True Stories at the Wisconsin Book Festival

There are a lot of people telling stories from their own lives at the Wisconsin Book Festival this year. The festival starts on Thursday and since you’re all very busy folks we collected some of the events involving the kinds of stories we tell at our events into one pithy list for you. Wisconsin Book Festival

Kipp Friedman
10/16/2014 – 5:00pm
Central Library – The Bubbler

Molly Wizenberg
10/16/2014 – 6:30pm
The Kitchen Gallery

Gail Sheehy
10/17/2014 – 7:30pm
Central Library – Community Room

Caitlin Doughty
10/17/2014 – 9:00pm
Central Library – Community Room

Lauren Alleyne
10/18/2014 – 11:00am
Room of One’s Own

June Melby
10/18/2014 – 12:00pm
Wisconsin Historical Museum

Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski
10/18/2014 – 1:30pm
Central Library – The Bubbler

Michael Forster Rothbart Danny Wilcox Frazier Scott Strazzante
10/19/2014 – 11:00am
Overture Center for the Arts – Promenade Hall

You should also check out the Monsters of Poetry on Friday and Nerd Nite on Saturday because those are both beautiful efforts being put forth by people right here in Madison. Also, their regular events don’t conflict with our regular events! You can do so much in this town! Get out there and do it all! Include our next story night on October 24th at 7 pm at Arboretum Cohousing as part of the all that you are out there doing. Make sure to have a truly harrowing experience before the 24th so you can come tell us about it.

Some Questions for a Storyteller: Jen Rubin

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 Jen Rubin. You can listen to Jen’s past stories: Just a Handful and Madison’s Version of Ecotourism.

Jen Rubin

1. When and why did you come to Madison?

I moved to Madison in 1996 because my husband was accepted at UW School of Education for graduate school. The UW offered him a fellowship which meant we could have good health insurance during the years we planned to have kids so we moved here. It turns out that Madison is a hard place to leave.

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

I have mostly done social change work in Madison. Right now I am pursuing my mid-life crisis and writing a book. So I spend some of my time doing children’s advocacy work and I spend other time working on my book. I am also an obsessive maker of mixed tapes and am continuing my life long quest to develop arm muscles. I love to bake and it is quite possible that I bake the best challah in Madison.

3. What makes you want to tell personal stories in front of strangers and semi-strangers?

I come from a family of storytellers. By that I mean my family has a very oral tradition of telling the stories of our family, particularly the immigrant stories of my grandparents. As a result I am used to people holding the floor and early in life understood which stories held my attention and which stories didn’t. It was a useful education that a good anedcoate isn’t enough for a good story, if you want to keep the attention of the table there needs to be some craft to what your saying.

A few years ago I first learned about the Moth podcast and started listening to it each week. I loved the stories and really paid attention to which ones I thought were amazing and which ones were just ok. After a few months I thought to myself, I can do this. I am sure I can do this too. Whenever I walked the dog or went for runs I would sketch out stories in my head, just for the fun of it. About a year and a half ago I heard that the Moth story slam was now in Milwaukee, so I took a van load of friends with me to throw my name in the hat to see if I could get picked to tell a story. I didn’t get picked the first time I went, but did the second time. I was very nauseous and nervous about getting up on a stage and telling a story but wanted to do it anyway.

As for why I want to get up in front of strangers and tell a story, it is hard to say. It is a strange compulsion. I know my story writing is good and the most comfortable thing for me would be to hand people my story to read. But I love the communal feeling of a storytelling gathering and I love to hear other people’s stories. I decided to go to that first Moth because it was a chance to push myself past my comfort zone and because I had a sneaking suspicion that I would be good at it. I find it is pretty easy for me to go through life post 40 and not push myself to try new things or get out of my comfort zone.

4. What was the first story you remember telling?

I don’t remember the first story I ever told since I told many a story to try to keep myself out of trouble as a kid/teen. But I imagine my first successful story that wasn’t simply defensive, like the stain on the rug must be because of the incontinent dog and not because I had a party while you were out of town, involved my grandmother. She is really the gift that keeps giving in terms of stories. Whether it was her mailing me plaid flannel bikini underwear, offering me her meat grinder if I would just marry already or telling me that a handful was all I needed for breasts, I had ample material to craft stories around her words.

5. What is the first story you remember hearing?

The first story I remember hearing was from my dad. My dad is an unrelenting storyteller. No anecdote too trivial or too unrelated to the conversation taking place for him to insert a story. To hear my dad’s stories once it to hear them 100 times. My brother and I have them memorized. I learned a few things watching and listening to my dad – all important for me as I decided to get in front of small crowds to tell a story. The first is how much pleasure he took in telling the stories, that it is a wonderful feeling to be listened to. Another is that there is value in understanding other people and their stories and passing your stories down to the next generation. And while my dad didn’t intend to teach this I learned that a story needs more than an interesting or funny anecdote to be compelling. It needs an arc to it and ideally a punchy intro and ending.

