Speak Up Storytelling: Don Picard

Episode #21 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast is now available for your listening pleasure.

On this week’s episode, Elysha Dicks and I talk about finding excellent stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." We discuss how a moment that didn't seem initially storyworthy can prove to be storyworthy with a little consideration. We also receive two outstanding Homework for Life recommendations from listeners. 

Next, we listen to Don Picard's story about his unusual family composition, followed by commentary and critique, including:

  1. Breaking longer stories into two or more shorter stories

  2. Encapsulating big ideas into small, specific scenes

  3. The funneling of a story from fast paced, episodic moments that advance time quickly to the specific heart of the story

  4. The purpose and effectiveness of summarizing unique, odd, and incomprehensible moments in story

  5. Preserving surprising by allowing your audience to draw their own conclusions

  6. The importance of maintaining time order to avoid confusion

Then we answer a listener question about what we do for a living when not working on Speak Up and our podcast.  

Lastly, we each offer a recommendation. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you haven't rated and/or reviewed the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work.

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Speak Up Storytelling: Robin Gelfenbien

Episode #17 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast is ready for your listening pleasure.

We start by talking about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." We talk about the Homework for Life submitted by a listener, and I offer up three Homework for Life moments from the week and discuss why one is better than another.

Next, we listen to Robin Gelfenbien's story about finding love with the help of Marie Kondo, then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of this fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer a listener questions about storytelling in everyday life and offer some recommendations.

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you haven't rated and/or reviewed the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work.

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Speak Up Storytelling #15: Roquita Johnson

Episode #15 of Speak Up Storytelling is now available for your listening pleasure.

Elysha Dicks and I talk about finding excellent stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life," including moments that storytellers see but non-storytellers might not. 

Then we listen to Roquita Johnson's story about finding her calling, followed by commentary and critique, including:

  1. The components of an especially effective beginning to a story

  2. Outstanding use of dialogue in stories

  3. Variations in tonality

  4. "Seeing" your story

  5. The best moments to add description to a story

  6. Preserving surprise in a story

Then we answer listener questions about becoming emotional while telling a story, the past and present tense, and how to pitch a story to Speak Up.  

Lastly, we each offer a recommendation. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 60 or so people to rate and/or review the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

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Speak Up Storytelling #14: Renae Edge

Episode #14 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast is ready for your listening pleasure.

Elysha and I start off this week's podcast by talking about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." I talk about how small and seemingly insignificant a storyworthy moment can sometimes be unless you're keeping your eyes open and looking for those moments. 

Next, we listen to Renae Edge's story about an important moment in the front seat of a sedan. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement, including:

  1. The effective use of backstory in a story
  2. Outstanding transition strategies to and from the past
  3. The power of the present tense
  4. The components of an effective beginning
  5. Singing in storytelling
  6. The potential power of specificity in a story

Finally, we answer a listener questions about flashbacks in storytelling and strategies for successful wedding toasts and offer our recommendations. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you haven't rated and/or reviewed the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work.

They also make Elysha so happy. 

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What the Heck? - Episode 2

As you may know, I've launched a third podcast called "What the Heck?" It's an occasional conversation with my kids, Clara and Charlie.

"What the heck?" is a favorite expression of Charlie. 

I launched this podcast grudgingly. The kids love podcasts and wanted one of their own, so I decided that recording their voices for posterity might make the effort worthwhile. 

Boy was I right. I can't tell you how excited they were to listen to their first two episodes, and I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be capturing conversations with them for the future. 

As a person who has about two or three dozen photos of his childhood in total, creating a meaningful record of my children's childhood has always meant a lot to me. This is one of the ways of making it happen.

Remarkably, we had about 100 listeners for our first episode, so I don't expect this podcast to blow up and become a hit, But the kids were thrilled about the audience, so if you were a listener to episode #1, thank you. 

But if you're interested in hearing Clara and Charlie talk about sports, princesses, and what they want to be when they grow up, you can listen here to episode #2 or subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Speak Up Storytelling #12: Jeni Bonaldo

Episode #12 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast is ready for your listening pleasure. This week we're joined by storyteller Jeni Bonaldo, whose story we listen to and critique.

We start by talking about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." I talk about how a story can be about more than one thing, and part of the decision-making process is deciding what your story needs to be about. We also talk about how to remember stories for the stage.

Next, we listen to Jeni's story about pretending to be someone she was not and the surprising results. Then Elysha Dicks, Jeni, and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer a listener questions about preparing stories for the stage and dealing with stage fright and offer some recommendations.

