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Twisty Dreams

I stood on stage in front of a full house at The Dairy Arts Center in Boulder telling a story. The bell rang, telling me I was nearing my allotted time of five (but we really mean six) minutes. Every storyteller knows the ending is crucial. It’s a wrap-up, it connects the dots, it leaves the audience satisfied and, with any luck, you have moved them enough to vote for you as their favorite.

It was the Boulder Story Slam’s Grand Championship. Every storyteller that night had won or placed second in a regular story slam in the past year and a half.

That included me.

Kill Your Darlings!

The theme was Twist and I failed to come up with a true and personal story that included the concept of twist. Until I remembered a speech therapist who thought it would be “fun” and effective if I would practice Tongue Twisters. She would be wrong. I quit after two sessions.

A week later, I had a decent story. It still needed honing and hacking away at sentences that didn’t move the story forward, as much as I loved them. But as writers are often told, kill your darlings.

My ex-husband was there with my son who drove up from Denver. Two friends had come. And a huge thanks to Katherine who drove us from Fort Collins in a bitter cold (-10 degrees) and on icy streets, getting home after 11:00 PM.

Home on the Stage

People ask me why I do this. Why do I craft a story for a couple of weeks, practice many times, then get on stage in front of strangers and tell a personal and difficult story? I don’t know except that it feels like home.

I regret letting my stutter dictate my choice not to brave the stage for more than fifty years. I regret not pursuing speech therapy, being more brave when I was younger, or putting myself in positions where I had to speak in public. Maybe I should’ve run for political office.

But you say, “well, you can’t change the past,” or “better late than never,” or “who cares, now you get to audition for stage roles, or become a speaker or ???”

Yes, now I get to do all those things. But I’m in my seventies, I say, and list all the things that come with aging bodies and minds. I feel the old familiar excuses intrude once again. They’re different than when I was younger and coping with a moderate stutter, but they’re still excuses. Back then it was my stutter, now it’s my age I use for not pursuing my dreams.

Not This Time

The bell ringing didn’t distract me that night. I was less than a minute from the ending I hoped would work. It did. I had brought the emotional heft and universality necessary to connect me with the audience. I wanted to win but the greater satisfaction was knowing I was heard. I also loved it when the audience laughed so much, I had to pause a few times.

I placed second and received a crown that said Still Good! The winner had the crown that said The Best!

That thing about getting older? Dreams coming true aren’t thirty years into the future.

They’re right in front of us.

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