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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A celebration of so much more than just a book

On Saturday night, I took the stage at the release party for Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling, and told five brand new stories to an audience of more than 200 friends and family.

It was quite a night. 

My friend, storyteller, and producer Erin Barker once told me never to produce a show and perform in that same show. I've been violating her rule ever since launching Speak Up five years ago, but there have been nights when I fully understood what she meant. Preparing to perform while managing the multitude of problems that can occur in the process of producing a show can be challenging.

So it shouldn't have been surprising that being the only storyteller of the night, telling five BRAND NEW stories in addition to a brief lesson after each story, is extremely difficult and mentally taxing. I've done solo shows before, many times, but never before had I taken the stage with completely new material. Stories Elysha had never even heard before. 

It was a lot to hold in my head. 

Thankfully, once I stood behind that microphone, everything quieted in my mind and I knew exactly what to do. The stories were there, just waiting for me to begin telling. 

Happily, I wasn't the only performer that evening. Andrew Mayo of Should Coulda Woulda opened the show with a reconfiguration of his band consisting of three of my former students (and his children), the parent of a former student, and the siblings of a former student. 

They were brilliant. The perfect way to begin the night. 

But the highlight of the night came when Elysha took the stage in the second half of the show and played her ukulele and sang in public for the first time.

The story that I told just before she performed was about the months following a brutal armed robbery. I was battling post-traumatic stress disorder at the time but didn't know it. I was clawing my way through life, not sleeping or eating, and oddly not able to pass from one room to another without suffering incredible fear and mortal dread. 

Then one night I found myself standing before an iron door at the bottom of a dark stairwell in an abandoned building in Brockton, MA, wondering if I could find the strength to walk through that door to the room on the other side.

I was there to compete in an underground arm wrestling tournament (crazy, I know) with the hopes of winning some money and taking one step closer to paying off a $25,000 legal bill after being arrested for a crime I did not commit. 

I found the courage to do the hard thing that night. The impossible thing, really. That was the hardest doorway I've ever walked through in my life. And even though I would continue to suffer from PTSD for the rest of my life, that doorway in the basement of that building has made every doorway since so much easier to step through. 

I wanted the audience to understand the value of doing the hard thing. I wanted them to put aside any fears that they might have. I wanted their dreams of someday to be dreams of today. I wanted them to understand that every hard, frightening, seemingly impossible thing that I have done in my life has always yielded the greatest results. 

I was terrified about taking the stage for the first time at a Moth StorySLAM in July of 2011 and telling my first story. But doing so changed my life. 

So I asked Elysha to perform for the first time that night to show people what the hard, frightening thing looks like. She's only been playing ukulele since February, and she's never sung in public or taken singing lessons. It was hard for her. Frightening. Yet she stepped through that door and was brilliant. 

Elysha performed Elvis's "Can't Help Falling in Love," and during the final chorus, the audience joined her in singing. When the song was over, everyone leapt to their feet in the loudest applause of the evening.  

I was so proud of her. I still am. 

It was a wonderful night for everyone involved. I can't thank everyone enough for the support.

We recorded the evening and will release the audio in two parts as episodes for upcoming Speak Up Storytelling podcasts so that you can hear the stories and the lessons and Elysha and everything else.

Speak Up Storytelling #4

Episode #4 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 share an important moment in from my life that Elysha had never heard before (and I had forgotten until just recently). 

Next, we listen to the story by Sam Carley about a hilarious and uncomfortable bus ride across an Indian desert with his new love while desperately needing to pee. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement.

Finally, we answer a listener questions about storytelling and dating, 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 25 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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Don't be embarrassed

About a month ago I had a health scare. After waking up with chest pains in the left side of my chest and finding it hard to breathe, Elysha called an ambulance, fearing I was having a heart attack.

A day-long stay in the cardiac care unit, a nuclear stress tests, and a follow up visit to the cardiologist have all determined that my heart is in excellent shape.

Just a pulled muscle in my chest.

Here's something important:

I didn't initially call the ambulance or even tell Elysha that I was struggling to breathe. I sat downstairs in the early morning hours alone, in pain, and in fear that I was being silly. I worried that I might be overreacting. I didn't want to make a big deal out of nothing.

I was afraid to be embarrassed. 

I'm not sure how long I would've stayed downstairs alone, wondering what to do, had a woodpecker not started pounding on the house just before 6:00 AM, causing Elysha to awaken and ask me to come upstairs.

That was when I told her about my pain. That was when she called the ambulance. 

Later, in the cardiac care unit, as the tests began indicating that I wasn't having a heart attack, I started to feel a little ridiculous. I had made a mountain out of a mole hill. I had wasted a lot of people's valuable time on what amounted to be a simple, pulled muscle.

I started to feel embarrassed.

As a nurse shaved my chest in preparation for my stress test, I apologized to her. I said that I was sorry to waste all this time and effort when it looked like I was fine. I told her how I didn't want to call the ambulance for this very reason. 

She stopped shaving.  She looked into my eyes. She said, "People die because they don't call 911 in fear of embarrassment. They sit at home, trying to decide if what they are feeling is real, and then it's too late. That happens more than you know. You have kids. Right?"

"Yes," I said. "Two."

"Then you don't have time to worry about being embarrassed. You need to keep yourself alive. Forget embarrassment. You did the right thing. I wish more people would."

I didn't tell her that Elysha was the one to call the ambulance, and that she actually called without my knowledge. I was still debating if my pain warranted a trip to the hospital when Elysha appeared and said the ambulance was already on its way.  

That nurse was right. When it comes to our health, "Better safe than sorry" seems especially applicable. How sad and foolish of people - myself included - for worrying about being too healthy to seek medical treatment, especially when it's related to the heart.  

There is no room for embarrassment when your life may or may not be on the line. 

