Thank you for such a great show last week!

Big thanks to everyone who came out to our show last week. It was an amazing night, and the perfect way to say goodbye to Zoom and hello to the stage. Our next show will be April 21 and we’re going back to our old venue, the Starbucks on Olive Way. I can’t wait to see everyone in person again!

It’s going to be hard to leave behind all the wonderful out-of-state tellers we’ve met over the last two years. I’ll do my best to stream future shows but I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to do that with any consistency. Since April of 2020, we’ve had people from India, Germany, Australia, Canada, New York, Texas, California, Idaho, and probably a bunch of other places I can’t remember. There’s a little-known rule at FGS that anyone who crosses state or international borders to get to our show will absolutely get a chance to tell a story. So if you’re outside Washington state, and thinking of going on vacation, consider being in Seattle on the third Thursday of the month 🙂

Our first teller of the night was also one of our furthest tellers. Johanne from Montreal told a beautiful story that began with her father, who was a roofer, driving her around town saying “every roof has a story to tell.” One night, years after he had passed away, one of his old friends called the house to say goodbye as he was close to death himself. The way Johanne described what happened that night on the phone felt as haunting as it must have felt for her that night. Grief comes and goes and seems to rise up in the most unexpected ways. Somehow, the rhythm of Johanne’s voice brought back old memories of people I thought I was done grieving for years ago. Stories like this go deep. They dig up things we thought we had buried. In the hands of a skilled teller like Johanne, they help us move forward when we thought we had gone as far as we could go.

Our next teller was Bev, from just slightly closer to us in Albany, NY. She told a story about saying goodbye to her father for what she knew would be the last time. I cried at the end of her story that night and I cried again tonight when I listened to it again. Both times Bev brought me back to April 2002 in Bellingham, Washington, in a room in St, Joseph Hospital where I said goodbye to my own dad. Thank you, Bev, for reminding me that the length of our grief is measured in the love we have for those we’ve lost. 

Silvana was next with a story that was both thrilling and heartbreaking. There were parts of her story about growing up that I instantly connected with. When she got to the part where Girl Scouts was a way to channel her energy and connect with people who cared about her, I thought, “Yes! That’s what Boy Scouts was for me!” To hear a few minutes later how Girl Scouts was suddenly taken away from her was heartbreaking. I felt for that little girl even though I know the Silvana of today is happy and living a great life. It was one of those stories where you want to go back in time and make things right for someone. 

Gretchen then shared a story of living through the “Great Lesbian Baby Boom” when she was in a relationship where her partner wanted a baby and she didn’t. There’s a moment in the middle of the story where Gretchen and her girlfriend’s mother are waiting in the hospital to find out if her girlfriend will one day be able to have a baby. When the news arrives they both start crying but for different reasons. It was a touching scene in an honest story about what happens when you realize you and the person you love are heading down different paths. 

Zac, in only the second time he’s told with us, shared a story about when he was a young man taking care of his mother who was dying of cancer. Zac stepped up on an hour’s notice to tell this story when he heard that a couple of tellers couldn’t make the show. I had no idea that he had never told this story publicly. We could see his face change as he dealt with each memory as it came back to him moment by moment. He took us back 20 years to a Mexican restaurant in California when he realized his mother wasn’t going to be with him much longer. As he saw his mother’s body falling apart in front of him, he realized there was one thing he could do to make this night ok for them. It was something that’s going to stay with all of us for a long time.

Ed was next with a story from all the way back in 1969 when he came back from the Vietnam war.  It turns out that his dad was a lot like my dad. He was hard to talk to about serious things and was more concerned with fixing than listening. Ed learned his father loved him when his mother told him that he did. I think a lot of us had to find out from our mothers that our father actually loved us. If you want to know how important it is to hear that your dad loves you all you have to know is that this story happened over 50 years ago and it was still powerful enough for Ed to want to share it with us.

Niranjian got the award for greatest distance from FGS HQ as he beamed in from the future in Australia. I was so glad he did because I wanted him to tell one last story before we ended our Zoom shows. He told a story that was personally terrifying for me because it was about being attacked by birds. If you ever want to get me to do something just threaten me with a bird. Any bird will do. Eagle, emu, robin, yellow-bellied sapsucker, it doesn’t matter. Feathered, flying dinosaurs are the stuff of my nightmares. So I’m glad Niranjian escaped with his life and discovered that if you can’t beat’em, feed’em.

