Anyone want to tell a story with me this week?

Hi Everyone,

If you’re looking for a good place to practice your story for FGS, The Moth, or any other show there’s a new storytelling open mic that just opened up at a cool little bookstore in Greenwood. Their first show is this Thursday.  I’ll be there telling a story I told this summer at FGS. I’d love to share the stage with a bunch of you!

If you live closer to Tacoma, you can tell a story at one of my favorite shows at Alma Mater Coffee in The Honey Room. You know you’ve always wanted to tell a story in a place called The Honey Room, right? There’s no theme on this night so bring any story you want. (This is the place I found John and Taryn, two tellers who shared stories at last month’s FGS.)

Even if you can’t make it to the shows, it’s worth it to join the meetups so you get their invites each month.

I hope you’re all doing well. Don’t forget, the next FGS show is coming up on the 20th!



FGS: Aha! – Stories of revelations

This month’s theme is “Aha-Stories of revelations, epiphanies.” Bring a true 8-minute or less story about a time when you realized something about yourself of your life. This is as close to an open theme as we’ll ever get at FGS 🙂

The biggest revelation I’ve had this year is a few months ago when my babysitter from 1969 wrote me out of the blue to ask if I wanted to know why my mother had always been so angry. Googling my mom had led her to a story I wrote about how I’d always wondered what had been the source of her temper. My mother died when I was 17 so I never got to talk to her as an adult. I never got to ask her the question that shaped my life for as long as I can remember. Why was I such a burden to her? What was I doing that made her so upset?

Now suddenly, I was going to find out. The woman who took care of me between the ages of 3-5 and interacted with my mom on a daily basis was probably the only person still alive who had the answer.

I wrote her back immediately. “Yes. I need to now. Please tell me.” Even though there was a part of me that didn’t want to know, there was a bigger part of me that had to know.

“She hated children,” she wrote back. “She hated children, hated your father, and hated being married. She loved the idea of you but was tired of playing the role of your mother.”

And there it was. It all made sense. I was the burden I always suspected I was. It wasn’t anything I did that made her upset, it was my existence that she resented. I would have made a better nephew. Maybe even a great stepson who moved on when his dad left. But I was hers and my father didn’t want to raise me either so we were stuck with each other. It’s a shame I didn’t get to experience her as a crazy aunt, a role she was more naturally attuned to. If she had been the loud New Yorker who lived across the street I probably would have been the kid she took under her wing and told stories to. Instead, I was her son and needed more than a quick joke and a lesson in the old soft shoe.

In the end, I know she did her best. When cancer finally took her, she went down swinging. When she knew she wasn’t going to survive, she snuck out of the hospital because she knew I’d need every cent she had in the bank to find a place to live and make it through high school. She wanted to die at home because it was cheaper.

When she got home I called a cab and took her back to the hospital. The cancer had already eaten away so much of her brain that she couldn’t speak. If there was anything she wanted to say to me it was too late. It was too late for both of us. All I knew was that she couldn’t say anything to hurt me anymore and I wanted to keep it that way. So I took her back to the hospital where she could die in peace.

Taking care of her in her final days would have taken a selfless love that I didn’t have back then. I didn’t learn about that kind of love until seven years later when my own son was born. I couldn’t give him much in the years I spent raising him in tiny apartments on minimum wage, but I made sure he always had one thing. He knew he wasn’t a burden.

And that’s the type of story we’re looking for. Come tell a story where you learned something about yourself. How did you figure it out? Did it make you happy? Sad? Relieved? Did it change how you saw yourself in general after you found out? Did it explain something you’d been wondering about?

Remember to practice out loud and time yourself to keep it under 8 minutes. If you have trouble getting it under 8 minutes send me an email and we can talk about how to cut it down. I swear it doesn’t bother me. I’d rather help you cut a couple minutes off your story than have to bump someone on the night of the show because we’re running long.

Here are the rules and guidelines for telling:

Take care. I hope to see a bunch of you on the 20th, 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea. 🙂


Thank you!

Thank you all for coming out last Thursday and making it such a great show. We had some tellers really dig deep this month. Four stories were from things that happened 50 years ago. When I hear stories like that I always feel like I just stepped into an old curiosity shop and the owner is taking me into the back room to show me something he’s never shown anyone else before. Every time I host FGS I feel like I’ve been given a handful of little gifts to take home. Thursday night, some of those gifts were dustier than others because they’d been hidden away for so long.

