Thank you! + some storytelling opportunities

Thanks to everyone who came out to the show last week. I love that we had so many first-timers at this one and that they all did great. I hope each one of them comes back and tells more.

I think this was the first show where we had people who’d been telling stories for 40 years and people who were walking onstage for the first time in their life. It was a great mix. 

The theme of the night was Standing Up For Yourself and we heard stories of people standing up to bosses, Boy Scouts, a choppy sea, and timeshare salesmen. We also heard about selfish stockbrokers, drunken bush pilots, trees that won’t cooperate, and what it’s like to come out of two kinds of closets. Every month, amazing new tellers show up at FGS and remind me why we do this.

This is usually the email where I do a big wrap-up of the show for people who weren’t able to attend, but tonight I want to tell you about something wonderful that happened last week. (I also have some great new opportunities for everyone at the end of this email.)

Some of you know that I live in Olympia and work for a small state agency that does a lot of community service work. We recently developed a program to help at-risk youth avoid homelessness just as they leave programs like foster care, the juvenile legal system, psychiatric care, etc.

I had no idea we were even working on this program until a coworker told me about an event they were putting on at the capitol that day. Some of the young people in the program were going to share their personal stories with lawmakers and advocates about what it’s like to go through the system.

Of course, I had to rush up there on my lunch hour to catch it. Not only did I want to hear these kids’ stories, I also wanted to let the program managers know that I’d be happy to help out at any future events if they ever needed a story coach. 

Just as I walked in, one of the women running the event walked up and said, “Are you Paul from Fresh Ground Stories?” 

I said, “Yeah, that’s me. I’ve seen you at some of the shows, right?”

She said, “Yes, I’ve been to a number of them. In fact, Fresh Ground Stories was the inspiration for this whole event.”

I’m not usually struck speechless but I was that day. The kindness and support you have given our tellers over the years inspired someone in the government to use storytelling to help change policy. I say at the beginning of every show, opinions divide us and stories bring us together. That day up at the capitol I saw that happening right in front of me. I just want everyone to know that when you come to FGS you’re doing more than just listening to great stories. You’re also giving people the confidence to go out and do some good in the world.

Here’s a link to the story in The Olympian if you’d like to know more:

This Thursday, our sister show, Aunt Mama’s Storytable, is holding their monthly storytelling and music show in the same place we have FGS. If you love music and stories you’ll love this show. It only takes a quick click to sign up for their monthly announcements 🙂

Some of the most touching stories we hear at FGS come from people living with mental health challenges. Some of those tellers have gone to share their stories at NAMI’s annual Brainpower Chronicles. I was lucky enough to be chosen to tell my own story at their first event in 2018. It was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had on stage. If you’d like to be part of this year’s show please consider applying.

Anyone who is living with a mental illness or a family member/caregiver of someone with a mental health condition is welcome to apply.

Recently, KUOW asked me to let everyone know that they’re looking for animal stories to feature on their podcast The Wild

Here’s what they’re looking for in their own words:
“We are looking for stories of true-life experiences in the wild for our upcoming Stories from The Wild event. Share your story and information below for consideration. KUOW’s The Wild team will review all submissions. If your story is chosen, we will contact you to discuss further details and next steps. Portions of the event will be used in future episodes of The Wild podcast.”

Submission link:

If you have a story you’d like to tell at FGS but would like help shaping it, our free monthly workshop is coming up this Sunday. Click the link below for more info.

If you’re looking for more places to tell your story here are two places where I’ve told stories that would love to hear yours:

Here is a more complete list of all the storytelling opportunities in Seattle:

That’s all for now. Thanks again to everyone who shared a story last week. Send me an email if you told a story and would like a copy of your audio.

Our next show is March 19. The theme is “Drowning – Stories of being overwhelmed.” Look for the invite later this week.

Take care,







See you next Thursday!

Hi Everyone,

I hope some of you are working on stories for next week. This month’s theme is Last Straws – Stories of standing up for yourself. You could also tell a story about a time when you wish you had stood up for yourself but didn’t. Now that I think of it, I have a lot more of those stories than I do about times when I did stand up for myself.

