Monday, February 7, 2011

A Likely Story

I just returned from the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival Mid-winter Event, which I attended with my pals Elisa and Carol.  It was nothing like I expected it to be and at the same time sort of life changing. 

I ended up in a couple of classes that I hadn't intended to take, but which forced me to consider my own "story" in ways that at times made me very uncomfortable.  By Saturday afternoon, both Elisa and I were emotionally thrashed.  Elisa was so beside herself she actually got up in front of a room full of strangers and sang her address to them.  And they all bawled, right along with her.  Apparently she lives in a very sad town.

When I speak at blogging conferences and writing events, my presentation is something along the lines of "Letting Your Story Sing: Narrative Arc and the Writer's Voice."  Get it?  I'm a musician?  And I talk about 'voice'?  I know!  How clever am I??   

But without meaning to, I've been almost glib about "how" to tell stories.  As though there were one formula.  Or one kind of story.  Or such a thing as the 'right' way to do something so intimate, so personal.

The thing is, I don't do "heavy" very well, except at Zumba, and really, did you have to bring that up?  But this weekend questions started to surface - questions about past relationships and present fears and just what is wrong with people who think it's all right to compare drinking Diet Coke to smoking.  Seriously?  Can you really not tell the difference?  Not even the part where I drink Diet Coke and it doesn't blow in your face or make you cough or trigger your allergies or have any impact on you whatsoever? 

Anyway, for all that, I can honestly say I've never been more excited to write.  Or to get in front of a room full of people and assure them that it's OK to tell the story they want to tell.  My next opportunity is in March, at the SITS conference in San Diego.  If you were at their St. George conference, or at CBC in May, and therefore assume that there's no reason to attend another of my classes, let me just say with all sincerity and modesty that folks, you ain't heard nothin' yet. 

I've been born again, people. And I intend to testify!


This isn't to say that there weren't moments at the Festival.  You know, moments.  Where you're having a conversation with someone and it slowly begins to occur to you that one of you is definitely bonkers and you pray like crazy it isn't you. 

I'm thinking of one guy in particular, who saw that my name tag said "Blogger" on it and launched a sanctimonious rant about how social media were an obscene waste of time and the ultimate in narcissism.  He asked me, "Know how I communicate with my family?" 

I want full points for not saying, "By burying yourself in 200 pounds of cat litter, perhaps?" 

He said, "On the first Sunday of the month, I write a letter"  - I assumed on his computer, although he was boo-hooing the loss of hand written correspondence, too - "and I include pictures and articles that interest me, and then I put it all on a CD and mail it out."

Smug, self-satisfied smirk, aimed at the blog lady.

So I said, "Exactly how is that different from blogging?  Besides the part where you ship off a CD, effectively telling everyone that what you think is important but any feedback from them is not.  Get over here and let me smack that idiotic mustache off your smarmy little face."

Wait.  That just happened in my head.  What came out of my mouth was, "Do you hear anything back from the people you send it to?"

And he said, "Well, no.  But that's not why I do it."

And I did not say, "Here's a dictionary.  Look up 'narcissism'."   So, again.  Full points for me.