Connie told us about finding an old report card from first grade that made her rethink some of the things she’s believed about herself her entire life. How is it that a first-grade teacher could have a better take on your needs and personality than your parents do? When Connie read the notes her teacher wrote on that report card I thought, “Well, of course. That’s exactly who Connie is.” But that’s not what everyone else had been telling her. I’m glad Connie found that report card. From what I understand, I think she’s going to make a trip to Goodwill soon and get rid of a bunch of self-help books. It turns out she’s actually pretty ok.

John C told a story about witnessing a horrific accident at Boy Scout camp that included a zip line, an Ewok tree village, some bone breaking, and cursing at a priest. Sure, that might sound like a perfect camp-out but it turned out to be a pivotal moment in John’s life. Sometimes terror and helplessness can teach you things you can’t learn any other way.

Chris told a story about her first one-night-stand and why it was also her last one-night-stand. Listening to her story made me feel a lot better about my own failures at navigating those momentary intimate relationships. I’m usually ok with having a porous heart that keeps me from being a real swinger on the dating scene. Sometimes, though, I wish my heart was a little tougher. Sometimes I wish it didn’t take so much energy to keep my feelings separate from the person I’m with. Oh, well. Wait. Did I just say I wish I was a real swinger? Who am I, Dean Martin??

Jake, one of our regulars, told us what it’s like teaching a class of 1,200 students at UW and how one particular student ending up standing out. If you think 1,200 students seems a little much for any class you aren’t alone. There was a collective gasp in the audience when Jake let us in on what it’s like to take biology 101 at a major university.

There were three stories we heard that night that I’m still thinking about. David K told us about the moment his dad went a step too far with him. It was a story I know many of us have but it’s rare to see someone have the courage to relive that moment in public. There were moments when David was no longer standing in Roy Street Coffee. He was back there in his hometown, running from his father, wondering if he would ever go home again. It took a lot for Dave to share that story. It makes me feel good to know he had a place to share it.

In addition to being a wonderful storyteller, David also runs a story workshop which I highly recommend. You can join his group here:

Taryn, our guest teller, told a fantastic story about trying to fix a meal with a counter full of random, nearly-expired food. It was only two months after her son was born and she was tired, hungry, and frustrated. Her husband has a thing about wasting food so she was trying desperately to figure out how to combine tofu, water chestnuts, and tandoori sauce into something edible. It was a funny, touching story that I’m hoping she’ll let me post online. It was her first time at FGS and only the second story she’s ever told live in front of an audience. She did a great job. I hope she comes back.

Lance, one of our new regulars, told a story that I almost don’t want to relate here. It was one of the most painful stories I’ve ever heard. It wasn’t a frightening or dangerous story. It was a story of broken trust and the awful things families can do to each other. It’s a story that Lance couldn’t tell until the people responsible had passed away. I don’t know Lance very well but I wish he didn’t have that story in him. I wish he hadn’t had to carry it around inside him for the last 50 years. The only thing I’m glad about is that everyone in the audience that night was there for him. Lance gave me permission to post it online. You can listen to it here:

I know you’re all either making plans for Thanksgiving vacation or quietly freaking out over the idea of 20 people coming to stay at your house this weekend, so I’ll wrap this up with a big thanks to all our tellers: John C, David K, John W, Chris S, Moreah, David S, Bruce, Carl, Jake, Connie, Lance, and Taryn.

Below are links to some great shows coming up and a podcast I was just on.

Two of our tellers were just featured on the KNKX podcast, Sound Effect. I love it when I hear you guys on the radio!

One of our members just started a new open mic at a sweet little bookstore in north Seattle. I’ll be there for the first show. I hope a bunch of you can join me.

A Necessary Sadness. This is a very special show. I love the idea and also the woman who produces it. I was honored she once asked me to tell a story there.

Music and stories with The Go Janes and FGS regular Mary Anne Moorman.  Music and Mary Anne – Two things I love! Go see this show 🙂

Are you ever in Tacoma? Three of our tellers last Thursday came up from this open mic. I often work on my own stories here. It’s once a month at a cool little coffee shop.

Lastly, I was asked to be on a new podcast last month and I had a great time hanging out with the host, Kevin Lin. We talked about how I found storytelling, and also a little bit about my personal history. Some of it you may have heard me hint at a few of those things between stories at FGS. Some stuff I’ve never said anywhere in public. You can catch our conversation here:

Kevin has told two stories at FGS. When he’s not telling his own stories he interviews people. He just left his job in the tech industry to start his own business. I hope part of that business is podcasting. You can read more of his writing at

Our next show is December 20. The theme is “Aha! – Stories of revelations, epiphanies.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone. I’m grateful for all of you.


