Archive for September, 2012

Fall for the Book

Posted on September 30, 2012. Filed under: Books, writing | Tags: , , , , |

I recently volunteered to be a driver at George Mason’s annual “Fall for the Book.” Basically, I was supposed to pick up authors who were featured in the Fall for the Book series, drive them to their reading, and then return them safely to their hotel. It turns out it made more sense to walk them than to drive them in most cases, so next year I am going to insist on being called a volunteer walker. Might not have the best ring to it, but gosh darn it, it’s accurate!

I had a great time volunteering. I got to meet and speak one on one with three very different authors, not to mention attending their readings and Q&A sessions.

The first author I escorted was Mat Johnson. I am currently reading his novel Pym. I am really enjoying it. The main character hooks you right from page one. Sadly, I did not finish it before meeting him, but mostly I spent my time asking him about writing as a career. I wish I had some great advice to impart, but mostly I was just amazed to learn that he has a day job, as do the other two authors I met, and he said even Toni Morrison has a day job!

We need to pay writers better so they can quit their day jobs to have more time to write. I’ll start the petition later this week – as soon as I get all my work done at my day job.

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For One Night Only!

Posted on September 29, 2012. Filed under: storytelling |

I am performing a story in tonight’s Better Said Than Done show “Traveling Man – stories of pit stops, journeys, and the beaten path.” It’s going to be a funny story. Or rather, I think it’s gonna be funny. We’ll see if the audience agrees. And even if I bomb, the other storytellers are all awesome!

If you are in Northern Virginia and want to see a storytelling show, come check it out tonight at 7P. Please show up early though – shows tend to be sold out by 7. Man

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Does Size Matter?

Posted on September 25, 2012. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , |

Longer isn’t necessarily better. Length can be overrated.

For example, in the story I am performing this Saturday, I am going for laughs, and shorter, in this case, is funnier.

I tend to write in a somewhat laid back style. I am not naturally proficient with active verbs and short, punchy, sentences. But with comedy writing I think punchier is better. You want to get to the punchline before the audience does.

That being said, I am working with a storyteller on a draft of one of her stories and I truly think it needs to be longer. It’s about half the length of my story to fill the same amount of time, so she has wiggle room. In his case, what’s missing, what could make the story better and most likely funnier, is description.

Her story is almost like a series of punchlines tied together with a little bit of framing. It’s not quite there. It needs details. It needs emotion. We laugh more if we are emotionally attached to a character when that character gets embarrassed. If we don’t care, well, it might still be funny in a general sense, but not as funny as if we were feeling it.

So how to determine the length? It helps if you know the limit. If, for example, you are performing in a storytelling show and can’t go over 8 minutes, or should plan on filling 30 minutes. That gives you a guide. But if you don’t have a set amount of words, time, or other restrictions, how do you know how long to go?

Generally, with any kind of story, there are a few basic rules to keep in mind when deciding how much is enough.
1. Does the reader/audience know who the main character is – his wants, desires, needs, goals, etc. – at the beginning of the story and how that has changed by the end of the story? If not, you have some work to do.

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The “Right” Audience

Posted on September 20, 2012. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , |

I recently had the opportunity to perform the same story twice, for two different audiences, and I gotta say, it got a very different reaction from one to the other.

I first performed my engagement story for Better Said Than Done’s “Independence Day” show. Here’s the video:

It went over well. I mean, the audience was fine. They laughed, a little. It was an okay experience telling it and I felt like I told an okay story at the end of the night.

Last week I gave a presentation on storytelling for the Women’s Wedding Network, so it seemed like a good idea to tell a wedding, or at least engagement, related story. And you know what? It was a great idea.

They loved it. They laughed at every line, even in places I didn’t expect. It was a great story…for that audience.

I know the traditional rule in performance is that the audience shouldn’t matter, at least as far as the material is concerned. If you tell a joke and the audience doesn’t laugh – that’s not their fault, it’s yours. However, after comparing apples to apples as far as stories go, I have to say, sometimes it is the audience.

Now, an argument could be made that, since the wedding network crowd was intimately acquainted with the world of weddings, and a lot of my story related to that first wedding step, the engagement, that this was more a case of knowing your audience than anything else. And I could see how that makes sense. Audience number 2 could relate in a way that audience number 1 couldn’t.

So, maybe, as far as weighing the importance of audience goes, it might make sense to stack the deck whenever possible. Some stories are going to work better with some audiences and if you can figure out what type of audience you are performing for, it might give you a little edge. It certainly felt like I had an edge the second time round. And heck, I’ll take that over bombing any day!

My next storytelling show is September 29th, 2012 at Epicure Cafe. Details here. Should be fun to see if this audience is any better, I mean, if my new story is any better.

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The Business Side of Writing

Posted on September 15, 2012. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , |

I struggle with juggling making money and having a writing career. I guess the fact that it is not much of a career is really why it requires so much juggling. Every now and then I get paid $75, $100, even $200 once, for a commentary or for a storytelling gig or one day maybe for a “published” work, but you can’t live on every now and then.

I decided to start teaching storytelling because, as part of the workshopping we do before all our shows I am already teaching, partly because I think a lot of people would like to learn how to write and perform a true, personal story, and partly because I want to make some money!

I have a day job. I can support myself with my career, my “real” career, but that is not my dream. I’d like to earn money as a writer. I want that to be my real career. Teaching isn’t exactly the same as selling my novel, but it is a bit closer to where I want to be, and if I am making money helping other writers learn the craft, then at least writing will be a part of my day job, not just my daydreams.

Our first storytelling workshop is on October 13th. Hope to see you there. I could use the money!

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I just love Mike Birbiglia.

Posted on September 13, 2012. Filed under: storytelling | Tags: , , , |

I just love Mike Birbiglia. I can’t help it – the guy’s got talent! I just wrote a review of “Sleepwalk with Me” on my Better Said Than Done blog. Spoiler alert – I loved it!

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