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. 

Teaching is full of unexpected surprises

One billion years ago, I taught a third grader named Kaity to multiply. 

Last night, as Elysha and I were leaving for a Moth StorySLAM in Somerville, I asked Kaity, now an adult and frequent babysitter to our children, to help my third grade daughter with her multiplication homework. 

It was surreal. 

No one ever told me that so many of my former students would remain in my life as they have, and I could never predicted that when I was teaching Kaity to multiply all those years ago, I was also investing in my daughter's future.

Being a teacher is full of surprises. 

When we arrived at The Moth a couple hours later, we discovered that four of my former storytelling students were at the show, their names already in the bag, hoping to tell their stories. For all but one, it was their first time at The Moth.

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I wasn't called to the stage last night, but three of my four students were called. They all performed brilliantly, and one of them, Tom Ouimet, won the slam!   

It was quite a night for a storytelling teacher, listening to stories that I had helped to develop, told on stage so well by storytellers who I've spent lots of time with honing their craft.

As a teacher, you can never know where the lessons you teach might take root and grow. And it's impossible to predict where the fruits of that labor will flourish. 

It would've been nice to take the stage and perform last night, but as a teacher, I found a far greater reward than the applause of a audience and the opportunity to come out on top.

A possible (though not advised) replacement for heart medication

I spent a week at Kripalu Institute for Yoga and Health last week, teaching storytelling to a dozen remarkable people. 

On Tuesday night I performed my one-man show, and on Thursday evening, ten of the storytellers from class took the stage and performed.

It was an extraordinary night.

One of my storytellers had not spoken to a group of people in more than 15 years after suffering a terrible embarrassment in high school. Just standing in front of 50 people was an enormous accomplishment for her. I felt so honored to give her the space and support to help her conquer this enormous fear.

Then she proceeded to make the audience roar with laughter with a hilarious and moving story about her childhood. It turns out that she's a storyteller. 

Several of the storytellers stood before this audience of strangers and told stories about parts of their lives that they had never shared before. Hard parts. Haunting parts. The parts that require more bravery to tell than most people can muster.

There was laughter and tears. Gasps and guffaws. Hilarity and heartbreak. There were lines that I will never forget. "Golden sentences" one of my storytellers dubbed, and she was right. It was 90 minutes of beauty nestled in the quiet mountains of the Berkshires. It was dark outside, but each storyteller shone bright that night. 

After the show, a man approached me. He reached into his pocket, removed a small container, and held it out for me to see. He explained that he suffered from a heart condition, and this was his nitroglycerin. The medication he needed if his heart started "acting up."

"But I feel like I should throw this away," he said. "My heart doesn't need medication. It needs what you did on Tuesday night and these people did tonight. I've listened to all these stories, and my heart hasn't felt this good in twenty years. This is what people need. This is what I need."  

I suggested that he keep the nitroglycerin close in the event a storyteller is not available when his heart started "acting up" again, and he agreed. 

But he was right.

Stories are good for the heart and good for the soul.

Seven and counting...

One of our Speak Up storytelling shows earlier in the year featured four former storytelling workshop students who have gone on to tell stories at Moth StorySLAMs in New York, Boston, and Burlington, VT. 

 In fact, two of them competed in the same StorySLAM in December of last year in New York, unbeknownst to them.

I don't have the actual count of former workshop students who have gone on to perform for The Moth, but the number easily exceeds two dozen. 

Even more thrilling, six of my former workshop students have gone on to win Moth StorySLAMs. If I include a rabbi from a recent retreat where I taught, the number is now seven. 

One of them has even won a GrandSLAM.

The fact that almost all of these people live in Connecticut makes this number even more surprising. Moth StorySLAMs are held on week nights, meaning these folks committed significant time and resources in order to travel to Boston or New York on a work night to compete in a Moth StorySLAM and arrive back home well after midnight. 

I've also had many of my friends - more than a dozen - go to The Moth and tell stories. Friends who have seen me brave the New York or Boston stage and then followed in my footsteps.

One of my former fifth grade students has gone to The Moth with me and told a story. 

Many, many more friends and workshop students have also told stories on Speak Up stages. 

All of this thrills me. I like to think back to that July evening in 2011 when I stepped into the Nuyorican's Poets Cafe in New York City to tell my first (and what I thought would be my last) story for The Moth. It was a hinge upon which my life has turned forever. It was a moment that ultimately enriched my life and Elysha's life in ways we could never have predicted. It has introduced us to so many remarkable people. Made us so many new friends. Brought me to stages around the country and the world. Launched a business that has us producing shows throughout the state and beyond and has me teaching storytelling to individuals, schools, universities, corporations, and more.

