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.
__________________________________

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.

Elysha knew.

Here’s a crazy thing:

Apparently I make noise while listening to stories.

Elysha and I were driving home from a storytelling show recently. After each show, we run through the stories, discussing what we liked and perhaps didn’t like about each one. At one point, she said, “I know you didn’t like the ending of that story.”

“How did you know?” I asked.

“I heard you,” she said. “You make these sounds when listening to stories. I’ve learned to decipher them.”

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Yes” she said. “In fact, I know that you didn’t like the ending of so-and-so’s story, but then, at the last second, you changed your mind and loved it.”

I hit the brakes on the car. I couldn’t believe it. That was exactly how I had felt about the story. I hated the ending, but then, in the last three or four sentences, the storyteller flipped it and made it work beautifully.

“You can tell all that just by listening to me listening to a story?”

“Yup,” she said.

I was both elated that my wife knew me so well and absolutely terrified about what other possible unintentional auditory information I have been divulging on a daily basis.

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Speak Up Storytelling: Ted Olds

On episode #49 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we hear from a linguist who tries to get me out of hot water, and we learn about a new and unique way of recording Homework for Life.  

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about how to dig deeper into story ideas to allow an otherwise surface level story say more.

Next we listen to Ted Old's high stakes story about a fourth grade multiplication contest.

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The escalation of stakes 

  2. Brevity in storytelling 

  3. Choosing when and what to describe

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

  5. The disadvantages of adjectives

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

Next, we answer questions about our future employment options and Moth StorySLAM advice.

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:

Speak Up logo.png

Speak Up Storytelling: Kat Koppett

On episode #48 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we hear from listeners who are using Homework for Life in new and interesting ways. 

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about how identifying your weirdness and asking yourself, "Why do you do the things that you do?" can often lead to new storytelling ideas. 

Next we listen to Kat Koppett's story about a big decision involving a stripper pole, a broken popcorn popper, and an Obama impersonator.

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The power of contrast in storytelling 

  2. The pros and cons of constantly dissecting stories

  3. The advantages of clearly defined stakes

  4. Being in the moment during the telling of a story

  5. The BAbC and CABC formats of storytelling 

  6. How changing the order of information being presented can really make or break a scene

Next, we answer questions about privacy issues in storytelling and what makes a great host. 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

Dare To Be Human: https://www.daretobehumanpodcast.com

MOPCO Improv Theater: https://www.mopco.org

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

Speak Up logo.png

Speak Up Storytelling: Matthew Dicks

On episode #47 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we pass on some advice about computer screens from a listener and an unexpected benefit of Homework for Life from another. Then we solicit some suggestions and advice on publicizing my next novel, Twenty-one Truths About Love 

Then Elysha departs and we listen to my story about trying to rent a car to Boca Raton with an expired driver's license.

After listening, I discuss:

  1. A variety of strategies for shortening and elongating stories

  2. Effective places to begin stories

  3. Dealing with facts too good to be true

  4. Reasons to break my own rules

  5. Identifying and enhancing surprise  

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 logo.png

Speak Up Storytelling: Corey Jeffreys

On episode #46 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we offer a further correction on a previous episode and read a couple emails from listeners about a new baby boy and a recent 100 day Homework for Life champion. 

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about how multiple moments from Homework for Life can be combined into a great story, and how gravity and weight can be added to an anecdote to make something that might seem light and amusing far more meaningful.

Next we listen to Corey Jeffrey's story about a trip to Mexico, a hole in a door, and the Backstreet Boys. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The way a moment from the past and the present are fused together to create a deeply meaningful story

  2. Portals to the past and present

  3. Avoid stakes that fail to pay off

  4. Slowing down the action at the appropriate time in a story

  5. The importance of scenes (and physical locations) in storytelling

  6. Efficiency of language 

  7. The clever and unexpected use of an expletive 

Next, we answer questions about vulnerability and living with Matt.

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

Who Really Said "You Should Kill Your Darlings?"

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

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Speak Up Storytelling: Jeffrey Freiser

On episode #45 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we offer some corrections on previous episodes and read an email from a recent 100 day Homework for Life champion. 

ALSO, UPCOMING SHOWS:

April 27: "Put Me in Coach: Stories of Athletic Endeavors” at CHS
May 18: Speak Up Storytelling: Live podcast recording at CHS
June 8: “Nature Calls: Stories of the Outdoors” at Infinity Hall
August 17: Solo storytelling show, Taproot Theater, Seattle, WA

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about how a moment that might be embarrassing or small in the minds of some can become a fully realized story when you allow for introspection and the ask yourself this simple question: "Why do you do the things that you do?