Here’s a great story I stumbled onto this week that would be perfect for next week’s show 🙂

Write me if you have any questions or would like some feedback on a story you’re working on.

Take care of yourselves. I hope to see a bunch of you next Thursday.



Great news + a good opportunity

Hi All,

I just wanted to share some announcements and good news with you. One of our storytellers was just showcased on KNKX’s Sound Effect podcast. It’s a story we heard a few months ago at FGS. Now you get to hear the NPR version 🙂

Special thanks to Gabriel Spitzer, host of Sound Effect, for inviting Melissa down to the studio to share her story

Also, our sister show, Auntmama’s StoryTable, finally has their own MeetUp page. Connie, one of our regular tellers, helped Maryanne set up the page so it’s easier for everyone to get the invites and know what’s coming up. StoryTable is a show full of stories, music, poetry and more. It’s got all the warmth of FGS but with a wider variety of performances. Maryanne books all the performers so it’s not an open mic, but she’s always looking for new writers and performers so there’s a chance that you could be on the show one day too.

It would tickle my little pickled heart if you supported her show by joining her group

I’ll be coming up from Olympia to see the show this Thursday. I hope some of you can join me in the audience at the Olive Way Starbucks.

Lastly, Jeannie Yandle of KUOW just wrote me tonight asking if we had any animal stories we’d like to share on their podcast The Wild.

They’re about to start their second season, and they’re organizing a live storytelling show at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle in late May. This is a great chance to tell a story at Benaroya Hall and also be on KUOW.

I pasted the text of Jeannie’s email below so you have all the info I have. If you have any questions, email the podcast from their website.

“We are looking for stories of true-life experiences in the wild for our upcoming Stories from The Wild event. Share your story and information below for consideration. KUOW’s The Wild team will review all submissions. If your story is chosen, we will contact you to discuss further details and next steps. Portions of the event will be used in future episodes of The Wild podcast.”

Here’s the submission link:

That’s all I have for now. I hope everyone is having a good week so far. I hope to see some of you this Thursday for Maryanne’s show.



FGS: Last Straws – Stories of Standing up for yourself

One of the things I love about FGS is that I get to meet people who have done things I wish I’d done. It’s not usually the big things that impress me. I already know I’m never going to climb Everest or sail around the world in a renovated hot tub. It’s the day-to-day things that make me lean forward in my chair and listen.

I have a feeling we’re surrounded by some pretty brave people and we don’t even know it. I’m willing to bet next month’s show that we have people in our audience who have stood up to bullies, bosses, spouses, neighbors, angry dogs, maybe even some rabid squirrels. A couple years ago, a friend of mine stood up to a coworker and ended up getting fired. I thought she was crazy at the time, but now she says it’s the best thing she ever did for herself. She runs her own business now and seems happier than ever. 

When I was doing comedy, I took every gig I could because I needed the money. It didn’t matter if it took me 14 hours to get to a gig on the other side of Montana. If it paid enough to justify the gas I took it. I think I ended up doing a lot of damage to myself accepting work that killed my spirit as they paid the rent. I remember the first time I ever walked out on a gig and to this day it’s one of my proudest moments.

One New Year’s Eve in the mid-2000s, I was hired to headline a jazz club in Tacoma. I got there at 7:30 for the show that was supposed to start at 8:00. By 11:30, the show still hadn’t started so the owner asked me to just walk up and down the buffet line telling jokes to tired diners as they scooped up green beans and buffalo wings. I finally snapped and told him that I wasn’t going to run around like a demented maitre’d trying to find something funny to say about pudding. Plus, there was a guy in a chef’s hat at the end of the buffet slicing prime rib. I was pretty sure someone was going to end up grabbing that knife and stabbing me with it. So I told him to keep his $100 and drove home.

That tiny moment of standing up for myself will stay with me for the rest of my life. It doesn’t just remind me of how good I felt in that moment. It also reminds me of all the times I had the chance to stand up for myself and didn’t. How much did sacrificing my dignity and self-esteem cost me all those years? I’ll never know. But I do know that when the choice comes up these days, I often look back at that night in Tacoma and say, “I did it once and I can do it again.”

