FGS – Two themes in July – “Gratitude” or “Lessons Learned”

This month we have two themes. Choose whichever one you’d like to tell a story on. The first theme is “gratitude.” The alternate theme is “lessons learned.” The hard part about the gratitude theme will be to wrap a story around it. We all have people we could thank in our lives but for the show, you’ll need a story about a time when they did the thing you’re thanking them for.

If I wanted to thank my friend Stephanie for getting me an interview for the job I still have 16 years later, I’d tell the story of how I was working in a small office supply store at the time where the owner was so mean he once threw someone’s paycheck on the floor just so they’d have to stoop down and pick it up. 

If I wanted to thank Mike Moto, one of the first comedians to take me on the road with him as an opener, I’d tell the story about the time he got the audience’s respect by challenging the biggest, loudest guy in the room to a pushup contest onstage. I’d probably end the story with the time I went onstage and purposely took three times longer to tell a story just to show the audience I wasn’t afraid of their silence. 

A few years ago at FGS, I talked about how grateful I was for two of my old friends from Alaska who came down to Los Angeles in 1987 to save me from that town and myself. I started the story with going to LA to search for the ghost of my mother and ended the story with an old man giving me a bag of plums. I might still be living in my car in Orange county trying to figure out what to do with my life if Chuck and Paul hadn’t come down to rescue me. 

This is your chance to thank someone for something they did that you still think about today. Remember that a story has to contain action. Some things have to physically happen to make it a story. Talk about what you were thinking or feeling when those things happened. That will build tension and give the audience a reason to care about the story. 

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. If your story goes long, someone else who practiced for weeks might not get a chance to tell theirs. Stories also have to be clean in both language and content. Send me an email or give me a call 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 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 on a story. Send me an email through Meetup or directly at freshgroundstories at gmail dot com and we can set up a phone call. 

Here are four short articles by one of my favorite storytellers with all kinds of good advice on the kind of stories we’re looking for at FGS:

https://jeff-simmermon.medium.com/?p=cc29027b8cd8

https://jeff-simmermon.medium.com/how-to-structure-a-funny-story-d1730535f81b

https://jeff-simmermon.medium.com/this-is-a-boring-shark-attack-8-rules-for-fascinating-storytelling-3b9d2bab6dca

https://jeff-simmermon.medium.com/this-ice-cream-will-heal-your-heartbreak-how-to-find-your-storys-north-star-b818f50250ab

This is the best book I’ve ever read on personal storytelling: 

Here is a short piece by the author of the book on what questions to ask yourself when you start working on a story (it’s about halfway down the blog post): https://mailchi.mp/104f63f44a5a/you-should-be-able-to-answer-this-question-before-ever-telling-your-story?e=a4dd06ea14 

I hope to see you on July 21 at 7 pm at the Olive Way Starbucks! 

Paul

Freshgroundstories at gmail dot com

Thank you!

Before I get to the show wrap-up I want to let you know that one of our tellers, Mary Anne Moorman, is doing a show with the amazing Go Janes this Saturday at Kenyon Hall in West Seattle. If you’ve never heard stories and music together you need to see this show. It’s magical. Either one of these acts is worth going to West Seattle for. But together? It’s a must-see! So go see’em 🙂

http://www.kenyonhall.org/

Ok, now that you’re back from buying those tickets and changing the course of your artistic life…thanks to everyone who came to our show last Thursday! I was worried that I hadn’t worded the theme in a way that would jog some memories and generate stories but we ended up with eight tellers that night which is a perfect number for us.

We started out with Gretchen, star of Moth Slams and Risk! shows lately, who told us how she went from Thanksgiving novice to a turkey-carving samurai. Along the way, she reminded us that it’s never really about the food. Thanksgiving and other food-focused holidays are always about the people we gather around us. Or as she puts it,  “It’s about the company, not the cuisine.”