Next we listen to Jeffrey Freiser's story about a first date and the ensuing adventure. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The unusual role that humor plays in this story

  2. The way that different brands of humor achieve different results

  3. Telling a story in scenes in order to activate imagination

  4. Opportunities for misdirection 

  5. Momentum  

Next, we answer questions about finding the endings of stories and the joyous but sometimes problematic response that people often have to our stories.

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

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

STORIES ABOUT LITTLE THINGS THAT SAY A LOT

Jeff Simmermon's "Subway Moment" 
Adam Wade's "Hoboken Roast Beef Story"
Alfonso Lacayo's "The Bad Haircut"

STORYTELLING WORKSHOPS 2019

May 4: Storytelling workshop (beginner), CT Historical Society
July 29-August 2: Storytelling bootcamp, CT Historical Society
October 25-27: Storytelling workshop (beginner), Kripalu Center for Yoga and Heath
December 6-8: Storytelling workshop (advanced), Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

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Try new things. Aggressively, relentlessly, and constantly.

Chase your dreams but also try new things.

Ever since I was 17 years old, I was chasing my dreams of being a professional writer.

In 1987, I was writing term papers for my classmates, earning money for the first time as a writer.

I used that money to buy my first car.

In 1990, I was writing columns on a bulletin board system - a small localized, online network and a precursor to the Internet.

I went to college to study creative writing. I started and stopped many terrible novels. Wrote a novel that didn’t sell. Wrote short stories and poetry. Wrote another novel that didn’t sell. Entered writing contests. Wrote editorials for local newspapers. Wrote for college newspapers and online zines.

I finally sold my first novel in 2007 - a full 20 years after beginning my journey.

Chase your dreams relentlessly.

But try new things, too. Definitely try new things.

In July of 2011, I took a stage at The Moth in New York City for what I thought would be the one story I would ever tell. “One and done,” I said. I was not dreaming of becoming a professional storyteller. I was simply fulfilling a promise. Satisfying a curiosity. Trying something new for the sake of trying something new.

That was less than eight years ago.

This week, while I was on vacation from my classroom, I did the following:

On Saturday, I worked at Yale New Haven Hospital, teaching doctors, nurses, patients, and the family members of patients how to tell stories as part of an ongoing storytelling initiative that I am helping to spearhead.

On Sunday I performed in Dorchester, MA for Now Listen Here, a storytelling show produced by a friend.

On Monday I was at Westover School, a boarding school in Middlebury, CT, teaching teachers and their students to tell stories and performing for the student body.

On Tuesday, I was on the campus of MIT, teaching students, faculty, and staff to tell stories.

On Wednesday I was at Amity Regional High School, teaching students to tell stories and hosting a story slam. Earlier in the day, I also consulted with the CEO of an engineering firm, helping him to tell stories.

Later that night, I competed in a Moth StorySLAM in Boston. I watched two former storytelling students tell stories onstage. I told a new story of my own. I finished in second place to an 89 year-old woman whose daughter I had taught to tell stories.

It’s not often that I like to lose, but I was happy that night.

On Thursday and Friday, I was in Burlington, VT, teaching attorneys to tell stories, working with their clients and witnesses to craft stories, and assisting them to craft and revise opening statements.

On Sunday, Elysha and I will be producing a storytelling showcase in collaboration with Voices of Hope. After working with the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors for weeks, they will be telling stories about themselves and their parents and grandparents.

Sunday night, I will be performing at a synagogue in a show honoring the principal of a local Jewish Day School.

That’s a crazy list. Too crazy, really. At the time I booked the week, I wasn’t sure if Elysha would be back to work, so I filled every day with opportunities to earn income in the event we desperately needed it. I could really use a vacation from my vacation, but still, it’s a crazy list.

Back in 2011, I couldn’t imagine any of it happening. I didn’t plan on any of it happening.

Most important, storytelling wasn’t my dream. It was simply trying something new with no expectation of return on time or investment. Like the standup I’m performing today and the consulting that I’m doing with advertising agencies and the podcast that Elysha and I launched a year ago, I was just trying something new.

Staying young.

Placing irons in the fire.

Creating possibility.

Chase your dreams. But also aggressively, relentlessly try new things.

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Unfortunate restroom encounters at MIT

I was teaching storytelling at MIT yesterday. It was a long but exciting day.

In addition to teaching two workshops, I received an amazing tour of their new nanotechnology facility, and I’m now convinced that nanotechnology is going to save the world.

You wouldn’t believe the things what scientists can do today with a few atoms.

I also met some incredible people, walked around the campus for a couple hours, taught about 100 students, faculty, and staff, and even reconnected with a couple of old friends, too.