That’s the kind of story we’d like you to bring to the next FGS. Tell us about a time when you stood up for yourself. What led up to it and how did it play out? Were you terrified or too angry to notice? Did you burn a bridge or did the people around you find new respect for you? Do you ever look back and wonder how you did it?

Remember to keep it clean, and practice out loud as often as you can. All stories must be under 8 minutes. It can be as short as you want but not over 8 minutes. We’re getting more names in Mr. Coffee and some folks aren’t getting to share their story because we run out of time. Thanks for understanding.

Here are the rules and guidelines for telling:

If you’d like help with your story, our next free monthly workshop is Feb 2. It’s run by two of our regular tellers who volunteer their time. You can RSVP here:

I hope to see you all February 20 at 7 pm at the Olive Way Starbucks


Thank you

Thank you all so much to everyone who came out last Thursday to the show. We had lots of first-timers and a supportive audience. It always makes my heart dance to see a first-time teller nervously walk up to the mic and by the end of their story they hear cheers and applause from the crowd. 

Naturally, I’ve lost half the slips of paper with names on them so I’m writing this from memory. Two stories that really made me smile were from Linda and Abhishek. Linda was the Scone of Courage recipient this month for being the first first-timer up. She told a perfect story for starting the show about throwing her mother out of a hot-air balloon. Is anything ever as funny as throwing your mom’s ashes out of a balloon as you float over this majestic land of ours? No, I don’t think there is. The best part was that she had to do it after being explicitly told to never throw anything out of the balloon. The main lesson we learned is that if you break the rules you’ll probably come home with a story.

If you’re wondering where Linda learned how to tell such a well-crafted story, I will tell you that she learned it here:, We’ve had a number of new tellers come out of the improv and storytelling classes there. I don’t get a kickback from recommending this place, I just know whatever they’re teaching people there works.

Abhishek, is another graduate from one of our local improv/storytelling classes – He told a wonderful story about trying out for the Math Olympiad and struggling with the temptation to cheat on the test. Personally, I think you should be allowed to cheat on any test that gives you three hours to solve five problems. If there was ever a test made for cheating this was it.

One story I’m definitely going to post on our Facebook page and blog site is the story Kris told about the time she tried to tell a story at FGS without practicing it. I know it’s a big temptation to wing it when you walk onstage but after 10 years of watching people do that I can tell you it almost never turns out well. Kris was so embarrassed after the first and only time she tried to wing it that she didn’t come back for four years. None of us knew where she went or why she stayed away until last Thursday when she told us the real reason she didn’t come back. Thank you, Kris, for your honestly up there that night. It took a lot of courage to admit the real reason you stayed away so long. Since she’s come back, she’s told a number of amazing stories. One of the reasons they were so good is because she practiced on friends and family a bunch of times until each story was as good as she could get it. 

Speaking of practicing and getting good feedback, two of our regular tellers hold a free monthly workshop for anyone working on a story. We’ve had lots of good stories come out of this workshop and I always look forward to hearing people who have attended one:

We did have a full Mr. Coffee carafe at the last show and I had to bump at least three people (Gabrielle, Carl, and Taran.) There might have been one more but I don’t have all the slips. If you didn’t get to tell last night, go ahead and email me and I’ll get you on a future show. You can tell the story you prepared for last Thursday if you want. 

Two more things before I let you go. One, our next show is February, 20. The theme is, “Standing up for yourself.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.

Secondly, we had two FGS tellers featured on KNKX’s Sound Effect podcast this weekend. Sound Effect is a really cool podcast that features stories from the PNW. They’ve interviewed a lot folks who have told at FGS and it’s always exciting when I hear familiar voices on the radio. Thank you Gabriel Spitzer, Jennifer Wing, Kevin Kniestedt, and all the other producers who have put FGS stories on the air.

Here are two from Saturday’s show

That’s all for now. Look for next month’s invite next week in your inbox 🙂