Chris then told a beautiful story about learning to sign her name in second grade and how the weight of that signature has changed over the years. I love it when a teller takes a simple, everyday act and shows how it can mean much more sometimes. Have you ever thought of what your signature can do? It can buy you and car and a house and a thousand other things. It can also tell a doctor what to do if someone you love doesn’t make it out of surgery. Chris was at her storytelling finest here. Some of the tellers you see at FGS are so good you should study them. Chris is one of them.

Jamie told her second story with us and I am really looking forward to seeing her transition from Zoom to being onstage. Somehow she was able to tell her story of coming to America through her adventures at Costco, office potlucks, and the golden egg yolk pastry she loved as a kid in Malaysia. It was one of those stories that we were all able to relate to even though most of us were born here. It was a wonderful example of how storytelling can bring people together no matter how different their lives seem to be on the outside.

Tracey followed Chris with a story that made us all want to overhaul the American medical system. It started with a voicemail from her primary care physician who, after seeing Tracey’s lab results, asked if she had a treatment plan in place. It’s never good when your doctor asks if you have a treatment plan in place, especially when you have no idea why you would need a treatment plan in the first place. After a series of misdiagnoses from various doctors, humiliations at every level of the system, and uber rides where she had to say, “No, take me further down the street to the good ER,” she finally managed to find someone who could fix what was going on with her heart. We’re all happy that Tracey is still with us but I’d be lying if I said any of us are looking forward to the day we find out we need a treatment plan for something. If you’d like to read more about this yoga teacher’s heart attack you can check it out here: https://www.unicornheartgal.com/my-heart-story

Emily closed out the show that night with a story that had a twist in it that took me completely by surprise. I’ve seen teachers break up fights between students but I’ve never seen a teacher break up a fight like Emily did. Some of the biggest laughs I’ve ever had came right after I just heard something I couldn’t believe. There’s a moment toward the end of Emily’s story that gave me a laugh like that. I don’t want to tell you what it is because I know you’re going to hear her tell it at other shows in the future. All I can say is that it’s about something in her life she rarely talks about and I’m touched she chose to share it at our show.

Recently, Emily asked me to tell a story at a great show she co-produces at the Fremont Abbey called Locally Fameless. I’ve been to two of them so far and can unreservedly recommend it to anyone who loves true storytelling. I’ll be on the next one which is probably going to be scheduled for April 28 (but check the link below to make sure.)

https://www.facebook.com/locallyfameless

If you’d like to pitch your own story for Locally Fameless write Emily at emilyjpitts@gmail.com. They’re always looking for new tellers and they spend a lot of time coaching each teller they put on the show. So if you’ve never told a story in front of a live audience, this is a great place to start.

I hope to see a bunch of you at our next show April 21 where we’ll finally be back at our favorite Starbucks. The theme is, “Stumbles, Bumbles, and Fumbles – Stories of making mistakes.” 

Our next workshop is April 3, hosted by Dave and Colleen. It’s a great place to get feedback on a story you’re working on as well as meet other tellers in the area.

Write me directly at freshgroundstories at gmail dot com if you have any questions.

I’ll get the invite out for the April show sometime this weekend.

Take care,

Paul

Zoom info for this week’s show

Hi Everyone,

I’m looking forward to seeing you on Zoom this Thursday! 

Here’s the theme for the show: 

FGS: Hard Stuff – Stories of walking through the fire

Below is the Zoom info. See you soon 🙂

Paul

Paul Currington is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: FGS: Hard Stuff – Stories of walking through the fire

Time: Mar 17, 2022 07:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87835731204?pwd=MVJFUGMvWUY2eHdOeTVWYWhjWkprQT09

Meeting ID: 878 3573 1204

Passcode: 341676

One tap mobile

+12532158782,,87835731204#,,,,*341676# US (Tacoma)

+13462487799,,87835731204#,,,,*341676# US (Houston)

Dial by your location

        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)

        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)

        +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)

        +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)

        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)

        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)

Meeting ID: 878 3573 1204

Passcode: 341676

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kkC8KsDR8

Two shows this week and one sweet story

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re excited for next week’s show. It’ll be our final one on Zoom before we go back onstage in April. We’re finally going to see each other in person! Thanks to everyone who helped me keep this thing going by logging onto one more screen that I know you didn’t want to deal with. 

