Last night, I attended Essay Fiesta. It was my intention to drum up a little inspiration for myself. Next month I'm going to be reading at Storylab Chicago, and I've been hacking away at a meandering, unmitigated disaster of a story that I may as well perform in Swahili. I needed a little direction and guidance, to be reminded of what a good story sounds like. Luckily for me, Shannon was on last night's Essay Fiesta bill.
Anyone who has seen Shannon will tell you that the guy can put on a clinic in storytelling. (Don't take my word for it - he's Moth Storyslam's Grandslam Champion of Chicago.) He has an easy, straightforward style that's observant, thoughtful, and hilarious. Consider the opening from his story last night:
I went to the dentist. Not to the dentist's office, but to the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Dentistry's urgent care clinic... It's where the poor and uninsured can go and get dental care. It's where students - future dentists - can practice. In your mouth. So it's like a beauty or a barber college. Only it's your mouth.Shannon's story hit particularly close to home for two reasons. First, two weeks ago I had four impacted wisdom teeth pulled, so I was literally wriggling in my seat for most of the story. Second, it made me see the draft of my story for what it was - an overcrowded, overcomplicated mess of twisting plotlines and one-liners. Somewhere in there, there's a story. I just have to find it and tell it straight.
You can (and should) hear the rest of Shannon's story at his podcast. (The story starts about 1/3 of the way into the podcast).