6. You’ve been involved with some other story telling events, how do you prepare your stories? Do you have a stable of stories you turn to or do you create new ones depending on the event?

For the last year and a half I mainly have participated in the Milwaukee Moth story slam. Since it is like an open mic I don’t over plan for it. I have the story sketched out in my head and I practice it a few times since the set up of the Moth is that it is a competition and one person advances to the Grandslam. There is a 5 minute time limit so I need to time myself. I tend to have a very specific line I want to say for my last sentence so I don’t want to run out of time before I stick the landing. I did participate in the Grandslam in Milwuakee and I prepared more for that one since I knew for sure I would be telling a story that night. I was also invited to tell a story in Brooklyn at the Moth Main Stage and that was a produced event with a rehearsal so I did a great deal of preparation for it.

In general I think of a new story for each theme. It is a good writing exercise for me to think up new stories. I have a few stories I told at the Milwaukee Moth that I really like so I definitely re-use them when I have a chance. The story I told at the Bubbler is one I told at a Moth story slam – just tweaked to fit the new theme.

Our next story event is I Thought I Was Going to Die on October 24th at Arboretum Cohousing starting at 7:15. That should give you some time to have a really harrowing experience.

Are you interested in having a story night in your neighborhood? Find a venue and let us know about it. We love to tell stories all over Madison. Give us your ideas: madisonstorytells at gmail dot com.

#20: Escape Stories

Escape Madison Storytellers September 5, 2014 Madison Public Library

Escape: Stories About Getting Unstuck

Last Friday, September 5th, we came back from our brief summer break. We partnered with The Bubbler and presented Escape stories for one of their Night Light events. We had a very successful event with them last December and were happy to have another generous crowd this time around (Check out our photo gallery, our Facebook page, and The Bubbler’s Facebook page for photos). Maybe we should start doing this more regularly.

We had a lot of storytellers hanging around and we found time to listen to all of them, which was to our benefit because they had some fine stories to tell. Check them out below and find out about escaping bad vibes; moral conundrums; family members; target baskets; Joplin, MO; and a few other tight spots. Put everything you learn in your back pocket so you can survive your next close call.

Speaking of close calls, the theme for next month is “I Thought I Was Going to Die.” We’ll be back at ArbCo on October 24th.

Escape by Madison Storytellers on Mixcloud

HEY! We’ve got some other great news! Through your contributions we have matched the funds we received from Dane County Arts! Come to a story night and check out our fancy new recorder and mic stand. Better yet, come to a story night and speak into the recorder so that we can have a beautiful recording of your voice that we’ll put on our website. We’ll be very proud of you for telling an interesting story well. We also got a fancy new hard drive, but we don’t flash that thing around at story nights. Thanks to everyone who contributed; you have helped to make us the legitimate arts institution that we have become. Next funding round we’ll get a mic and PA so that even the tinniest voices will be heard.

Interim Story Solutions: Story Podcasts

Boom! Podcasts blowing up like fireworks!

Risk Podcasts

We’re resting for the summer, but there are still plenty of other ways to get ahold of some stories. In addition to the local storytelling groups we list here, there are a number of other storytelling podcasts.

The Moth – When most people think about people telling true stories to an audience of strangers, they think about this one. July 14th and 29th they’ll be in Chicago, July 19th they’ll be in Milwaukee, and July 30th they’ll be in St. Paul (check their list of events).

True Story – True Story is a podcast that has featured one of our own storytellers, so they are obviously putting out hight quality entertainment.

Erica is currently obsessed with Risk!, by currently I mean she told me about it a couple of months ago, but she probably hasn’t done anything but listen to it since then. Risk tries to reappropriate its name from a tedious board game by challenging people to tell stories they never thought they would tell in public. You can see people either overcome or succumb to their shame live in Chicago when Risk is there on the 22nd of July.

On August 2nd, you can see Mortified in Chicago. Mortified features people betraying their younger selves by trotting all sorts of childhood ephemera up on stage and telling stories about it. It’s fun because you don’t owe your younger self anything. Fuck that dude or dudette.

If you know of any other groups, events, or podcasts let us know and we’ll add it to the list.

Our next event is September 5th at Madison Public Library’s Bubbler Night Light Event. The Bubbler has a lot going on this summer so be sure to go do some of those things while you are waiting to tell stories again.

Some Questions for a Storyteller: Jess King

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 Jess King. You can listen to Jess’s past stories: State Street Scary and Sick for the Grand Canyon. She also told the second one at our quitting event.

