At The Moth GrandSlam on July 24 at L.A.’s historic Regent Theatre, I was honored to share the stage with some of the best storytellers around as we told stories on the night’s theme: Identity Crisis. Please check out this 6-minute video of me performing Old Mr. Ma, the story of my grandma, me, and my search for her father’s Chinese roots.
About The GrandSlam: These events always feature 10 storytellers who have won local StorySlams. Each tells a five-minute story to a live audience in a friendly competition for one of The Moth’s greatest honors: GrandSlam Champ. On our night, 500-plus people listened to us share the most vulnerable, unusual, ridiculous moments we’ve spent seeking answers to the question: who am I? It was a thrilling night of people connecting through the power of story.
About The Moth: “The Moth’s mission is to promote the art and craft of storytelling and to honor and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience.” Put simply, The Moth is: true stories, told live, without notes. If you haven’t yet, I recommend listening to The Moth Radio Houror The Moth Podcast. Beware: it’s addicting.
After more than a year striving to find my voice in the world of oral storytelling, I won The Moth StorySlam in L.A. on January 23, 2018. The night’s topic was Achilles Heel. It was humbling to win with a story about my weaknesses. I now qualify to compete in a Moth Grand Slam with nine other StorySlam winners. There are no prizes, just the joy of celebrating the human experience with fellow storytellers and an enthusiastic audience. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, if you’re unfamiliar with live storytelling, I recommend checking out The Moth Radio Hour or The Moth Podcast. You’re in for an unforgettable experience in the power of story.
I told this true personal story at The Moth StorySlam in Los Angeles on June 6, 2017. The theme was “Mystery.” I came in third place, for which I won: nothing…except pride in getting better at this art form every day. I love oral storytelling. What an exciting way to connect with community, share what we all have in commoon, and increase our understanding of one another! If you’re unfamiliar with live storytelling, I recommend you check out The Moth and listen to either The Moth Radio Hour, which also plays on many NPR affiliates, or the online podcast. The stories are funny, moving, surprising…and addicting.
I’m having a blast in the world of oral storytelling, and you can hear me tell my latest story in the podcast Two Truths & a Lie. Or you can watch the video below. In this live storytelling show, three performers share personal stories. The catch? One of us is lying. For this episode, the topic is: Cheats. Can you guess who the liar is?
As a writing instructor, I yearn to take credit for the ingenious, creative, perceptive stories my students create. They’re kids, mostly middle-schoolers, and I yearn to point at their work and say, “They know how to do that because I taught them how.” But I believe what makes a good teacher—and I hope I’m good, though I have a long way to grow—is to have the restraint not to show them how. I give them ideas to think about, concepts to get their minds going, but the point is to let them push the discussion, explore their own answers, decide for themselves what each concept means. I seek to show them that there are potentially infinite ways to unveil a story, and then let them come up with their own way. I ask them to experiment, to dream, to use critical thinking, to ponder. But then my most important job is to get out of the way. So the less credit I can take for their work, the happier I am about the possibility that I’m evolving as a teacher.
When I was 36, I spent a month in Spain, and I never regretted that I missed running with the bulls in Pamplona. But today I heard the below interview with travel blogger Jeannie Mark, known as the Nomadic Chick, and began to wonder if I’ve spent my life being too careful. Jeannie plans to run during the next Fiesta de San Fermin. If I were not now fifty with a slight neuropathy (or nerve weakness) in my left foot, her enthusiasm might tempt me to join her.
My favorite moment in her interview, other than Jeannie’s infectious laugh, is when she talks about her philosophical take on the risks, such as getting caught in a pileup. She says: “In some crazy way, maybe I believe that is also how life works, that sometimes you just go along the path and things happen.” This may be at the core of every traveler’s philosophy about the risks we take when we step outside the comfort zone of home and seek new experiences in a wider world.
First, here’s a correction Jeannie also makes on her own blog: in the interview, she says the run is 860 meters, but it’s actually 825 meters. And now, I highly recommend giving her a listen. Her laugh alone may inspire you to actively seek to create more joy in your life:
“Forty percent of bullies are women, and when women are bullies, they choose women as targets 71% of the time. Sadly, when the bully finds his or her target, the target pays with his or her job.” – Dr Gary Namie
Dr. Gary Namie started The Workplace Bullying Institute in 1998 after his wife, Ruth, experienced bullying firsthand at the hands of a female supervisor. That sour experience prompted their research into bullying to support the passage of laws to curtail workplace abuses. In fact, they say the need is even greater today since their research shows that women are now being bullied by other women 80% of the time, a 9% increase in six years.