Off the Deep End with the NYC Moth GrandSLAM 2018

| March 20, 2018

Last night, a friend of mine took to the stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg to recount how a video that he made when he moved to New York accidentally went viral, but how his life is better for it. He was one of ten NYC Moth StorySLAM champions competing in the event. The room was packed with a crowd that was ready to laugh, cry, and feel everything in between. While it would be easy to spend time bragging about my friend or singling out the amazing details exposed by each of the evening’s incredible presenters, it wouldn’t be my story to tell.

What I will tell is this: we have much to learn from the stories of others.

The Moth is a group that facilitates live storytelling from the heart (“not from rote memory”) while emphasizing diversity and empathy through honest voices. It exists on the air through The Moth Radio Hour and as a podcast in addition to its series of competitive and non-competitive live events. According to the Moth’s storytelling tips and tricks, it is imperative that the teller of the story also be a main character of the story, describing events as they unfold. Story slammers must also stick to the theme of the event. Upcoming themes range from topics like mail to ego, balance to dinner, while the GrandSLAM centered around the idea of the deep end. Our host encouraged us to be “lifeguards” for each other — to be understanding of people’s needs in the audience, and to be supportive of the storytellers. We were, in fact, about to enter the uncharted depths of truths that had yet to be told.

The best part about having ten strangers from all different walks of life picking apart one theme is that you end up with ten completely unique takes on the subject that you never could have imagined on your own. The interpretations of the topic included triumph, heartbreak, humor, pain, relief, and even a few adorable little dogs. Despite the extreme differences in subject matter and narrative style, each story was a declaration: this is here, this is me, this is real.

Storytelling has been an invaluable tool in my endeavors as a librarian and educator. I often see it relegated to fiction and to early childhood activities, yet storytelling and oral traditions are invaluable parts of the human experience that can and should be utilized in many more settings. Another of the Moth’s guidelines suggests avoiding rants, but encourages channeling emotions to strengthen the writing and telling of a story. Our library collection is home to a variety of resources on topics such as the psychological and social aspects of storytelling, and even narrative therapy to help people of all ages heal through the art of communication. Check them out if you’re up to the challenge of bearing a part of your soul to an audience or if you just want to know more about stories and their uses!

For more information on the Moth, visit their homepage. And as always, if there is a material that you would like to see in our catalog, feel free to make a request.