Jess King

1.  When and why did you come to Madison?

I moved here from Illinois in the summer of 2006 to pursue my love affair with south central Asian food served in moderately sized Midwestern cities. I’m only half kidding. The first meal I ever ate in Madison was at Kabul on State Street. I quickly decided that any place that had an Afghani restaurant would be a place I wouldn’t mind calling home.

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

Walking and biking around town, reading books, going to see live music, and in general trying to avoid sitting in front of a screen for more than 90% of my waking hours. It’s a challenge, as screens can be quite engaging. I work a day job in nonprofit health care communications and dabble in occasional creative projects.

3.  What makes you want to tell personal stories in front of strangers and semi-strangers?

I’ve been super into storytelling on the radio ever since first hearing This American Life in 2004. The art form has just exploded in popularity with so many amazing free podcasts full of interesting people: RadioLab, Story Collider, Risk!, The Moth.

More than anything, I like the feeling of shared humanity that comes from connecting through stories. Communicating our experiences can shrink the spaces between us. And making even one person laugh is a rush.

4.  What was the first story you remember telling?

As a kid I mostly told stories to myself. I would walk in circles around the yard and make lists of all the items I would need as a pioneer girl and what frontier life would look like. Or I would talk about what I would do if I stowed away on a pirate ship.

I also created pages and pages of drawings to correspond to these various scenarios. As you might have guessed, I was an extremely popular child with oodles of friends.

5. In addition to telling stories you take pictures of story nights; is it difficult to take interesting pictures of people standing in front of a mic?

My number one goal is to avoid catching the speaker in an odd grimace or scowl. This can be difficult as we have wonderfully expressive performers who are constantly moving their faces while entertaining us.

It is true that the photos can turn out kind of similar to one another. I try to look for moments when the speaker has interesting body language, but I don’t want to be too distracting scurrying around trying to find unusual angles. That said, please send me any and all tips to improve storytelling night photos! [Eds. - Jess does a great job of making all of our storytellers look engaging, interesting, and not scowl-ridden. Check out her work in our gallery. She's been hard at work for us since our Quitting story night.]

6. We’ve managed to lose the recordings of at least two of your stories, do you hate us?

Nah, I’m just happy you guys haven’t kicked me off the stage yet. Not having recordings means I will get to tell much better versions in the future and no one will be the wiser.

Also, you didn’t ask this question, but if I could pick anyone (dead or alive) with whom to swap stories, it would have to be Mark Twain. That dude was hilarious.

We’re taking the summer off, but will be back in September. In September we are excited to be working with The Bubbler at Madison Public Library for another one of their Night Light events! The last one was a lot of fun. You can tell from the recordings we got from it. Jess told a story there that we lost, so maybe we’ll all have a chance for redemption this time around. See you all September 5th!

#19: So Long for Now

So Long for Now

So Long for Now, but we’ll see you again September 5th.

We got together at Hudson Park on Friday the 13th to say “So Long for Now”. There weren’t many bugs, there were at least 5 gallons of beer, it smelled a little like seaweed in the front row (I assure you that’s why there was no one sitting there), and we had some visitors. There was a guy fly fishing in waders who didn’t seem much affected by us, a duck fight which didn’t seem much affected by us, the strains of some booty shaking music from a passing party boat which affected us, and 4 or 5 planes overhead. At least one of those planes happened by at an opportune moment to heighten the effect of one of our stories. We managed to deal with the other planes. So while we didn’t affect too many of our surroundings those surroundings affected our stories and our stories affected us. At the end of it all, there was a striking full moon for those who hung out afterwards drinking beer down by the water.

We invited three past story tellers to come tell us any story that they felt like. I can’t imagine another way to have brought together a story from Anna on the personal origins of Madison Storytellers, a story from Erica about the lifetime commitment of potty training, and a story from Andy about being two things at once. Then we told some micro stories in a chain with each story inspired by the one that came before it.

We’re going to take a short break now, but we’ll be back on September 5th to partner with Madison Public Library’s The Bubbler for a Night Light event. We did one back in December and that turned out well. We think this one will too. Bring your stories in September and we know it will turn out well. Thanks for being with us this year.

So long for now.

So Long for Now by Madison Storytellers on Mixcloud

#18: Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation

We are getting to the end of the season. Last Friday, the 23rd, we told stories out on the patio at Arbco. There weren’t any bugs, the light from the parking garage next door didn’t spoil the mood, a little boy kept riding a bike by and saying poop (wonderful), a young man wearing a fez then had a sword fight with the kid who kept saying poop (even better), and we heard some good stories.