Next up was our favorite metro bus driver Nathan. I’ve been trying to get Nathan back to FGS for years but his driving schedule keeps him on the road Thursday nights. I’ve been this close to getting everyone in the audience to hop on his bus for a few stops so he can tell a story while we drive around town but then we’d all need to get Ubers and cabs back to Starbucks so…the mobile show will have to wait. But one day I will make this happen! Nathan’s story that night was about a young woman riding his bus one day who handed him a note that said, “Making friends won’t hurt you.” Everyone at the show that night knows now that anyone who gives a note like that to a stranger she sees on the bus is absolutely not the person you want to be friends with. Turns out sometimes making a new friend can hurt you. 

Chris followed Nathen with the first chess story we’ve ever heard at FGS. Is there something about being good at chess that leads to having a big ego? Chris told a sweet comeuppance story about beating the 8th-grade chess master in her very first game of chess. I love stories about tiny victories we still remember decades later. Chris’s story was a great example of taking a single moment in time, one move on a chess board, and turning it into a story. 

David was next with a story that also happened many years ago. Thirty-nine years ago to be exact. It was about a time he got lost in a Costa Rican jungle and was convinced he was going to be eaten by a jaguar. Or, if you’ve read your son too many Winnie-the-Pooh stories, a jagular. Yes, every time David mentioned jaguar in his story, I was hearing jagular in my head. When David was done there were two thoughts running through my mind. One, that I need to find those old Pooh books and see if it really was a jagular. And two, that I need to start walking through jungles so I can get more near-death stories.

Quinn, who we also haven’t seen in years, made a surprise appearance that night and told a beautiful story about going from acting and dancing to violin repair to soon a career in law. Somewhere in the middle of her story she said, “I decided to cauterize the wound of my poverty with art.” Such a perfect sentence! I’m still thinking about it a week later. Quinn and Nathan, by the way, came up with their stories in the 30 minutes before the show began when I told them we only had five names in Mr. Coffee. If you had heard their stories you would have sworn they’d worked on them for weeks. We truly have some amazing people walk onto our stage each month. Thank you Quinn and Nathan for helping me out on short notice.

Deborah was next with another story that began decades earlier. This time it was about a heart-shaped box of candy that she wanted every Valentine’s Day when she was a kid but never received. Was the story about a box of candy? No, it was about how the dreams of youth don’t always measure up years later when you live them out as an adult. Of course, for me, it was also about the importance of laughter and not taking yourself too seriously.

Carolyn was up next with a hilarious story about entering the workforce with her college degree in 1978 and discovering that there were still a lot of barriers for a woman to overcome even with a college degree. Normally, this isn’t the type of story we tell at FGS but Carolyn told it so well and without veering into a TED talk that she kinda found a loophole in my “no politics” rule. In the 12 years FGS has been around, only one other person has been able to tell a story like this without turning it into a speech at the end. It’s wonderful to see when it works and terrible when it doesn’t. That night it was wonderful. Thank you, Carolyn, for keeping it a story. According to my calculations, we have to wait at least eight more years before anyone else can try this.

Our next teller was a complete surprise. Shreya, a young woman who had never told a story onstage before, was so inspired by the tellers she’d seen so far that she walked up to me during the show and asked if she could tell a story. I love it when this happens! We usually have too many tellers to add more during the show but that night I was able to get her in toward the end. She told the story of how she’d started over by moving to Seattle from another country and all the things she had done to try to make this her new home. I hope Shreya comes back in the future and tells more stories with us. The audiences at FGS shows are incredibly supportive of new tellers and it’s exciting for me personally to see someone discover this wonderful art form.

I was so happy to see another teller from the old days of FGS walk onstage next. Elliot finally returned and shared a sweet story about what it means to find a job where you’re treated like a human being. We’ve all had jobs where we were treated like a lump of coal and wondered how we were going to escape. It made me happy to see that Elliot was able to do just that. He’d started his job just a week or two earlier and we could see the excitement on his face when he talked about how good it felt to enjoy going to work every day. Thank you Elliot for sharing that with us.

