Speak Up Storytelling: Robin Gelfenbien

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seinfeld gets it

Jerry Seinfeld explains with perfect clarity why I'm constantly standing on stages, telling stories, delivering talks, and performing standup. 

I wouldn't go so far as to call the writing and publishing of books the "definition of hell," but he's correct about the lack of immediate, specific feedback from your readers. 

When I stand on a stage and perform, I know how I did immediately, in real time, and that is a beautiful thing. 

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Storyworthy: The audiobook has arrived, narrated, perhaps unfortunately, by me

The audiobook for Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling is now available for your downloading or compact disc pleasure, and for the first time, the book is narrated by me.

I'm afraid to listen. 

After spending three days in a recording studio in Grand Haven, Michigan, misreading words, tripping over my own sentences, and finding many words impossible to pronounce, I'm worried that I might sound terrible. 

The director and sound engineer were sitting in the adjacent room, of course, helping me correct my mistakes and trying to make me sound excellent, but still, I'm not a professional narrator, and my verbal limitations quickly became apparent. 

Having grown up in the Boston area with a pronounced Boston accent, it turns out that 25 years later, remnants of that accent still remain and can be especially troublesome when perfect pronunciation is critical. The letter R is still hard for me depending on where it's placed in a word, and particularly when multiple words contain multiple R's fall one after the other. 

And when an R and an L are combined in a word like "ruling" or "rolling," forget it. I can pronounce these words just fine when spoken independently, but attach them to other words, and the pronunciation falls apart.     

Other words that I do not pronounce correctly include "middle," "little," "Hartford," "park," and "sixth." 

And the word "horror?" Almost unpronounceable.  

Despite these struggles, I managed to complete four days of planned recording in just two days, allowing me to come home early and surprise Elysha and the kids. After the plane landed, I made my way to the restaurant where I knew she was having dinner with a friend. Appearing two days early with flowers in my hand at the side of her table is a good way to surprise your wife.

Although I often felt incompetent and foolish in the recording studio, my director and sound engineer thought I did exceptionally well, and since we managed to finish well ahead of schedule, I was starting to believe them.

Then I made the mistake of asking to listen to one of the professional narrators in an adjacent studio. I couldn't see the narrator but only hear her through headphones. She sounded like an elderly British lady, performing alongside about half a dozen other narrators. But when the door opened and the narrator emerged, she turned out to be a 23 year-old woman with a flat, midwestern accent who is capable of sounding like almost anyone from anywhere.

These audiobook narrators are remarkably talented.  

And my time in Michigan was not all spent alone in a soundproof booth.

I went swimming in Lake Michigan on one steamy afternoon. I ate the best salted caramel ice cream of my life. I saw three movies. I explored the area a lot. And I performed three standup sets at two different comedy clubs, including one night when the owner asked me to perform again after my first set.

I had to find ten more minutes of material in an hour, which actually worked well.  

If you plan on listening to the book, I hope you enjoy. And I hope you'll forgive any of my imperfections. I tried like hell. 

Speak Up Storytelling #15: Roquita Johnson

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

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

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

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

  2. Outstanding use of dialogue in stories

  3. Variations in tonality

  4. "Seeing" your story

  5. The best moments to add description to a story

  6. Preserving surprise in a story

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

Lastly, we each offer a recommendation. 

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

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

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Speak Up Storytelling #14: Renae Edge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They also make Elysha so happy. 

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An anonymous note about a possible murder

I arrived at Kripalu, a yoga center in the Berkshires, on Sunday night with a bag full of my novels, magazine columns, and comic books. I spread them on the table for my students to see, and then I stuffed them back into the bag and tossed the bag into the corner of the room.

It sat in that corner, untouched, for a week.  

On Friday, I grabbed the bag as I was packing up to leave. Tucked into my copy of Storyworthy was a sheet of paper. Written on the paper was this: 

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Crazy. Right?

In addition to my ten students, the room had been used by several yoga classes, and on our final evening together, my students performed for a group of friends, family, and folks staying at Kripalu that week. I had also performed for a group of about 70 people earlier that week, telling stories and teaching lessons after each, including a lesson on the importance of telling stories. 

A lot of people on campus knew who I was, what I did, and where I could be found. 