Of course, we’re not the only ones going back onstage. Our good friend Emily Pitts is running her Locally Fameless show this Thursday, live and in-person from the Fremont Abbey. There are three FGS tellers on this show. I hope some of you can go cheer them on.

Here’s the info Emily sent me to share with you:

“Locally Fameless is a new Monthly-ish nonfiction storytelling show that celebrates the characters of our community you’ve never heard of, but maybe should.

From secret talents and hidden feats of the past to fascinating jobs and wild adventures, Locally Fameless brings stories of just how extraordinary your neighbors really are. Come join us on March 10th at 7:30pm at the Fremont Abbey to hear stories from:

Paul Barach, Gretchen Douma, Rachel Van’t Lan, Zach Miller & Jeremy Kredlo 

And maybe even tell one yourself! If you were famous, what would you be famous for? 

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/locally-fameless-storytelling-show-fremont-abbey-tickets-265632432757”

If you still want to go to a show but don’t want to leave the house you can tune into the North Seattle Storytellers show which is also this Thursday.
https://www.meetup.com/North-Seattle-Storytelling-Meetup/events/284342451/

Their theme is “Books – tell us about a book that had a major impact on your life. What were you like before your read the book and how did it affect you?”

I love telling people about new story shows in the area. Many of these new shows are run by folks you’ve loved hearing stories from at FGS.

Lastly, here’s a story I just found in The Moth archives. As I watched it I thought, “Hey, this lady is like my mom.” Then by the end, I was thinking, “Actually,, I’m a lot like this lady.” 

I hope to see a bunch of you for our show on March 17. The theme is Hard Stuff – Stories of walking through the fire. Here’s the official invite with more info:
https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories/events/284294961/

Email me if you’d like to be on the show (but don’t reply to this email because Meetup won’t get it to me)

Paul

Freshgroundstories at gmail dot com

FGS: Hard Stuff – Stories of walking through the fire

Before Covid hit, I was thinking that I’d already been through all the really hard times I was going to have in life. Both of my parents passed away decades ago, I have a job that’s reasonably secure, my son made it to adulthood and is starting on a career he loves. I was kinda thinking that I would just gracefully slide into a life of telling stories and puttering around the yard. I don’t know exactly what puttering is but it sounds relaxing and I was looking forward to it.

Then Covid sent us all into a two-year spiral of fear and anxiety. I’m always up for a fight but how do you fight general malaise? So now I get to add 2020-2022 to the list of Really Hard Things I’ve Had To Do. For our next show on March 17, I’d love to hear stories about something hard you had to get through. Tell us about a time when you walked through the fire and came out the other side almost surprised that you made it. Think of one big thing you survived and tell us what happened and how it changed you. It doesn’t have to be the absolute hardest thing ever but it should be hard enough to be storyworthy.

If all goes well, we’ll have a special guest teller that night who I’ve been asking to tell one story in particular that fits this theme perfectly. It’s about one night in his life that he’ll never forget. After you hear it, you won’t forget it either. I have a little over three weeks to beg, bribe, and coax him to tell this story. Wish me luck.

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. 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:  https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories-Storytelling-Workshop/

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

I’m also happy to help people with their stories. Send me an email and we can set up a phone call.

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

We’ll be on Zoom again one last time. Now is a great time for our out-of-town tellers to share more stories with us. Hopefully, for our April show we’ll be back at our regular Starbucks on Olive Way. Cross your fingers!

I’ll send out the Zoom link to everyone on the Monday before the show which is March 14th.

I hope to see a bunch of you on the 17th!

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

Thank you!

Thanks to everyone for a great show Thursday! I was having a hard week that day and you guys really pulled me through. Listening to other people’s stories always lifts me up and that night was just what I needed.

