storytelling

5 Year Anniversary

Posted on May 12, 2016. Filed under: storytelling | Tags: , , , , , , |

Five years ago this May, I started Better Said Than Done – a storytelling organization. Since May 2011, we have had nearly 100 different storytellers share their stories at over 50 different shows and across several Northern Virginia venues. We led storytelling workshops for individuals as well as taking on such professional clients as INOVA Fairfax Hospital, AHRQ, AAMC, and Marie Stopes International. But the shows – where storytellers perform true, personal stories – are the backbone of Better Said Than Done.

To celebrate our 5 year anniversary, we are having a storytelling show and contest at Jammin’ Java on May 28th.

2016_Contest_JJ_J003

I hope you will come out and celebrate with us.

Get your tickets soon. They’re going fast!

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Published Writing

Posted on April 9, 2015. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , , , |

My short story, “What Are the Odds,” was published in the March 2015 edition of the Northern Virginia Review.  Read all about it or purchase a copy here.

The publication had a nice author reception, with a few readings and some free copies of the issue. It was fun to be around other creative writers for the afternoon.  And, I must admit, it felt good to see my name printed in a thick magazine with a bunch of other authors.  Usually, when I see my name in lights (yes, the issue came with built-in LEDs) it’s beside other storytellers announcing an upcoming storytelling show. I am proud of all of those shows, but my heart did an extra leap or two at seeing my story published, like, in print.  I’ll have to try it again sometime.

The short nonfiction piece was an adaptation of a spoken word story I told for Better Said Than Done. I have performed over thirty original, true, personal stories at this point in my storytelling career. I don’t write all of the stories out. In fact, as I have gotten more comfortable with the true, personal storytelling format, I rarely write my stories out anymore. Luckily, “What Are the Odds” was one story I had felt needed to be worked through on a computer, since it made use of percentages as a motif, and I am not great with numbers. The fact that it was already in written form made it an obvious choice for a story to submit for publication.

I did rewrite it a bit before submitting it for consideration. It is much easier to adapt a performed story I have written out to the page than to adapt one I have created entirely in my head, not only because it saves me from having to type it out, but also because the way purely spoken stories are formed.  Stories sound more like conversation when you “write” them in your head and through speaking aloud, which is great, if the goal is to perform them. If the goal is to get a story published, the additional work in translating one amounts to basically writing the whole story – other than the structure – from scratch.  The way we read is different from the way we listen. Therefore, the way I write for a listener is different than the way I write for a reader.

That being said, “What Are the Odds” is the second story I have had published that stemmed from a story I first performed. I’m thinking I have about 28 other stories I should see about whipping into shape for publication. I think I’ll start with the ones that are already written out.

 

 

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My Year in Writing

Posted on December 29, 2014. Filed under: Short Stories, storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , |

When thinking about this past year in writing, I find that I can’t decide if I am a glass is half full or half empty kind of a person. Generally, in life, I tend to look at all angles. So, was it a good year? Yes. Could it have been better? Most definitely. Could it have been worse? Certainly.

For the sake of limiting my word count – so many words to write, but I need to save them for my novel – I am going to focus on the positive.

My storytelling troupe, Better Said Than Done, put on 11 storytelling shows in Northern Virginia. We were once again voted the “Best Performing Arts Company in NoVa” by Virginia Living Magazine. The attendance at the May show was somewhat disappointing, but every other show this year was packed, and all the storytellers were great. I personally told 9 stories, 8 of them at Better Said Than Done events – all true, personal, and new. It has been fantastic to watch the audience for storytelling in Virginia grow and grow and I look forward to our 2015 shows – just not so much to coming up with 9 more new stories.

The year of novel writing started out with me taking a fantastic workshop called “Publishing Your Manuscript.” I learned a lot about writing a query letter, finding an agent, and getting my manuscript publish ready. There’s another class in January, 2015. I cannot recommend it enough if you are working on a novel, a memoir, or any other book you’d like to one day see published. Here’s info on it:
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Storytelling on the Fly

Posted on October 9, 2014. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , |

I hosted and performed in two storytelling shows in September, the second one approximately ten days after the first one. In addition, my company, Better Said Than Done, (aka me) put together and promoted the shows, so it was a busy two weeks for me. That is, of course, in addition to working a real job and taking care of a toddler.

Why, you might ask, should we care? Well, all that is by way of saying, I never really had the chance to write the second story out. When I perform in a storytelling show, I have one of two ways of preparing. The one I do most often is to write out my story, read it out loud, edit it, read it out loud, edit it, and eventually memorize it through repetition. That process allows me to really perfect the story.