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you haven't rated and/or reviewed the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work.

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Speak Up Storytelling #11: Jessica Isom

Episode #11 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

On this week's episode, we talk about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." I describe how to turn a seemingly benign moment from my week into a compelling story and discuss how Homework for Life can be helpful to fiction writers, too.

Next, we listen to a story by Jessica Isom about a secret that she must carry throughout her graduation weekend from college. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer a listener questions about how to tell the stories of other people and why storytelling shows are often centered around a theme. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you haven't rated and/or reviewed the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

"What the Heck?" - Episode 1 (Seeds and boys in dresses)

I've launched a third podcast called "What the Heck?" It's an occasional conversation with my kids, Clara and Charlie.

"What the heck?" is a favorite expression of Charlie. 

Honestly, I'm doing it just to record the kids' voices for posterity, and because they love podcasts and wanted one for themselves.

They want to be stars, and Elysha and I won't stand in their way.

But if you're interested in hearing Charlie talk about the science behind seeds and engage in a brief discussion on transgender issues, you can listen here to episode #1 or subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Speak Up Storytelling #10: Kristin Budde

Episode #10 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

On this week's episode, we talk about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." I describe how searching for stories in your present day life can unearth moments from the past that you can't believe that you've forgotten. We also discuss how not every storyworthy moment needs to be a full story in order to be useful. 

Next, we listen to a story by Kristin Budde about a day of doctoring gone wrong. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer a listener question about our marriage and the rules that I establish in my new book Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you haven't rated and/or reviewed the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

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Listen to smart people plus me

I appeared on two podcasts recently that I really enjoyed. Both are hosted by people who I could talk to forever. 

You can find both podcasts wherever you get your podcasts, or you can click the links below to listen online. 

Slate's The Gist with Mike Pesca 

Mike and I speak about storytelling, film, Bruce Springsteen, and other sundry topics.

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Roxanne Coady's "Just the Right Book"

Roxanne, owner of RJ Julia Booksellers, and I have an expansive conversation on storytelling, books, productivity, happiness, and much more. 

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Speak Up Storytelling #9: Alan Mackenzie

Episode #9 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

On this week's episode, we talk about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." I describe how doing a deep dive on a particular day of your life can help you find stories and explain how I might tell the story of a friend's move to the west coast. 

Next, we listen to a story by Alan Mackenzie about being the new kid in town in search of friendship and love. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer a listener question about telling stories to children. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 40 or so people to rate and/or review the podcast in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

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Speak Up Storytelling #8: Sharon Snow

Episode #8 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

On this week's episode, we talk about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." I describe how stories can take years to develop and how the craziest thing that happened on a day might not make the best story of the day 

Next, we listen to a surprising story by Sharon Snow about her search for her father. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer a listener questions about performance techniques and stream of consciousness writing. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 20 or so people to rate the podcast and 11 to review it in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

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Speak Up Storytelling #7: Special Storyworthy book launch episode

Episode #7 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

This week's special episode features part 2 of the live audio from the book launch for Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling.

In this episode, you'll hear me tell two BRAND NEW stories, never before told at Speak Up (and two never before told on any stage anywhere). followed by short lessons on the finding and crafting of stories. 

This episode also includes the question and answer session following the stories, and best of all, features Elysha playing the ukulele and singing publicly for the first time! 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 30 or so people to rate the podcast and 20 to review it in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

It also makes Elysha smile. Isn't that incentive enough?

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Speak Up Storytelling #6: Special Storyworthy book launch episode

Episode #6 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

This week's special episode features live audio from the book launch for Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling.

In this episode, you'll hear me tell three BRAND NEW stories, never before told at Speak Up (and two never before told on any stage anywhere). followed by short lessons on the finding and crafting of stories. 

Next week we'll feature the second half of this book launch event, including two more BRAND NEW stories, Elysha's debut performance on ukulele, and the question-and-answer session from the evening.  

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 30 or so people to rate the podcast and 20 to review it in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

It also makes Elysha smile. Isn't that incentive enough?

Speak Up Storytelling #5: Renata Sancken

Episode #5 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure.

On this week's episode, we talk about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." I describe how I discovered two important things about myself that apparently everyone else already knew. 

Next, we listen to a hilarious story by Renata Sancken about ghost hunting in the south. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer a listener question about telling a good anecdote, and we each make a recommendation.  

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 15 or so people to rate the podcast and 11 to review it in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

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Speak Up Storytelling: Episode #3

Episode #3 of Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure. 