Let me tell you what blogging has done for me and my family in the last two weeks:
  • I wouldn't even have BEEN at the festival if it hadn't been for Carol Rice, who is President of the National Storytellers Association.  She came to my class at CBC and told me that I needed to become a part of that storytelling world.  Well, it took her seven months, but she finally got me up there.  And when you read that opening paragraph, the one that says something about 'life changing', does it give you some idea of how much Carol means to me?
  • Tauna Egan is an ER nurse in Rexburg, ID, who took charge of my depressed daughter - found her a doctor, called and texted and generally checked up on her, and brought a "Rexburg Survival Kit" full of chocolate and other goodies to her class.
  • Annie Valentine sat with me at lunch and said, "Please, please, please let me just be in charge of your son's Salt Lake wedding reception!  I'll do all the decorating!  I'll arrange for the food to be picked up!  I'll get your blogging friends to come and help serve!  All you have to do is just show up!"  Considering that I live in Las Vegas, can you even begin to imagine what a relief this has been to me?
  • At dinner with Jana Parkin, Karen Burton, Debbie Frampton, and Becca Wilhite, I laughed and vented and got some genuine encouragement when I whined that after reading my manuscript I was forced to conclude that brain damaged rodents were better writers than I was.  They assured me that I was certainly better at the craft than most brain damaged rodents they knew, which really did a lot for my self-esteem.  Jana blew off a fancy reception at an art gallery where they were showing HER ARTWORK, just to come to dinner with us.   
  • When I left the hotel that night, Elisa said, "Have fun with your famous friends!"  And I thought, "Wow. She's right.  How cool am I??"  And it's not just that dinner crew.  Annie is a columnist and is a regular on television.  And it's not like Elisa is exactly anonymous.  But the most wonderful part about all of it is, it takes me a while to remember those things about them.  What they are to me, first and last, is dear friends - women who get me, who accept me and cheer me on, who take a genuine, heart-felt interest in my life and the things that matter most to me.  And I know every one of them through blogging.
  • So stuff that in your stupid little mustache and blow, you weird little storyteller dude.

And finally, I spent some time with some pretty important women right out of my gene pool.  My mom hosted a shower for Karyn, my future daughter-in-law, and my sisters, nieces, one sister in law, my cousin, her daugher, and my aunt all showed up.  My Aunt Helen is hysterical.  How can you not double up in vital-organ-damaging laughter when a 77-year old woman supplies the word 'ejaculation' for the story her 46-year old niece is too dumb to follow?  This is the aunt who traipsed around South America with my mother last May.  I'm telling you, I come from awesome stock.

Is it any wonder I came home from the Storytelling conference so pumped up?  The stories, the characters - I've got them in spades.  And now I have a new vision for how to bring their energy and vitality to the written and spoken word.  Isn't that exciting?

I'm telling you, I've got no choice. 

I gotta testify, people. 



Becca said...

Sing it, Sista. Sometimes the heavy sneaks in to shadow the light, and give it a little more depth. That doesn't mean the story really changes, just gets better.

Becca said...

Aw, shucks. Thanks for the shout out. And count me in for serving mint brownies and Jell-O salad at the SLC reception.

* And. As my word-veri is "foxesse" (which I am not making up AT ALL) I will even attempt to look like a Foxesse when I arrive.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I'm glad you had a refreshing weekend (no backhanded reference to Diet Coke here).

You've earned and deserved all those friendships, DeNae. I'm glad you have a crazy room padded with good people. :)

Kristina P. said...

Wait, did I miss the part of the conversation where Annie said that I will help serve for the reception? Does she even know me at all? I don't believe in helping others!!

I'm glad it was such a wonderful experience. Wish I could have stayed around longer, but duty called. And by that, I mean judging.

Cheeseboy said...

I kinda want to scream AMEN, but that would look really weird in this boring assembly I am in right now.

Sounds like a great time. But I thought the storyteller's conference was like, listening to stories and stuff. Like someone stands in front of the audience and just tells an interesting story. Am I wrong?

I'd love to go to one of your classes one time. I could bring some kitty litter as a prop for you.

T said...

and a big Amen from St George. I said it extra loud to make up for the face that Cheeseboy is too chicken to stand out in his school assembly :)

Kazzy said...

I always enjoy your testifying. Pass my name on to Annie and count me in! I will wear a tiara, an apron, both. Whatever I can do to help.

And that blow hard... people who say things like that about blogging are self-righteous and rigid. I mean, it is a new way, people. Get on board!

Brooke said...

So when will your tour bus bring you up to Seattle??

Jessica said...

Wish I'd been able to see my grandma in all her potty mouth glory at the shower.

Hope she didn't scare off the future daughter-in-law

That Girl said...

Blogging rocks. Because it led me to you.

(In a non-spiritual-corny-type-way-of-course ....)

Actually - I think I do mean it that way.

