My little girl is a storyteller

My family and I have been in Seattle for five days now, and it’s been quite the whirlwind.

In addition to playing golf, walking beaches, eating delicious food, and visiting with friends and family, I have also been doing a bit of work.

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of visiting with a book club of about 17 ladies who had read a variety of my novels and nonfiction. The conversation was great, the questions were insightful, and I was once again renewed by the joy of spending time with serous readers.

On Friday night my friend, Plato, his daughter and my former student, and I attended a Moth StorySLAM in Seattle. It was just as fun and exciting as any StorySLAM in New York or Boston. Plato and I had the good luck to take the stage and tell a story - back to back - and I won the slam and Plato placed a close second.

Not the first time we have taken the top two spots at a StorySLAM.

On Saturday, I taught a storytelling workshop at the Taproot Theater in Seattle. Three dozen present and future storytellers gathered to learn some of the strategies and techniques that I have used for finding, crafting, and telling stories. It was thrilling to find such a vibrant and close knit storytelling community here in Seattle.

On Saturday night, I performed my solo show for a sold out audience in the same theater. I told five stories - all but one brand new and including a story that I had begun crafting during the workshop earlier that day. After each story, I offered some insight about the finding and crafting of the story in hopes that the audience would walk away with some strategies that they could use when telling stories.

It was a blast.

Just before intermission, Elysha also played her ukulele and sang in public for just the second time ever, and for the second time, she upstaged anything I did that night. She was sweet and charming, and she sounded beautiful.

And the kids sat backstage in the green room throughout the show, listening to the stories while pecking away on devices to keep them occupied. Just before Elysha played, they joined the audience to watch their mother do something hard and beautiful.

On Sunday morning, we traveled to Tacoma to attend a storytelling brunch called Homegrown Stories. Hosted by a storyteller named John and my agent, Taryn, folks enjoyed delicious food as names were drawn from a bowl and stories were told. I met a number of storytellers who I’ve only had the pleasure of knowing via our podcast and email, and I met some new folks, too. Clara and Charlie joined us, sitting at our feet and listening attentively. We heard stories about the challenges of running for office, hiring a professional cuddler, transitioning from female to male, and finding your husband back in middle school while writing a story together about monkey guts.

One storyteller had even told a story that used something I had done the day before in my workshop as the jumping off point.

But the moment I will never forget was when Clara took the stage before 30 or so adults and told her very first public story. She poke about being excluded from a game at summer camp, and though I am admittedly biased, her story was incredible. It was vulnerable and raw. It contained humor and suspense. She handled dialogue brilliantly. I had the good fortune of standing in the back of the room while she was telling, and I listened as the audience laughed, held their breath, sighed, and groaned at all the right moments.

Best of all, she stuck the landing. Her final sentences were perfection.

I hadn’t even known that she wanted to tell a story. I wasn’t sure how she would do. I worried that she might collapse in a bundle of anxiety and nerves.

Instead, she told a four minute story that was artfully crafted and expertly told.

I’ll never forget it.

This has been a glorious week, thanks in large part to our friends who have been kind enough to host us in their beautiful home and show us the town. But it’s also been a week filled with talk of books and stories, which has also been lovely.

But that moment when Clara stood before that audience and shared a story… that is what I will remember most.

Bizarre coincidences are not so bizarre when it comes to storytelling

This past weekend, one of my stories was rerun on The Moth Radio Hour.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have eight stories appear on their show, and after every one, I am flooded by emails, tweets, and Facebook messages from listeners expressing words of appreciation.

Storytelling audiences are the best.

The story featured this week was about my father, my stepfather, and my time spent growing up in Blackstone, Massachusetts.

Yesterday, I exchanged emails with a listener who had an odd connection to me.

Like me, the listener grew up in Blackstone, MA, and was a friend of my late Uncle Harold. The two graduated together from the “old high school” on Main Street in 1967. That high school eventually became my middle school, and today it’s the site of the public library, where my high school friend now works.

Back in 1967, Blackstone was a tiny town where everyone was seemingly related, and she knew “everyone who lived on Federal Street,” which is where I grew up, too.

Later in life, the listener became the assistant manager of a group home in North Smithfield, Rhode Island. Her manager was my former step father, whom she and most of the staff reportedly (and rightfully) despised.

In addition to working for my former step father, she also went to elementary school with him at St. Charles Elementary School in the neighboring town of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

My step father’s father was actually her family doctor when she was a small child.

Did you follow all that?

I told a story about growing up in Blackstone, Massachusetts with my father and then my step father.

Then a woman living on the other side of the country heard that story on the radio and just happened to know my step father (as both a child and adult), his father, my uncle, and everyone else living on the street where my father and I grew up, including, presumably, my father.

“Small world,” she wrote to me.

“No kidding!” I thought.

But this is not uncommon. When you tell stories to hundreds and sometimes thousands of people at a time, remarkable connections and ridiculous coincidences are uncovered.

I once told a story to a group of healthcare administrators about nearly dying in a snowstorm while driving my mother’s Datsun B210 on December 23, 1989. When I returned to my seat, one of the administrators sitting at my table (the organization’s President) told me (in stunned disbelief) that he was also in a serious car accident during that very same storm while also driving a Datsun.

