher level account that will give us 300 spots instead of the 100 we have now. I’ll also probably ask people to register for each show so no one has to email me personally to get the password and link. You won’t have to open a Zoom account to attend a show, you’ll just have to register for individual shows so Zoom can send you the sign-in info instead of me.

I announced next month’s theme at the end of Thursday’s show but I learned later that everything I said was garbled so no one heard it. In the end, it turned out to be a good thing because this morning I decided I needed to hear stories about something else. So next month’s theme is “Silver Linings – Stories of finding good in the bad.”

It’s a theme we did three years ago and I think we could all use a few stories about silver linings right now. I’ll get the official invite out as soon as possible. The show will be on July 16 at 7pm PST.

I had to bump a lot of tellers last week because so many people signed up to tell stories. I’ll be getting some of those tellers in on future shows where they can tell the stories they prepared for last week. So if you hear some stories that don’t match the theme, that’s why.

Hope to see you all next month 🙂


See you next week!

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re looking forward to our first online open mic next Thursday, June 18. The theme is Drowning – Stories of being overwhelmed. I originally scheduled this show for March and had no idea how relevant it would be when we finally got around to doing it in June.

Email me at freshgroundstories@gmail.com if you want to reserve your spot for the show. Let me know in your email if you want to tell a story. I’ll be pulling names out of Mr. Coffee like we do at our regular shows.

If you’d like some feedback on a story you’re working on, the Stay Awesome storytelling workshop next Monday is a great place to get it:

I’m also happy to help anyone with a story they’re working on. Email me and we can set up a phone call.

Rules for telling at FGS

Here is my new favorite Moth story if you need some inspiration 🙂

NPR’s KNKX 88.5 has been really good to us over the past two weeks. They asked Maryanne to tell the story she told at our show last month.

Last Saturday they aired the live show we co-produced with them in June 2019

If you can’t wait until the 18th and would like to tell a story tomorrow, you can join our friends at North Seattle Storytelling

That’s all for now. Write me if you have any questions.