See you this Thursday!

Hi Everyone,

Our next show is coming up in a couple days. I hope you can make it. We have a special guest teller who will be closing the show that night. I saw her tell a story in Tacoma at the Something To Tell show and I ran right up to her afterward and asked her to tell it at FGS. She’s new to storytelling but she’s off to a great start. I hope she becomes a regular. Also, her name is Taryn which is very close to my son’s name, Taran. Clearly, the gods of storytelling were guiding me to that little coffee shop in on Fawcett Street 🙂

In the meantime, you can listen to the story below. It’s from Jason Schmidt, a guy I tried to get to come to FGS but he moved across the country earlier this year and we lost out.

This is one of those stories that makes me get really quiet when I hear it. It brings up an old memory of me and my son when he was 7, and we were in a similar situation. I know exactly how this storyteller’s dad was feeling in this story. Fear, shame, and disbelief. Those were the big three emotions I had to work through in order to turn things around.

I don’t know what happened to Jason’s dad in the years since this story. I hope he lived long enough to make better stories with his son. I hope he got to see how great his son turned out to be.

See you all this Thursday at Roy Street


Shows and workshops coming up

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick reminder about some opportunities coming up to both hear and tell stories.

1. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Washington State is hosting The Brainpower Chronicles: Mental Health Stories, NAMI Washington’s annual storytelling event. This is one of those shows where you get to see how storytelling can make a difference in the world.

This year they have two performances: Saturday, November 10 at 7pm and Sunday, November 11 at 2pm.

The show is directed by FGS regular Bill Bernat, and features six women sharing their stories of how they’ve been affected by mental illness and their journeys toward recovery. Bill Radke, host of KUOW-FM‘s The Record and Week In Review will be the emcee for the November 10 show.

Discounted tickets are available for those with a limited income; please call Tom Lane at 206-971-1596 or Please don’t be shy about emailing Tom. We want everyone to have an opportunity to see this show.

2. If you see the NAMI show (or come to the FGS show on the 15th) and are wondering how you could learn to tell your own story then I highly recommend Bill Bernat’s workshop, Storymorphosis. Bill used this method of teaching to help each teller at the NAMI show prepare their story. I’ve seen him hold workshops before and he does a great job. Below is the text I lifted from one of his announcements:

Storymorphosis:  Have fun crafting and telling a story about something that changed you for the better. Interactive half day workshop Nov 17 ($50) with FGS regular, TED speaker, and Moth Radio Hour storyteller Bill Bernat. Details at

3. If you’re an experienced storyteller and would like to tell at next year’s Folklife festival get your application in soon. The deadline is December 1. I might apply for this myself and it would be great to share the stage with other FGS tellers.

4. And finally, there’s a wonderful peer-driven workshop coming up on December 2 that’s run by another FGS regular Dave Kreimer. It’s a friendly, low-key event that I have always found helpful when I’m working on a story. I always love it when I see Dave throw his name in the hat at FGS and I’m glad he’s offering this opportunity to help people get their own stories together. Dave sent me the info below so I could let everyone know about it.

FGS Storytelling Workshop

Seattle, WA
319 storytellers

This is a free workshop inspired by Fresh Ground Stories, a monthly storytelling event open to all. The format will be simple: Bring a story up to 7 minutes long, tell it, get…

Next Meetup

Storytelling Workshop

Sunday, Dec 2, 2018, 1:00 PM
5 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

It does not require a village to craft a story, but it is helpful to have one!

Until you tell your story to an audience it is hard to know:
– How listeners will react
– How you will feel when telling it

This peer-driven storytelling workshop format provides the opportunity to tell your story to a supportive group and to get instant feedback.
– Not sure if you can tell a story? Try it, sitting at a table with a few other friendly folks.
– Not sure if you can provide meaningful feedback? Sharing your personal reaction is all that is required.

Plus, Matthew Dicks, an increasingly well-known storyteller through his book, podcast and blog provides some excellent information. A note sheet of the top few things he recommends considering when crafting a story will be provided and we will see to what extent it helps us all to become better storytellers.

Bring a story that you would like to possibly tell on stage at a storytelling event like The Moth or Fresh Ground Stories. Your story should be 8 minutes or less. It can be written, outlined or in your head.

Come and have a great time listening to and telling stories with other motivated tellers.

That’s all I have for now. Let me know if you have any questions. See you on the 15th!