I once told a story at a Moth GrandSLAM in Brooklyn about an encounter with my elementary school principal when I was in third grade. Someone in the audience knew my former principal (who I had assumed was dead) and reconnected us. We’ve since exchanged many emails. It turns out that a new middle school was built on Federal Street, about half a mile from my childhood home, and it was named after him. Miraculously, he remembered me, my siblings, and also my father and his siblings.

These are just two of many bizarre coincidences and connections that I have experienced after telling a story. Happily,. the world is far more connected than we could ever have imagined. We just don’t see those connections unless we happen to be a storyteller with large audiences of generous listeners who are willing to reach out and make that connection clear.

As I said, storytelling audiences are the best.

Lessons are almost always learned the hard way. But not on Wednesday night.

On Tuesday night my friend, Donna, and I journeyed east to attend a Moth StorySLAM at Laugh Boston, a comedy club in the south end of the city.

The theme of the night was Animals. If my name emerged from the bag, I planned to tell the story of approving an expensive, improbable spinal surgery on my dog, Kaleigh, after Elysha and I had a lengthy discussion with the veterinarian over the phone in the middle of the night.

All while I was sleepwalking.

I have no recollection of the conversation or the decision that we made. I didn’t even know that Kaleigh’s life was in danger. When we had admitted her at the animal hospital, it was because she was constipated and therefore dehydrated, and as a result, she required fluids.

No big deal. You can imagine my reaction the following morning when the vet called to tell me that she had survived the first of two surgeries.

It’s a good story that I had told at Speak Up a year before. I liked its chances of winning. It had surprise, heart, and a little bit of humor. A good combination.

Then the fourth name was drawn from the bag, and the man who took the stage told a brilliant story about agreeing to care for a 17 year-old cat while simultaneously battling for his own life. It was fantastic. Masterfully told and utterly hilarious, but at the same time filled with real issues and tons of heart.

After deliberating, the judges awarded him two perfect 10’s and a 9.8.

This was a fairly unprecedented moment, at least in my experience. I’ve told stories in 76 Moth StorySLAMs and attended another 30 or 40 shows when my name wasn’t drawn from the bag, and I had never seen a storyteller receive two 10’s before.

In my entire storytelling career, I had only received three 10’s in total.

Even if judges love a story beyond compare, they will typically leave themselves some room in the unlikely event a better story comes along. Since he had been chosen fourth, most judging teams would’ve awarded him scores like 9.6 or 9.8, giving themselves enough wiggle room in case they needed it.

But I also understood the judges’ decisions. He had been fantastic. He had owned the room. His story was chock full of vulnerability, authenticity, hilarity, suspense, and surprise.

And the audience agreed with the judges. When the scores were announced, the room was filled with applause and hoots of agreement.

But now I found myself in uncharted territory. I had a really good story that had no chance of winning now. What to do?

Donna gave me the answer.

“Tell a different one,” she said. “Wing it. You’ve done this a million times. Tell something else and save your good one.”

I dismissed the idea as the fifth storyteller took the stage, but then intermission rolled around. I had a moment to think. It occurred to me I had another animal story. A few, in fact.

The story of the raccoon that we had for a pet when I was growing up.
The story of the horse that took off with me clinging to its mane when I was about six.
The story about the time my father brought a horse into the dining room.
The story about the time I had rescued Kaleigh from an angry, leash-less pit bull.
The story of Pirate, the dog I had unknowingly called back across the street into the path on an oncoming car.

Then it hit me. I had another story. The story of our cat, Pluto, and his recent near-death experience. It was a story with lots of suspense and humor, and it was only about three weeks old.

I could probably pull it off.

So I spent intermission putting the story together in my head, identifying scenes, finding the right first line, and memorizing possible laugh lines. Intermission had ended and the sixth storyteller had taken the stage when I finally found the final lines of my story and liked them a lot. With a beginning, an ending, and my scenes clearly set in my head, I thought I could pull it off. It wouldn’t be great, but it would be good enough if my name was drawn from the bag.

Best of all, I could save my sleepwalking story for another day.

I told Donna that I would tell the Pluto story instead. I texted Elysha, telling her the same.

When the seventh storyteller was chosen and it wasn’t me, something strange happened. I started to fall in love with the Pluto story. I felt terrible about wasting a potentially great but not-fully-baked story in an effort to preserve another.

“Can I plan a third story right now?” I wondered. “Maybe the horse story?” Then I recalled another animal story. Elysha’s cat, Jack, had despised Elysha’s previous boyfriend, and she had told me as much several times. I felt like part of that boyfriend’s eventual demise was Jack’s ongoing rejection of him, making my first meeting with her cat a high stakes affair.

Maybe I could tell that one instead? Could I plan a third story in case my name was chosen?

Then I went to the restroom between the seventh and eighth storytellers. On the way, a couple stopped me and asked if I was the guy who told the story of a chimney fire at a Moth GrandSLAM a couple years before.