There's no telling who left that note in my book or why.

But it seems as if the note might have been left for me and might apply to the work I do. In addition to our organization being called Speak Up, I spend enormous amounts of time convincing people that they have stories to share. Stories that need to be shared. Stories that the world wants to hear.  

This note would seem to fall along those lines. 

I cannot find a Rosalie Gomez who was murdered on the internet. Maybe this is referencing something that happened pre-internet. Maybe it's fiction. I have no idea who Rosalie Gomez might be or if she's even real. 

But I've often said that odd things happen when you begin telling stories. Strange coincidences. Surprising connections.

Earlier that week, while my friend and teaching assistant, Jeni, were swapping stories, we learned that I had been the DJ at her cousin's wedding 20 years earlier, and she had attended that wedding. She barely remembered the day, but I remembered a lot, including details that she couldn't believe I recalled.

"Just think," I said. "Twenty years ago, we were in the same room, at the same wedding. You were 17 and I was 27. Now we're sitting here today at a yoga center in the Berkshires as friends."

That kind of thing happens to me all the time. Tell a story to 100 or 200 or 500 people, and you will find someone in the audience who somehow connects to that moment for often than you would expect.

The world is a surprisingly small place.

But this note is beyond a simple coincidence or unexpected connection. It's something else. Perhaps a bit of fiction scribbled on a piece of paper and tucked into a book called Storyworthy on a whim.

Maybe something more. 

Sadly, I'll probably never know. 

Every time someone meets Elysha and says, "She's beautiful," this is what I think...

After spending a week teaching storytelling at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, my ten students performed in a showcase on the final night of the week. Minutes before I was to take the stage and start the show, a woman who looked a lot like Elysha walked into the room.

It turns out that it was Elysha. She had driven up to Stockbridge to surprise me.

I was thrilled. After a week apart, I couldn't take my eyes off her. Couldn't stop kissing her.  

My students had just spent a week hearing a lot about Elysha. As a storyteller, it's inevitable. I tell stories in my workshops that serve as models for my lessons, and so many of those stories include my wife. 

Now my students were meeting the woman who they had only heard about before now. A fictional character of sorts had come to life. Whenever this happens, the response is almost always the same. 

"Elysha is so beautiful." 

But it's always said with a bit of astonishment, which leads me to assume that what they are really saying is this:

"Elysha is so beautiful. How did someone like you - a neckless neckless stump with legs for arms - manage to marry such a beautiful woman?"

I'm pretty sure that this is exactly what they are saying, and it never makes me feel very good. 

Speak Up Storytelling #13: Leland Brandt

Episode #13 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast is ready for your listening pleasure.

Elysha and I start off this week's podcast by talking about finding and crafting stories in your everyday life using my strategy "Homework for Life." I talk about how a storyworthy moment can sometimes consist solely of a thought that you had in your head. 

Next, we listen to Leland Brandt's story about falling in love with the character in a movie and then meeting his childhood crush later in life. Then Elysha and I discuss the strengths of his fantastic story as well as suggestions for improvement, including:

  1. Summarizing stories within a story
  2. Telling stories that span years chronologically 
  3. Maintaining delight and surprise through pacing
  4. Inhabiting the story for emotional effect
  5. Finding universally connective moments in stories
  6. Seeing storytelling as a matter of engineering or choice

Finally, we answer a listener questions about preparing and practicing stories for the stage and the nature of Moth storytellers today. 

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

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

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"Tears in the Rain" monologue captures it all

When all is said and done, we are the sum of our experiences. Our thoughts and feelings - who we are and what we believe - are the result of the memories that we carry forward of a life lived. Our minds are a vast storehouse of the millions of minutes that we have been alive.

This is why the loss of someone like my mother was so tragic. Every question that I failed to ask my mother will remain forever unanswered. Every memory that I failed to pry from her mind will never be spoken again.  

My children were born after my mother had passed away, so as I experienced fatherhood for the first time and began to wonder if the things I see in my children were also present in me as a boy, I must resign myself to the fact that I will never know. The person who carried this information is gone.

When a person dies, it's like the wiping of a precious hard drive. The loss of valuable data. Memories so strong and so true gone forever.

It's awful. 