My friend, Steve, recently told a story at Speak Up about experiencing chest pains and deciding to seek medical treatment. Steve was still in his twenties at the time. He was the former starting tight end at the University of Connecticut with a real chance at the NFL before an injury and bad luck derailed his football dreams. 

Steve was a world class athlete. If anyone had a reason to dismiss some chest pain as nothing, it was Steve. Instead, he went to the hospital, and doctors discovered an almost complete blockage of an artery affectionately known as the widow maker. He underwent surgery immediately and is alive and healthy today. 

Steve has two kids, too. Thank goodness for them and his wife that he wasn't too embarrassed to seek help.

Thank goodness my chest pain turned out to be nothing. 

Don't ever be embarrassed to seek medical attention when in doubt. The only embarrassment I feel about that day now is the embarrassment over being worried about being embarrassed. 

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!

Speak Up Storytelling: The Podcast available today!


Unlike most storytelling podcasts, which offer you one or more outstanding stories to listen to and enjoy, our podcast seeks to entertain while also providing some specific, actionable lessons on storytelling.

Each week we will bring our expertise in storytelling to you!  

In every episode, Elysha and I will listen to one of the many stories told and recorded at Speak Up over the last five years, followed by a lesson on storytelling based upon what we just heard. We'll talk about the effective strategies used by the storyteller. We'll offer tips on things like humor, stakes, transitions, suspense, and the ordering of content. We'll also suggest possible revisions to make the story even better.

Whether your goal is to someday take the stage and tell a story or simply to become a better storyteller in the workplace or your social life, this podcast is for you.  

In addition to story and instruction, we will also talk about finding stories in your everyday life, answer listener questions, offer recommendations, and try to make you laugh. We may also interview storytellers from time to time, as well as provide feedback on stories you submit to us. 

You can download the podcast wherever you get your podcasts: Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Stitcher, Overcast, Google Play, or you can listen to the first episode here

We'd love to hear what you think about the podcast and any questions you'd like us to answer on the podcast, so please send any questions or comments to speakupstorytelling@gmail.com

We would also love for you to rate the show. Ratings help other listeners find the show, so please take one minute to jump over to Apple Podcasts (or wherever you listen) and give us a rating and/or comment. 

This podcast has been a long time in the works. We hope you enjoy!


Five years ago, I took the stage and told my first story. The most important thing about that night: I was afraid.

Yesterday marked my five year anniversary in storytelling. 

On July 12, 2011, I went to New York to tell a story on a Moth stage. I went there mostly because I told my friends that I would, and I had avoided it so long that I began to feel ashamed of myself. 

My friends pointed me to The Moth and suggested that I go. One of my friends said, "You've had the worst life of anyone I know. You'll make a great storyteller!"

She was probably referring to my two near-death experiences, my arrest and trial for a crime I didn't commit, my homelessness, the robbery that left with with more than a decade of untreated PTSD, the anonymous, widespread, public attack on my character and career, and more.

It hasn't been the worst, but it hasn't always been easy. 

So I said yes. "I'll go and tell a story." But honestly, I had little intention of ever doing so. I was terrified about the prospect of taking the stage and telling a story. It was almost unthinkable. But my friends didn't forget my promise, and nor did I, so Elysha and I made out way into NYC so I could tell what I thought would be the one and only story of my life. 

Even after putting my name in the hat, I tried to avoid taking the stage. When Dan Kennedy called my name, I froze, realizing that no one in the place knew me. If I remained quiet and still, they would have to eventually call someone else to the stage. 

Instead, Elysha made me go. 

Happily, miraculously, I won the StorySLAM. 

The next day, I wrote a blog post about my experience, which included these words:

I know it sounds a little silly, but in the grand scheme of things, the birth of my daughter was probably the most important day of my life. Next comes the marriage to my wife, and then the sale of my first book, and then maybe this. It was that big for me.

Perhaps I’ll tell more stories in the future, and The Moth will become old hat for me, but on this day, at this moment, I couldn’t be more happy.

It was a big night for me, and one I will never forget.
— Matthew Dicks

I was remarkably prescient while writing that post. It seems as if I already knew that I had found something special.

And I was right. It was a big night for me. Since that night:

  • I have competed in 45 StorySLAMs, winning 24 of them.
  • I've competed in 17 GrandSLAMs, winning four of them.
  • I've told stories for The Moth and other storytelling organizations in cities around the country to audiences as large as 2,000 people. 
  • I've become a teacher of storytelling, teaching in places like Yale University, The University of Connecticut Law School, Perdue University, Trinity College, Kripalu, Miss Porter's School, and many, many more. I consult with businesses, school districts, industry leaders, college professors, and individuals around the world about storytelling.
  • Last summer I traveled to Brazil to teach storytelling to an American School in Sao Paulo.  
  • In the last year, I've begun to perform my one-person show.
  • Storytelling has landed me in the pages of Reader's Digest, Parents magazine, and more. 
  • I've met some incredible people thanks to storytelling and made some remarkable friends. 

In 2013, Elysha and I launched Speak Up, our own storytelling organization. We've produced nearly 50 shows since our inception, in theaters as large as 500 seats, and we have sold out almost every show. I teach storytelling workshops locally, and we partner with schools, libraries, museums, and more to teach storytelling to our community.  

Last night Elysha and I worked with a group of second and third generation Holocaust survivors, teaching them to tell the story of their previous generations. Tonight I'll be competing in a StorySLAM in Boston. The beat goes on.  

So much has happened in five short years. My life has changed in ways I would've never predicted. Elysha's life has changed, too. The fact that Speak Up is a partnership between the two of us might be the best thing about it.

Storytelling has helped make it possible for Elysha to stay home with the kids for the past seven years, and it will help to keep her home for one more year until Charlie enters kindergarten. 