“Yes,” I said. “That was me.”

They told me that they don’t attend Moth events very often but were so excited to see me in the room and hoped my name was chosen.

That was all I needed to hear. When my name was miraculously chosen tenth, I took the stage and told my sleepwalking story.

It was what I was supposed to do all along.

I like to win. In everything I do. I am a highly competitive person. But I have always believed that my primary responsibility when taking the stage at The Moth is to tell a new, well-crafted, highly entertaining story that expresses vulnerability and authenticity and attempts to connect me to my audience.

When I perform, I want audiences to know that they are going to be entertained by a great story that they have never heard before.

The same goes for Speak Up or any other show. Tell a great story every time.

I like to win. No, I love to win. But regardless of the score, I want to make the audience happy to have spent the money and time to attend the show. I want them to be entertained and moved. I want them to be thinking about my story in the days, weeks, or even months to come.

I want them to remember me, regardless of my score.

I had to tell my sleepwalking story. It was the story I had prepared to tell. It was the commitment that I had made to my audience when I dropped my name into the bag.

It was the right thing to do.

Then something unexpected happened.

I won. I received three perfect 10’s from the judges.

I couldn’t believe it.

After receiving a total of three 10’s in eight years, I had doubled my total in one fell swoop.

Was it the best story I’d ever told? No. Definitely not. But by awarding those two 10’s earlier in the night, the judges had put themselves in a bit of a box. If they liked my story as much as the fourth storyteller’s story, they had to give me 10’s, too. And that third judging team agreed.

Let’s be clear that recency bias also probably played a factor, too. Had I told my story in fourth position and my competitor told his story in tenth position, he may have won. That’s the reality of any subjectively judged event. I’ve won StorySLAMs from first, second, and third positions before, but it doesn’t happen often, so having my name drawn tenth probably helped.

But I had clearly made the right decision in terms of the competition by making the artistically correct decision. I gave the audience my best, expecting to lose given the scores before mine, but I was rewarded with the unexpected. My 42nd victory. A perfect score.

As I stepped off the stage, a man and woman approached me. The woman told me that they had attended the Moth GrandSLAM earlier in the year when I had told the story of taking Kaleigh on an eventful walk around the block in my boxer shorts. They were so happy to have heard another story about my beloved friend.

“That’s so weird,” I said. “I’ve told two stories about my dog in my whole life, and you’ve heard both?”

“Yes,” the woman said. “And I’m so glad.”

As I stepped away from that couple, a man approached and asked to hug me. He had lost his dog about six months before, and upon hearing me become emotional onstage about Kaleigh’s eventual death last summer after 17 glorious years made him feel “less stupid” about still becoming emotional from time to time about the loss of his furry friend.

I told him that I still cry about the loss of Kaleigh all the time. My eyes are filled with tears as I write these words.

The next day I received an email from a stranger who also sleepwalks. She was happy to hear someone speak about sleepwalking so openly and publicly. She has always found it to be a source of embarrassment but maybe a little less now.

These kind folks were reinforcers from the universe about doing the right thing. Much-needed reminders that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to win unless your desire for victory compromises your integrity.

In an effort to preserve a good story for another day, I nearly took the stage and told a hastily-prepared, sub-par story. I certainly wouldn’t have won had I told the Pluto story (or the Jack story), but even worse, the audience wouldn’t have gotten my best. A couple wouldn’t have experienced the joy in getting to know Kaleigh a little more. A man would still be feeling stupid about crying over his lost friend. A sleepwalker would still be feeling alone.

Worst of all, I would’ve placed competition (and the desire to win) over art.

Sometimes you learn lessons the hard way. That has often been the case for me. Lessons come with lumps. But sometimes you learn your lesson and find yourself miraculously rewarded, too.

If only every day could be as perfect as Wednesday night was for me.

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Speak Up Storytelling #61: Joe Basile

On episode #61 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our follow-up segment, we discuss our magical night of storytelling earlier in the week. We also update listeners on Charlie's health and remind listeners about our upcoming trip to Seattle. 

STORYTELLING SHOWS 2019

August 10: Great Hartford Story Slam at Hartford Flavor Company
August 17: Solo storytelling show at Taproot Theater, Seattle, WA
September 7: “Tests” at Real Art Ways
November 2: Great Hartford Story Slam, location TBD
November 23: Twenty-one Truths About Love book release, CT Historical Society, Hartford, CT
December 14: “Crafty” at CT Historical Society, Hartford, CT

STORYTELLING WORKSHOPS 2019

October 4-6: Storytelling workshop, Art of Living Retreat, Boone, NC
October 25-27: Storytelling workshop (beginners), Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health
November 9: Storytelling workshop (Beginner), CT Historical Society
November 16: Storytelling workshop (Advanced), CT Historical Society
December 6-8: Storytelling workshop (advanced), Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health
January 25: Storytelling workshop (Beginner), CT Historical Society
February 22: Storytelling workshop (Advanced), CT Historical Society

In our Homework for Life segment, I talk about a small moment on the edge of a pond during a sunset. . 

Next we listen to a story by Jospeh Basile (with interpretation by Julie Sharp).   

