“In the Beginning” (there was story)…

WFHB Community Radio  - Bloomington, IN.

Last night, I attended The Bloomington Storytelling Project’s event “In the Beginning” which was held at The Bishop – a very friendly neighborhood bar on South Walnut St. (near the courthouse).  I arrived early.  You see, there is a superstitious technique I learned from some Indiana high school football players who, the night before and away game would visit the opponent’s stadium and urinate on the four corners of the field (thus “claiming the territory”).  Though I kept my pee to the men’s urinal, I did go four times before I shared my story and I really think it helped.

The bartender at the Bishop was a very friendly chap (I say “chap” because he wore a tartan newsboy cap).  I saddled up to the bar and ordered my favorite illicit beverage – ginger ale.  I laid a $5 bill on the counter, which he waved away.  I was very grateful and offered to serve as the designated driver for anyone going back to Columbus (provided they left before my bedtime).

Being a writer (not a storyteller), I had composed my story in the morning and recorded it on my digital voice recorder.  I listened to it throughout the day, trying to memorize it.  Fearful I would blank out on stage, I wrote on my hand 12 key words that would serve as prompts to get me back on track if I lost my place.

Leigh, the perky emcee for the event (I say “perky” because she was wearing a short yellow “bumblebee” skirt and had a cheerful demeanor) explained I would be fifth in the program.  I sat down and tried to pray away my anxiety.  I had butterflies the size of Buicks fluttering through my stomach, entering my small intestine and basically violating other valuable body parts.

The first 4 stories seemed to go well.  Many of the participants had a connection with the community radio station WFHB.  I enjoyed the stories, though I felt a little like a foreign exchange student who was about to stand up and give an oral report (with no notes) – not knowing if the class would understand a word he was saying.

Leigh introduced me, using the two-sentence bio sketch I had provided, which was –

“Tony Roberts is a balding middle-aged Midwesterner with an unquiet who has “A Way With Words” (a WordPress blog).  He once worked in Bloomington selling his plasma to the Blood Center.”

I walked up on stage, grabbed one of the water bottles they so generously provided and took a long slug, then set it down.  I imagined myself to be John Prine (before his throat cancer), taking a long drag on his cigarette before laying it aside and beginning his story-songs.

The story I shared was entitled, “To Allison – My First Muse”.  It is vastly revised version of “For Allison (my former muse)“.  I started with sort an ice-breaker.  An earlier storyteller (Louis, I believe) had mentioned he attended Hanover College.  My story began with a mention of Hanover.  So, I invited Louis to join me in teaching the audience the Hanover fight song.  I sang (if you want to call it that)

“High above the stately river”

Louis yelled out, “I don’t know it,” which got a good laugh.

The Buick-size Butterflies became more like VW bugs and I was able to make it through the story, only needed to look at the “cheat sheet” written on my hand once.  I skipped over a couple of key lines that I think would have made it better, but overall I’m pleased with it as a first effort.

Positive reviews are coming in on the Facebook page (link above) and I think I’ve taken a positive step forward, both in overcoming some social anxiety and gaining broader exposure to my writing.  God is good (contrary to popular opinion).

(logo above “WFHB Community Radio – Bloomington, IN”  Marti Durkee Garvey in Radio)

13 thoughts on ““In the Beginning” (there was story)…

    • Thank you. The first 5 years of my ministry, I puked every Sunday morning before delivering a sermon. You could set your watch by it.

      It does get better, but I will always be more comfortable as a writer, not a speaker.

  1. It’s interesting how synonymous professional writing and professional speaking are. I don’t mind speaking in front of a crowd; it’s not something I generally look forward to, neither. Sounds like you had a successful and fun time!

    • Thanks for the encouragement.

      Yes, I definitely believe it was a step forward. I made some connections that are already starting to lead to other opportunities. I’ll say more about this in later posts.

  2. Now that’s courage Tony! There is no way I could stand up in front of a crowd and read something. Those butterflies would pick me up, fly me to the ceiling and then drop me – probably on my head.

    • It’s so odd. I can (and have) read manuscripts I’ve prepared in front of over 1,000 people. But to speak with only 12 words written on my hand nearly drove me insane.

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