On this week's episode, we talk about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." 

Elysha gets a little annoyed with the moment that I share. 

Next, we listen to the incredible story by Mansoor Basha about the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and it's echoes years later. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer listener questions about telling a story at The Moth and humor in storytelling, and we each make a recommendation.  

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 17 people to rate the podcast and 5 to review it in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier, and it makes us feel better about ourselves and our work. 

Our first review, by the way, came from a woman named Kate who is my former third grade student, Elysha's former fifth grade student, our former babysitter, and now a teacher beginning her career in the same school where Elysha began her career. 

Remarkable how your former students can sometimes remain a part of your life long after they have left your classroom. 

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Speak Up Storytelling: Episode #2 PLUS an opportunity

Episode #2 of our podcast Speak Up Storytelling is now ready for your listening pleasure. 

On this week's episode, we talk about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using Homework for Life

Next, we listen to a story by Michelle Sebastianelli about her hilarious and tragic attempt to transform herself through yoga and discuss the strengths of her story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer listener questions and make some recommendations. 

If you haven't subscribed to the podcast in Apple podcasts (or wherever you receive your podcasts), please do. And if you're not one of the 13 people to rate the podcast and four to review it in Apple Podcasts (who are the best people ever), we would love it if you did.

Ratings and reviews help listeners find our podcast easier. 

We also have an unusual offer for anyone interested:

Elysha and I are looking to redesign the Speak Up logo, but before we do it ourselves (Elysha designed the first) or hire a professional, we thought we'd invite our audience to take a crack at redesigning it themselves. 

We're looking for a logo that pays homage to our current design but is also fresh, new, and will work well on our website, podcast, programs, and swag like tee shirts and totes. 

If you submit an logo for consideration and it is ultimately chosen, you will receive our undying gratitude, one free beginner or advanced storytelling workshop, two hours of free storytelling consultation, and two free tickets to our Real Art Ways shows FOR LIFE!

We can't wait to see what you submit!

I broke into the Brooklyn Navy Yard and committed a crime (I think)

I went to Brooklyn at the end of August to record a podcast at Slate. 

Slate moved its offices from a fairly convenient location in Manhattan to a terribly inconvenient location in Brooklyn that I had been to only once before. So I plugged "Slate Magazine" into the Waze app on my phone and was off. 

By the time I arrived at the destination indicated on the app, two things were apparent:

1. This was not the Slate offices.

2. I had to pee so badly that I thought I might pee my pants.

My GPS app had brought me to a blighted section of Brooklyn featuring razor wire, graffiti, boarded-up buildings, and not a single person walking the streets. But I assumed that I was close to my destination. Perhaps a block or two away, so when I saw all the free parking spots on the street, I took one, thinking it would be a five minute walk at best to Slate. 

I also had to pee so badly that I couldn't stand the thought of driving around to find the place. Even if I had to walk a little ways, I assumed that I could find a place to pee on the way. 

Boy was I wrong. When I emerged from the side street onto the main thoroughfare, I saw a single gas station and block after block of empty buildings, chainlink fences, and walls. Not a retail establishment, restaurant, or coffee shop to be seen.

I waddled to the gas station. It was my only hope.

When I entered, I saw a woman speaking to the gas station attendant, who was standing behind nine inches of glass. I also saw a small door marked restroom behind the glass as well.

My salvation. 

I waited patiently for the woman and the attendant to finish their conversation, but when it became apparent that it might never end, I interjected.

"Excuse me. Could I use your restroom. I'll buy stuff if I can. Lots of stuff."

The attendant replied, " It's out of order."

"Out of order?" I asked. "Then how do you pee? Or where do you pee?"

"It's out of order," he repeated.

"Yes, but you must pee, I said. Where does that happen?" 

"Sir, there's no bathroom here."

"But there must be," I said, "You can't go all day without peeing."

"He said there's no restroom," the woman shot back at me. "Leave him alone." 

I would've loved to have engaged further with this woman, but realizing that I was not going to be able to use a restroom here and knowing how dire my situation was becoming, I left. 

I stood outside the gas station, just a week after US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte got in trouble for (among other things) peeing on a gas station in Brazil and wondered if I was about to do the same thing. There was no place to pee anywhere, and not a single tree or area of concealment to be seen.

Then I looked across the street and saw them. Three thin saplings. A tiny stand of trees. All that I needed to pee. 

The only problem: The trees were standing just inside the entrance to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, an imposing brick entrance festooned with a guard shack and a sentry. There was no way I was going to slip through that entrance and make it to the saplings without being seen.