At one point, I passed two young men in a hallway who were multiplying fractions aloud. It was the kind of thing that you’d only expect to see in a movie about a place like MIT, but no. These things actually happen at MIT. Students just walk around, calculating and debating mathematical principles in between classes. Chalk boards are filled with equations that I couldn’t begin to understand.

Very smart people walk the halls of that institution. I felt like a small, insignificant fool crawling amongst intellectual giants.

It also became readily apparent to me why I was not an MIT student. And both times, it happened in a restroom.

During our first break, I left the classroom and walked down the hall to use the restroom. I pushed open the door and walked in, only to find myself in the company of three young women. They turned stared at me, the looks on their faces indicating that this was not a gender neutral restroom. I paused, smiled, and said, “And this is why I’m not MIT material” and left.

Then I turned right and pushed open the door clearly marked “Men.” I stepped over to one of the eight urinals to take care of business. I was the only person in the restroom when I entered, but a moment later, another man entered. Of the eight available urinals, I was using the second from the end. The man stepped to the urinal beside me, which was strange. With six urinals to my left, most men would’ve chosen one farther away, creating some distance between us.

I thought, “That’s an aggressive move by this guy. What gives?”

Then I wondered, “Is this just some hangup that I have? Is this me being stupid and weird, or is this guy a little socially awkward? Who’s in the wrong here?”

Having just taught my class about the importance of recognizing small moments from our lives, I returned to class and told my students about my encounter in the women’s restroom. Then I told them about the aggressive, possibly social awkward man in the men’s room and my quandary over whether the guy was weird or I was being stupid.

Turns out the man, named Tom, was in the room. He was attending my class. I’d been staring at him for more than an hour.

As you can see, I am not MIT material.

Happily, we laughed about the moment, and oddly, he was having a similar moment at the urinal. He told me that he entered the restroom in a bit of a fog, chose the urinal without thought, and then realized that there was a man beside him. He turned, realized it was me, and quickly turned away, thinking, “Damn. That’s Matt. Now what? I can’t talk to him while we’re peeing like this. And why am I standing so close to him? Damn.”

Tom ultimately gave me the tour of the nanotech facility. He gave me some nanotech swag to take home to the kids. He offered to tour my family around MIT if we’re ever in the city,. He was generous at every turn.

I liked him a lot.

It all turned out fine.

But no, I don’t expect MIT to be inviting me to work with them for more than a day at a time. A person who can’t navigate their restrooms without incident really doesn’t belong amongst intellectual giants.

Speak Up Storytelling: Sarasweet Rabidoux Kelsey

On episode #44 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we introduce the "new" new cover of my next novel, discuss a bizarre coincidence, respond to a heartwarming email from a listener, and ask listeners for feedback on a reward for Homework for Life champions. 

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about how a simple sentence or two - when the words touch your heart- can be enough to tell a great story. 

Next we listen to Sarasweet Rabidoux Kelsey's story about an unfortunate prom encounter. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. Subtlety in storytelling

  2. The power of nostalgia

  3. Great opening lines

  4. The connective tissue of great storytelling

  5. When it's okay to reference pop culture and when it's not

  6. Saying just enough to serve the story

Next, we answer questions about shortening the length of stories and competing in storytelling competitions against "big stories. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

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

Heloise and the Savoir Faire 

Matt Stone and Trey Parker on But and Therefore

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

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Speak Up Storytelling: Matthew Dicks

On episode #43 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about a moment on a Moth GrandSLAM stage and a moment in a classroom that unearth two potential stories.

Then Elysha departs, and we listen to Matthew Dicks's story about an unusual late night walk with a friend. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The best place and most effective way of beginning a story

  2. The importance of beginning and ending a story well

  3. Choosing appropriate backstory and the most effective way of presenting it in a story

  4. Strategies for preserving surprise in a story

  5. Volume and pacing during a performance

LINKS

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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I lost The Moth GrandSLAM on Tuesday night. This is how I feel about losing.

On Tuesday night, I competed in a Moth GrandSLAM at the Cutler Majestic in Boston.

It was my 25th GrandSLAM championship since 2011, but no matter how many of these championships I compete in, the GrandSLAM never gets old for me.

It’s my favorite storytelling show by far.

I told what I thought might be the best story I’ve ever told at a Moth GrandSLAM or any story slam, but when the scores were tallied at the end of the show, I had finished in fourth place.

For a person who is exceedingly competitive and possibly obsessed with winning, I was surprisingly fine with my fourth place finish, for two reasons.

Two years ago, at a GrandSLAM championship in New York City, I drew the first spot in the show, which makes it almost impossible to win. As great a story as you may tell, recency bias will doom your chances every time. I’ve won from first position at two Moth StorySLAMs in my life, but the quality of stories in a Moth GrandSLAM make this highly unlikely if not impossible.

In fact, telling a story in the first half of a show makes it hard to win at a Moth GrandSLAM.

