Thank you all for coming out last Thursday for another night of stories. We had close to 120 people. It was great looking out over the audience and not recognizing half of them. I love our regulars but I’m especially touched when they bring someone new to the show. That means more people need storytelling than we have shows for. If anyone is thinking of starting their own show please do. I would love for Seattle to be a city where we can go out every night of the week and listen to personal stories of the people we share this place with.

Here are a couple of places to start if you’re looking to listen or tell your own stories: (click the join button to get access to the monthly listing of storytelling shows in the area)

This email will be shorter than my usual thank you/wrap-ups mostly because I’m sick, but also because Thanksgiving is coming up and I still have to go get stuff for the trip north to visit my family. The story that most got under my skin that night was Kris’s. She told us about a day 20 years ago when she was walking across the Golden Gate Bridge and witnessed something there that shaped her life from then on.

Kris wrote me a week before the show and asked if a story about a man ending his life would be appropriate to tell at FGS. I told her it was but that she had to be very careful in how she told it. Stories like this are so delicate. We need to hear them but we need to hear them in the right way. The main thing I asked her to do was to make sure the story was about her and not him.

Kris ended up doing an amazing job. She told me she had been practicing and rewriting until a few minutes before she arrived. That’s how much she cared about getting it right. She told the story with honesty, compassion, and vulnerability. There were no judgments or opinions. It was all about what she learned about herself from that singular moment in 1993.

Last night, I listened to the story again. I heard her get choked up in the middle and whisper, “I don’t know what to say next.” A few seconds later I heard someone in the audience say, “It’s ok.” And that was all Kris needed to move on and tell the rest of her story. That’s the kind of person who comes to FGS. No matter how much someone is stumbling and shaking, you’re there for them. Thanks to all the audience members over the years who have stayed with a teller while they struggled to get through something big.

Before I let you get back to your evening, I want to let you know that the teller who went way overtime that night wrote me the next morning to apologize. She felt terrible that went that far over and promised it would never happen again. She also said it was ok for me to tell everyone that in this email. I was touched that she reached out to me before I contacted her. That means a lot.

The main reason tellers go over time is that they don’t practice out loud and time themselves. It usually happens with tellers who have told some good stories in the past and don’t think they need to practice anymore. I know tellers with decades of experience who still practice out loud with a timer. One of the reasons the audience at FGS is so good is because they’ve learned they can trust us to practice our stories as much as possible before we go onstage. We all make mistakes and go long sometimes. None of us are professional speakers and most of the time we’re telling stories for the first time in front of strangers. The best way to make sure we don’t go over 8 minutes is to practice on as many friends, coworkers, and family members as possible and time ourselves. The second best way is to join our monthly workshop 🙂

This is a great place to get feedback on stories you’re working on. It’s run by two of our regular tellers who volunteer their time for us. I can’t tell you how valuable it is to get feedback on your story before you perform it for strangers. The audience graces us with their patience and attention. We gotta do our part and make sure we’re giving them our best storytelling selves. I corner people at work all the time and try out stories on them. They love it. Even though they’re getting the raw version they still encourage me to keep practicing on them. Once you find half a dozen people you regularly practice on you’ll notice how much better your writing and performing is onstage.

If you can’t make it to the workshop you can always email me and ask for help and feedback. There’s nothing easy about what we do up there so don’t be afraid to ask for help. I have people I talk to for every story I tell. I’ve never told a story that I didn’t first get feedback on from friends.

One last thing. Thank you to the stranger who gave me two copies of Matthew Dicks’ books to give away! I love you! The books were given to me through someone else and they didn’t tell me who it was. Whoever you are, thank you thank you thank you.

If you’re wondering what book I’m talking about it’s this one:

I give one copy away to a randomly chosen first-timer at the end of each show. It’s the best book on storytelling I’ve ever read and I try to share it as much as I can.

Thanks again for another special night. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

Next month’s show is on December 19. The theme is “Crossroads.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.

Take care,

Paul f