Emily was our final teller and she told us about falling in love with Iceland. I’m smiling right now as I’m listening to her story again and hearing her say, “Jenny, I think I love it here. I think I’m supposed to be here.” Tomorrow, Emily’s wish is coming true. She’s going to Iceland for two months and performing her one-woman show, “Iceland Please Love Me” at the Reykjavik Fringe Festival. I’m so touched that she chose FGS to work on the stories she’s going to tell there. Emily is an amazing writer and storyteller and Iceland is lucky to have her. Here’s the link to her show if you’d like to read more about it: https://rvk.ssboxoffice.com/events/iceland-please-love-me/

Thanks again to all the tellers and everyone who showed up to support them. This is where we learn how to tell stories and we are lucky to have such fantastic audiences every month. We’re also lucky that Starbucks not only stays open for us three hours after they close, they also provide free drip coffee and pastries. This is a big deal. When we changed venues in 2019, they were the only ones in Seattle who offered us a free place to perform. I’ve kept FGS free for everyone to attend and perform because I think the world needs places like this to share stories. I couldn’t do that if I had to rent a space. That this coffee shop also gives us free coffee and pastries while their registers are closed so they can’t even make money while we’re there is amazing. If you’re ever in the area, please stop by and leave a good tip. It’s important to take care of people who take care of us.

That’s all for now. I hope you can make it to our next show on July 21. There will be two themes that night. Pick whichever one you have a story for. The themes are “Gratitude – Stories where you get to say thanks” and “Lessons Learned”. We all have people we can thank in our lives but I also know it might be hard to find a specific story on that theme. So I’m adding “Lessons Learned” as a theme in case you can’t come up with a thank you story. I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.

Write me at freshgroundstories at gmail dot com if you have any questions or would like some help on a story. Our next free workshop is July 10. Here’s the link for more info:

Take care,

Paul

Email me if you got a parking ticket tonight – I’ll take care of it

Hi Everyone,

I found out at the end of tonight’s show that parking enforcement mistakenly gave some of us tickets in the Starbucks parking lot while we were at the show. I got one and I know a few other people did too.

Halley, the Starbucks manager, said if we send her photos of our tickets she will get them voided. 

So if you were parked in the little Starbucks parking lot and got a ticket tonight, take a photo of it and email it to me at freshgroundstories at gmail dot com. I’ll send them along to Halley. And next time you’re in the Olive Way Starbucks be sure to thank her and throw a couple bucks in the tip jar for the staff. We are very lucky to have such a supportive manager and venue 🙂

I’ll get my wrap-up/thank you email out in the next few days but I wanted to let everyone know about the parking ticket situation before anyone paid them.

Thanks for a great night of wonderful stories. See you next month!

Paul
freshgroundstories at gmail dot com

Some thoughts on themes

Hi All,

I hope some of you are working on stories for next week’s show. I’ve talked to a few people this week who said they were having trouble coming up with a story to fit this month’s theme, “First Times – Stories of beginnings”

Don’t get too caught up in the theme. I purposely keep them broad so almost any story can fit if you frame it right. Last night I relistened to an old story of mine that I originally told for the theme, “Last Times.” With almost no changes, it could also fit these other themes:

Last times
First times
Manipulation
Chemical weapons
Bad things that turned out good
Pain
Relief
Secrets
Goodbyes
Pandora’s Box
What they don’t know can hurt them
Curiosity killed the cat
Surprises
Family
Sticking your nose when it doesn’t belong

Here’s a story from Elna Baker, one of my all-time favorite tellers. Part of the story is about going on a first date so it could easily fit our theme for this month. But it could also fit a ton of other themes.

I hope it inspires you!

See you next Thursday.

Write me at freshgroundstories at gmail dot com if you have any questions or want to work on a story.

Paul

Liar’s Contest at Folklife today

Hi Everyone,

I’ll be one of the judges at today’s Liar’s Contest at the Folklife Festival. I hope you can join me at the show! If you’ve never seen a Liar’s Contest you can check out this story by award-winning liar Anne Rutherford 🙂

Here is the rest of the schedule for Folklife so you can check out all the other great stuff going on this weekend.

https://nwfolklife.org/festival/schedule/in-person-schedule.html

Paul

Freshgroundstories at gmail dot com