Don’t want to run marathons? Try storytelling instead

We got a kick out of a letter from author Silvana Clark, of Bellingham, Washington (when she and her husband aren’t housesitting overseas, which is how they now spend much of their time). What she told us was, “I have no interest in running marathons at my age, or developing a new app.” Yet Silvana is an active baby boomer, and needed something new and challenging. She found it … and says she’s hooked!

After an exhilarating year of full-time travel, my husband and I returned home where I found myself restless for a creative outlet.

A few minutes on Pinterest, a website where people share ideas of every kind, inspired me to go “bold” and paint our dining room bright red. Shiny, fire truck red. My husband encouraged me to try other endeavors before I continued the blazing red theme throughout the rest of the house.

Silvana Clark with her can of red paint.

I tried a jogging class, but felt like a tired, plodding Clydesdale. A crochet class to make hats for a “Don’t Shake Your Baby” campaign produced a knotted mass of yarn. I helped with a few volunteer projects but nothing gave me that adrenalin rush feeling of, “I love this!”

That all changed when my daughter told me about a storytelling program she attended called Moth StorySLAM. The name itself is interesting: the guy who started it 20 years ago had friends over for a storytelling night and there were holes in his screen door, so they called it the Moth story hour. Nowadays, there aren’t so many moths, but every program has a theme where volunteer storytellers tell five-minute, true stories.

Moth StorySLAM

If you want to participate, simply put your name in a hat. If your name is called, you are one of the ten lucky storytellers. To me, that sounded fun, so I naively prepared a story before even attending a program. I’ve written 12 books but never spent so much time crafting a few paragraphs as I did to perfect that five-minute story with the theme, “Do Over.”

At the event, the energy in the room increased my excitement as I put my name in the “Participate” bag. The first person told a hilarious story. I quickly noticed the audience’s enthusiasm in supporting the storytellers. The second speaker apologized for forgetting his lines, and people yelled encouragingly, “It’s okay! You can do it.” When he continued, the audience applauded. It didn’t matter if you are a retired engineer or only graduated from high school. The story is what mattered.

Finally my name was called and I practically skipped on stage.

Silvana Clark

My opening lines were, “I was fired from my first job when I was 11. My mother fired me. My job was to be her accomplice and decoy as she shoplifted clothes, TVs, bikes, and one car.” I went on to tell how my mother was upset at my refusal to help shoplift. So she sent me to live with relatives in Germany where they had me selling American cigarettes on the Black Market. (So much for a do-over.)

The audience loved my story and afterwards, a Moth producer asked me to participate in a comedy show. The next day another producer invited me to participate in his event. At 64 years old, I had gigs!

I’ve now participated in many storytelling events. The Moth is my favorite program because of the structured yet free-wheeling atmosphere. The winner of each StorySLAM competes in the GrandSLAM against other winners.

Now that includes me!

Storytelling at the Moth provides an outlet to be creative in writing and to deliver a story specific to your personality. Some riveting storytellers have a smooth, calm delivery. Others, like me, get a bit rambunctious. In one story I incorporated the famous “Elaine Dance” from Seinfeld.

With Moth programs in 27 cities, just attending provides the opportunity to experience storytellers sharing humor, sorrow, and vulnerability. It may also keep you from painting your dining room bright red!

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