It's been a surprising and remarkable journey. 

But when I think about the multitude of ways that my life changed on that July night in 2011, I often think first about all the other people who I have brought to the stage to share their stories, open their hearts, speak their truths, and kick some Moth ass.

Watching so many people follow in my footsteps into storytelling has been one of the most rewarding parts of all. 

I don't teach mindfulness. Don't ever accuse me of teaching mindfulness. Here's why.

When I teach storytelling, and especially when I teach about finding stories in your life, I'm often told by students that what I'm really teaching is mindfulness.

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When I hear that word, I want to toss the person right out of my workshop. I push back immediately, rejecting any application of that word to what I do.

The last thing I want is for someone to accuse me of teaching mindfulness, for two reasons:

  1. I believe in simplicity. Easily defined, simple-to-apply strategies that offer immediate results. I break the art and craft of storytelling down into small parts and then teach those small parts in such a way that my students can begin using them almost immediately. Mindfulness is not an easy-to-define, simple-to-apply strategy. It does not produce instantaneous results. It's a large, amorphous umbrella that means different things to different people. It's a philosophy of change, and I don't like philosophy in these circumstances. Philosophy is too big. Too easily misunderstood or disregarded. Too difficult to quantify results. 

    I like small. Simple. Bite sized learning that I can model and teach easily and can be reproduced in my students flawlessly.
     
  2. Labeling my instruction as mindfulness (or "a form of mindfulness") is dangerous to my business. Say "mindfulness" and about half the people take a step forward, intrigued about what you have to say, but the other half head for the hills, and for good reason. While I don't discount the value and potential benefits of mindfulness, too many people have turned this philosophy into something unpalatable and bizarre to enormous swaths of people.

Mindfulness is kooky. Weird. Mumbo-jumbo. Touchy-feely.  

Don't believe me?

The New York Times published a piece last week on the mindful cleaning of the bathroom. 

"With the practice of mindful cleaning, you can transform this once boring activity into a nourishing and enjoyable moment to yourself."

This is not a joke. Here is what Matt Valentine, who runs Buddhaimonia.com, has to say about mindful bathroom cleaning:

Once you’ve selected your cleaning tool, take a moment to notice it with your various senses. Feel the soft texture of the sponge or hardness of the mop grip.

As you begin to clean, remind yourself that you’re cleaning to clean. You’re not chasing a result, a “clean bathroom.” Give your full presence to the act of cleaning.

Start by noticing the body. Notice as you raise your arms, move your hands, bend or step. Notice your breath as your chest rises up and down.

Now place your focus on the repetitive motion of wiping with the sponge or mopping the floor. Maintain your focus on each circular, left-to-right or up-and-down motion.

You can choose to match the cleaning motion of your hands with the rhythm of your breath. As you breathe in, wipe twice. As you breathe out, wipe three times. This helps further sync your attention with the physical activity of cleaning.

If we can be mindful while cleaning the bathroom, we can be mindful during any moment throughout our daily lives.
— Matt Valentine

I don't want any part of this. While I hope that Valentine's suggestions help people in their pursuit of mindfulness in all aspects of their lives, I find advice like this kooky. Bizarre. Ridiculous. A waste of time. 

I don't want anyone to think that what I teach has anything to do with what Matt Valentine teaches.

No thank you.

I don't teach mindfulness. I teach storytelling. Public speaking. Along the way, you may learn something about yourself. You may begin to see yourself and your life in an entirely new light. You may start to see connections between moments in your life that you never knew existed. You may come to understand your past in a way you never imagined. 

But all of this will come easily defined, simple-to-apply strategies that offer immediate results.

Meditation and McDonald's

I've spent this weekend at the world famous Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.

With its silent breakfasts, farm to table meals, candle-lit shrines, and slow walking, contemplative guests, the place doesn't exactly match my aesthetic.

I'm sort of like a bull in a China shop here.
A man without a country.
A misplaced, misbegotten vagabond.

I suspect that I'm the only person here armed with a Diet Coke at all times. I definitely swear more than anyone I have met so far. And I was the only person in yesterday's sunrise yoga class wearing jeans and a tee shirt. 

