FGS: Two themes this month to choose from!

This month we have two themes for the show. You can choose whichever one you want to tell a story on. 

Best Laid Plans 
Breaking the Rules 

You can interpret the themes any way you want. If you want to tell a story about breaking the rules it doesn’t have to be an official rule. It could be a story of ignoring a bunch of red flags that you promised yourself you wouldn’t ignore again. Best laid plans could be about how you thought you were going to grow up to be a doctor and ended up making a living selling black market beanie babies. Most stories can relate to any theme if you frame it right. So think back to a moment in your life when you broke a rule or something in your life went sideways and see if you build a story around it.

Remember to practice your story out loud on as many people as possible and time yourself when you’re doing it. All stories have to be under 8 minutes. Stories can be as short as you want but not over 8 minutes. Stories also have to be clean in both language and content. Send me an email at freshgroundstories@gmail.com if you have any questions about that.

The rest of the rules and guidelines are below: 

Workshops are a great way to get feedback on a story you’re working on. Here’s one I highly recommend. It’s run by two people who have told many times at FGS and other shows in the area:  https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories-Storytelling-Workshop/ 

I’m also happy to help anyone on their story over the phone. Send me an email and we can set up a phone call. 

See you on March 16th at 7 pm at the Chabad of Queene Anne – Magnolia


Freshgroundstories at Gmail dot com


Thank you!

What a great show we had Thursday! The room was packed, the stories were wonderful, and the energy was perfect. Every seat was taken so I’m going to keep looking for more folding chairs to bring with me. Feel free to bring your own next time if you can. The only thing that didn’t work that night was the recorder which stopped working after five minutes. I don’t know what happened but I’m going to be investigating it over the next three weeks so it doesn’t happen again. I hate not being able to give tellers a copy of their story. 

Since I can’t relisten to the show I might get some of the details wrong in this wrap-up. I also hope I don’t forget anyone who told a story. My notes are scattered across multiple pieces of paper so I’m praying I don’t miss anyone. I found three slips of paper with tellers’ names on them in my shoe in case you’re wondering how organized I am.

I do know that our first teller of the night was Mike. I asked him a few minutes before showtime if he’d mind going first and if his story was something that would be a good opener. He said, “Oh absolutely. It’s about my mom dying, but it’s funny!” That’s exactly the answer I was looking for. He told a sweet and funny story about his mom deciding to end her life with dignity and all the absurd things you have to talk about when that happens. Mike reminded me of how important storytelling is when we find ourselves in painful moments. Stories help put things in perspective and give us a little control over how we deal with those things. Thank you Mike for showing us how to do that.

Sybil was our only first-timer of the night and she did a great job. She told us about finding her passion for dancing in Juneau, AK, and how she went around the state as a roving terpsichorean (yes, I had to Google that). I wish I’d been around to see her teach dance in the logging and fishing camps of southeast Alaska. I remember what it was like to do comedy in those places and I didn’t have to do it in tights. 

Deborah was next with a sweet story of all the love she encountered in Seattle one day. Not long ago, she met a Japanese tourist on the light rail with a three-hour layover in Seattle who wanted to go downtown to see the first Starbucks. Deborah offered to help get him there and along the way met a handful of strangers who went out of their way to help. It was just the kind of story I needed to hear. A few years ago we did a show on the theme of the kindness of strangers. We might have to do that one again. Thank you, Deborah, for all the work I know you put into that story and for reminding us that night that there is still kindness in the world.

If you’re looking for more true, personal storytelling, Sybil and Deborah run a great new show called 7 Stories in Burien. They have a good group of new tellers down there but they’re always looking for new folks to share the stage with. Their next show is Friday the 24th. Send them an email if you’d like to tell a story or just show up if you’d like to hang out and listen. 


February 24th · 7:00-8:30 pm

Fed Up / Tipping Point / Enough is Enough


Ashley was our next teller with a touching story about coming to terms with who she really is and what it’s been like to finally accept it after hiding for so many years. It’s something I think a lot of us need to hear at some point in our lives. I’m glad Ashley had the love and support of her wife and kids to help her get to where she is today.  

Dave was up next with a story of revenge in Newfoundland. It turns out that even Canada has bad bosses and that even Canadians can be pushed over the line. For the record, I fully support Dave’s reaction to his boss’s greed which included a few hundred gallons of aviation fuel, a catholic priest, and a bull moose.

Brian shared a story with us about what it’s like to grow up in a time and place where every boy had to learn how to fight and what happens when that boy grows up and can’t hit people anymore. I struggle with that feeling all the time. Even now as an old man, I beat myself up (ironically) for not cracking someone on the nose who I think deserves it. It’s a feeling that’s never gone away. I’ve just gotten better at defusing it. Thank you, Brian, for letting me know I’m not the only one. Brian last told with us a few years ago when we were at the Olive Way Starbucks. I’m glad he found us again.