Next month we’ll get together at Hudson Park over on the East Side. There is a nice amphitheater down by the lake where we can all meet. We’ll be doing something a little different with the format, but the important thing is that we’ll also be bringing some beer to give to you. There will still be some stories, but we also want to take time just to hang out with each other. We’ve revealed a lot of personal stories to each other, but many of us don’t know each other’s names. Let’s rectify that situation with a night of beer down by the lake.

When you come down to the lake next month, bring a couple of bucks with you. We received a Dane County Arts Grant to purchase a new field recorder so that we can reliably get your stories recorded wherever you might be telling them. We need to match grant funds and are looking for donations. Thank you for your help.

We’ll be taking July and August off and coming back in in September. See you Friday June 13th at Hudson Park or next September. In either case keep doing interesting things, having near death experiences, and reflecting on all of it so that you can come tell us a really great story, just some really really killer stories.

Summer Vacation by Madison Storytellers on Mixcloud

Some Questions for a Storyteller: Daiquiri Jones

Each month or so, we profile a Story Night regular by asking him some questions about himself and his storytelling. This month’s “Some Questions” features storyteller Daiquiri Jones. You can listen to Daiquiri’s past stories: Hair Apparatus, Whiskey, Women, and Worry, 5 Arrests, and Interwoven.

Daiquiri Jones

1.  When and why did you come to Madison?

I came to Madison because I felt disenchanted in the great disenchanting state that is Florida. At the glimpse of falling in love with a highly unique and lovely woman who I’d only met once, I decided to move to Madison for a relationship with her. This was almost 2 years ago. The relationship didn’t last through the first couple months.

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

When I’m not telling stories, I’m working 2 jobs and reading, often at these jobs. I read and socialize, play banjo and think about what I’m reading. I also like dancing. I’m trying out new hobbies every now and then, like dollmaking but i rarely get far.

3.  You’ve told a few stories during Story Night. While there is a lot of humor in your stories it doesn’t seem like you are just out to get a laugh. You usually tell stories about points in your life during which you undergo personally transformation. What do you get from revealing these moments from you life to an audience of strangers?

I just like to tell stories, and I’ve gotten in the habit of telling a new one every week. Unlike what I normally do, these stories are nonfiction, so I’m discovering new ways of looking at myself and my life when I tell them. I also am kind of really into the idea of metamorphosis as a theme and most good stories do [use metamorphosis as a theme], I think. In a sense, I feel like I change a little with each story as I reevaluate bits of my life which is the payoff for me.

4.  What was the first story you remember telling?

I used to make up stories all the time with my siblings during long car rides. They were the goofiest stories. I remember one about a race around the world where no one got very far and everyone was subjected to diseases of “hmm”s. I really liked punishing heroic characters even then.

5. When you tell stories here you always accompany yourself on banjo. How does the banjo add to your storytelling experience? What do you think it does for the audience?

I really should start telling stories without the banjo. It’s not a crutch but it’s very comfortable. I feel like my skill as a musician drops when I’m telling these particular stories (other pieces it’s very banjo heavy). I think it goes back to why I started playing instruments in the first place. It was to create atmosphere for when I’d make up stories for friends of mine. It’s to wash out a thought or color a line. I think the audience sees it like an invitation to listen and there’s something a bit mysterious that’s going to happen. Most people associate banjos with fun and so might get excited. I like it because it’s like a life next to me, calling and responding to the words I’m saying.

This Friday, May 23, is the next Madison Storyteller event at Arboretum Cohousing. Come see some more fine, fine storytellers and tell a fine, fine story of your own.

#17: Show-and-Tell

Show-and-Tell: The very best part of grade school.


While the rest of you were at the Terrace or otherwise outside we went inside for show-and-tell. And the telling was magnificent, the showing was not bad either. We showed-and-told about the importance of hair and car fights. We showed-and-told about explosions and the difficulties inherent in planning hiking trips, or inherent in us anyway. We showed-and-told about friendship. Oh boy, did we show-and-tell about friendship.

Madison Storytellers has some good news. We recently received a Dane County Arts grant to purchase some new recording equipment. This means we stopped being a club and started being a legitimate arts group! Dane county values us! We’ve made it! We’re all artists! This equipment will help us keep snatching your voice out of the air and cramming it onto the internet for others to enjoy. Our recordings get a lot of positive feedback and are a point of pride for us. They also help us share what we are all doing with the other storytelling groups across the United States. Heck, our recordings have even been featured on a national podcast. The grant is a matching grant, which means we need to raise some money. We’re asking that the next time you are at a Madison Storytellers event you throw a couple of bucks our way. For helping out we’ll record you giving a special message and stick it up on the internet because we love the way you sound.

Next month we’ll meet back at Arboretum Cohousing (you all know each other well enough now, you can call it ArbCo). At that time we can talk about Summer Vacation Stories. That seems apt.

Show-and-Tell on Mixcloud

#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,

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.