Love a good story? Visit storytelling events
Check out Chicagoland’s ‘Do Not Submit’ and Toastmasters
When I turned 30, I asked my older brother, “Is it weird to you that I’m 30? I’m really grown now.”
His response: “No, you’ve always been old. Your body just finally caught up with your brain.”
I laughed about that for hours. (I’m still 5'3 so my body stopped growing taller in eighth grade. But as soon as I go to yoga class, I definitely feel like I’m in my 30s. And I’m irritated I can no longer do a backbend at the drop of a hat.)
Minus glorious back bends and other childhood perks, there was one thing that used to irritate me as a kid. Adults who wanted me to sit at the kids’ table were the absolute worst. If I had childhood friends whose parents were like that, you could guarantee I’d cut those slumber parties short.
Grown-ups had far more intriguing stories. In elementary school, I preferred playing Poker with my grandfather while he talked about his own childhood in St. Louis, being a veteran or his days working for newspapers.
I was into listening to my parents’ previous landlord “Grannie” talk about anything that came to mind, while she had a cigarette in the corner of her mouth and played Solitaire.
I’d eavesdrop on my parents having a juicy conversation with my godparents’ (who were the two people responsible for them meeting during my father’s out-of-state college years).
Even as a Girl Scout for five years, I spent more time plotting on how to sit with the Girl Scout leaders than I did hanging out with my actual friends. (Side note: I’m still very close to one of the leaders and visit her like clockwork every Christmas Eve/Day.)
I’m a sucker for a good story. It’s the reason why it only took one visit to Toastmasters (Toast of TCS, at the time) and my current group (Unity Toastmasters) for me to sign up. I don’t care if it’s about your childhood years, high school years, college years or what you did yesterday. If it’s interesting, I want to hear it.
Motivational quotes are cool. Poetry can be dope. But I like a good, fun story that settles in my mind long after you’ve walked away. I just need to know “What did you learn from that time you did ___________?”
Of course, I also don’t have a shy bone in my body so I enjoy telling my lessons-learned stories too. Public speaking excites me, although a curious amount of people get nervous. Being in dance competitions, saxophone and piano recitals, taking improv and acting lessons, and completing book readings clearly helped. But I like watching other people perform as much as I like sharing my own stories and/or talents.
Do you? If so, I’d highly recommend you check out Chicago’s own Do Not Submit storytelling series. You have seven minutes to tell a story of your choice. It’s free. And they’re sprinkled all over Chicago, in Rogers Park, Andersonville, Evanston, Lincoln Square, Edgewater, Englewood, Homewood, Oak Park, Old Town, River North and Hyde Park.
I’ve been to the first five at least once or twice. In January 2019, I became one of two new co-hosts for the Rogers Park location. Do Not Submit events are all located in comfy back or side rooms of Chicagoland bars, with food and drinks available for purchase. (Andersonville will only serve drinks, no food, on their top floor.)
At Do Not Submit, there are no critiques of your story. It can be on any topic. (Keep in mind that certain locations, such as Evanston, are family friendly. Other locations have stories that go anywhere from G-rated to X-rated, so pay attention to the age requirement.)
At Do Not Submit, your seven-minute story can be what you make of it. Whether you want to practice for a Toastmasters speech or just share something funny/interesting/sad/annoying that happened to you with listening ears. And as the founder encourages, there will be “obnoxious enthusiasm” to encourage you to tell your story. Expect plenty of clapping!
And if you want more formal training, with critiques, learning to be more cognizant of crutch words (ahs, ums, like, and so), and still the same “obnoxious enthusiasm,” find a Toastmasters location in your area. You don’t have to come to mine (although our crew would be happy to have you). But a visit is free. (Membership is not.) Give it a shot if you want to improve on your storytelling and/or public speaking skills.
This fall, try something new. Speak up. And let us hear you.
This post was originally published on December 28, 2018 on Chicago Now’s “Message from Montie” blog. It has been updated to reflect the fall season of 2019.