Amongst the many things we discuss include:

  1. Nonfiction content in storytelling

  2. Launching scenes in the right spot (and the elimination of process language)

  3. Combining anecdotes into a more cohesive narrative

  4. Holding back information to preserve surprise

We then answer a listener questions about diversity in storytelling and when you know a story is done. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

Purchase Twenty-one Truths About Love 

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Matthew Dicks's blog:
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicksblog

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's blog:
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-grin-and-bare-it

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

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Friday night magic

Some nights in your life are simply magical.

Friday night was one of those nights for me. After spending a week working with storytellers from China, British Columbia, San Diego, Chicago, Westchester, and a few locals, I had the honor of introducing them to an audience of friends, family, and fellow storytellers so that they could tell one of the stories that they had crafted and practiced during the course of the week.

For some, this was their first time standing before an audience, telling a story.

For others, this was another important step on their storytelling journey.

I watched some of my storytellers take enormous leaps. Courageous, personal leaps forward. For others, I watched them tell stories with such tenderness and vulnerability that I had tears in my eyes. Some had me roaring with laughter. Still others told stories that made me want to leap out of my seat and pump my fist in the air. Maybe shout an expletive to two.

Truly.

And yes, one of the storytellers - a man from China - proposed to his girlfriend - also a storyteller in my class - by crafting a brilliant story that ultimately led to the proposal. He had asked me for permission to propose during the show earlier in the week, so although I was aware that it was coming, it was a surprise to everyone else.

A wonderful, emotional, celebratory surprise.

Unforgettable.

Just before the story began, I leaned over to my teaching assistant, Jeni Bonaldo, and showed her a note that read, “You’re going to like this.”

She did.

But it was also - and just as important - a night of stories, and each one of them was brilliant. Truly. Every single one of those storytellers performed with magnificence, expertise, and grace. It was as good of a show as Elysha Dicks and I has ever produced, and I was so damn proud of each and every one of them.

If you want to get close to people quickly, spend a week with them telling stories. As our time came to an end and we prepared to go our separate ways, I was sad. I suspect most of my storytellers were, too. In just a few short days, I had learned so much and grown so close to them that it was difficult to say goodbye.

I suspect that I will be hearing from some if not all for a long time to come. I hope so. Each of them means the world to me.

These are the moments in my life when I step back and think about how the decision - made with great trepidation at the time - to tell a story at a Moth StorySLAM in New York City back in 2011 changed my life forever.

It’s a reminder about how our decision to launch Speak Up on a snow day in February of 2013 - also made with some trepidation - has brought us so many magical moments like the one we experienced on Friday night.

It’s a reminder about how writing a book about storytelling and later launching a podcast on the same subject led a couple from halfway around the world to Hartford, CT and a proposal that no one in that room will ever forget.

It’s a reminder to me about the importance of pushing forward. Seeking the next horizon. Imagining a new adventure. Finding the next thing that will bring magic to our lives again.

May I be so bold as to suggest that you do the same?

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Speak Up Storytelling: Eric Feeney

On episode #60 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling with special guest Eric Feeney.

In our follow-up segment, we hear from a listener who has found a surprising benefit to Homework for Life and another with storytelling advice for me. We also inquire about the possible existence of listeners in the Louisville area.

In our Homework for Life segment, I talk about the importance of collecting moments that don't always seem storyworthy because we never know when we're in the midst of a story. Also, Homework for Life has enormous value beyond storytelling.

Next we listen to a story by Eric Feeney.

Amongst the many things we discuss include:

  • Word choices, in terms of stakes and the preservation of humor

  • Describing elements of a story that everyone isn't entirely familiar with.

  • Humor

  • Pushing into scenes to clear the clutter

  • The importance of a clean ending.

We then answer a listener question about getting reluctant students to speak and tell stories.

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.

LINKS

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

  • http://photorequestsfromsolitary.org

Feeney:

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Speak Up Storytelling: Chris Kriesen

On episode #59 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our follow-up segment, we inform listeners about my blog and consulting services, and we update them on dates for new shows and workshops.

In our Homework for Life segment, I talk about taking multiple moments from a single week and weaving them into a complete story, as well as the importance and value of telling stories even if they aren't the most profound and moving stories that you have to tell.

Next we listen to a story by Christopher P. Kriesen.

Amongst the many things we discuss include:

  • Launching stories with action, mystery, confusion, and wonder

  • The value and hazards of subtlety in storytelling

  • Physicality

  • Vocal techniques, including pacing, volume, and vocal modulation

  • Tips to increase the humor of a moment

  • Ensuring that a storyteller's moment of surprise is also an audience's moment of surprise

We then answer a listener question about ending stories in informal settings

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.

LINKS

  • Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling: https://amzn.to/2H3YNn3

  • Purchase Twenty-one Truths About Love: https://amzn.to/2xYQapE

  • Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

  • Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

  • Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks

  • Matthew Dicks's blog: http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicksblo

  • Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

  • Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

  • Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's blog: http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-grin-and-bare-it

RECOMMEDATIONS

  • Elysha: Big Hero 6

  • Matt: The Moth's Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/mothstories

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Speak Up Storytelling: Live from Miss Porter's School!