I'll leave now before I start to cry.

DeNae said...

See? Kazzy and Becca, signing up to serve? And Kristina, pretending she won't? How could she pass up an opportunity to judge all those reception guests?

And Steph is right; my crazy room has all the right bumpers. She's one of them.

Cheeseboy, say the word and I'll come up and talk to your school about writing and storytelling. Then you can throw out that "Amen!" without shame. T, thanks for helping him out with that.

Brooke, I'm speaking at the SITS conference in Seattle in June! Come see me!! (Or maybe I'll come to Bainbridge Island for a day...sigh.)

Jessica, your grandma rocks. As does your mom, and your cute little sister.

Rebecca, right back atcha, baby.

AS Amber said...

I just can't think of anyone more deserving of all these good things. You've got a gift sister. I am so excited to see where all these opportunities take you. I have a feeling you're gonna be a big deal.

And you're MY sister. Yay me!!

We really do have such a fun family. That shower was a blast! Love you!

Andrea said...

Can you come to Canada so I can hear you testify?
Although, I recommend the summer might be better for you.

Lara said...

Blogging is awesome. More awesome than diet Coke even (I just read that story and was dying).

I wish that SITS would have a conference in Wisconsin or Michigan. Because I would come! Although thank GOODNESS for blogging because I don't know what I'd do out here at the end of the earth if I couldn't still see what all my friends are up to thousands of miles away.

MommyJ said...

I totally get that this post is all about you and all the good stuff happening to you and blah blah blah. But seriously. A post where you mention awesome friends made through blogging and I don't get so much as a whisper? And here I was ready to fly to Salt Lake to help serve food at a wedding reception... I am so cancelling my trip.

Garden of Egan said...

Well, it sounds like you showed an incredible amount of restraint with that "gentleman". At least people respond to you.
Really, I think you should have told him all the snarky comments that you popped off with!

Glad you could get together with your gene pool. Hopefully Vanessa gave you the hug I told her to! She's a darling by the way.
We'll have her over for dinner cuz she's pretty funny. I got her out of the class I totally love from an instructor I loved. (I just graduated with my BSN only 4 short years ago...amazing at my advanced age.)(oops, sorry about the ellipses or eclipes or whatever the hell they are)(sorry for saying hell)

I look forward to seeing what you get yourself into with this writing thing, being the bored person that you are and all.

Awesome that Annie is being your wedding planner.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall of the dinner you had with the famous peeps. I'm sure I wouldn't have understood a single intellectual thing you were talking about, but I'm sure there was some snorting involved.

Patty Ann said...

OH, I so wish i could be there to hear you!! I love story telling, and haven't been to a conference that is all about it, I have several books and well, you can't have 11 kids and not tell stories!! It sort of saves you sanity just to one up them every once in awhile!! Dont' worry about that total jerk, non-blogging, nitwit!! Some people just don't know what they sound like when they get on their soapboxes and shout. Better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt!

annie valentine said...

You think I'm famous? You think I'm famous!

Karen Tapahe said...

I want so much to respond to this in a clever way, but I'm just going to go ahead and say it straight out. Those who crucify Diet Coke drinkers as being evil on the same sort of level as alcoholics should be flogged. I have experienced some of that myself and have been amazed at how they go after the cola drinkers and are unapologetic about going to Chuckarama (eat meat sparingly?). Those who look down their noses at those of us who blog or are into social media need to be banished to a dark corner of the world with no electronic goodies whatsoever. I stay in better contact with my family members and know more of what's going on in their lives because of blogs and Facebook than I did before we had those tools.

You are awesome and I don't mind having to remind you of that. Maybe it's just the guys that don't get it. I read your Zumba post to my husband and was laughing so hard I couldn't breathe and he just looked at me like I was crazy (which I am, but doesn't matter). Go figure!

The great sisterhood of Diet Coke drinkers will always support you :-)

DeNae said...

Andrea, I love Canada. Put together a book club or a tea party or a strip dancing class, and I'll pop up there after my gig in Seattle!

