DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Story Slams: Drawing moths to a flame

EIGHT DAYS TO go before the next Story Slam: a convergence of people telling and listening to true, personal tales.

This slam thing is practiced here and around the world; maybe you’ve heard of The Moth, a live storytelling series in Seattle and elsewhere.

Our version of The Moth — our way of drawing people in close to our personal flame — unfolds at Olympic Theatre Arts, 414 N. Sequim Ave. in Sequim.

The nonprofit Story People of Clallam County hosts the next competition Thursday, March 29, at 7 p.m., with the theme of “letting go,” as in laying down physical/emotional/spiritual burdens as we take flight into spring.

Here’s how:

1. Write your personal story about letting go; practice telling it in five minutes or less, without notes.

2. Show up for slam a bit before 7 p.m. to put your name in a hat; 10 names will be drawn and those 10 take the stage to compete.

3. If your name is drawn, summon copious amounts of courage. Step up to microphone.

5. Hold head high as the judges score your story.

6. Bask in the feeling of giving your audience a memorable tale.

For those not about to get up there: You are wanted; needed.

You’re the audience, and for your $10 admission you behold what the band REM called “Life’s Rich Pageant.”

“The tellers are chosen at random,” said organizer Ingrid Nixon, so “you never know if the teller is going to be funny or serious. You’ll have one very intense story followed by one that is funny …

“Some people will be gesticulating all over the place. Some will be very still and quiet. It’s fabulous to watch.”

Each of us is a storyteller with a distinct style, she said, and all of the styles work.

At the January slam, a variety of men and women stood up — from Nessa Goldman, aka the Nature Nanny of Sequim, to psychotherapist Bob Nuffer and nurse Pam Blakeman.

Bill Cohill told a story about facing fear, with sharks in the ocean as part of the metaphor.

“While swimming, he saw something out of the corner of his eye, but it turned out to be a seal,” Nixon recalled. “Thus, sometimes what we fear (sharks) turns out to be something we shouldn’t be worried about (a seal).”

In their willingness to stand up and be vulnerable, the tellers show real bravery.

We all share in the reward of recognition — and connection.

Then again, if you’re not quite ready to dive in as a teller, you can dip a toe in the water.

Audience members are given slips of paper on which they can write experiences that contribute to the theme; Nixon reads from them between performers.

In January she asked: “Briefly describe a time that you tried successfully (or unsuccessfully) to change something.”

Out came short tales of trying to talk police officers out of tickets and a few about ending relationships after disastrous vacations.

You might also try this story slam game at home.

In a gathering of family or friends, pick a theme such as letting go, or something else springlike, and tell five-minute stories.

Then, who knows? You might find yourself delivering your truth — as only you can tell it — to a wider community.

Another Story Slam is set for 7 p.m. May 31 at Olympic Theatre Arts.

“There is something so cool about seeing the tellers at the mic,” said Nixon. It is, in a word, “sublime.”


Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be April 4.

Reach her at [email protected]

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