FGS: Gifts – Stories of getting what you need

Last week I told a new story about a present I received 20 years ago and how telling the story of that present has been a gift in itself. Right now seems to be a good time to share stories about a time when we got something that was just what we needed. It could be about a physical thing you received or it could be about something that happened at just the right time and in retrospect seems like a pretty great gift. 

Email me through Meetup or at freshgroundstories@gmail.com as soon as possible if you want to get on the list to tell a story.

Remember to practice out loud on as many people as possible and time yourself when you’re doing it. All stories have to be under 8 minutes. The rest of the rules and guidelines for telling are below:


Workshops are a great way to get feedback on a story you’re working on. Here are two I highly recommend:

Stay Awesome Storytelling Virtual Workshop

Seattle, WA
107 Members

It’s a virtual storytelling workshop with The Moth Radio storyteller and TED speaker Bill Bernat and Nutritious Truth’s Melody Owen.Bring a story about 5 minutes or, tell it,…

Next Meetup

Stay Awesome Storytelling Zoom Workshop

Monday, Oct 26, 2020, 7:00 PM
4 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

FGS – Storytelling Workshop

Seattle, WA
620 Storytellers

This workshop helps you become a better storyteller and to prepare to tell stories at events like Fresh Ground Stories or The Moth.The workshop is free.A diverse group of pe…

Next Meetup

November ONLINE Storytelling Workshop

Sunday, Nov 1, 2020, 1:00 PM
16 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Both are free and run by experienced tellers who have told many times at FGS.

I’ll send out a Zoom registration link to everyone in the Meetup group the day before each 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. 

Write if you have any questions 🙂

See you on the 19th!


Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who came out last Thursday for the show. It was great to see so many first-timers telling! We also had our first major technical glitch too as my son got dropped from the call just as I was introducing him. Next time I’ll have him drive over and sip off the WiFi in the driveway to make sure he stays online. On the other hand, I did notice my blood pressure go down a bit when I realized he’d gotten bumped off. Was it the universe telling me I needed to have more time to prepare for his story? Possibly. All I know is that the family secrets are safe for one more month. 

We started off with Melody, a first-timer from Canada who told a story about how she stopped believing she was a failure. Halfway through her story, I started smiling as I realized she was telling us about winning Teacher of the Year and at the same time telling us she felt like an imposter. I feel the same way, Melody. I could win a Pulitzer Prize and still feel like I’m fooling everyone. Melody talked about how important it is to write your own story and not let anyone else write it for you. I’m glad she wrote this story. It was the perfect way to begin the night.

Next was Zoe who told us the story of her middle name. It was a story that took 50 years to unfold and I’m glad we finally got to hear it. What’s even more amazing is that three years ago one of my good friends took one look at Zoe and said, “That’s not her real name. She’s not a Zoe.” I said, “What do you mean that’s not her real name? You don’t even know her.” He said, “Listen, I know a Zoe when I see one. That ain’t no Zoe.”

Now I have to call Mark and tell him he was kinda-sorta right. Zoe’s first name is Wendy and her middle name is Zoe. But how did he know?!?! Does she walk like a Wendy? Does she dress like a Wendy? Here’s another thing we learned from Zoe’s story. New York City has a Department of Mental Hygiene. I can only assume everyone there has been laid off since 1975.

Next up was Susie, another first-timer who came to us from Southern California. It was a beautiful story of a woman searching for her birth mother after growing up in a family she didn’t have much in common with. I wish Susie could have told this story in person because there was a moment about five minutes in where I know the audience would have gasped and then burst out laughing. I can still picture Susie’s mom getting that phone call, running over to turn down the TV, and then hearing a voice on the phone say, “I’m your baby.” 

Thank you Susie for that wonderful story. Many of us stayed online after the show was over to get more details. That’s the part I miss the most about our regular shows. Some of the best moments of FGS have been standing around afterward meeting and talking to the folks show shared stories that night. One day we’ll be doing that again. My future goal is to figure out how to keep all the cool new people we’ve met from around the country stay involved with FGS once we go back to our Starbucks.

After Susie, we had another first-timer, Emily who gave us a peek into the inner life of a school teacher during COVID. I’ve seen a lot of news stories about what it’s like for parents to deal with kids learning from home but I haven’t seen many teachers talk about what it’s like for them. It wasn’t until Emily’s story that I thought about what it must be like to have to manage 20 different browser tabs while talking to a screen full of black squares. Is it acceptable to send donuts or pizza to teachers during COVID? Can Uber Eats deliver wine? It seems like a lot of teachers might need a weekly wine delivery from parents right now. I sense a business opportunity here. Someone get on this! 