But here is what I want you to know:  

The important part of my story to never forget how afraid I was when I began this journey. It's important to remember how I tried to avoid storytelling at every turn, not because I thought it was a bad idea or a waste of time, but because I was afraid. Even though I wanted to tell a story and suspected that I might even be good at storytelling, I tried my hardest to avoid it. 

It's important to note that had it not been for my friends' prodding and Elysha's final push to get me out of my seat that night, I might have never taken the stage to tell a story. 

It's easy to see someone who is successful and confident and believe that they have always been that way. We often see the end result of a journey and assume that the person standing in front of us is the same person who began that journey. 

This is never true. I was afraid when I began my journey into storytelling. I doubted my ability. I was almost certain that I would fail. Fear kept me off the stage for more than a year, and it almost kept me off the stage forever. 

Fear holds us back so often in life. It keeps us from realizing our untapped, unseen, impossible-to-predict potential. It blocks us from opportunities. It stops us from being daring. I keeps us away from new things and forces us to reside in the familiar.

Thoreau said that “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

I believe that. I believe it wholeheartedly. 

If fear is holding you back from trying something new, taking a risk, or realizing a dream, I encourage you to rise above it. Push that fear aside long enough to take a leap. Find people who will support you, encourage you, and even force you to try.

I think about how close I came to avoiding the stage, and it terrifies me. 

Frank Herbert said this about fear, which I also believe wholeheartedly:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
— Frank Herbert

I shudder to think about what my life would be like today had I not taken that stage five years ago and told my first story. I hate to think about how fear nearly held me back.      

I nearly went to the grave with a song still inside me. 

How I became a storyteller (and many other things)

These two circles say it all. 

I wanted to tell stories. I was afraid to tell stories. I didn't know if I could tell stories. I was afraid to discover that I wouldn't be able to tell stories. I knew that standing on a stage in New York City to tell stories meant exposing myself to public failure.

So I decided to tell stories. Despite crushing self-doubt and enormous fear, I went to where the magic happens. And it did.

These two circles apply to so much that I have done in my life. The farther I stray from my comfort zone, the better my life gets.

This is also exactly how my wife became the consummate and beloved host of Speak Up, our storytelling show. 

She wanted to have an integral and public role in Speak Up, so she knew that she had to host our show. But she didn't want to be the host of the show. She didn't want to speak to large groups of strangers. She was afraid to speak to large groups of strangers. She physically shook when speaking to large groups of strangers. She had nightmares about speaking to large groups of strangers. She didn't think she would be very good at hosting our show.

Then she decided to host our show, and it's no exaggeration to say that she is in many ways the face and the heart of what we do.

I tell a story at every one of our shows, and yet people see me in public and often say, "Hey, you're married to the Speak Up girl."

Yes, I am. You have clearly forgotten about me and my story, but you remember her, and I don't blame you one bit.

My daughter has become a same-sex marriage activist and a storytelling promoter

As we were leaving the playground yesterday, a little boy approached my six year-old daughter and asked to be her friend.

I wasn't surprised. In the span of about an hour, Clara had organized the other four girls at the playground - all older than her - into a massive game of 'Neighbors" and had placed one of the girls in charge of her younger brother, Charlie. She was leading Charlie through the maze of tubes and holding his hand as he slid down the slide. 

The boy must've seen Clara as some kind of organizational friendship savant.  

Clara asked the boy for his name - which I can't remember - and then suggested this:

"You should ask your mommy and daddy, or your mommy and mommy, or your daddy and daddy if you can come over my house sometime."

Then she gave the boy our address, thankfully reversing the two digits of our house number. She asked the boy for his address, but he didn't seem to understand the question. 

Then she said (as I feverishly recorded her words into Evernote):

"Do your parents ever go to Speak Up? That's a show that my mommy and daddy own, and they do shows all over the place, so maybe your parents know my mommy or daddy, because they know a lot of people and a lot of people go to their shows. And if they don't go, they should. It's great. Except I've never gone. I always have a babysitter, which is fun, too. "

At this point, the boy - who was about Clara's age - looked shell shocked. Too much information for him to process at one time. 

Clara then reached out, hugged the boy, and said, "Maybe I'll see you here sometime. Go play with those girls. I taught them Neighbors."

She waved goodbye, and we walked away, leaving the boy looking a little lost.

"That was a nice boy," I said to Clara.

"Sure," Clara said. "But he didn't really talk much."

Her willingness to share our address with a stranger was mildly disconcerting, but otherwise, I couldn't have been more proud of my little girl. Her acceptance of same sex marriage always warms my heart, and her promotion of Speak Up was impressive.

But mostly, I am astounded by her ability to talk to strangers with such ease. Two nights ago, while eating dinner at a restaurant, she walked across the room to a table where a woman was eating dinner with her sister and her infant son.

From afar, I watched Clara chat with these women for at least three minutes for returning to the table to tell me that the boy's name was Nathan. He was three months old. He likes to eat. He doesn't cry much. This was his first time in a restaurant.       

As we were leaving, the mother called me over to her table and told me that talking to Clara was like talking to one of her girlfriends.

Her mother gets the credit for most of this. Whether it's genetic or a learned behavior, she is slowly becoming the spitting image of Elysha. 

Thank goodness. For a while, it was looking like she would be more like me. 

Speak Up is two years old! It began with a snow day and a simple question to my wife.

Speak Up, the storytelling organization that my wife and I founded in 2013, is approaching it's two year anniversary. It was born on a snow day much like the one we experienced in the northeast earlier this week. 

My storytelling career began about five years ago with the discovery of The Moth’s podcast. A friend introduced it to me, and soon after, other friends began telling me that I should go to New York and tell a story. I’ve led a life filled with unusual moments and unfortunate disasters, so my friends thought The Moth would be perfect for me.

But taking the stage in New York and telling a story to 300 strangers was daunting to say the least. Frankly, I was afraid. So I assured my friends that I would go to a Moth StorySLAM someday but had no intention of ever doing so.