Lara, SITS is coming to Chicago in August. I don't know if I'll be there, but I might...

Jenny, my love for you is as deep as the deepest ocean, as wide as my jeans. And I won your bling contest! So you're right; you should have had a shout out! You and that sister of yours are the best!!

Tauna, you have no idea how much it means to me that you're "momming" my daughter up there in Rexburg. Or that you said 'hell'.

Patty Ann, 11 children? I stand all amazed, woman!!

Yes, Annie, you're famous. Duh. And I get to be your pal!!

Karen, you and that DC sisterhood can come hang out with me any time. Maybe after Zumba!

DeNae said...

Oh, and love you too, little sister.

medschoolmama said...

Conversation with crazy CD man=awesome! Good for you for holding your tongue because I probably would have said those things you were thinking.

InkMom said...

All your testifying has done for me is make me jealous. I am extremely in need of a good, gut-busting hour of laughter I just can't control. 'Sokay, it will be remedied on Saturday.

One day, DeNae, I'll say, "I knew her when . . ."

Barbaloot said...

I had to come over here. Annie forced me to. But I'm glad I did:)

I maybe volunteered to help Annie out with your son's wedding when I don't even know you so I figured I should fix that! And since you mentioned several bloggers in this post that I very much love, I guess that means I will be back often.

Motherboard said...

I have a testimony of blogging and I know it's true.

Just like Diet Coke is.


ps. my word ver is TWIDLER. *snort*

Kimberly said...

This post just warmed me through and through. I'm talking big, idiotic grin on my face as I read, because some of this, I totally get.

I met a gal yesterday who I thought I might hit it off with. She'd just moved up here and I thought, hey! New friend! But then she went off on this fervent rant about the evils of facebook and the internet in general and said, "I won't even read emails from my family. If they want to talk to me, they need to PHONE me." Um. Yeah. Considering that the amazing women I've met through the internet saved me from a very dark, dark time in my life, I have a rather different perspective.

So excited for the awesome things happening for you, and for the awesome women helping you make them happen.


Rebecca said...

I laughed, I was happy for you--

I'm insanely jealous.

I live too far away from those I've met while blogging, and last year's Storymakers and getting to meet such great people like you, Karen, Laura and Kimberly in person was so awesome that it's now really depressing, not knowing if I'll ever get to do that again!

So to make myself feel better, I'm going to spew Diet Coke into the next smoker's face I come across. :D

But seriously, I am happy for you! All that is so cool, being involved with storytelling and getting to hang out with such lovely ladies! And congratulations to them for getting to hang out with you!

Qait said...

GUESS WHAT!!! I'm totally excited to have a "connection" to you-- I know the Egans! I know Tauna! And I totally never thought about The Garden of Egan woman who always had funny comments on your posts. :) Silly!
And perhaps also silly that I'm so excited to have a sort of link to you, but I admire your writing and humor (and I can just tell that you're awesome).

Qait said...

Gee, thanks! That made me day! :)
(Hope I didn't sound all desperate like "please notice me in my corner of the blogosphere!" I just didn't want to come off as creepy for being such a HUGE FAN of you!)
I don't live in Rexburg anymore, sadly! I'm in Orem now; my husband is studying for his masters in music composition at BYU! :D
But seriously, write something musical for me, and I'd LOVE to play it! I'm not virtuoso, by far, but only because I don't get to practice as much being a busy mommy. ;) Hahhaha, how's that for humility?
Keep blogging, I'll keep reading!!!

Elizabeth said...

Snarky narcissits (sp?) are always good for a laugh. Glad you had a blast. Glad you are inspired and glad you are testifyin!

MissMel said...

I love the Timp fest conference. I went last year, but could only go to the concert this year. I only went because I have a very perverse crush on Donald Davis.
Glad to find your blog.

Lisa Loo said...

Makes me want to sing that 5th grade favorite ----

Obviously it does not translate to blogging only very well......{{{{sigh}}}}
my word verify is restudge...

I got nuthin....