Zac was next with the story of going to Cambodia partly to film a story on landmine removal and partly to escape from the grief of his mother dying a few weeks earlier. I remember all the things I did to escape the grief of my mother dying when I was young. It makes perfect sense to me that Zac went to the other side of the world to wander through minefields to escape his. Zac’s was the kind of story that makes me forgive myself for all the crazy stuff I’ve done to avoid doing what I needed to do. Patience isn’t something we can only give others. We often have to extend it to ourselves. This was Zac’s second story with us and the first live, onstage. I’m so excited the folks who met us during the Zoom years are now coming to our in-person shows. 

Nick was next with a story about meeting his professional wrestling heroes when he was a kid. I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear someone talk about George “The Animal” Steele and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. I never hear those names anymore and it was so nice to be carried away on a wave of nostalgia for eight minutes. Nick put a lovely twist on the old adage about never meeting your heroes and I’m so happy he came out to FGS to tell it. 

Emily was our final teller with a story about spending the last three months in Thailand at a muay Thai camp. For those of you who don’t follow combat sports, muay Thai is a martial art that originated in Thailand and is also known as the art of eight limbs. That means you get to hit people with your fists, elbows, knees, and feet. Perfect for a Seattle middle school teacher on a year-long sabbatical. I knew Emily had been traveling around the world for the last few months but I didn’t know she was getting beaten up by 13-year-old kickboxers in Southeast Asia. Was it a genuine curiosity of Thailand’s culture and sport that brought her to Phuket or was it undiagnosed rage after teaching middle schoolers for the last seven years? You’d know the answer to that if you’d been at the show. How could you have missed this night of all nights?? Emily will probably be flying off to another country by the time you read this so you’ll have to wait another six months to hear about limping back to her room after battling children in a ring.

Our next show is on March 16 and we’ll have two themes that night. At the end of last week’s show, I said our next theme was, “Breaking the Rules.” Now I realize that it could be a little problematic to talk in public about breaking certain rules. So I’m adding a second theme to our March show. If you don’t want to tell us about the time you broke out of jail or set fire to your cousin’s Volkswagen. I totally understand! I have no idea what the statute of limitations is for that stuff. 

So here’s the second theme for March, “Best Laid Plans – Stories of things going sideways.” I hope this jogs a memory and makes you want the share the story.

Before I let you go, I want to let you know that I’ve started a donation page for the show to help pay for the monthly venue fee. Fresh Ground Stories will always be free to attend and tell stories at but I’ve had to give up on my dream of finding a free place for the show. We started in 2010 and we’ve always been lucky enough to find a Starbucks that gave us their space in exchange for bringing in lots of people to buy coffee. The space we’re at now, the Chabad at Queen Anne – Magnolia, doesn’t sell anything so we can’t really ask for that kind of deal. Happily, they’re letting us use their space because they believe in what we do. All they’ve asked from us is a cleaning fee so that the space will be ready the next day for services.

Unfortunately, I can’t afford to pay the monthly fee on my own so if you’d like to help us keep this space click on the link below and send us a couple bucks. Extra special thanks to all the people who put cash in Mr. Coffee after the show Thursday. That was completely unexpected. I’m incredibly grateful for the love everyone showed me and FGS that night. (Thank you, David, for the suggestion.)


Don’t forget, our monthly workshop is also free and so is one-on-one story coaching from me over the phone.


freshgroundstories at Gmail dot com to set up a phone call

See you all next month on the 16th!

Email me directly if you have any questions (Meetup doesn’t usually send me replies to these emails.)


freshgroundstories at Gmail dot com 

See you Thursday!

Hi Everyone,

I’m looking forward to seeing you this Thursday at the show. I hope some of you are working on stories. We had a great time last month with our first in-person show in a long time. Our new venue has good parking and a nice, intimate feel. Perfect for the kind of stories we tell.

Here’s a quick story I just found from The Moth to get you inspired. 

Email me if you have any questions. Remember, we can’t bring any non-kosher food inside the building. You’ll be reminded of that when you walk past the giant 10-foot menora outside the front door 🙂

Here’s the invite if you need details for the show or the venue


See you Thursday!



FGS: Starting Over – Stories of moving forward

February’s theme is, “ Starting Over – Stories of moving forward.” There are so many ways I could describe how we’re starting over with our in-person shows. It’s a new year, in a new venue, with new tellers, and no Zoom links. Usually, I dread starting over in any part of life but I’m excited about this because of all the new people we’ll meet and the new stories we’ll hear.

Since we’re all trying to figure out how to move forward after the pandemic, I think it’ll be good to hear stories of how we’ve moved forward from other big things. Have you had to regroup and move forward after the end of a relationship? Getting fired from a job? The death of someone you couldn’t live without but had to? Maybe your kids moved out or you found yourself alone with no purpose. Did you ever end up in a new city and had to make new friends as an adult? What was the moment when you realized you had to suck it up and get going? Come tell a story about a time when you had to start over and what you learned about yourself in the process.