Then I had the idea of starting my own storytelling organization here in Hartford. I thought that telling stories in front of a handful of friends and family would be less intimidating than 300 hipster strangers in lower Manhattan. I was excited about this idea. I thought it could be something that Elysha and I did together. 

Then I didn’t do that, either.

Eventually, I couldn't look myself in the mirror. As daunting as it might be, I hated the idea of saying that I would do something and then not doing it. I resolved to go to New York, tell a story, and be done with it.  

On a hot July evening in 2011, Elysha and I went to New York. Packed into the Nuyorican Poets Café with 200 New Yorkers, I dropped my name in The Moth’s tote bag (always referred to as “the hat”), and began my storytelling career.

In truth, I dropped my name into the bag and immediately began praying that I wouldn’t be called. Putting my name into the hat at a Moth StorySLAM was good enough, I told myself. I tried. I could go home with my head held high.

And I thought my prayers were about to be answered. Nine storytellers had taken the stage, and my name had yet to be called. One more name would be drawn, and I would escape from New York unscathed.

Host Dan Kennedy opened the sheet of paper, stared intently at it for a moment, and then called my name. Except I didn’t write my name clearly, so he mispronounced it. I didn't move. If I sat very still, I thought, maybe they would pull another name, and I wouldn’t have to get up.

Then Elysha kicked me under the table. “That’s you,” she said. “Go!”  

I did. I took the stage and told my story. Dan Kennedy took a photo from the stage that night. This was my view as I told my story:


You can actually see me in this photograph. Left side near the wall. Black shirt. White graphic. Only guy with his hands not raised. Looking terrified.

This is the story that I told:


When the final scores were tallied, it was revealed that I had somehow won. 

Two years later, after in February 2013, I was home with Elysha. It was a snowing outside and school had been cancelled. We were sitting at the dining room table, pounding away on our laptops. Since that first night in July, I had competed in eight more StorySLAMs. I had three more wins under my belt. I was in the midst of a streak of six wins in a row and 11 our of 14. I had competed in two Moth GrandSLAMS. I had delivered two TED Talks and told stories for Literary Death Match and The Story Collider.

The Moth had changed my life. I felt like a real storyteller. A good storyteller. I was ready for a new challenge.

I looked up from my laptop. Looked across the table at Elysha and said, "You know, we should do that storytelling idea in Connecticut. Right?"

"Yeah," she said. "We should."

A friend had mentioned that Real Art Ways might be the perfect spot for a show, so on a whim, I called. I spoke to Will Wilkins, Real Art Ways’ Executive Director. "Well, it's snowing today," he said. "No one's here. Why don’t you come down now?"


I did. About an hour later, Speak Up (still without a name or any storytellers save myself) was born. Will had given us the date for our first show and suggested that we find a name for our organization as soon as possible. Good advice. That would come about a week later on a ride home from Elysha’s parents house. While brainstorming ideas, I said, “How about using an imperative. A command. Something like Speak Up?”

“That’s it,” Elysha said. “Speak Up.”

We had found our name. 


Our first show, in April of 2013, featured eight storytellers. All friends who we knew could tell a good story. We didn’t listen to their stories beforehand or work with storytellers back then (and thus had two stories about trips to Greece told back-to-back), so every story was as much of a surprise to us as the audience. That was fun. We’ve since learned that it makes for a better show when we take the time to listen to our storytellers’ stories and help them with their fine tuning. We’ve learned a lot in the three years that I have been telling stories, so we share this wisdom with our storytellers before they take the stage. 

When we arrived at Real Art Ways that night, the woman in charge asked us how many chairs to put out.

“Well, we have about eight storytellers,” Elysha said. “And they will all probably bring a guest. And we might get a few more people might come. So maybe 40?”

The woman laughed. “We’ll put out 90.”

Good thing she did. We had a standing room only crowd of about 125 people that first night, and we have been selling out shows ever since. There were about 250 people at our last show, and I didn’t know most of them. In those early days, our audiences were primarily our friends. Now some of our most devoted fans are people who I have never actually met.

We’ve produced 12 shows in the two years that we have been running Speak Up. We have established partnerships with The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts, Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, and just this week, The Connecticut Historical Society. Speak Up will be featured at this year’s Connecticut Storytelling Festival. We run workshops for people who are interested in telling stories, and I have taught classes on storytelling in libraries, high schools, colleges, and universities, including most recently Perdue University and The University of Connecticut Law School.     

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I had no idea that all of this would happen when I peeked over my laptop and said to Elysha that “we should do that storytelling thing in Connecticut.” But our lives have changed completely and forever because of it.

It's a good reminder that the best way to start something is to start something. Think less. Move fast. Figure things out along the way. And find a good partner.

I meet far too many people with big dreams and grand ambitions who spend too much time worrying about how to make them happen instead of making them happen.

Move. Create forward momentum. Take a risk.

My Story of the Day exercise will change your life. I promise. And you'll find a bunch of stories in the process.

Slate editor Allison Benedikt sent the following tweet around the holidays. Julia Turner, who was referenced in the tweet (Benedikt may actually be quoting her) is Slate’s editor-in-chief:

@juliaturner "You live your life. Most days are pretty much the same. You forget most things you’ve done. Then it’s over." Happy holidays!

This tweet struck a chord for me.

For more than a year, I’ve been teaching storytelling workshops as part of Speak Up, the storytelling organization that my wife and I founded in 2013. In addition to the many things that I teach to storytellers, I spend a great deal of class time sharing strategies for generating new story ideas.

There is one exercise in particular that I love. In fact, whether you are a storyteller or not, this exercise can change your life forever. No joke.

Before I go to bed each evening, I sit down in front of my computer for five minutes and ask myself this question:

“If I had to tell a five minute story onstage about something that happened to me today, what would that be?”