And yet I've had an excellent weekend here, teaching storytelling and performing in their main theater. And it appears that I will be back three times next year, including a weekend alongside Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray, Love, another weekend of storytelling like this last one, and a week-long advanced storytelling workshop in the summer.

Somehow this place and I have found a means of coexisting. I think we may even like each other. 

Still, it may come as a surprise to those who know me well to hear that yesterday morning, I sat atop a rock on a hill in the early morning cold and meditated as the sun rose over the hills. 

While I meditate every morning, it's normally done on the couch.

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Lest you fear that I have lost myself entirely and become something I am not, I followed up this period of meditation with the trip to one of my favorite places in the world, forgoing the world class cuisine of Kripalu for something more fitting of my personal aesthetic. 

Go to The Moth and tell a story. And not "someday." Go soon.

Just this past week I heard from listeners who heard one or more of my stories on The Moth's podcast, The Moth Radio Hour, and/or The Moth's website in:

Cape Town, South Africa
London, UK
Columbus, OH
Hartford, CT
Western Australia
Hong Kong
New Hampshire
New York City
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Blackstone, Massachusetts

The idea that people across the globe are listening to me tell stories about my life is incredible. The power and reach of The Moth cannot be overstated. 

And you could do this, too. If you're in the vicinity of a Moth StorySLAM (and there are many throughout the country and the world), you should go and tell a story. Drop your name in the tote bag and wait for your name to be called. Perform well, and your story might travel the world someday, too.

And everyone has a story. If you don't believe me, start doing my Homework for Life and you'll soon discover that you have more stories than you could have ever imagined. 

So choose a true story from your life, take the stage at a Moth StorySLAM, and speak into the microphone. Tell your story. It need not be funny or sad and suspenseful or perfect. It simply needs to be a story. The Moth actually offers some tips and tricks to help your performance. And there is no better place in the world to tell a story than at The Moth. The men and women who host and produce these shows are remarkably supportive and exceptionally professional. The sound equipment is second to none. And best of all, the audiences are warm, kind, and more accepting than you could ever imagine.  

And who knows? It could change your life. 

It changed mine. 

July 11, 2016 will mark my five year anniversary in storytelling. On that day in 2011, I took a stage at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and competed in my first Moth StorySLAM. I told a story about pole vaulting in high school and managed to win the slam. 

 

That story eventually made its way onto The Moth Radio Hour and podcast. 

My original plan was to tell one story on a Moth stage and never return. Do it once and put it behind me. Check off the box marked "The Moth" and move on. 

Instead, I fell in love with storytelling. I worked hard and got better. Today storytelling is an enormous part of my life.

In the past five years, I've competed in 43 Moth StorySLAMs, winning 23 of them. I've also competed in 17 Moth GrandSLAM championships, winning four of them. I've performed on stages small and large throughout the country and around the world for The Moth and many other storytelling organizations.

In 2013 Elysha and I launched Speak Up, a Connecticut-based storytelling organization with the goal of bringing the art of storytelling to the Hartford area. By the end of 2016 we will have produced more than 40 sell-out or near sell-out shows throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts. We've partnered with theaters, museums, art spaces, and more, performing for audiences ranging from 150-500 people.

I've also taught storytelling to thousands of people, both in workshops that I run and in my role of storytelling expert on Slate's The Gist. Recently, I've begun performing solo shows at places like The Pound Ridge Storytelling Festival, The Lebanon Opera House, and Kripalu, and I've begun delivering keynote and inspirational addresses for a variety of organizations.   

My wife has been able to stay home with our children for the past seven years in part because of storytelling.

All I wanted to do when I began this journey was tell one story for The Moth.

And I am not special. I did not grow up in a family of storytellers. I didn't learn to tell stories from some master storyteller. I didn't spend nights in coffee bars and at open mics honing my craft. I just went to The Moth and told a story. Then I did it again and again and again. 

So if you're in the vicinity of a Moth StorySLAM, you should go and tell a story, too. As frightening or daunting or nerve wracking or impossible as that might sound, you should go. Since I began telling stories for The Moth, about half a dozen of my closest friends (including one former elementary school student) have gone to The Moth to tell a story. Many of my former storytelling students have taken the stage at a Moth StorySLAM and performed.

Dozens more have told a story for us at Speak Up.

If you live near a city that host a Moth StorySLAM, go and tell a story. I can't imagine what my life might be like today had I not conquered my fear and told my first story. 