Even worse, so many of us plod through life, careless with our memories. We experience a moment of beauty or grace. Someone says something that causes our heart to soar. We experience a moment with our spouse or child or parent that we never want to forget. But instead of seeing the priceless nature of these moments and holding onto them with all our might, we discard them like trash. A brilliant, beautiful moment that feels as important as anything that has ever happened to us is forgotten three weeks later as life continues to pile up and we fail to reflect, record, and preserve. 

Our minds of filled with memories, but the number of memories that we have allowed to fade away is astronomical. We forget so much more than we remember, even when these forgotten moments are profoundly beautiful or incredibly moving.  

This is why I do Homework for Life. It's the most important thing I do. This is why the collection of storyworthy moments from my life that I have amassed over the past five years is the most valuable thing I own. 

Seeing, recognizing, capturing, and preserving the most meaningful moments from my life takes less than five minutes a day, yet it is the most important thing I do every day. 

If you're not familiar with Homework for Life, you want watch my TED Talk on the subject here: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

A reader who also does Homework for Life recently pointed me to the final scene from Blade Runner, known as the "Tears in the Rain" monologue. In the scene, the dying replicant Roy Batty delivers the speech to Rick Deckard moments after Batty saved his life despite Deckard being sent to terminate him. 

In five simple sentences, the replicant makes it clear that he also understands how life is but the sum of our experiences. He understands the value of a lifetime of memories. And he certainly understands the inherent tragedy of death, not only in the loss of the person, but also in the loss of the sum of their experiences. The deletion of their memories forever.  

It's s devastating scene. Terrible and tragic. You need not watch the film or even understand the nature of the memories that the replicant lists to understand the sadness and tragedy of the moment.

A replicant is engineered to remember everything. It has a super-human mind. It is a Homework for Life machine.

For the rest of us? We need to stop discarding our moments of beauty, poignance, heartbreak, and discovery like trash. We need to see, recognize, capture, and preserve. 

We are the sum of our experiences. Make that sum as large as humanly possible, and you will be a more thoughtful, more complete, and a happier human being.

Speak Up Storytelling #12: Jeni Bonaldo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Speak Up Storytelling #11: Jessica Isom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speak Up Storytelling #10: Kristin Budde

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why a poached egg is funny

I performed in a show in Maine earlier this week called Sound Bites. In addition to telling a story, I also served as the emcee for the evening, introducing storytellers and bantering a bit between stories.

Doing my best Elysha Dicks impression. 

During one of the stories, a storyteller talked about how she can't cook a poached egg. When her story was done, I took the stage and told the storyteller that not only could I not cook a poached egg, but I don't actually know what a poached egg is, which is sadly true. 

The audience roared with laughter.

Later on, I asked myself why.

Why was that funny? I knew it would be funny, and I knew if I delivered it well, it would be really funny, but why? 

I've become a little obsessed with humor recently. Doing standup and constantly being asked in workshops to assist storytellers with being funny, I've become interested in looking closely at what makes things funny.

Here's what I think about my poached egg joke:

I think it's funny because it's a moment of surprising vulnerability. I think it was a combination of unbridled honesty, uncommon authenticity, and a willingness to speak about something that most would not.  

Yes, it's also a self-deprecating comment, which is often funny, but I think it's more than that. 

In that moment, most people don't admit to not knowing what a poached egg is. It's not some rare Tibetan cuisine or a fruit that only grows in the South Seas. It's a poached egg. I've heard about poached eggs all my life, as have most people, and yet I have no idea what that is. Most people would worry about sounding foolish or naive or even dumb to admit this, especially when standing before more than 100 people. When I acknowledge this surprising truth, they laugh. But they don't laugh at me. They laugh at my unexpected vulnerability.

I see this at comedy open mics all the time. A comedian is bombing, but with a minute to go in his set, he says something like, "I didn't realize how silent not laughing can be" or "Thank God I don't have any friends to invite to these disasters" and the audience (mostly comics themselves) roar with laughter. Sometimes they don't even say these comments to the audience. They are speaking almost under their breaths to themselves.

Yet it's the funniest moment in their set. 

Unplanned moments of vulnerability. Unexpected peeks into a comedian's soul.  