Then I review my day, seeking out that one defining, possibly story-worthy moment. Oftentimes the moment is unspectacular. Hardly story worthy at all. But more often than you might think, I manage to find an actual story in my day.

It’s rarely a great story. Most of the time, it’s not even a good story. But it’s a story. Something that made this day different from the rest. Something possibly worthy of telling someday.

And sometimes, I find a great story. Something that I can’t wait to tell. More often than you might expect.

Once my story of the day has been identified, I record it in an Excel database, usually with a couple sentence fragments of description. Just enough detail to remind me of the story later on.

This is different than writing in a journal or a diary every day. Journals and diaries do not demand that you find stories. A diary or a journal entry can reflect a person’s thoughts and feelings for the day, but they do not require the purposeful search for story. They do not insist that the person seek a defining moment from every day of their lives.

It’s these defining moments that make all the difference. It’s the process of recording the stories of our lives that can change your life.

It's changed my life.

Suddenly my days are no longer “pretty much the same.” No longer do I forget most of the things that I have done. Every single day of my life now contains the kernel of a story, and about once or twice a week, those stories are good enough to move over to my official database of story ideas, which currently stands at 194 items.

194 potential stories to tell. 194 stories good enough to tell.

I have no more forgotten days.


A storyteller who I adore once asked me why he never hears me repeat a story onstage. With 194 possible stories waiting to be told and a constantly growing list, why would I ever repeat a story?

At this rate, I'll never get through the list that I already have.

Since I’ve been teaching this strategy to my students, I’ve witnessed some incredible results.

About a dozen of my students continue to do this exercise everyday. Twelve is honestly a pathetic number. I’ve probably taught more than 100 students over the past year, so my percentage of students committed to the process is low. But this process requires a commitment. It’s a five minute commitment, but for some people, even that is a lot.

More importantly, it also requires a great deal of faith.

You have to believe that the process will ultimately yield results. You have to believe that the five minutes spent each day are worth it, even after days when the best you can do are story ideas like these:

I make dinner. Hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. The only dinner I can actually make.

Taught Clara about the Rolling Stones while lying in bed with her. She likes the way Jagger dances.

Walked dog at 2:00 for the second straight night. Snowing.

These entries will probably not make good stories. If Clara turns out to be a Rolling Stones fan someday and we attend a concert together, perhaps the entry about her and the  Stones will become relevant, but it’s unlikely.

But I remember each one of those moments clear as day.

I remember cooking my wife hot dogs and macaroni to surprise her after an especially hard day.

I remember lying in my five year-old daughter’s bed, listening to Satisfaction and explaining the difference between The Stones and The Beatles.

I remember the snow starting to fall as I walked around the block in my slippers, trailing my dog. It was cold and quiet, and I felt so lucky to be out there to see the first flakes, despite the hour.

Those days are not lost to me. They will never be lost to me.

The dozen or so people who continue to record their daily stories do so religiously. We have become a cult. All report that the process has changed their lives. Comments from my former students include:

“I’ve always wanted to meditate but was never able to. But this I can do. It’s like a form of focused meditation. I see so much from my day that I would’ve forgotten.”

“I’ve discovered that I have stories. I lead a more interesting life than I ever knew. I can’t believe it.”

“I feel like I’m a more important part of the world now. I feel like my story is a part of a bigger story.”

“I’ve learned so much about myself and recovered so many stories from my childhood through this process that I had forgotten.”

This is also true. By sitting down and reviewing your day, searching for a story worthy moment, the door to the past often swings open and memories long since forgotten are suddenly pour through.

Looking for stories? Follow this process every day for the rest of your life.

More importantly, do you want to change your life? Do you want your days to matter? Do you want to recall the moments of your life that mean so much in the moment but are lost so easily?

Take my advice. Commit to five minutes every day.

Alison Benedikt (or perhaps Julia Turner) was not wrong. "Most days are pretty much the same. You forget most things you’ve done. Then it’s over."

Don’t let that be you.

I have 15 jobs. So you probably require my services in one way or another.

As the New Year approaches and the endless possibilities of the coming year loom on the horizon, I always like to take a moment and reset my current occupational status, in the event that you or someone you know will require my services in 2015.

While occupations like teacher and writer seem like fairly obvious inclusions on the list, there are also several less obvious jobs on the list that may seem a little silly at first, but let me assure you that they are not.

Many people thought it was silly back in 1997 when my friend and I decided to become wedding DJs, even though we had no experience, equipment, or knowledge of the wedding industry whatsoever. We simply declared ourselves wedding DJs, bought a pile of equipment that we didn’t know how to use, and began the search for clients.

Nineteen years and more than 400 weddings later, we’re still in business.

The same could be said about my decision to become a minister in 2002. Or a life coach back in 2010. Or a professional best man in 2011. Or last year’s declaration that I was a public speaking coach. Or last week’s announcement that I am now a presentation consultant.

All of these positions have either become profitable ventures or at least received interest from potential clients.

The lesson: If you want to do something, just start doing it.  

So here is a list of my 14 current occupations and an explanation of my services. I hope I can be of service to you in 2015. 

Teacher. Sorry. I’ve got a job teaching already, and I love it.

But in about four years, a partner and I plan on opening a one-room schoolhouse for students grades K-5, so if you’re looking for a school for your child at that time (or looking to donate money to build the school), contact me.

Writer: In addition to writing novels, I’ve also written a memoir, a book of essays, a rock opera, a tween musical, and a screenplay. I’m also the humor columnist for Seasons magazine.

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I’m always looking for additional writing gigs, in particular a regular opinion column and/or advice column, so if you have a writing job in need of a good writer, contact me.

Wedding DJ: My partner and I are entering our 19th year in the business. We’ve have entertained at more than 400 weddings in that time. We’ve cut back on our business in recent years, ceasing to advertise or even maintain a respectable website. Almost all of our business these days comes through client or venue referrals, as we prefer.

If you’re getting married and need a DJ, contact me. 

