#13: Abridged: Stories about You and Your Books

Stories you shaped from the books you’ve read.

Abridged Books

Way back in December we all got together for one of The Bubbler at Madison Public Library’s Night Light Events. I do mean all of us. There were so many of you! Thank you for coming. It has been a long road, full of pitfalls and apparent dead ends from then until now, but finally we are posting the recordings of the erudite stories we all laid on the line that night. We managed to capture the full stories, but unfortunately the micro stories have been lost to us. However, the air that you started vibrating back in December is still vibrating right out into space. If you can out pace it and then find some way to capture and amplify those weakened waves you could rescue our stories from the twin oubliettes of time and forgetfulness. You would be a hero. I would bake you something.

Next month we’ll be reliving the best part of grade school: SHOW AND TELL. Dust off all that important stuff that you keep on a shelf because you can’t get rid of, but don’t really use. Then bring it on over and tell a story about how these things fit into your life.

Abridged: Stories about You and Your Books on Mixcloud

Listen to Your Mother 3 PM on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is May 11 for all those needing a reminder.

Listen To Your Mother

Listen to Your Mother is an annual event featuring a slew of local mothers, mothers-to-be, and mother appreciators. The event was started by Ann Imig, a local blogger who gets featured around the internet. This will be the 5th year of Listen To Your Mother. There are now 32 U.S. cities joining Madison in staging this story event.

I got to ask Ann a few questions about Listen To Your Mother. Here are her replies:

Madison Storytellers: How did Listen To Your Mother start? Did you conceive and execute it all in one go or was this something that gestated for awhile?

Ann Imig: Listen To Your Mother began after I’d spent some time blogging. I wanted to bring my writing from the page to the stage, and let my real life community experience some of the vitality going on among creative parents online. Having returned from a decade living in Chicago, the logistics of putting a very simple show together in Madison seemed manageable to me–especially after Steve Sperling at The Barrymore liked my idea and let me use the theater. I executed the original Listen To Your Mother in eight weeks, with help from Stage Manager Darcy Dederich. (Eds: Here is an article with more a Listen To Your Mother.)

MS: Did you intend for Listen To Your Mother to spread out to other cities?

AI: I don’t think the idea occurred to me until I saw the success of the first show. I had the show video-recorded and posted online, and bloggers watched it and started emailing me with requests to do the show in their towns.

MS: How connected are you to the Listen To Your Mother events in other cities? Are you involved with the auditions and staging?

AI: I work as the National Director, mentoring the local cities throughout the entire process of directing and producing the show.Together with my national team (Stephanie Precourt, Deb Rox, Melisa Wells) we wrote a handbook that we provide to all cities. We host webinars, and have a very active private facebook group and weekly email blasts with the 80-plus group of local director/producers, as well as offering individual coaching. We work hard to communicate and translate the vision and the tenets of Listen To Your Mother show to our local cities, while also giving them autonomy to audition, cast, rehearse, and stage their own shows.

MS: What are you looking for during the auditions? What kinds of stories make the cut?

AI: We look for 5 minute pieces (essays or poetry) written by the reader, and that articulate a story that only that unique individual can tell specifically (rather than pieces that try to encapsulate the entire mothering experience more generally). Listen To Your Mother prizes diversity in reader and story. Most important, motherhood must serves as the star of the piece. It sounds simple, but as a parent it’s easy to write a piece you think is about motherhood, and it ends up being more about marriage, work–any number of other themes.

MS: Are there any especially memorable stories from past Listen To Your Mother events?

AI: That’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite child, but I will say that hearing Asmeret Yosef’s story “Don’t Give Up” (Madison, 2012–you can view it here.) of being separated from her still-nursing toddler, preschooler, and husband for 2 years while incarcerated and deported due to a CLERICAL ERROR with her immigration status moved me in a profound way–especially because she told her story with such faith and hope. That said–my favorite Listen To Your Mother moments are those that leave the audience roaring with laughter–and there are quite a few of those.

MS: What do you get from telling stories about motherhood or in appreciation of motherhood?

AI: Sharing motherhood stories can provide validation from a “me too” perspective (for people sharing similar backgrounds or experiences) and also expand perspectives and broaden understanding. At it’s core I believe sharing stories builds community.

MS: Does motherhood lend itself to storytelling? Is storytelling part of motherhood?

AI: Children provide endless fodder and inspiration, and constantly challenge our experience of who we are and what we think we know. Similarly, the mother-child-relationship is so profound it affects everyone–regardless of what your relationship is/was with your mother or caretaker. Go to any family reunion, Parent/tot playgroup, or therapy session and you will have no doubt that storytelling and motherhood go hand in hand.

