Much like the poetry slam I went to a month or so ago, I went out on a limb and tried something new. This was somewhat similar and I’m calling it, for simplicity’s sake, a story slam. An organization called The Moth runs these events which take place in a few select cities around the country. I’m incredibly lucky to live close to two. A month in advance, the topics for each event are announced. The theme for this one was ‘home’ (they’re all about one word long). Anyone who wanted to participate could put their name in a bag and the MC drew a name. That person got five minutes to come up to the stage and tell their story. Going over six minutes affected your score and most people stuck to the time limit. When the first person finished, they drew the second name out of the bag. Ten people got to share their stories.
It was a lot like a poetry slam because of the strong emotions that the participants shared. It was a bit like stand-up comedy as well because there was one or two points in each story when we could all share a good laugh. It was a balance between acting, comedy, and a group therapy session that I can’t describe very well in words. (There’s audio on the site if you want to check it out. I was at the Ann Arbor event location.) The MC joked that clapping at the end was like giving the storyteller a big hug.
The judging was done by the audience in small groups who rated the participants from 1-10. Much like the poetry slam, the scores went up on average from the beginning to end which upset me only because I liked the first presenter. There was only one round so score inflation was just unfortunate for the first person. I think I was looking for different qualities in a story than the judges because I frequently disagreed with their scores. They seemed to like stories that pulled on their heartstrings or had a lot of feelings behind them. I liked stories that were well crafted with a solid beginning and ending despite the short length. I thought there were two in particular that were very poorly prepared. One of the presenters admitted that he’d decided that night on a whim to participate and I wish he hadn’t. I would have liked to hear some of the stories that weren’t told instead. The presenters who didn’t go were able to give a short summary of the stories we didn’t hear.
Nicole asked me if I would do it. I really don’t know. I’m not sure if I see the event as a fair evaluation of ones writing and that’s what I’d be most interested in. A caveat of the competition is that the stories much be true. I feel fortunate to say that there aren’t that many traumatic events in my life that would make people feel as deeply as the presenter who won made me feel. I also have a huge fear of being judged by people and there’s nothing worse than getting on a stage and saying “Well, my life is not that eventful but please affirm me by letting me win.” Who would stay for the next person? No one. So I really don’t have anything to say. And if I do and even if it’s well written, if I can’t perform it then it’s a wash. My high school theater skills can only get me so far. At least in publishing you’re not always looking at the person reading your book. That would be a weird twist, wouldn’t it?
What about you, Reader? Have you heard of the Moth? What do you think of the premise? Would you perform and if you did, would you see the judgement as a reflection of the writing or the presentation? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Until next time, write on.
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