After drawing the #1 from the hat, I started pacing around the stage, angry and annoyed. Muttering under my breath. Snarling.

In short, I was acting like a jerk.

Thankfully, Elysha was with me that night in New York. She pulled me aside and said, “This is your 20th GrandSLAM. You’ve won six of them. For most of these people, it’s their first GrandSLAM ever. Probably the biggest stage they’ve ever performed on. Maybe their only GrandSLAM ever. So how about you stop acting like a jerk and just be grateful to be here.”

She was right. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Ever since that night, I’ve approach every one of these championship competitions with an open heart. Remarkably, I’ve stopped obsessing over winning.

I wish I could say the same for The Moth’s open-mic StorySLAMs. I’ve won 39 of them, so I shouldn’t obsess so much over winning them either, but winning a StorySLAM gains me entry into the GrandSLAM, which I love so much. So winning the StorySLAM remains important to me.

It gets me something I want.

But not the GrandSLAM. Instead of focusing on winning, I focus on having fun, telling a great story, and assisting my competitors whenever possible. If it’s their first or second time on a GrandSLAM stage, I always take a few minutes to advise them on the tricks and techniques that I’ve developed over the years to tell a story to a theater of 1,000 people. I try to ease their nerves, make them laugh, and allow them to relax enough to do their best.

Elysha was right. I should be grateful to be able to stand on that stage and tell a story, and I am.

Even better, the winner of Tuesday night’s Moth GrandSLAM was one of my storytelling students. She had spent a weekend with me at Kripalu in 2018, and the story she told on Tuesday night to beat me was a story that I had workshopped with her months ago.

In fact, I had three former storytelling students in the cast with me on Tuesday night. All three had gotten their start in storytelling in one of my workshops, and one them, Tom Ouimet, a brilliant storyteller has graced the Speak Up stage many, many times.

This also wasn’t the first time that a former student has beaten me in a StorySLAM and GrandSLAM. It’s happened several times, and I’m sure it’ll happen again. It’s also not the first time that I helped to craft and revise a story that was later used to defeat me.

As a teacher, this makes me very happy.

So I finished fourth on Tuesday night. I told a story about my lifetime struggle for faith and a moment of transcendence in a hot dog line at a minor league baseball stadium. I told the story from fourth position - not a great spot in the lineup - but I’ve won Moth GrandSLAMs from the second and fourth position in the past, so it’s certainly possible.

It really might be the best story I’ve ever told in a GrandSLAM.

But I didn’t win. That’s okay.

I saw some old friends. Made some new ones. Spoke to audience members who loved my story. I even signed six copies of my book Storyworthy during intermission, brought to the show by audience members who knew I was performing.

It was a great night. I was grateful to take the stage. I was thrilled to watch my students perform. I was honored to hear all of the amazing stories told that night.

Winning would’ve been nice, but it’s not the most important thing anymore. Not by a long shot.

Spring! Then murder.

Spring has sprung!

Every March this tiny patch of crocuses bloom in our front yard. It's the first sign that winter is finally in the rearview mirror and warm and sunny days are ahead. 

On Sunday the crocuses finally appeared. Tiny, purple and orange bursts of life from an otherwise cold, lifeless ground. We were thrilled. We treasure these little flowers so much. 

Ten minutes later, while our backs were turned, the little girl next door ripped them the flowers from the ground and left them lying in a pile on the dead grass like trash.

She didn't know how much these little flowers mean to us. It’s not her fault.

Still, my children and I were upset. We really love this patch of purple and orange gold.

But I often while teaching storytelling that what’s bad for you in real life is often good for the story. Or as I’ve heard my friend, Catherine Burns of The Moth often say:

“You either have a good time or you have a good story.”

You can bet this moment made it onto my Homework for Life, and it's probably storyworthy as well. 

Amusing. Surprising. Joyous. Plus a little anger and some sadness and grief. 

Good material to start a story. Maybe not a story worthy of the stage (though you never know), but entertaining nonetheless.

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Speak Up Storytelling: Ted Zablotsky

On episode #42 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we read a heartwarming email from a listener about Homework for Life and our new favorite review from a listener.

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about how storyworthy moments can often be identified by finding moments in our lives that cause us to ask big questions and express controversial ideas. 

Next we listen to Ted Zablotsky's Voices of Hope story about returning to his father's hometown decades after the Holocaust.  

Voices of Hope is an organization dedicated to preserving the stories of the Holocaust, and we partner with this organization to help the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors tell their stories. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. Telling stories about other people through the lens of your own story

  2. The effectiveness of telling your story in scenes

  3. The power of a subtle ending

  4. Remaining within the moment of a story at all times and not projecting forward

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

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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