Some Questions for a Storyteller: Erin Boyle

Each month or so, we profile a Story Night regular by asking her some questions about herself and her storytelling. This month’s “Some Questions” features storyteller Erin Boyle. You can listen to Erin’s first story: Notes from the Past.

Erin Boyle

1.  When and why did you come to Madison?

I moved here in the summer of 2009 to start my physical chemistry PhD.

2.  What do you do with your time (when you’re not telling stories)?

#16: Quitting Stories

Stories about the things we leave behind.


Last Friday we slung some stories about things we have quit. Of course there were stories about quitting jobs and school. Who hasn’t quit a job or school? We have also quit swimming lessons (which is sort of like school), politics, and karate. We weren’t ever able to quit bingo and it took longer than we would have liked to quit karate. We won’t be quitting whiskey, women, or worry anytime soon.

Next month we’ll be reliving the best part of grade school: SHOW AND TELL. Dust off all that important stuff that you keep on a shelf because you can’t get rid of, but don’t really use. Then bring it on over and tell a story about how these things fit into your life.

Quitting Stories on Mixcloud

Next month there is another storytelling event for you to check out in town when Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) returns on Mothers Day. In two weeks we’ll have a post with an interview with the creator of LTYM, Ann Imig.

A Few Improvements to Story Nights (Hopefully)

Because suddenly story nights are more than we ever imagined.

Story Nights Big CrowdStory nights are getting big. Which is great, but we want to make a few changes to how the nights are structured so that we can continue to get as many storytellers on stage as possible. We want to hear as many stories from as many people as we can.

1. The doors for story nights will open at 7 pm and we’ll start the storytelling at 7:30 sharp. We’ll be ending at 10 pm. If the audience is really in to the event we could spill over to 10:30, but we’ll make every effort to end by 10 pm. If you signed up ahead of time you should be there before 7:30 to check in with one of the organizers (Alison, Erica, or Brendon). If you aren’t there by the beginning of the night and haven’t let us know that you will be late before hand we can’t guarantee you a spot.

2. Lately, we’ve had 12+ storytellers sign up for story nights and we want to hear from all of them. So we are going to start being firm about the 10 minute time limit. We’ve gotten lax on this; we apologize. Matt is our intrepid timer and he will signal you as you approach your time limit. Please don’t go over because I’ll feel really bad when I cut you off and make you get off the stage. You’ll feel really bad. The audience will feel really bad. So to help all of us feel better about ourselves keep your story to 10 minutes. To help you do this practice it beforehand, then practice it again. If your story is coming in over 10 minutes figure out what to remove from your story. The truth is that in nearly every case it will be much better for it. If you try to keep the stage in spite of our persistent efforts to get you off the stage we will set up another stage. That’s right, we have a backup stage.

3. If you’ve told stories for the past two nights sit out on the third night. There are a lot of people coming to tell stories and in an effort to hear all of these voices we are instituting this limit. You can always tell a micro story. If we have slots available you can still tell a story, but don’t come expecting a guaranteed slot.

4. This isn’t a rule, but if you come and tell a story you should stay to hear the other storytellers. It is the polite thing to do. If you have a really great story that you are dying to tell, but have other plans later in the night you should cancel those other plans or push them back. Of course there are exceptions, if you are prepping to donate your kidney to your dying brother later in the night it is cool if you leave after your story, but short of that stick around. There are a lot of good storytellers in our group and your life will be better for having taken the time to listen to them.

#15: Protest Stories

Our protests have damned the man once, twice, thrice. The thrice damned man.

Protest Stories
Last Friday we all gathered at Arboretum Cohousing to tell stories about protests personal, political, and leather bound. We heard a story about how getting arrested can do away with cynicism. We heard a story about the dangers of investing in art. We heard a story about Madison’s version of ecotourism. There were quite a few stories that involved getting arrested or nearly arrested. There were leather pants.

Next month we’ll tell stories about quitting. So start turning over in your mind all the things you have quit. Hopefully your cranial rock tumbler will spit out just the right gem of a story. We’d love for you to share it.

Protest Stories on Mixcloud

Remember there is a storytelling workshop here in Madison on March 22nd. Register here.

Daylong Intensive Storytelling Workshop

Unfortunately, this workshop has been cancelled due to lack of participants. Hopefully we can have a workshop in the future.

A workshop by someone who gets to tell stories for a living.