Then I caught a bit of good luck. A delivery truck pulled into the Navy Yard and stopped at the sentry post, creating a barrier between the sentry and the saplings. If the truck remained in place long enough, I could duck into the entrance of the Navy Yard and into the trees unseen. 

There was no way the guard wasn't going to see me emerge from the stand of trees a minute or two later, but that was a problem to solve after I had relieved myself. 

I went for it. I ran as fast as possible with a bursting bladder across the road and through the large gates of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, veering off after about 15 feet into the trees. I could barely contain my bladder for a second more. As soon as I was secreted behind the stand of trees, I  peed onto the vine-covered brick wall, keeping the trees between me and the sentry.

One of the happiest moments of my life. 

When I finished, the truck was gone. I emerged from the stand of trees and was immediately spotted by the sentry, he rose from his seat. I tried to look confused, held up my phone as if to imply it had misled me (which it originally did), and exited the Brooklyn Navy Yard while offering gestures of confusion and apology.

The sentry appeared annoyed but allowed me to pass without comment. 

A few minutes later, after speaking to a Slate producer on my phone, I began the 25 minute walk to Slate in the 90 degree heat rather than driving my car closer to the offices, which turned out to be a terrible decision.

But it gave me time to ponder this:

Had I been a woman, I would've been in a lot of trouble. A woman could not have peed in that fairly exposed location behind those tiny trees. A guy needs the smallest sliver of privacy in order to pee. Essentially, a man need only to turn his back in order to avoid exposing himself while peeing, whereas women require a hell of a lot more privacy. 

Then I thought about all the times I have peed against trees while playing golf. All the times I have stepped off a trail while hiking or hopped off my bike to pee a step or two into the woods. All the times I have disappeared into a stand of trees a a park to pee. All the portable toilets in the parking lots of Gillette Stadium where I am able to pee without touching a single thing other than my pants.

Men have it good.

We have it very, very good.

I found enormous sympathy for womankind on that walk to Slate, realizing that had I been a woman, I I might well have peed my pants. 

There are solutions to this problem for women, including devices like the GoGirl, which comes in a lovely shade of lavender, but the image of a woman holding a GoGirl against her groin as she pees seems even less discreet than a woman dropping trow in order to pee.  

It's also bizarre. Rachel, my Boy vs. Girl podcast co-host, has agreed to give one a try.

 

I also thought that the Brooklyn Navy Yard is not nearly secure enough for my liking. Had I had been an evil doer with more nefarious purposes, I wonder how much damage I could've done had I been armed with more than a full bladder. 

"Just about everybody" I know is not flying on a plane this summer, and to assume otherwise might be an indication of the bubble you live inside.

I like the Freakonomics podcast quite a bit, and if I could choose a new friend, I think I'd take Steve Levitt, an economist and co-author of the Freakonomics books who loves golf and McDonald's and seems to share my disposition.

Every time I hear him speak, I think that we would be fast friends. 

Yesterday, I was listening to an episode on flying when I heard Levitt's co-author and producer and host of the podcast, Steven Dubner (who I also like a lot) open the show by saying:

“It is nearly summertime, which means that you, and just about everybody you know, will soon be getting on an airplane.”

Either Dubner is making an enormous assumption about his audience demographics or he is living in some kind of bubble where everyone in his world flies to exotic locales during the summer.

While I have friends who are flying places for vacation, I also have friends who have never set foot on a plane once in their lives. 

I have friends who can't afford to take a vacation this summer.

I have friends who don't have paid vacation as part of their employment. 

I have friends who can't afford airline tickets for their family to fly this summer. 

And I will not be getting on a plane this summer, as much as I might like to. I'll be working quite a bit - teaching, speaking, and writing - and we simply can't afford the four airline tickets to whatever destination we might choose.

"Just about everybody" who I know is not flying this summer, either. Some are. Some are not. Perhaps this is reflective of the economic diversity of the people I know, but I don't think so. I suspect most people who aren't living in a bubble have friends like mine.

Some of greater and some of lesser means. 

I love you Dubner, but that was not a good sentence. 

Boy vs. Girl: Episode 28 - Going gray, the reading habits of men, and infertility

In this week's episode, Rachel and I discuss going gray, the reading habits of men, and infertility.

You can listen here or - better yet - subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store or wherever you get your podcasts.

And if you like the show, please consider leaving a review on iTunes. It helps readers find the show, and it makes me feel even better about myself.