But for this performance, I went with option two – saying the story out loud to myself, thinking about what worked and what didn’t, and speaking it a few more times, trying to work it out in my mind before the show. This method has a couple of advantages. Firstly, there’s a lot less preparation. Since it’s not word for word memorization, and since there is no time spent writing things down, it takes up less than half the time as the first method. Also, it does create a more conversational sounding performance, more like I am just telling you a story rather than performing something scripted.
Here’s the story I told a week or so ago about my little bear:

The downside of method two is that it isn’t “perfect.” When I do write out and memorize word for word, there are no “ums” in my story. I do not repeat the same word several times or fumble around for a good way of phrasing something. I can play word games with how something is stated exactly early on in the story and how it is stated slightly differently later in the story. It gives you more options as a writer, or crafter of a story, if you write it all out.

By contrast, here’s a story about my little bear that I wrote out and memorized word for word:

With writing and memorizing word for word, you can sound a bit over prepared. Also, it is much easier to lose your place and much harder to cover it up if you do. When every word is perfect, having a few words not perfect really stands out.

There are good and bad qualities to both methods of preparing for a storytelling show. The good news is, our October storytelling show is improvisational storytelling – so there is absolutely no preparation of any kind! Hope to see you there.

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Live Show in Northern Virginia for Writers

Posted on September 15, 2014. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

It occurred to me that I should do a little more promoting on this site for Thursday night’s storytelling show. You see, the show is part of George Mason University’s Fall for the Book Festival – a festival devoted to writers, and readers.  And the show, titled “Reading, Writing and Art,” features true, personal stories of what it means to be a writer, or an artist, or a fan.

fall for the book

My story deals specifically with the struggles of writing a novel and trying to find a literary agent.  Hopefully it will come across as filled with more humor than struggle, so let’s just say it’s about the journey.

Reading, Writing and Art: stories about the people, process and performance of art
September 18th, 2014
7:00PM (Doors Open 6:00PM)
The Auld Shebeen
3971 Chain Bridge Rd.
Fairfax, VA 22030
Free Show as Part of George Mason University’s “Fall for the Book Festival”
Please note – delicious food and drinks (full menu) available for purchase
Hosted by Jessica Piscitelli Robinson, the evening features storytellers Richard Barr, Ann Cavazos Chen, David Supley Foxworth, Karen Lee, Pierce McManus, Miriam Nadel, and Ellouise Schoettler—promising true and unforgettable tales.
More Info Here

I hope to see some fellow writers or readers in the audience. We can all commiserate.

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Storytelling Filled September

Posted on September 10, 2014. Filed under: storytelling | Tags: , , , |

I haven’t really been using this site to promote the nine million storytelling things I have going on at any given time, but September is filled with a lot of great stuff, (and a lot of it’s free!) so figured I might as well share. Here’s what I will be up to this month. Hope to see you at one or all of these events.

Living to Tell About It: a panel discussion on the art of true, personal storytelling
September 16, 2014
1:30PM – 2:30PM
George Mason University at the Sandy Spring Tent at Johnson Center Plaza
Free Panel Discussion as part of the Fall for the Book Festival
We offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of creating and performing true, personal stories. Moderated by Shawn Westfall, the panel includes storytellers David Supley Foxworth, Jessica Piscitelli Robinson, and Ellouise Schoettler.
More Info Here

Reading, Writing and Art: stories about the people, process and performance of art
September 18th, 2014
7:00PM (Doors Open 6:00PM)
The Auld Shebeen
3971 Chain Bridge Rd.
Fairfax, VA 22030
Free Show as Part of George Mason University’s “Fall for the Book Festival”
Please note – delicious food and drinks (full menu) available for purchase
Hosted by Jessica Piscitelli Robinson, the evening features storytellers Richard Barr, Ann Cavazos Chen, David Supley Foxworth, Karen Lee, Pierce McManus, Miriam Nadel, and Ellouise Schoettler—promising true and unforgettable tales.
More Info Here


Nature Calls: stories about things you can’t ignore

September 27th, 2014
8:00PM (Doors Open 7:30PM)
Reston Walker Nature Center
11450 Glade Drive
Reston, VA 20191
$15 Tickets
Click Here to Purchase in Advance!
All proceeds benefit Friends of Reston for Community Projects (Like Recycling Bins!)
Hosted by Jessica Piscitelli and including stories performed by Mattie Cohan, Dustin Fisher, Susan Gordon, Miriam Nadel, Brad Podliska, Anne Thomas and Zach Wilks.

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Not so much an ending…

Posted on March 17, 2014. Filed under: storytelling | Tags: , , , , , |

A while back I posted about how the end was nigh – meaning the end of my writing career as I knew it. I was referring to the fact that I was about to have a baby. While it is true that all of my free time, and most of my quality sleep time, have vanished, all is not lost.

