I am blessed with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to storytelling support in the Boston, MA area. There are a number of different organizations, gatherings and venues, one of which is MassMouth. This fall MassMouth started running Story Slams, which are like poetry slams loosely based on The Moth model. In Story Slams, storytellers have 5 minutes to tell a story on the topic of the evening, which is announced weeks ahead of time. Then the stories are judged by a panel of 3 groups of 3 judges each (9 total), Olympic diver style. On Nov 24th the slam topic was “Eating Disasters” and I was a judge that night. I was also asked to tell a “featured” story that was not to be judged. Judith Black, one of the other judges, started off the evening with a kick-ass story about eating in her family. In the second half of the evening, I told this story called Tomato Paste.
I am not naturally good at telling 5 minute stories. I studied under the Brother Blue model, which means that my stories start at about 8 minutes and get longer from there. In the previous month’s story slam I competed with what I thought was a 5 minute story – it went about 6:10. Yep, you get points taken off for going too long. So even though I wasn’t competing in November, I wanted this story to be better. The funny thing was that I made up just the outline of the story that afternoon. While I normally write out each story, this one only had an outline of 3 short sentences. I actually made up most of the ending while on stage in front of the audience. I’ve since written out the story and included it in chapter 14 of the book, along with a bit of structural deconstruction. In the video, you can see hints of me working out the story as I tell it.