Remember to practice your story out loud on as many people as possible and time yourself when you’re doing it. All stories have to be under 8 minutes. Stories can be as short as you want but not over 8 minutes. Stories also have to be clean in both language and content. Send me an email if you have any questions about that.

The rest of the rules and guidelines are below: https://freshgroundstories.com/2013/01/22/storytelling-rules-and-guidelines/

Workshops are a great way to get feedback on a story you’re working on. Here is one I highly recommend. It’s run by two people who have told many times at FGS and other shows in the area:  https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories-Storytelling-Workshop/

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

See you on Thursday, February 16th at 7 pm at the Chabad of Queen Anne – Magnolia! 1825 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109 (Remember, no non-kosher food in the building)

Paul Freshgroundstories at gmail dot com

Thank you!

We did it! We had our first in-person show since last year and it was great. The place was packed and the energy was fantastic. Do you even remember what it was like to hang out in a room full of people and listen to stories? Studies say it’s 1,852 times better than watching on Zoom. We had just enough chairs for everyone that night so now I’m out hunting down used folding chairs and will have more seating by the time our February 16 show rolls around. Super special thanks to Rabbi Shnai who surprised us with beer and babka! So much kosher goodness!

Maryanne started us off with a story about adopted families, Virginia Jews, kosher kitchens, washing dishes in a river, and a flock of ducks. I can’t think of a better way to open our new venue than with a story that bobs and weaves its way through all those things and 50 years of friendship. Thank you, Maryanne.

Aaron, a first-timer, was up next with a story on everything you do to avoid being with your family at a wedding. Was the term love/hate invented for families? Aaron got to put one over on his family and drive off into the sunset before they figured it out. Sometimes that’s the best you can hope for.

Ashley was next with a story that solved the age-old riddle of “how do you crash a hang glider without leaving the ground?” Luckily, she only ended up hog-tied and terrified so she got to live to tell the story. I’d love to do a show one day about near-death experiences. Do we have enough people to do a whole show on that? Let me know if you have a story like that and I’ll see if we can get a whole evening out of it.

Laura was up next with a story of everything a teenage girl does when trying to avoid her dad on a family vacation. Who knew that the theme of “Lessons we didn’t want to learn” would end up with so many stories about family? It was great to see Laura again after we shared the stage at Locally Fameless last year. FGS is a great place to practice stories that you’re telling other places. I love the crossover we have with other shows in the PNW.

Gretchen was next with a story from grade school when she went into a “coiffure-induced trance” and did her best not to take her blunt-nosed scissors and snip off a ringlet of the girl who sat in front of her. I must admit, I too have been mesmerized by certain people’s hair, although I never had the nerve to take any of it home with me. The big lesson from Gretchen’s story was never let your mom find out what you did at school. I still remember the fear that would take hold of me when any adult said, “I’m going to call your mother.” It was even scarier than hearing, “Wait till your father gets home.” 

Jeremy, another first-timer, told one of the most beautiful stories we’ve ever heard at FGS. It was about being with his father who was slowly dying from cancer and the moments and stories they shared together. I hope all of us can be as content in our final days as Jeremy’s father was. Both of my parents died before they got their stories out.. I hope I’ve shared enough stories with my son so that I’m gone he won’t feel like his father was a mystery

David then went up and told a wonderful story about being abandoned by his traveling nurse. How did that all come about? Well, you should have been there. All I’ll say is that I love a story that ends with a surprise thank you. Imagine how happy we’d be if we all tried to figure out a way to be grateful for the bad times.

Mary shared a story that we could all see was hard for her to talk about. It was about a robbery that happened at the Shakey’s she worked at many years ago and the guilt she held onto about it. I hope telling that story helped her. One of the most powerful things about storytelling is that it allows us to decide what our experiences mean and how those stories end. It gives us power when we feel powerless. That’s why this show is one of the most important things in my life. I get reminded of the power and need for this kind of storytelling every month.

Next up was our final first-timer, Sanjay. He told a story full of humor, humility, and self-reflection. Afterward, we all decided that he needed to come to everyone’s jobsite and teach our bosses how to listen and lead. Thank you, Sanjay, for making me believe that there are people out there who know how to lead with insight and integrity.

Melissa was our final teller with the story of how she moved her parents to Seattle from the midwest. Did she almost kill her father with an oyster? Of course, she did. But what’s a story without a little anaphylactic shock? Thank you, Melissa, for sharing a story of equal parts love and frustration. I think that’s about the ratio all of us have when it comes to family.

Speaking of family, Melissa has been part of our FGS family for quite a while and I’m happy to announce she just published a great book on storytelling for business. If you had seen her tell last Thursday you’d know that she’s a pro. I’m halfway through the book and can happily recommend it to anyone who wants to learn how to lead better through storytelling. It’s a full-length book available on Kindle. Get it!

Thanks again to everyone who came out and especially all the people who talked with me after the show. Making friends and having conversations is a big part of FGS and we’re lucky we have time to meet and get to know each other at our new venue.

Next month’s theme is “Starting Over.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.

See you on the 16th!