As many of you know, I’m writing a historical novel inspired by family stories my Mexican-Chinese grandma used to tell me: tales of secret immigrants and mixed races, family loyalties and betrayals. I’m also involved in the world of live personal storytelling, and The Storytellers Project recently invited me to share a true story about my search for my ancestral past. Here’s a video of that virtual show on the theme of Home. You’ll see my 9-minute story at 19:34. Warning: In the story, I mention sexual abuse, though not in a graphic way.
Just before the new coronavirus became the 2020 Pandemic, my story Disaster Pants was published in DoveTales, the journal of the nonprofit Writing for Peace. I briefly stopped sharing the link to that story, about living through the Thomas Fire, when fears over the impending COVID-19 Pandemic began to swirl. Didn’t want to add insult to injury. But now that much of the world is in lockdown, and many of us are stuck at home, I hope it’s a good time to share this story…
Here in Ventura, my husband and I weren’t sure we’d get through the Thomas Fire intact. We did, though we’ll never be the same. Not everyone will get through COVID-19, but most will. As we all come together by increasing our social distance, I hope you’ll accept Disaster Pants as my gift to you, a reflection on fortitude in the face of trials. I hope this story reminds you of your own strength to endure, with your humor and compassion all the greater for it:
I suspect we all have a story about some crazy boss who we feared might destroy our lives. I recently shared such a story on Daniel David Shapiro’s podcast, Two Truths and a Lie. There is so much unbelievable drama in real life, but also so much surprising truth in fiction, that I can’t help but love Dan’s description of his show: “a podcast about truth, fiction, and the hazy line in between.” Whether he asks me to tell the truth or a fabulation, it’s always a thrill to share a story with Dan’s live audience. Here’s a link to the story I told for his recent episode, “Bosses.” I’m the first storyteller in the podcast, but I hope you’ll listen to all three so you can join the fun and try to guess who’s lying. Of course, you can always cheat and jump to the Reveal episode for the answer…but what fun would that be?
Above is a video Daniel David Shapiro recently released of me telling a story at his live L.A. show and podcast, Two Truths and a Lie. Dan’s show presents irresistible challenges for storytellers, as we all strive to keep the audience guessing:
- If Dan asks me to lie, for me the challenge is to build a story with details so deeply human that the audience feels the ring of a deeper truth within it, even though it’s made up. It’s also a fun balancing act to see how high I can stack the hyperbole, spinning a tale so outrageous they’re sure nobody would dare make it up, all without overplaying my hand.
- If Dan asks me to tell the truth, I strive to give the audience details that make them doubt it really happened, or at least make them hope it didn’t…even though it did. I love to take an audience with me as I ponder just how astonishing are the challenges of being human.
My above story, Baby Thumbelina, comes from an episode called Innocence. It’s a tale of childhood bullying and sweet revenge, and it’s all too true, my friends. Please check it out. If it reminds you of a story of your own, I hope you’ll let me know…
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 Hour or 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.