Storyteller and public speaker: I deliver keynote addresses, inspirational speeches, and talks on a variety of subjects including education, writing, storytelling, productivity, and more. I’m represented by Macmillan Speakers Bureau.

I’m also a professional storyteller who has performed at more than 60 storytelling events in the last three years and has hosted story slams for literary festivals, colleges, and more. I’m a 15-time Moth StorySLAM champion and GrandSLAM champions whose stories have appeared on The Moth Radio Hour and This American Life.

If you need someone to entertain, inspire, inform, or emcee, contact me.  

Founder and producer of Speak Up: My wife and I produce a storytelling show called Speak Up. We are based in Hartford at Real Art Ways with additional shows at venues throughout the region, including local schools and The Mount in Lenox, MA.


If you have an audience that would be interested in storytelling, or you’re a storyteller looking to pitch a story for one of our shows, send an email to speakupstorytelling@gmail.com.

Minister: In the past ten years, I’ve married 13 couples and conducted baby naming ceremonies and baptisms. I’ll be marrying two more couples in 2015.

If you’re getting married and are in need of a minister, contact me. 

Life coach: In the past four years, I’ve worked with four different clients, assisting them in everything from goal setting to productivity to personal relationships to career development.

If you’re looking to make changes in your life and become a happier and more successful person, contact me.  

Tutor: I tutor students in grade K-12 on everything from general academics to college essay writing.

If you’re the parent of a student in need of academic support, either regularly or occasionally, contact me.

Storytelling and public speaking coach: For the past two years, I’ve been teaching storytelling workshops and coaching storytellers on an individual basis. People often take my workshops in hopes of performing in storytelling shows and competing in story slams, but they also take these workshops to improve job performance, enhance communication skills, and get their friends and family to finally listen to them.

My real mission is to eliminate the scourge of PowerPoint from this planet, one story at a time.

If you’d like to improve your storytelling, public speaking, and/or communication skills, send an email to speakupstorytelling@gmail.com and get on our mailing list. 

Writing camp coordinator and instructor: Last year my wife and I launched Writer’s Abroad, a four week long summer writing camp for students ages 11-16. We had an outstanding inaugural season and plan on an even better second year in 2015.

If you are the parent of a child ages 11-16 who loves to write and/or could benefit from four weeks of intensive writing instruction designed to improve skills and inspire writers, this camp may be for you. Contact me.

Presentation consultant: Since posting about this position a week ago, I have heard from two people who have expressed interest in hiring me for their fairly new companies at some point in the future. I may also have the opportunity to take on a partner in this business.

If you are a person who delivers content via meetings, presentations, workshops, etc. and would like to improve your communication skills, contact me.

Professional Best Man: Since posting about this position on this blog in 2011, four grooms and two reality television producers have inquired about hiring me for their weddings and television shows that are wedding related. Geographical constraints forced me to reject all their offers thus far. I am still awaiting my first gig.

Productivity consultant: Since posting about this position on this blog in 2013, I’ve had one inquiry about my services.

If you would like to become a more productive person in your personal or professional life and are willing to make changes in order to achieve this goal, contact me.


Professional double date companion: Since posting about this position on this blog in 2011, I have had no inquiries. That does not mean the job is a failure. Just that it has yet to succeed.

If you’re dating someone for the first time or have been on several dates and need that important second or third opinion on the person in question, contact me.

Professional gravesite visitor: Since posting about this position on this blog in 2011, I have had no inquiries. That does not mean the job is a failure. Just that it has yet to succeed.

If you have a gravesite in Connecticut in need of visiting, contact me.

My story was featured on The Moth’s podcast this week. I still get goose bumps.

I was thrilled to learn that one of the stories that I told at a Moth StorySLAM in Boston last year was featured on their podcast this week. I’ve seen a much younger version of myself on The Moth’s homepage once before, but it’s very much like seeing one of my novels on a bookstore shelf.

I still can’t believe it.


Five years ago, I started listening to The Moth’s podcast after a friend recommended it to me. She thought that I might have stories to tell someday. I spent two years listening to the podcast, reveling in the stories told by people who I thought were gods.

I still do.

Three years ago, I went to New York and told my first story. I thought it would be my last story. I thought I was simply checking an item off my lifelong list of things to do.

Tell a story at The Moth. Move on.

Twenty-five StorySLAMs and 13 victories later, The Moth and storytelling have become as important to me as any of my creative endeavors. I’ve told stories in eight GrandSLAMs, two Main Stage shows, and my stories have been featured on the Moth Radio Hour twice. I’ve told stories for many other organizations since then, including This American Life, and my wife and I have launched our own storytelling organization in Connecticut.

Yet I still can’t believe that my story is on The Moth’s podcast again this week, alongside storytellers who I still think of as gods.

You don’t get to rub elbows with the gods very often. The Moth has given me the chance to do so routinely. I am fortunate enough to know some of the finest storytellers in the world through my work at The Moth. Truly some of the finest people who I have ever met. I have the opportunity to stand on the stage alongside giants and tell stories to the best audiences that a performer will ever know.

I still get goose bumps every time I do.

I got those same goose bumps upon seeing my face on The Moth’s homepage this week. It all started five years ago by listening to amazing stories piped into my ears.

This week my own story will be piped into people’s ears.

If it happened a thousand times, I still wouldn’t quite believe it.

Speak Up: Storytelling Workshop launching

We are launching a new advanced storytelling workshop next week, and there are still spots available for those of you who are interested.


Details below.

Our storytelling workshop focuses on the storyteller's actual performance. You are not required to attend a beginner's workshop, but please know that much of our direct storytelling instruction takes place in the beginner's class.

Every participant will be expected to tell at least one story during the course of the six classes (and hopefully more). We will also be dissecting audio and video of stories from The Moth and other storytelling shows, and I will tell a story at each session and discuss how the story was "built." I will also "work out" stories on the stage (unprepared , allowing for a peek into the initial creative process (as uncomfortable as that may be for me!). 

