My First Story Slam

On Tuesday morning, Bella, our summer intern wrangler, asked what I was doing on September 14. 

“Nothing. Why?”

“I’m going to enter you in a storytelling contest at Changing Hands Bookstore, and we’re all going to go together to cheer you on.”

“Oh, OK. That sounds good. Will there be drinks involved?”

Unbeknownst to dear Bella, I’d been toying with the idea of entering a story slam for a while: Over the past year, I’d written stories for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction and Short Story competitions (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). My friend Cynde had suggested I do a TED Talk for the Chandler Public Library, but I didn’t feel that was the right fit. After listening to yet another Moth broadcast on NPR, I said, “I can do that,” and disclosed my secret dream to my friend Penny.

“I think this year, I want to enter a story slam.”

I signed on the to learn more about the competition. The August event was coming up in four days (Friday night), but entries had already closed. Eight readers had been randomly chosen in advance, and two would be drawn from a hat the night of.

“I’m gonna go this Friday and put my name in the hat and see what it’s all about.”

“But I won’t be able to see you,” Bella said. 

“It’s OK. We’ll film it… because if my name is in the hat, I’ll be chosen. I have weird luck like that.”

So I had three days to write a six-minute story on the theme of Vacation in the hopes that my name would be pulled from the proverbial hat.

Mine was the first name pulled. I have weird luck like that.

I had a glass of zinfandel to calm my nerves and texted my friend Kellee to let her know I’d been chosen. I saw a friendly face, Stina Seig, from my days at the radio station and she coached me through what to expect.

Standing on stage was exhilarating. I wasn’t nervous — not even when they showed I had one minute left and then the bell rang for “time’s up” and I still had 49 seconds to go. Afterward, my hands shook and I ordered another glass of wine to calm down.

The video evidence of my first Story Slam.

My score was the second highest (Stina and another gal tied for first, which was settled with rock-paper-scissors — and I coached her to an ultimate victory: Women tend to throw scissors first, so throw rock).

Both women were absolutely outstanding, and I was thrilled to be in their company, but I was also honored to be among everyone who screwed up their courage, climbed onto the tiny stage and delivered the goods. Sure, some folks meandered, some stumbled, some umm-ed and liked and uhh-ed their way through their six minutes or more (myself included), but this wasn’t Toastmasters.

This was standing in the fire and telling my story, and I was proud to be among their number.

Looking at the video now, I wonder when I gained all that weight (oh yeah, drinking all those gin and tonics and eating all that sausage). Though I am always happy to go back and re-read and edit my writing, it’s really weird to watch myself on a stage. You can’t go back and revise, and to that end, it is a single point in time… six minutes of adventure.

The next event is September 14 on the theme of Skool’d. I’ll put my hat in the name again and see what I can come up with.

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