And if you live in the vicinity of me, I'd be happy to take you to one. Climb into my car and we'll drive together to New York or Boston and listen to ten strangers (and perhaps me) tell a true story from their lives. The stories will be honest, funny, heart-wrenching, surprising, suspenseful, and more. Some will be told exceptionally well. Some less so. 

It won't matter. You will have a fantastic evening of entertainment and human connection.

Maybe you'll even tell a story yourself. You should. You never know what may happen.

My "Diet Coke and aggressive attitude" didn't exactly match the yoga aesthetic, but I somehow managed to fit in anyway.

Last weekend, I performed 90 minutes of storytelling to a capacity crowd at Kripalu, a yoga and fitness center in the Berkshires. I spent the weekend at Kripalu, teaching a weekend-long storytelling workshop to about two dozen people, but the show on Saturday night was open to the general public.

The room was crowded and hot, but it went well.  

My weekend stay at Kripalu included a room, meals, and all of the amenities that the facility has to offer. I actually participated in a sunrise yoga session and spent an afternoon hiking around the lake. Despite the fact that my workshop attendees began to refer to me as a "yogi" and repeatedly assured me that my philosophies about storytelling, productivity, and mindfulness fit perfectly into the Kripalu philosophy, it didn't take me long to realize that I didn't exactly fit into the Kripalu aesthetic.

The first thing I noticed was that I walked at least three times as fast as everyone else. I was charging through the hallways like a bull on fire while everyone around me was walking slowly and contemplatively. 

When I looked at the extensive lists of breakfast options, I could not identify a single item on the menu. NOT ONE. Instead, I left the facility and enjoyed an Egg McMuffin and a Diet Coke at a nearby McDonald's.

I definitely swore more than anyone around me, and I am not a person who typically curses with any regularity. However, no one spoke a single swear word in my presence for the entire weekend, but in the course of my performance and my teaching, I swore a lot by comparison. During my performance, I fired off an expletive in the general direction of a couple people in the audience, causing Elysha to shake her head and offer me a disapproving stare.    

Silent breakfast was impossible for me. It turns out that I make noise even when I'm not speaking. I sigh loudly. Hum. Laugh to myself. Tap my feet. Pound on my keyboard. Audibly scoff. Constantly. 

Also, the concept of silent breakfast struck me as fairly insane. 

But the clincher came at the end of my performance on Saturday night. When the lights came up, a long line of people approached to chat. One woman began to ask if the stories I had told were really true but stopped short, noticing the scars on my face and quickly realizing that the story about my car accident (and therefore the rest of the stories) were true. She traced the scar on my chin with her index finger and said, "You lovely man."

This is something that could only be said about me at a place like Kripalu.

Another woman approached and said, "I wasn't sure if I wanted to come for tonight's show. but you walked into the room carrying a Diet Coke, a McDonald's bag, and an aggressive attitude. These are all things we have never seen before at Kripalu, so I knew it was going to be good."

It was odd to be in a place that seemed so right for me and so wrong for me at the same time.

It's true that the teaching I do as it relates to finding stories in our lives, exploring their meaning, and bringing that meaning to bare in a performance aligns almost perfectly with the recent mindfulness movement (though the word "mindfulness" is kind of stupid and the movement tends to lack the kind of specific, highly targeted, easy-to-follow strategies that I teach). Though I didn't initially believe it, it's true that the philosophies espoused at a place like Kripalu align quite well to my own.  

But at the same time, it's also true that I am happiest and most relaxed when I am doing something. Moving forward. Making progress. Affecting change. Eating a cheeseburger. Hitting a golf ball. Shoving an opponent under the basket. Tickling my kids. Hitting on my wife.  

The quiet, contemplative, farm-to-table, macrobiotic existence is not for me. That level of quiet and thought, absence movement and action, makes me crazy.  

At least for now.  

A lesson on the importance of stakes in storytelling - Plus the story of the day I posed as a charity worker for nefarious reasons

On my most recent appearance on Slate's The Gist, I discuss the importance of stakes in storytelling and some of the tricks that I use to build and maintain them throughout the story.

Plus I tell the story of a time when I posed as a charity worker for less-than-charitable reasons and got a lot more than I bargained for. 

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

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

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

This tweet struck a chord for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's changed my life.

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

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

I have no more forgotten days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take my advice. Commit to five minutes every day.

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

Don’t let that be you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speak Up: Storytelling Workshop launching

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional goals include:

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

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

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

The cost of the advanced workshop is $225

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