This advanced workshop is designed so that anyone who has taken an advanced workshop already can take this workshop again and expect entirely different content, since the stories will always be different, and the lessons taught are constantly changing. This is being done to meet the request of previous workshop attendees who would like to take another class but felt that there was nothing left for them.

It will also result in a much more interactive workshop, with greater opportunities to participate. 

Following each story will be an extensive critique in a friendly, non-threatening, low-stakes environment that targets story construction, performance, and revision. We will also focus on self-critique and the critiquing of one another, with the goal being to develop better analytic skills.   

Additional goals include:

  • Formulating anecdotes and story kernels into fully realized stories
  • The continued development of humor, suspense and high stakes in a story
  • The effective use of loaded language
  • Revision for time constraints
  • Shorter, spontaneous storytelling opportunities

The first five sessions will be taught by me, but Elysha will join us for the last session to bring her considerable revision and critique talent to the class.  

The dates for the workshop will be September 2, 16, and 30, as well as October 7, 14 and 21. Workshops are taught at Wolcott School and will make use of a stage, a microphone and stage lighting in order to allow for practice in an authentic environment. 

The cost of the advanced workshop is $225

If you're interested in attending, please send us an email and we will register you for the classes. First come, first served. We only allow for eight participants at a time, so once I have eight confirmed attendees, the workshop is closed. 

I won a Moth StorySLAM, and that wasn’t the best part of the night. Seriously.

I won a Moth StorySLAM at The Oberon Theater in Cambridge on Tuesday night. I managed to win from first position, which isn’t easy.

I’ve won 13 Moth StorySLAMs in the last three years, but I’ve never won after having to go first. Few storytellers do. I was excited. Thrilled, even, But winning was not the best part of the night for me.

Given my extreme competitive nature, this is really saying something. 

Three of my friends joined me at The Oberon on Tuesday night, and two of them, Plato and Tom, put their names in the hat and were fortunate enough to take the stage and tell a story.

They performed brilliantly. They told great stories. Their stories were so good, in fact, that Plato finished in second place, just a few tenths of a point behind me, and Tom finished in third, a few tenths of a point behind Plato.


I was impressed with their performances. A little proud, even.

Both Plato and Tom began their storytelling careers at Speak Up after Elysha and I asked them to tell a story. Tom told a hilarious story about meeting his wife for the first time, and Plato has told a number of stories for us, including one at our very first show.

Last night was the first time they took the stage for The Moth. I suspect that it won’t be the last.

Plato and Tom are not my only friends who have taken the stage to tell a story. Since I began introducing my friends to storytelling (shortly after I began doing it myself), many of them have performed at Speak Up, and a handful have told stories at a Moth event.

I’ve also watched people who complete my storytelling workshop go on to tell stories at Speak Up and even compete in Moth StorySLAMs. Many of them assured me that they were taking my workshop for reasons other than performing and swore that they would never take the stage. Despite their initial protestations, a large number of them have gone on to tell stories for Speak Up, and a few have even ventured into New York and Boston and competed in Moth events as well.

People who never dreamed of standing on a stage and performing have become seasoned storytellers who can’t wait to tell their next story.

Introducing friends to something new, assisting them in honing their skills, and then watching them perform and compete is more rewarding than I would have ever expected. That’s how I felt on Tuesday night, watching Plato and Tom perform on stage.

In many ways, I was also returning favors.

Eight years ago, Tom bought a set of golf clubs for $10 at a garage sale, dropped them into my car on a snowy, December afternoon, and thereby launched my golfing career. Golf has become one of the greatest loves of my life. I’m still a terrible player, but I would play every day if I could. I’ve even written a memoir about the game. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Tom changed my life when he dropped those golf clubs into my car that day.

Back in 1999, Plato decided to take a chance on an inexperienced teacher, fresh out of college and rough around the edges, who many administrators viewed as a wild card. He hired me when others would not and thereby launched my teaching career. I have been teaching in that school ever since.

Our school was the place where my occasionally unorthodox teaching methods were embraced and my creativity was rewarded. I was permitted to become the teacher I am today thanks in large part to Plato’s leadership and guidance. It was also the place where I met my wife, Tom, and many of the closest friends.

My life would be very different had Plato not taken a chance on me that day.

Introducing them to storytelling and watching them compete for the first time was a small way of repaying them for all that they have done. It was a joy. It’s well documented that after the first person in a family graduated from college, others in the family, who never dreamed of attending college, will follow. Once the ice is broken and the impossible is made possible, people are willing to give it a try.

My success with storytelling has served a similar role for many of my friends. Once I started taking the stage, others have followed. It has been so much fun to watch.

Watching Tom and Plato perform so well on Tuesday night was truly reward enough. The fact that I won the slam was great, but honestly, it was icing on the cake.

Delicious icing. Satisfying icing. Well deserved icing. But still, not nearly as rewarding as watching Tom and Plato standing behind that microphone, under those bright lights, telling their story.

The payoff for a writer or a performer is an infinitesimal sliver of the job. Too many forget this and aren’t willing to do the work.

Saturday was a good day for me.

It began with the first performance ever of “Caught in the Middle,” the tween musical written by writing partner, Andy Mayo, and myself. It was produced at a performing arts camp in Bloomfield, Connecticut, and like our previous musical, The Clowns, I fell in love with the show while watching it performed on stage.

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Then Elysha and I left for New York so I could perform in The Liar Show in the West Village. I told a story about my unfortunate participation in a bachelorette party in a McDonald’s crew room when I was 19 years-old.


A friend was kind enough to comment on how much I had going on that day. “It must be exciting to have so many creative things going on in your life,” she said.