Behnaz shared a story of what it was like trying to get a visa to come to America from Iran to go to college here. Just as I was starting to wonder why she was so adamant about going to college in America she said that there are only three ways you can leave your parents’ house in Iran. You can go to college. You can get married. Or you can die. So now in my mind, I see that visa as a combination of Willy Wonka golden ticket and a stay of execution. I’m glad you made it out Behnaz. Welcome to America where millions of people are going to college, getting married, and still living with their parents 🙂

Our final teller was Katie. She told the story of going back to her childhood home in Michigan to collect the artwork she’d stored in her parent’s house as an undergraduate in college. So much of what Katie said in that story resonated with me. 

How much is your art a part of who you are? Does it matter if you draw, paint, sing or dance if no one remembers you when you’re gone? If you’re any kind of artist you’re going to do what you do whether anyone sees it or not. We do it because it hurts too much not to. Katie said toward the end of her story, “My artwork is an expression of my deep gratitude for being alive.” This is what I Iove about storytelling and FGS. We get to share what it feels like to be alive in the moment that we’re telling and the moment we’re telling about. This is why it’s so important to have a supportive audience like we always get. Just like Katie has to stand in front of an easel with a paintbrush, the people who walk up to the microphone at FGS are there because they have to be. Thank you all for showing up every month and giving us a place to share our stories.

Katie worked on that story in a class taught by Unexpected Productions. If you want to learn how to share stories that resonate with a room full of strangers, I can’t recommend a better place to start. Their next class starts Jan 10 and runs through Feb 21. I’ve enjoyed every story I’ve ever heard that came out of this class. I don’t know what they’re doing over there but it’s working. This is a free plug for them. I’m not getting anything in return except the knowledge that next March I’m going to hear some great stories. 

One last plug for a worthy show. Melissa Reaves from Story Fruition is hosting the second Melanin Stories Matter show on Oct 24. The headliner that night is one of my all-time favorite tellers. His name is Ray Christian and it’s a crime you don’t already know him. He’s been on The Moth many times and runs his own podcast called What’s Ray Sayin’. Google him. Find him on all the stages and podcasts he’s been on over the years. The guy is amazing. I would have been tuning in to Melissa’s show whether I knew any of the tellers or not but knowing Ray will be there makes it extra special.


That’s all for now. Thanks to everyone who read this far 🙂

Our next show is November 19. The theme is “Gifts – Stories of getting what you need.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.

It looks like the Zoom recording turned out ok so let me know if you told a story last Thursday and you’d like the audio recording of your performance. I don’t have permission to share stories with anyone except the person who told them so this is only available to the folks who told a story and would like a copy of it.

See you next month!


See you this Thursday!

Hi All,

Before I get to the reminder for this week’s show, I want to thank everyone who donated to the GoFundMe campaign to help me get a new computer. Thanks to Tracey, one of our regulars, it was completely unexpected. She knows me well enough to know I’d never ask for help so she did it on the sly. Thank you, Tracey. I was at the point of asking friends to borrow their computer once a month so I’d have a machine that could handle a Zoom show.

FGS will always be free to everyone because I think we need a place to share stories without wondering if someone’s making money off them. Luckily, there are other people who feel the same way. Dave, who runs the monthly FGS storytelling workshop, doesn’t make a penny off it. Bill, who runs the weekly Stay Awesome storytelling workshop, doesn’t charge either. And I’m always willing to help people with their stories over the phone for free as well. 

I happily support anyone who does want to make money from storytelling because running a show is never free, and talent deserves to be paid. But for me, it’s always been about making friends and helping people figure themselves out through storytelling. So support shows and tellers with money when you can, and FGS will always be here for you’re living in Medina or in your car at the Park & Ride in Lacey like I was when I was telling stories in bars.

Thanks again for the ability to get a computer made in this decade. I’m finally able to record the shows again so I can give any teller a copy of their story if they want it. I’ve been doing that for years and it was hard not being able to do it on our Zoom shows. 

Here’s the official reminder that our next show is coming up this Thursday. We have a bunch of new people telling stories and that’s always exciting for me. Also, my son is going to tell a story. If you’ve ever been to one of our live shows you know how nervous that makes me. I never know what he’s going to say and I think he secretly likes seeing me sweat. So if you want to see a nervous dad, tune in on Thursday 🙂

I’ll be sending out the Zoom registration link Wednesday afternoon to everyone in the Meetup group. Let me know If you don’t get that email by 5 pm so I can send you the link personally. 

Here’s a little storytelling inspiration to get you through till Thursday. It looks like it’s from one of the Moth’s school shows. I wish something like The Moth’s story education program had existed when I was a kid. That really would have saved me.

 BTW – If anyone knows where Mrs. Knutson is who taught 12th grade English at West Anchorage High in 1984 would you tell her I turned out ok?

Hope to see a bunch of you this Thursday 🙂


FGS: Starting Over – Stories of picking up the pieces

This month’s theme is “Starting Over.” I’ve been trying to count up all the times I’ve started my life over in some fashion I have to admit I’m surprised at how many times I’ve had to do it. I didn’t think my life had taken so many twists and turns but it looks like my life has mirrored Billy in The Family Circus comics when he takes up the entire Sunday panel to find his way home from the playground. I know, The Family Circus, is the most unfunny cartoon in the history of ink, but it’s the image that keeps coming to mind. 