Yousaf started us off by telling the story of everything he had to go through to take the GMAT multiple times because the internet kept losing his scores. Finally, after getting GMAT HQ on the phone and yelling in at least two different languages they were able to find his test in the Great Cloud and he made it into business school. He had a wonderful ending to the story where he talked about the importance of staying in the moment and “watching the water boil.” I love that phrase. I’d never heard it before but the next day I got out my old glass percolator and purposefully watched the water boil. Thanks, Yousaf.

Behnaz followed with a story about learning to make new friends and start dating after her divorce. It involved numerous Meetup brunches, a woman asking her to punch her in the face, and in the end, deciding to freeze her eggs in case it took a while to find the right man. This is what it’s like trying to date in Seattle. After a few weeks online you think, “It looks like this is going to take a while so I better freeze my eggs.” Thank you, Behnaz, for making me laugh days after the show is over.

Emily was next with a story about her younger sister nagging her to get a Roth IRA. As Emily was telling this story I remembered my dad saying the same thing to me 30 years ago when I was making $8/hour and more worried about putting gas in the car than retirement. Emily’s sister was relentless, though. Did you know there’s a difference between a savings account and an emergency fund? Did you know there are people who regularly save 15% of their income in their savings account? Who are these people?? Right now I’m worth way more dead than alive which is something my son just realized so now I can’t turn my back on him. The older I get, the more I think everyone should have a sister like Emily has. Sometimes all you need is one forward-looking, detail-oriented person in your life to make you do the thing you don’t want to do.

Deborah, one of our new regulars, showed us why it’s ok to lie to strangers who show up on your doorstep asking you out on a date. Apparently, people do this. Never feel guilty about lying to strangers who show up on your doorstep asking for something! Unless they’re selling Girl Scout cookies. And they better have Samos because I’m not shelling out good money for Thin Mints. But seriously. Don’t feel bad about lying to strangers to get out of a situation. If you want to start dating, do it the old-fashioned way. Join Meetup, go to some group brunches, take a martial arts class, and freeze your DNA. 

Vicki, a first-timer from Los Angeles, told a great story about going in for a sleep study to see if she had sleep apnea. I don’t know if she could see me cracking up but she told one of the funniest stories I’ve heard in a long time. Her impression of the sleep study nurse was perfect and I wish I could share it to show how much feeling you can squeeze into a story just by changing your voice a bit. I relistened to her story a few minutes ago and cracked up again each time she played the nurse character. So good! Thank you, Vicki, for that amazing story. I’m sad you live in LA and can’t make it to FGS when we go back onstage. If you ever come to Seattle, make sure you’re here on the third Thursday of the month. I’ll guarantee a spot on the show for you.

Gretchen closed out our show with a story I call, “Panic at 1,000 Feet.” It was the story of her first panic attack which happened on the observation deck of 94th floor of the John Hancock building in Chicago. I’m so happy when people tell stories about the times they were scared. It makes me feel better about the times I was scared. I’ve had a few panic attacks over the years and Gretchen described it perfectly. I had to laugh when she talked about her date who ran right across the floor and pressed his face against the glass like a toddler at Sea World. Meanwhile, Gretchen was back near the elevator on her hands and knees trying to crawl to safety.

Thanks again to everyone who told a story and shared something sweet in the chat room. Our next show is March 17. The theme is “The Hardest Thing – Stories of walking through the fire.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can. I’m crossing my fingers that March will be our last Zoom show and that we can go back to our Starbucks for the April show. I’m trying not to get too excited in case there’s another delay but I gotta admit I’m dying to see everyone again 🙂

Take care. Write me at freshgroundstories at gmail dot com if you have any questions or want some help on a story. The next workshop is Sunday, March 6. RSVP if you’d like to work on a story there. Dave is a great coach and runs a super helpful workshop: https://www.meetup.com/Fresh-Ground-Stories-Storytelling-Workshop/events/283803238/

Don’t forget about Emily’s storytelling show Locally Fameless on March 10.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/locallyfameless/?ref=page_internal

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/locally-fameless-storytelling-show-fremont-abbey-tickets-265632432757?aff=erelexpmlt

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com