After an exhilarating year of full-time travel, I found myself restless for a creative outlet once my husband and I returned home. Against my better judgment, I started looking at Pinterest, hopping from topics such as how to make homemade balm for cracked heels to ideas on cooking 31 meals in one afternoon. One day I got an alert saying, “Here’s a topic you might like.” And like it I did: Pinterest captured my attention with pages of ideas titled “Bold Decorating.”
One post suggested painting rooms in your house bright red. I quickly became a “bold” decorator, purchasing red paint at Lowe’s—bright, shiny, fire-engine red. I must admit, that color certainly perked up our entry way and dining room! My husband encouraged me to try other endeavors before I continued the blazing red theme throughout the rest of the house.
I tried a jogging class, but I 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. George Dawes Green, the man who started the program 20 years ago, had friends over for a storytelling night. As people shared stories, they were joined by numerous moths coming in through a hole in the screen door. And thus began The Moth story hour. You probably won’t find too many moths at Moth events now, but you will find a group of like-minded, enthusiastic storytellers. (Or “story listeners,” for those who enjoy sitting in the audience.) Each program has a general theme such as “Ego” or “Caught.” Participants know the theme in advance so they can plan what to say.
Want to tell a story? Simply put your name in a hat. If your name is called, you are one of the 10 lucky storytellers. To me, that sounded fun, so I naively prepared a story before actually attending a program in Seattle. I’ve written a dozen books but never spent so much time crafting a few paragraphs as I did to perfect that true, 5-minute story with the theme “Do Over.”
The energy in the room of 250 people increased my excitement as I put my name in as a potential storyteller. The first person told a hilarious story about failing dismally in a school talent show. 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 OK! You can do it.” When he continued, the audience applauded. It didn’t matter if you were a retired engineer or recent high school graduate. The story is what counted. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how excited I was when my name was called. I practically skipped on stage.
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 on a regular basis. So she did what any mother would do: 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 afterward, 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 platform because of the structured yet free-wheeling atmosphere. The winner of each StorySLAM competes in the GrandSLAM against other winners. And I am a three-time StorySLAM winner!
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 400 cities around the world, anyone has the opportunity to experience storytellers sharing humor, sorrow, and vulnerability. It may even keep you from painting your dining room bright red!
Silvana Clark presents keynotes and workshops on “Creativity Concepts” around the world. She has written 12 books, had her dog star in TV commercials, and appeared on the FOX reality show, Trading Spouses”. Recently, she and her husband started doing emergency foster care for children in their home in Bellingham.
Moth events are usually held twice monthly in Seattle at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center and St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral. Ten winners of the monthly Seattle Moth will be participating in Moth’s GrandSlam on October 21st, at the Moore Theatre in Seattle. It will be Clark’s first GrandSlam. For dates and upcoming topics (which include “Rivals,” “Disguises,” and “Joy”), search for Seattle at themoth.org/events.