Part of me dreads the idea of starting over. Who wants to pack up all those boxes and move across town again? Especially if they’re emotional boxes. Is there one person among us who wants to dig up that old Plenty of Fish profile and go back online again? Or dust off the resume and wrestle with the idea of taking “good attention to detail” off it for good? 

Fortunately, I have 487 self-help books on my shelf that say, “You have a 100% success rate of picking yourself back up again.” I’m pretty sure even Plato scrawled that on a wall somewhere. What helps me more than any self-help book, though, is seeing someone right in front of me tell a story about a time when they had to start over. So that’s what we’re looking for next month on October 15.

Come tell a story about a time you had to start over. What happened and what was at stake? Did you flunk out of school? Were you thrown in the pokey? Left a the altar? What did you learn at the end of it all? Did you surprise yourself? I love it when we surprise ourselves. 

Remember to practice out loud as much as possible on friends and family. Time yourself too because your story has to be under eight minutes.

Here are the updated rules and guidelines for telling:


I’ll send out a Zoom 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. Let me know if you don’t get my registration email by 5pm the day before the show. I can send it to you directly if you’re not getting my emails through Meetup.

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 if you have any questions.

See you on the 15th!


Thank you!

Thanks everyone for making last Thursday such a sweet night. We had our biggest Zoom show ever, with 83 people tuning in. We had folks from California to Alaska joining us. As weird as it is to do these virtual shows, I love that we’re able to reach people all over the world now. I get to say world because last month we had someone tell a story from Germany 🙂

We started off the evening with Silvana telling us about how her dog became a movie star. I wish I had asked Silvana to be my agent when I was doing comedy because her dog has more screen credits than I do. And I don’t even shed.

Marte was next with a story that I think resonated with a lot of people. She grew up in a home where it wasn’t safe to express your emotions. When she was a kid she channeled all that pent up energy into dancing. Angry dancing. My only wish is that Marte could have shown us some of the angry dance moves she invented as she stomped upstairs into her room. New rule: if you have a story about angry dancing to The Beatles you have to do a few steps.

Bruce followed with a great story about having to steal his own truck back from a guy who gave him a bum check for it. Bruce had about a dozen things come together in some sort of karmic truck magic that enabled him to find that truck and take it back. Sometimes the universe takes care of us. Thank you, Bruce, for just the kind of story we needed to hear right now.

Tracey shared a story about how she suddenly became a judge at the Olympic trials for whitewater kayaking. Had she ever been in a kayak before? Of course not. Was she even aware of the rules for Olympic whitewater kayaking before she found herself standing on a rock in a river judging athletes as they swept past her? Nope. Didn’t even matter. Remember, if you’re thinking of dedicating years of your life in pursuit of Olympic gold, your fate may rest on a random human being getting shoved into a river with a clipboard.

Yousaf told the most amazing story of planning a Pakistani wedding. Will someone please invite me to a Pakistani wedding? Apparently, it involves elephants. Yousaf, let me know if you need an usher. Seriously, between the food and the wildlife I’d really like to attend at least 3-4 weddings a year. Seriously, though, it was clear to all of us how much work went into crafting this story. There was a lot going on in this story and Yousaf did a fantastic job putting it all together in a way that kept us leaning in.

First-timer Rebecca came to us all the way from Oakland to tell us about falling off a cliff with her horse. Did you know horses can fall off cliffs? I didn’t either. But they can and they can also survive. Luckily, horse and rider both got home without injuries. This is good because I don’t think I could handle a broken horse story right now. Last night I swerved just in time to save a squirrel that wandered out into the road. For some reason, it was really important that I didn’t have a dead squirrel on my conscience. 

Zoe, one of our regulars, told us about a bottle of scotch her father was saving for her wedding. You wouldn’t think a decades-old bottle of scotch would lead to a story but it did. And it was a beautiful one. Zoe, thank you for telling such a sweet and vulnerable story. It was the kind of story a friend shares that deepens your relationship with them. 

Sam was our final teller and it was so good to have him back onstage with us. He’s told many stories at The Moth, often on their mainstage. So any time he stops by our show it’s a treat. That night he told the story of what great things bike shorts and puddle of sweat can lead to. I haven’t worn bike shorts in over 20 years but your story made me want to dig around in my closet for my old pair from the 90s.

Thanks to all the tellers who worked hard on their stories and everyone else who powered up their laptop to support them. 

Our next show is October 15th at 7pm. The theme is “Starting Over – Stories of picking up the pieces.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can. 

In the meantime, check out the new show from one of our regular tellers, Melissa Reaves. She’s looking for stories for the latest https://melaninstoriesmatter.com/ show. Click on the link for more info and how to get a hold of her.

See you next month!