On episode #58 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha and I take our show on the road to Miss Porter's School in Farmington, CT.

Today's podcast was recorded in front of a group of students who will be spending the week with me, writing, telling stories and learning to podcast. 

In our follow-up segment, we will learn about the storytelling possibilities while competing in the sport of curling, and we will go under the podcasting hood to discuss some of the hopefully occasional imperfections in the editing of our podcast. 

STORYTELLING WORKSHOPS 2019

STORYTELLING SHOWS 2019

Next I tell a story live to my students.  

Amongst the many things we discuss about that story include:

  1. The importance of listening when searching for new stories

  2. Creating scenes in the minds of the audience

  3. The importance of getting listeners to wonder what is going to happen next (and the ruthlessness that is sometimes applied when you're not wondering what will happen next)

  4. The "laugh laugh laugh cry" model of storytelling 

  5. Using surprise in order to turn a story

Finally, we answer student questions about telling other people's stories and why we never invent things that didn't actually happen when telling our stories.

LINKS

Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

Purchase Twenty-one Truths About Love 

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

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Speak Up Storytelling: Matthew DIcks

On episode #57 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, I congratulate listeners on recent successes at The Moth. 

Next we listen to my story about a difficult medical decision and what it revealed about his marriage to Elysha. 

Amongst the many things discussed includes:

  1. Identifying the crux of the story

  2. "Why do we do the things we do?"

  3. Finding the beginning of a story by centering on the end

  4. "But" statements to break into moments of humor

  5. Tonality

  6. Truth in storytelling

  7. Ending a story effectively (and not stupidly)

LINKS

Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

Join me for storytelling at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health!

Looking to learn more about storytelling?

Take a double deep dive into storytelling in 2019:

If you want to learn about storytelling and have an opportunity to practice, I'll be teaching weekend-long beginners and advanced storytelling workshops at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Heath this fall in Stockbridge, MA.

Two full weekends of storytelling, yoga, world-class food, relaxation, and a chance to learn, practice, perform, and meet new people. Maybe make a new friend for life!

  • October 25-27: Storytelling workshop (beginners), Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health: http://bit.ly/2wPBWGQ

  • December 6-8: Storytelling workshop (advanced), Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health: http://bit.ly/2Rf5dV3

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Trademark!

About 18 months ago, when Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling, was landing in bookstores, a reader suggested that I trademark the name “Homework for Life” and the process that it describes.

If you’re not familiar with Homework for Life, you read chapter 3 of Storyworthy or watch me describe it here.

I thought the idea sounded silly and unnecessary and moved on.

A few months later, after our podcast, Speak Up Storytelling, was launched, a listener suggested the same thing. I still thought the idea sounded silly, but by then, I was receiving emails, tweets, and messages via Facebook and Instagram every day from people all over the world who had committed themselves to Homework for Life. Thousands of storytellers, parents, military personnel, college students, retirees, artists, and more had begun doing Homework for Life after reading my book, hearing me on a podcast, or watching my TED Talk. School teachers began reaching out, telling me that they were using it with their middle and high school students. Parents who were separated from the children by distance or divorce wrote to tell me that they used Homework for Life to stay in tune with their child’s life.

Even though I still thought that a trademark sounded a little silly, I decided to research the process and determine how difficult and expensive it might be.

It turned out to be neither.

Time consuming? Yes.

Complicated? Yes?

But doable? Also yes.

So I decided to give it a shot. While I thought I might someday be grateful to own the trademark on Homework for Life, I also thought that pursuing a trademark would be interesting. It might be fun to actually own a trademark in the same way Apple and Pepsi and the New York Yankees owned their trademarks.

It was also going to be hard, and I know that choosing the hard thing is almost always the right thing.

One year later, after a great deal of time, effort, and research, I was awarded my trademark. The paperwork and certificate arrived last week.

All that time and effort spent in the pursuit of the trademark was instantly forgotten,. as it often is when we achieve our goal.

I’m the proud owner of the trademark on Homework for Life.

Onto the next hard thing.

Speak Up Storytelling: Mark Scerra

On episode #55 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our follow up segment, we discuss some exciting news from the world of the parent and trademark office and from a recent Moth StorySLAM. We also hear from a listener who identifies an unfortunate verbal tic that Matt must now excise from his lexicon.  

STORYTELLING WORKSHOPS 2019

STORYTELLING SHOWS 2019

In our Homework for Life segment, Matt talks about how storytellers are constantly trying to make connections between moments in their lives in order to understand life better and tell better stories. 

Next we listen to a story by Mark Scerra. 

Amongst the many things we discuss include:

  1. Authenticity thru the avoidance of memorization

  2. The power of nostalgia in a story

  3. The variety of constructs that could be used in telling a story

  4. The identification and preservation of surprise

  5. Metering out character description throughout the story

  6. Making sure that hard-to-imagine elements of a story are made as imaginable as possible

  7. The effective violation of Matt's cultural reference rule

We then answer listener questions about storytelling in technology and pitching stories to Speak Up. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

Purchase Twenty-one Truths About Love 

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha: 

Matt:

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My recommendation to you

On Tuesday night, I told a story at a Moth StorySLAM in Cambridge, MA and won.