Yes, the content is also amusing, and their facility with language is strong, but it's when the comedian drops his guard, ceases his schtick, and stops cracking jokes when we laugh. 

This is why people laughed at my poached egg comment. I was shockingly vulnerable. I said something that most don't say. I spoke to a place in the hearts of the audience where they hide their own shame. Their own poached egg ignorances. I opened that door and let in a little light. Made them feel a little less foolish. Perhaps even a little happier with their own state of being. 

Most important, I made them laugh.

It's not funny that I can't identify a poached egg. It's funny when I tell you that I can't identify a poached egg. 

There's a lot more I could say about comedy, and there is a mountain for me to still learn, but this I know is true:

The best comedians speak the truth. When they say something like, "I was talking to my girlfriend the other night..." they were really talking to their girlfriend the other night. Not the girlfriend of a friend whose story they heard five years ago but have taken on as their own because it's funny.  

They are speaking the truth. Because of this, they have the opportunity to be vulnerable with the audience. Surprisingly, so. With that vulnerability comes the opportunity for a laugh. A big one. A memorable one. One that might even touch the hearts of their audiences, too. 

I love storytelling because I am afforded an opportunity to speak my truth, and when that truth is unfortunate, embarrassing, shameful, or disastrous, even better. People want this. They crave the failures and disappointments. They want to hear about our epic disasters and moments of awkwardness and shame.

Finding someone to brag about themselves in this world is not hard. Finding someone who is willing to tell on themselves is much harder to find. This is why people are drawn to the art and craft of storytelling.

It's honest, authentic, and vulnerable.    

The more unfortunate the moment, the more vulnerability required to tell it. 

Admitting that you have no idea what a poached egg is in front of an audience of 100 people is an act of vulnerability.

It's also funny. For that very reason, I think. 

Speak Up Storytelling #9: Alan Mackenzie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Speak Up Storytelling #8: Sharon Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Low life cretins steal stories.

At a book talk about a week ago, a woman asked me if I'm ever worried that someone might steal my stories and use them for their own purposes. "Your stories are so good," she said. "How do you protect them from someone who might try to tell them as their own? Or write and publish them? Or write a novel based upon your life?"

I was amused by the question. Copyright, I explained, protects me. There is no need to file any official paperwork in order to establish copyright. If I were to write a poem on the inside of a box of cereal, it would immediately be copyrighted. If I stand up before nine people in a bar and tell a story about my life, I'm instantly protected by copyright.

Copyright is a beautiful thing. 

Then I added something like this:

Besides, who would be so desperate and pathetic to steal one of the stories? What kind of sick person would pretend that my life was their own? Even if someone wanted to steal one of my stories, I spend a large portion of my life trying to convince people to write. To tell stories. To preserve their own stories and their own voice in some way for future generations. But the vast majority of these people - almost all of them - ignore my warnings, continue to stare at the television, and live lives of eventual, lamentable regret.

People are lazy, I explained. If a person can't take the time to write or tell your own stories, why would they ever find the energy or initiative to tell my stories?

I liked this answer a lot. I thought it was funny and honest and a little pointed. All characteristic that I adore. And it made the audience laugh, hopefully in the way you laugh at things you know are terribly true. 

Then I went home and told Elysha about my impressive answer. Waited for her to express as much admiration for my response as I was feeling. 

Instead she said this:

"But Matt, someone did steal one of your stories. Don't you remember?" 

She was right.

About four years ago, a low life scum of a human being was speaking to two of my friends when he launched into an amusing story about his childhood. My friends listened in horror, quickly realizing that he was telling one of my childhood stories as is own. They allowed him to finish before calling him on it, at which point he attempted a few feeble excuses and slithered away like the worm that he was and still is.

Damn. That lady at RJ Julia Booksellers was right. People steal stories. 

Correction: Low life cretins steal stories.  

It admittedly takes an especially sad, despicable, and rotten human being to do such a thing - someone who hates their own life so much that they will steal the life of another - but it's a real possibility.

My clever, cavalier answer was nonsense. 

My only hope is that the number of low life cretins looking to steal stories is low. 

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Speak Up Storytelling #7: Special Storyworthy book launch episode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Speak Up Storytelling #6: Special Storyworthy book launch episode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speak Up Storytelling #5: Renata Sancken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.