It’s true. Days like Saturday are exciting, but they come with a cost. When I talk to fledging writers, storytellers, and other people involved in the arts, I’m always quick to remind them that days like Saturday are few and far between.

They account for about 1% of the job.

The other 99% of the job is a lot of hard, tedious, and lonely work.

“Caught in the Middle” was more than a year in the making. It involved writing, collaborating, rewriting, revising, and more rewriting. It was hundred of hours spent crafting scenes, integrating music, developing characters, and agonizing over plot. My writing partner, Andy, had to poke, prod, and cajole me to continue working.

It wasn’t easy.

My invitation to perform in The Liar Show was the result of almost three years of storytelling, including more than 40 appearances at The Moth and other storytelling shows and the launch of our own storytelling organization, Speak Up. Thousands of hours of work have made me the storyteller I am today and gave me the opportunity to perform on Saturday night.

I didn’t happen overnight.

I was reading Billy Crystal’s memoir, Still Foolin’ ‘Em, and learned that in order to pursue his career in comedy, he became a stay-at-home father in a time when that was exceptionally rare. When his wife arrived home from work in the evening, he would join her for dinner and prepare his set for later that night, sometimes writing and sometimes rehearsing.


Then at 10:00, he would embark on an hour long commute to New York City, hoping for a spot on the stage at Catch a Rising Star before 1:00 AM so that he could perform his ten minute routine.

Then he would return home by 2:00 or 3:00 and begin the routine again at 7:00 when his daughter awoke and his wife left for work.

Billy Crystal did not become the entertainer and star that he is today because he was talented. He worked exceptionally hard, made enormous sacrifices, dedicated his life to his dream, and was smart enough to marry a woman who supported that dream.

By the way, he sacrificed to find the right woman, too. He transferred colleges as a sophomore, leaving Marshall University, a baseball scholarship, and a chance to play the game he loved at the college level for Nassau Community College and later New York University after meeting his wife and knowing that a long distance relationship would probably not last.

Rather than risk losing the woman of his dreams, he gave up baseball to chase her down.

The man understood how to make sacrifices.

So yes, Saturday was a great day for me. I loved watching something that I had written performed onstage. Hearing my words in other people’s mouths is always thrilling and makes me want to write for the stage again.

And yes, performing alongside the likes of Ophira Eisenberg, Tracy Rowland, and Matthew Mercier at The Liar Show was thrilling, too. Simply being asked to perform in this popular and well-reviewed show was an honor.

But it was a long, long road to Saturday’s payoff. Many, many miles.

Too often, I think that writers, performers, and other people striving for a career in the arts see those 1% Saturdays and dream the dream, forgetting about the 99% (or worse, glamorizing the 99%) that is required to make those Saturdays a  reality.

The best moment on Saturday for me was a simple one. Standing off to the side, watching these teens and tweens perform the show, I caught sight of my daughter, sitting in the audience, watching my show with rapt attention. Bopping her head to the music. Smiling. Leaning forward in anticipation. Laughing at my jokes.

This was better than all the applause I received that day.


Speak Up tickets, dates for upcoming shows, and a writer's workshop launch

For storytelling fans, and Speak Up supporters, some news for you today. 


First, tickets for our next show, Saturday, July 19 at 8:00 at Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT, are now available. You can click this link to purchase tickets or call Real Art Ways directly at 860.232.1006.

Please order soon if you plan on attending, as we tend to sell out early. 

We're also pleased to announce our remaining Speak Up dates for the year, so that you can mark your calendars and perhaps pitch us a story. 

September 27 at Real Art Ways. The theme of the night is Coulda Shoulda Woulda. 

October 18 at The Mount in Lenox, MA. The theme of the night is Love and Marriage. 

December 6 at Real Art Ways. The theme of the night is Reunion. 

Also, By demand, we will be launching writer's workshops starting in August for interested writers.

Similar to our popular storytelling workshops, our writer's workshop is specifically for interested writers who are looking to launch a writing career, improve their writing skills, receive feedback from a professional writer and teacher, develop a work in progress, prepare a non-fiction pitch, or simply find an engaged audience who is willing to listen and provide feedback for their work. 

Whether you want to make your fortune writing the next great American novel or simply improve your ability to string together coherent sentences, this may be for you. We've modeled our workshop on a series of successful workshops conducted by a fellow author and friend who works on the Connecticut shoreline. 

The workshops will be held in our home. We'll put out snacks and drinks each week before food is good for thought and makes people happy.

We'll keep the group small, 4-6 writers per six week session, so we can be sure to devote the appropriate amount of time on each writer's work while also having time to teach mini-lessons and model good writing. 

Workshops will run from 8:00-9:30 on Monday evenings. 

Dates for our first session are August 11, 18, 25 and September 8, 15 and 22.

The cost of each 6 week session will be $175.  

If you're interested in joining us, please let me know.

Hope to see you all at Speak Up soon!

Speak Up at The Mount!

Elysha and I are thrilled to announce that we are taking Speak Up on the road for the first time!

The Mount, the former home of famed novelist Edith Wharton, has asked us to bring Speak Up to their location in Lenox, Massachusetts, for a show on Saturday, October 18 at 8:00 PM.


The show will feature 5-6 storytellers, telling stories in a slightly longer format than a typical Speak Up performance. Wharton’s original stables have been converted into a performance space that seats just over 150 people, and we plan on filling it with people who love storytelling.

The following day, we will be teaching a storytelling workshop from 9:00-1:00 in Wharton’s home.

We realize that if you are living in the Hartford area, it’s a long way to travel for one of our shows, and we expect the vast majority of tickets to sell to people living closer to The Mount, but if you’re interested in spending a weekend this fall in the Berkshires, you may want to make Speak Up a part of your trip.

Details on the storytellers who will be taking part in the show and ticket information will be publicized as soon as things are finalized.

For now, save the date if you’re interested in joining us that weekend for what promises to be an amazing evening of storytelling!