It was my 40th victory in a Moth StorySLAM.

When I think back to my very first Moth StorySLAM - back in July of 2011 at the Nuyorican’s Poet’s Cafe in New York City, it would’ve been hard to imagine that 8 years, I would win 40 StorySLAMs and 6 GrandSLAMs.

I like to win, so it feels great, and I love entertaining audiences with stories of my life, but there were even better, more impossible-to-imagine moments from that night:

The person who accompanied me to the slam was a friend named Kevin. Kevin and I grew up in the same small, Massachusetts town on the same street - just one grade apart - yet we were never friends while growing up. But we managed to reconnect on Facebook years later, and back in 2013, when Elysha and I produced our first Speak Up show at Real Art Ways in Hartford, Kevin surprised us by driving from his home in Massachusetts to attend.

Since then, he’s attended several Speak Up events. I’ve appeared on his podcast. We’ve become friends. I never would’ve imagined becoming friends with someone from my childhood so much later in life.

Even better, the host of the StorySLAM and two of the storytellers who made it to the stage on Tuesday night have also appeared on a Speak Up stage, and two of them have also been featured on our podcast.

Moth royalty meets Speak Up.

Even better, there were at least eight people in the audience on Tuesday night who I had taught in one of my storytelling workshops. At least six of them were introduced to storytelling and The Moth via my workshops, and at least two of them had put their names in the hat.

As a teacher, it’s always thrilling to see your students engaging with the world, taking risks, and trying new things. Sitting amongst them and performing for them was a gift.

But best of all, as I was pulling open the door to my car at the end of the night, I was stopped by a young woman who had been sitting in the audience. She told me that she’s seen me perform many times in Boston, and that my stories convinced her to call her mother after years of estrangement. It wasn’t a story about my mother or anything related to parents or children that helped her make the phone call. It was just my willingness to share so much onstage.

“I figured that if you could tell stories like that to strangers, I could call my mother.”

That was the best part of the night.

In July of 2011, I went to a Moth StorySLAM in New York City with the intention of telling one story and never returning to the stage again. Instead, impossible-to-imagine things have happened.

Recently, while being interviewed for a podcast, the host asked me where I see myself in ten years. I told her that it was a ridiculous question.

Last year I was teaching storytelling on a Mohawk reservation to Native Americans. I was substitute ministering at Unitarian Universalist churches. Elysha and I had a United States Senator telling a story on our Speak Up stage. I went to work as a storytelling consultant for one of the largest advertising firms in America.

I could’ve predicted none of this.

Just this year I’ve taught storytelling at Yale, MIT, and Harvard. I had people drive from Kansas City, Maryland, Toronto, and Philadelphia to attend my workshops. This summer two people from China and a person from San Diego will be flying to Connecticut to attend my storytelling bootcamp.

It’s crazy.

Craziest of all, a young woman living in Belmont, Massachusetts is now talking to her mother again because I told some stories onstage.

There is no predicting.

But what I know for sure of that none of this happens if I don’t find the courage in 2011 to take a stage in New York and tell a story. I won my first StorySLAM that night, and as satisfying as it was to win my 40th slam on Tuesday night, the victories are a lovely bonus to a life transformed and made immensely more interesting and meaningful thanks to a stage, a microphone, and a story..

Thanks to engaging with the world. Taking risks. Trying new things.

I can’t recommend it enough.

Speak Up Storytelling: Cari Ryding

On episode #54 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our follow up segment, we shout out the kindness of several readers of Storyworthy, talk about the concept of 1,000 true fans, read a listener email about a full year of Homework for Life, and offer some opinions on the final episodes of Game of Thrones.  

STORYTELLING WORKSHOPS 2019

STORYTELLING SHOWS 2019

In our Homework for Life segment, Matt talks about how a storyworthy moment can be told in more than one way, so part of the challenge of storytelling is choosing which way to craft and tell a story, and thereby where that story should begin. 

Next we listen to a story by Cari Ryding. 

Amongst the many things we discuss include:

  1. Hanging a story on a great opening line 

  2. The importance of choosing useful context and backstory

  3. Avoiding throwaway details 

  4. Making the important moments in your life also important when an audience hears them for the first time

  5. Time manipulation

  6. Names

  7. Alternative endings

  8. Avoiding phrases that assert the veracity of your story

We then answer listener questions about properly introducing stories to friends, policies involving bringing professional storytellers to Speak Up, and expanding your stories into a variety of mediums.

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

Purchase Twenty-one Truths About Love 

1,000 True Fans: https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha: 

Matt:

Bonus recommendations:

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Speak Up Storytelling: Matthew Dicks

On episode #53 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we read letters about Homework for Life from two of our listeners. 

Then Elysha departs for the rest of the episode, and I play a story of my own. 