Scott Whitehair WorkshopSome local story enthusers have organized a work shop with a professional storyteller from Chicago, Scott Whitehair. Scott performs in the Chicago area and has many workshops in that area. Scott’s focus is to introduce participants to storytelling tools and techniques. Here’s the press release for the details:

This one-day intensive storytelling workshop will focus on discovering and developing your own unique voice as a storyteller. The entire process, from story generation and writing to the fine details of performance, will be covered in an engaging work-on-your-feet manner. This course is open to all experience levels, and everyone from the beginner to the seasoned storyteller is welcome.

Class size will be limited to 12 participants to ensure that all have ample opportunity to tell multiple stories, try all the exercises, and get individual feedback.

Cost: $100. Includes 10 am – 5 pm workshop, lunch, student show from 7-8:30 pm, and a class packet with all of the material covered and a high quality audio recording of your stories from the show.

Register here.
Madison contact: Kara (Slaughter) O’Connor, k.s.slaughter@gmail.com

If you end up going to this workshop come show off what you learned at the March storytelling event on the 28th. We’d love to hear your quitting story all shined up.

Recordings from a lot of Past Story Nights

Sorry these recordings took so long.

Sorry about the delay with these recordings from past story nights

So in March of last year we got together to tell stories about being Born Again. Oh, and in April we told some stories about Spring Cleaning. Then in May we told some stories about Liquid Courage. During all of these events we took recordings of your stories. You did a fantastic job. You should all be proud of yourselves, but some of you speak really softly and others speak really loudly. That means that we had to work a little digital magic and sound engineer mumbo jumbo to make everything come out smooth. This took a little bit, but now the work is done and you can reap the rewards of all of your hard work using the widget below or by going to the recordings section of this very website or by going to the Madison Storytellers Mixcloud.

We’ve only listed first names unless you’ve told a story before and told us we could use your last name. If you find your story and want all of your names all over it email us and we’ll slap names on it. If you want all of your names off of it or don’t want it on the internet at all email us and we’ll slap names off of it or slap it off the internet.

While your listening to past glories you should think about what story you are going to tell next week on February 28th. That’s when we’ll be gathering at Arboretum Cohousing to tell protest stories. Should be a hoot. Should be a holler. Sign up now.

You should also keep a look out for information on a couple of story events happening in the Madison area. We’ll bring you that information a little later in the week. Lots of stories dropping in Madison. Good work everyone.

Liquid Courage Stories on Mixcloud

Spring Cleaning Stories on Mixcloud

Born Again Stories on Mixcloud

Storyteller, tell thyself: Live Storytelling According to The Moth’s Lea Thau

Leah Thau writes about the heart of good storytelling.

Lea Thau storytelling

Here’s a good piece written about what we get together to do every month. Lea Thau was involved with The Moth for 10 years and currently hosts KCRW’s Strangers.

Thau’s piece is about what makes a story a story. Lots of things happen to us, but not all of them are stories and you know right away when someone starts telling you about something that isn’t a story. It’s painful. Really really painful. So what is the difference between a story and something that happened? Thau says it is understanding what happened to you emotionally when the events you are relating took place. To figure that out you need to listen to yourself when you are storytelling and figure out why you are telling it.

We need something besides a neat set of events or a coincidence. We need to see the human being and what that human being experienced. We need to know how that storyteller is a human being is like us or how we could be like that human being who is storytelling. To tell a story we need to make ourselves vulnerable to the audience. That’s a terrifying prospect, but if you turn that prospect into a reality the audience will reward you with attention and, more importantly and rewardingly, connection. For a minute or two the prism of the storyteller will concentrate a whole room of human beings together and then return them to themselves with a little shade of something new. I’ve seen our audiences do this every single Story Night because our audience is the best and I’m so very happy to be part of it.

Five Questions for a Storyteller: Keith Woodhouse

Each month or so, we profile a Story Night regular by asking him five questions about himself and his storytelling. This month’s “Five Questions” features storyteller Keith Woodhouse. You can listen to Keith’s past stories: Where Are You? and A Dog Named July.


1.  When and why did you come to Madison?

I came to Madison in 2000, for graduate school. I left in 2011.

2.  What do you do with your time (when you’re not telling stories)?

#14: Origin Stories

Stories about how things got this way.

Darwin had some origin stories.

Darwin had some stories about origins.

Last Friday we got together to tell stories about the origins of a lot of things in our lives. One of us traced his path to emailing clients about his cats. Another his steps from an interest in numbers to an interest in people. A lot of us talked about scars, our scars, our brother’s scars, our cat’s scars. You can listen to all of the stories below.

Next month we’ll be telling stories about protests and the month after that we’ll tell stories about quitting. Clear your calendars and practices your accents. Stories sound good in accents.

