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