Amongst the many things I talk about include:

  1. Big moments transformed into small, relatable moments

  2. The conversation between the beginning and ending of a story

  3. The openings of stories

  4. Omission

  5. The principle of "but and therefore"

  6. The strategic use of adjectives

  7. Ending a story effectively (and not stupidly)

LINKS

Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

Speak Up Whalers.jpg

Speak Up Storytelling: Aaron Wolfe

On episode #52 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we shout out several dedicated listeners and discuss the benefits of dot journaling. 

 In our Homework for Life segment, Matt talks about how a small moment in the present can often be connected to a similar moment from the past, thus producing an excellent story. 

Next we listen to a story by Aaron Wolfe. 

Amongst the many things we discuss include:

  1. The power of contrast in storytelling

  2. Using humor seamlessly and purposefully in a story

  3. Timing

  4. Small endings

  5. The use of accents in a story

  6. An interesting way tp present previous events in a story

We then answer listener questions about titling stories, living with a storyteller, and strategies for making room for stories when you're not standing on a stage.

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha: 

Matt:

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Resolution update: May 2019

Each month I review the progress of my yearly goals and report on that progress as a means of holding myself accountable.

Here are the results for May.
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PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Still standing.

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I didn’t lose any pounds in May. I didn’t gain any pounds in May.

I’ve lost 8 pounds in total.

3. Eat at least three servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day, six days a week.

Done! Along with bananas, grapes, apples, and pears, I also ate carrots, onions, potatoes, and an assortment of vegetables in various soups.

4. Do at least 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and 3 one-minute planks for five days a week.

Done.

5. Do burpees three days a week.

I did 3-4 burpees per day, 3 times each week in May.

Also burpees are still stupid and ridiculous. Not getting any better. This was a terrible idea.

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my seventh novel before the end of 2019.

Still waiting for a go-ahead from my editor regarding my next book. This is the problem with being two books ahead. No one is in a rush for your 2022 novel.

I’ve started writing anyway.

7. Write/complete at least five new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

I have a fantastic new children’s book idea. I’ve started writing it.

8. Write a memoir.

Work continues. I’m worried it’s not very good.

9. Write a new screenplay.

No progress.

10. Write a musical.

No progress.

11. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I submitted a piece to the NY Times Modern Love column in April.

One down. Four to go.

12. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

No progress.

13. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

No progress. Also, I need three behaviors to attempt.

Thoughts?

14. Increase my storytelling newsletter subscriber base to 3,000.

34 new subscribers in May for a total of 649 new subscribers in 2019. My list now stands at 2,759 subscribers.

If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, you can do so here:

15. Write at least six letters to my father.

None written in May. None written this year.

16. Write 100 letters in 2019.

Three letters written in May. Nine overall. I’ve fallen a bit behind.

17. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

A kind, generous, and amazing human being has begun work on this project.

I am thrilled.

STORYTELLING

18. Produce a total of 10 Speak Up storytelling events.

One show produced in May. We recorded Speak Up Storytelling before a live audience.

A total of 7 shows produced so far in 2019.

19. Begin selling Speak Up merchandise at our events and/or online.

Done! We began selling tee shirts and totes at our live podcast recording.

Next step is to make it available online.

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20. Pitch myself to at least 5 upcoming TEDx events with the hopes of being accepted by one.

Done! I’ve pitched myself to five TEDx conferences and was nominated for a sixth.

All have now passed on my pitches. No one wants me.

I guess I’ll just keep pitching.

21. Attend at least 15 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

I attended two Moth StorySLAMs in May, bringing my total to nine events so far.

22. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

My name was not drawn from the hat at the New York City StorySLAM that I attended in May.

I finished in second place in a Moth StorySLAM in Boston. Once again by one-tenth of a point.

That is four second place finishes by a tenth of a point in a row .

Two wins so far in 2019.

23. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I finished in second place by a tenth of a point in a Moth GrandSLAM in January.

I finished in fourth place in my Moth GrandSLAM in March, but I think I might’ve told my best story ever.

I’ll be competing in another Moth GrandSLAM in NYC in July.

24. Produce at least 40 episodes of our new podcast Speak Up Storytelling. 

Four new shows released in May. A total of 20 so far. We haven’t missed a week in 2019.

Listen to our latest here or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

25. Perform stand up at least four times in 2019. 

I’ve hit a bit of a snag in terms of this goal. The open mic night where I’d been performing was shut down thanks to stupid people behaving in stupid ways. I have an opportunity to perform in a local comedy showcase, which I will do, but I was in need of another open mic.

Thanks to you, dear readers, I have found a stage. I will take that stage when summer vacation begins.

26. Develop and teach a Storytelling Master Class, in which participants have an opportunity to tell at least two stories over the course of the day  or tell a story and then retell it based on feedback.

Done! Scheduled for June 1. Today!

27. Pitch at least three stories to This American Life.

No progress.

28. Pitch myself to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast at least three times.

I wrote to Marc early in January, asking for him to consider me as a guest.

No response yet.

I’ve also officially requested that my publicist assist me in this endeavor.

