Our friend Stephanie Rogers is an innovator in the story telling world. A talented songwriter, bandleader and actor, she created a hybrid storytelling/rock concert experience called Story Jam which features people telling their real life stories and her band performing original songs inspired by those tales. COVID has curtailed the live performances for now, but Story Jam Studio continues to virtually host a variety of showcases and classes. Laura and I took a 99-Second Storytelling Workshop last week and we’re sharing our experience and our first stories—the videos are below.
This format is much shorter than standard story telling performances which typically run around 5-6 minutes. “99 seconds forces people to find a story arc in a short time,” Stephanie says. In addition to telling a complete story quickly, you have to establish an emotional connection with the audience right away. The stories are accounts of real life experiences told in the present tense. “Your goal is to be vulnerable, truthful and hold our attention,” advises Stephanie. It’s not easy! But throughout the zippy two hour class, Stephanie and her teaching partner Sean Wellington guided us encouragingly through the process, and Laura and I successfully wrote and performed our first stories.
Laura’s 99-Second Story
This challenge was definitely challenging for me! I have experience leading panel discussions and interviewing designers in front of audiences, but guess how much emotional vulnerability that entails? Zero! Talking about a personal moment on video was a different ballgame and I was kinda dreading the class, especially since I had no idea of what my story might be.
Stephanie and Sean put us at ease and by following the steps of class, which included plenty of brainstorming time, it led to… a rough story. My first try was way longer than 99 seconds, but Stephanie gave me editing suggestions. The key being that 99 seconds equals about 300 words. The team also gave us ideas for engaging the audience and conventions of the genre, like ending the story with “Boom!” Check out the video to see how it went. I’m not ready for The Moth, but I’m pretty proud of myself for trying something outside my comfort zone and completing the challenge.
Marjie’s 99-Second Story
I’ve gotta start by saying Laura did an amazing job with her story! She didn’t have a clue what story she’d tell, but Stephanie’s process evoked this funny, sweet, satisfying tale. My story is about a turning point in my life I knew deserved telling but hadn’t ever worked on before. Turns out the 99-second format is the perfect way to share it. I really loved the class. The beautiful thing about storytelling is every single person has uniquely fascinating stories to share. I’ll let the video speak for itself and make a few comments below.
Don’t worry, my happily remarried mother knows I’m telling this story and, even though she remembers some of the details a little differently, she’s okay with it. Also, I didn’t get it as a teenager, but as a grown woman, I’d totally slash those tires!
Tell a Story of Your Own
Whether you’re interested in performing or just enjoy being part of the audience, Story Jam offers numerous ways to get involved in storytelling. Check out the special Goddess Rising Class, starting this week, which explores personal narrative storytelling through the arts of feminine wisdom.