by - 7:13 PM

While writing at one of my favorite cafes recently, I noticed a stack of small flyers advertising a Story Slam on February 13th. I’m a devotee of the NPR program The Moth and have always wanted to try telling. The title was Love and Courtship: Gone Right, Gone Wrong. I wanted to sign up and tell a story but was drawing a blank as to what I could talk about, what my story might be. I picked up a flyer and placed it in my journal as a talisman.

Then I met a guy in yet another café and I had my story. Funny what a consistent role cafes play in my creative life.

I’d followed a friend on Facebook as she competed in a Moth competition and knew she'd practiced and polished her story and retold it during several days and rounds of competition. This event would be one night only and would require a retelling or second story only in case of a tie. The names of the competitors are placed in a hat and you tell in the order your name is pulled. The audience members score each performance upon completion. At the end of the session, the results are tabulated and the winner revealed.

Once I found my topic, I had less than a week to prepare. Of course I procrastinated until it was only two days to prepare, carrying the story around in my head searching how to frame it, flesh it out. Finally I had it, wrote it down, and read it aloud. They give you a warning at six minutes and the story must be complete by seven. Reading it aloud took about six minutes and I knew telling would take longer so I cut some things out and rearranged others.

My thinking was that this story was the basis for a good personal essay and even if I totally bombed, I would at least have a draft for that. The only thing at risk here was my ego and I’ve been working on accepting rejection as part of being a writer so… onward!

On my way to the venue, I called a friend and asked if she would like to come. To my delight she was free and willing, so I had a friendly face in the crowd. I was called third. This spot gave me a chance to listen to the first two tellers and observe how this works. I felt okay when I was finished, mostly proud of myself for facing the fear and doing it anyway. Once my turn was over I relaxed and enjoyed the performances. I was mesmerized by both the stories and the way they were told, making lots of mental notes on how I could do better. I felt like I was getting a master class on how to do this.

To my complete and utter astonishment, I won! I think I might like to do this again.

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