If you know Marc Maron, or know someone who knows Marc or know someone who knows Marc’s producer or booker, please let me know. I know that Marc and I would have an amazing conversation, and it’s currently my biggest dream to get on his show.

NEW PROJECTS

29. Host a fundraiser for RIP Medical Debt, which would allow us to relieve the medical debt of struggling Americans for pennies on the dollar.

No progress.

30. Complete my Eagle Scout project.

No progress.

31. Print, hang, and/or display at least 25 prints, photos, or portraits in our home.

No progress.

32. Renovate our first floor bathroom.

Final design decisions have been made. Work will commence in July/August.

33. Organize our second floor bathroom.

No progress. Summertime project.

MISCELLANEOUS

34. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2019.

I made no meals in May.

Four down. Eight to go.

35. Plan a reunion of the Heavy Metal Playhouse.

No progress.

36. Ride my bike with my kids at least 25 times in 2019.

I rode my bike with Charlie one time in May for a total of five rides so far.

37. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2019 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

Done! I did not comment on physical appearance with the exception of my wife and children in May and two other exceptions:

Crazy Hair Day: I considered this school spirit day akin to Halloween. When your student comes to school with an enormous afro woven with blinking Christmas lights, it’s okay to comment positively.

Macbeth: My students performed their annual Shakespearean play last week, and I put each of them in costume. During the costuming process, I commented positively on how they looked in order to ensure that they felt good about their costume.

38. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2019.

Two surprises were set into motion in May, but neither has come to fruition yet.

Four surprises accomplished so far.

39. Replace the 12 ancient, energy-inefficient windows in our home with new windows that will keep the cold out and actually open in the warmer months.

No progress.

40. Clean the basement. 

Incremental progress. Every week I throw away or organize a few items.

I’m planning to order a dumpster this summer.

41. Set a new personal best in golf.

I played four rounds of golf in May. I played poorly but showed flashes of promise. I actually drove the ball well for an entire round (which is to say I hit the ball straight but not terribly long).

I’ve decided to take lessons this summer on a regular basis.

42. Play poker at least six times in 2019.

A game was scheduled and canceled in May. That’s two cancelled games so far.

A new game is scheduled for June.

43. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

Bengi and I spent a Sunday morning walking the track in his town back in March.

One down. Six to go. We have plans in June.

44. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.

Done.

Speak Up Storytelling: Live Episode (Part 2)

On episode #51 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling and celebrate our one year anniversary with the second half of our live episode!

In our followup segment, we celebrate the recent success of listeners. 
 
Next we listen to stories by Rachel Leventhal-Weiner and Beverly Brakeman. 

Amongst the many things we discuss include:

  1. Opening scenes that activate imagination

  2. Making a story more about yourself

  3. The power of brevity

  4. Approaching emotional topics from varying angles

  5. The advantages of keeping your story "in the moment"

In our Homework for Life segment, Matt talks about stealing a Homework for Life moment from Elysha, and he talks about how it might be turned into a story.  

We then answer listener questions about critiquing stories while remaining positive, naming characters in storytelling, trigger warnings, and more. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha: 

Matt:

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Speak Up Storytelling: Live Episode (Part One)

On episode #50 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling and celebrate our ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY IN OUR FIRST LIVE EPISODE!

In our followup segment, we hear from our friends in Australia, who are attending the show virtually! We also hear from a listener who suggests a way of using Facebook to expand your Homework for Life and from another who makes an interesting comparison between listening to music and listening to stories. 

http://speakupstorytelling.libsyn.com/live-episode-part-1-0

ALSO, UPCOMING SHOWS:

June 8: “Nature Calls: Stories of the Outdoors” at Infinity Hall
August 10: Great Hartford Story Slam at Hartford Flavor Company
August 17: Solo storytelling show, Taproot Theater, Seattle, WA

Next we listen to stories by Amanda Coletti and Jack Bourque. 

Amongst the many things we discuss include:

  1. Opening scenes that activate imagination

  2. Avoiding clumping 

  3. Strategies for humor in storytelling 

  4. The advantages of keeping your story "in the moment"

  5. Making your story about something bigger than the story itself

  6. The power of vulnerability

In our Homework for Life segment, Matt tells a brand new story crafted from a recent Homework for Life moment shared on the podcast. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

STORYTELLING WORKSHOPS 2019

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

Storyworthy in academia

Exciting news!

My book, Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling, is being used by professors at least half a dozen colleges and universities around the country, as well as many middle and high schools.

Yesterday one of those professors posted a photo of the books on the college bookstore shelf.

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As a teacher, author, and storyteller, this was an exciting photo to see. I’m thrilled that my book will be used by students who are learning to write and tell stories.

But I’m not going to lie. Thinking that a future homework assignment might be generated from something I wrote is also a little distressing. I’ve already asked the editor of my upcoming middle grade novel, Cardboard Knight, to include a note on the cover that reads:

“Teachers are forbidden to ask any student to write a report about this book.”

A book report is an excellent way to make a kid hate a book. I know. It happened to me many times.

Also, if Storyworthy is going to be used as a textbook, shouldn’t it also cost $900?

I feel like I’m missing out on some serious profits.