5.30 Ghost Stories Told Live
Last week, I had the privilege of performing a story at Ghost Stories Told Live. The event is organized by Marsha Shandur and was a special presentation of her monthly storytelling series called True Stories Told Live. A few months ago, I was at True Stories Told Live and Marsha said she was looking for ghost stories. Ghosts seem to figure into pretty much every story I write, and some friends I was there with immediately pointed at me and said I had to submit one to her. So, I did and Marsha accepted it.
The only thing was now I had to actually do it.
I’ve done presentations and recently participated in the Stories We Don’t Tell event, but I had never told such a personal story to this many people. Safe to say that I had a fair bit of anxiety over this.
Before the event, I spoke with Marsha on the phone and she graciously spent an hour with me going over it. At first, I wondered if she thought this was a big mistake to put me on the roaster as she kept stopping me, asking me to just tell the story instead of reading it. I learned a lot from that phone call. She wasn’t trying to change my story, she was trying to show me the difference between a story on the page and one that comes alive when telling it.
Since starting down this road of live storytelling, I’ve learned other things, especially about my process. It seems that about a week before the event, I realize that something is missing from the story. I freak out a bit that it won’t work. But something happens and just by reading it over and over again, the key to the whole story reveals itself. Lucky for me, I have friends from the writing collective - The Reapers - who helped me find that key to the story.
The night of the event, there was nothing more I could do. I practiced so much, but there is a difference between using a hairbrush as a microphone while talking to yourself out loud in your apartment, and being in front of a room full of people. I was going on second last, right before the great storyteller Sage Tyrtle. At least I wasn’t going after her! Things do seem to have a way of coming together. Just a few weeks earlier, around the time I spoke to Marsha on the phone, I happened to interview Sage for my podcast and employed many lessons from her about how to tell a story live. So, I was in good company. Which made me even more nervous as I wondered why I was included in this company.
I’m introduced and I walked out to the microphone. There was something surreal about all these people looking at you, all of them expecting something great. Have you ever talked into a microphone? I was immediately struck by how different my voice sounded, I was aware of reactions to what I was saying, for lack of a better term, I was ‘feeling’ the audience. Before starting, I found where my friends were, and when I started telling my story, I looked over at them. They were smiling and I could feel their support and encouragement.
So, there are many things going on and I could at times feel my focus begin to leave and thoughts appeared like this: “People didn’t laugh at that line. You said that line wrong.” And so on. It was like I had to pull myself back into my body and remain present. And everything ended up going very well. I think. And just like after the Stories We Don’t Tell, I couldn’t wait to get back up there and tell another story.
Whenever I was in a situation where I was talking in front of people, I generally wanted to get through it as quickly as possible. I didn’t think they wanted me up there or to hear what I had to say. But these recent situations at Ghost Stories Told Live and the Stories We Don’t Tell have been different. I’m proud of the stories I have to share and have an understanding that people do want to hear them. I want to take my time, let the story unfold, allow the audience into my world.
I just wanted to thank Marsha Shandur for including me in this event. Also, a big thank you to all the other storytellers who told their ghost stories. And to everyone in the audience. If you’re in the Toronto area, I do recommend checking out True Stories Told Live. It’s a really great event and is always a good time. Here’s the Facebook page for the next event.