Origin Stories on Mixcloud

Don’t forget that you can go tell stories about love this Friday at Crescendo Music Cafe on Monroe Street. Sign up ahead of time.

Conversations on Love


A fellow storyteller, Mallory Shotwell, has been cooking up a big ‘ol pot ‘o love. The pot is full of discourse and you can find out about it at the A Discourse on Love wordpress.

Go to the site for the seamy details, but the gist is that Mallory is “a local artist in Madison working on a community based art project to create a philosophical and artistic discourse on love.”

A large part of the project are interviews about love conducted by Mallory. You can sign up to participate in an interview here.

Later this month there will be an event at Crescendo Music Cafe on Monroe Street. The night will feature stories and other spoken pieces about love. Maybe you have a dissertation on love that you have sitting around that you want to shout at people like some mad Russian philosopher (you have recite it from memory). Maybe you have an unreceived love poem gathering dust under your mattress. Nows the time to get it out there. Mostly though Mallory is looking for stories and conversations about love. Since stories are what we’re good at we thought it would be a good idea to pass on the event to all of the fine, fine storytellers that we know. You can sign up for a time slot here.

January is shaping up pretty nicely for people who want to talk about themselves in front of microphones and hear other people talk about themselves in front of microphones. Come tell origin stories with us on the 24th and love stories on the 31st.

True Story Podcast Features Madison Storyteller

Congratulations to Sarah Dimick

Sarah Dimick True Story

We mentioned on our Facebook that a story by our very own Sarah Dimick was going to be featured on True Story podcast. Sarah’s story is up now and you can hear it get the full podcast treatment at the True Story blog or on their soundcloud. The True Story podcast usually gets 30,000 – 40,000 download per story so we expect Sarah to take off for the big time storytelling circuit now (I know I could have written 30-40K, but seeing all of those 0s is impressive).

The sweethearts over at True Story even call us a “great storytelling group” and they are right. We are a great group. Thanks for coming out, telling stories, and listening to stories.

See you at Arboretum Cohousing on January 24th when we’ll get to hear your origin stories. More details will be on our Facebook page by next week.

#12: Stories about Family

These aren’t all painful memories. We told some stories about family members we respect too.

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
-Leo Tolstoy, from Anna Karenina

Back in November we got together to tell stories about our families. We got one about family vacations that attempt to kill, another about a fabled Grand Marquis embedded deep in Mexico, and one about the perks of color blindness. You can listen to all of the stories below.

Family on Mixcloud

Five Questions for A Storyteller: Anna Zeide

Each month or so, we profile a Story Night regular by asking him/her five questions about themselves and their storytelling. This month’s “Five Questions” features Anna Zeide. You can listen to Anna’s past stories: A Jew Dealing with Christmas, The Frivolity of Ice Cream, and The Ways of the Jungle.


1.  When and why did you come to Madison?

I came to Madison in the summer of 2006 to start my PhD. Wisconsin had the best program in environmental history and the history of science–two fields that had recently captured my imagination. So, when my then-boyfriend (now-husband) Justin and I both got into respective PhD programs at Wisconsin, moving to Madison was a no-brainer. We arrived with a small truck full of belongings, and set up shop in a tiny loft apartment in the middle of downtown. Within hours, we had a couch off the curb and Justin had landed a 2-hour-a-week job playing guitar at the sandwich shop (Potbelly on State St.)

2.  What do you do with your time (when you’re not telling stories)?

Five Questions for A Storyteller: Steel Wagstaff

This is a new feature on the Madison Storyteller’s website.  Each month, we will profile a Story Night regular by asking him/her five questions about themselves and their storytelling. Our first “Five Questions” features Steel Wagstaff. You can listen to Steel’s past stories Feast for the Beast 2000Grimethorpe, and Touching Someone and Being Touched.


1.  When and why did you come to Madison?

I came to Madison in January 2007 to start a Ph.D. program in English (literary studies). When I first arrived in Madison, I was driving a rented U-Haul and it had just begun to snow. We came over the crest of a hill and the first thing I saw were the golden arches of a McDonald’s. Not the greatest first impression, but my life has changed profoundly in this town. In the past 6 years (the longest I’ve ever spent in one town in my entire life, incidentally), I’ve divorced and remarried, earned a second Master’s degree in library and information studies and taken a full-time job at the university. I’ve still yet to finish the dissertation, but I’m working on it.

2.  What do you do with your time (when you’re not telling stories)?

#2: Oh, the Places We’ve Been

For our second story night, we asked storytellers to tell place-based stories in which the surroundings are important to the plot (pretty open-ended). What we heard were stories both local and global, funny and tragic, rocky and boggy, scarce and abundant, of humans and of herbivores.