I was afraid for my writing career on two fronts. First, the lack of time. And yeah, that part I am still trying to work out. Secondly, that I would become one of those people who could only talk about their kids and that there’d be no more creative storytelling. I mean, seriously, you can only tell so many “my kid is a genius” stories before people start to get bored.
baby stories
Happily, I believe, I have not completely dried up on original storytelling. Of course, my novel is pure fiction and has very little, if anything, to do with babies. Then, I just told a true, personal story for Better Said Than Done a few nights ago that also had nothing to do with babies, or at least, actual babies. (It was about a guy I dated who was a child in his own right, but old enough to feed himself and not need diapers.) So, it seems, I can keep mining those classic life events.
But I have told two baby stories, I must confess. My hope is that I have found ways to make potentially stale, overused, material seem fresh.

My first post baby, baby story was actually about breastfeeding, and how it doesn’t quite stand up to all the wonderful descriptions of it they sell you in the baby books. My follow up story was about my pregnancy, and how that was a bit of a nightmare for me, in what I am pretty sure was an unique experience. Both stories went over very well with the live audiences, and have been viewed quite a bit online. (At least as compared to my other stories)

Maybe telling stories about a huge, life changing experience that happens to be shared by a lot of people isn’t the worst thing you could do.  Maybe I’ll even tell a few more.  In fact, I have been working on this great one about how my baby is a genius!

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Pregnant Story

Posted on March 3, 2014. Filed under: storytelling | Tags: , , , |

I told a twenty-two minute story at the last Better Said Than Done storytelling show. The theme of the night was “When I Grow Up,” and my story was about the little girl I gave birth to seven months ago, or, rather, about my pregnancy with that little girl.

This was the hardest story I have ever told. It’s funny, I have told two stories about my dad dying of cancer, and one about my mom, and didn’t even flinch getting through them. Tell one story about the potential dangers my little girl faced, and I was crying through half of rehearsal. One of the storytellers, during rehearsal, even made it a point to tell me that crying on stage probably wouldn’t “play well” with the audience. I, of course, know this. But the fact that she felt she needed to say something, shows you what a mess I was during rehearsal.

Here is the video of my performance of the story a week later. You can judge for yourself whether I pulled it off.

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The Joys of Breastfeeding

Posted on January 31, 2014. Filed under: storytelling | Tags: , , , |

I know, not your typical title for a blog about writing, but it’ll have to do.  I recently told a story for Better Said Than Done about, you guessed it, the joys of breastfeeding.  If you promise not to go all crazy on me about choices I made regarding feeding my baby, you can watch the video here.

 

I have, actually, told a fair number of stories in the last several months, but don’t always chose to share them online. It’s funny – I feel completely comfortable opening up my heart and soul to an audience of 150 people, but not always comfortable sharing that same story with the world wide web.

And yet, here I am talking about my boobies. If you have ever nursed a baby, or thought about nursing a baby, or are preparing for one day soon dealing with breastfeeding a baby, this might be a good story to hear. Again, we all have to make personal choices about what we do with our own bodies, and whether or not we share that story with the public.

This was just my story about my choices that I am choosing to share with you. Go easy on me.

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The Year of Writing in Review

Posted on December 31, 2013. Filed under: storytelling, writing | Tags: , , |

Well, WordPress has just sent me a little update pointing out the obvious – I did not do much in the way of blogging this year.  I will say that I have managed to write a little, since the birth of my daughter, but have had to prioritize my time to focus on projects that were under deadline, like my storytelling shows.

Writing in 2014

I would like to say that I have a handle on things now and should be back on track for finishing my novel and continuing my storytelling in 2014.  I know the storytelling will continue, as I am committed already to many shows.  I will get back to my novel eventually and I do hope it is sooner than later.

I am always being inspired by wise words from writers and friends, or impressive actions or successes.  Recently I was inspired by a good friend of mine who started her own blog. She is being somewhat hush, hush about it, so I won’t share a link, but the most inspiring part of the whole thing is that she committed to writing 500 words a day and she has been doing it!

I love that idea. It’s not goal setting, it’s a commitment.  For 2014, what I need to do is commit to finishing my novel, like I have committed to showing up prepared to every storytelling show.  I need to commit to a certain number of words or a certain amount of time each day and then just make it happen, like I make all my other responsibilities happen.

So, rather than a resolution for 2014, I am setting myself a task.  In honor of my friend, and her success, I am marking my calendar with 500 words a day.  It’s not the fastest way to complete a novel, but it sure beats no words a day.

For now, I will leave off with wishing you a Happy New Year. I hope  that you fulfill all your commitments in 2014, and that they fulfill you in return!

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