Don’t know what a MothSHOP is? Check out Eryn’s first post explaining how we’re working with special storytellers to bring a new experience to our mentors and mentees!The first MothSHOP took place on a summery Wednesday evening at Girls Write Now headquarters. Moth Lead Instructor Cyndi Freeman started off with what could be called a meta-story by recounting an eye-opening experience at an otherwise ordinary family dinner where Cyndi’s aunt had dragged her reticent cousin Jimmy into telling his own story.
After some prodding, Jimmy revealed that he had bunked with a remote Nepalese tribe for months while stranded after a plan crash during World War II. He told an amazing tale of his assimilation into the tribe, down to acquiring a skill for mashing yams and being courted by village women.
The story wasn’t just a riveting tale of survival. It illustrated the importance of storytelling. Cyndi explained that her eyes had been opened to Jimmy’s value, thus learning that even someone as familiar as a family member has his or her own personal trove of experiences. She was enlightened: people, even unassuming ones, all have a story to tell; sometimes they just need the right moment to tell it.
Indeed, stories have the power to affect real change in people’s lives, as Lisa Podell, Moth Lead Coach, demonstrated with her tale. She explained that by offering free advice in public parks (subsequently becoming known around town as ‘Free Advice Girl’), it allowed her to connect with other people by hearing their stories while doing something that she was good at — namely, giving advice.
The confidence she gained from this venture prompted her to make major improvements in her personal life, and she explained that by “making that choice to not be invisible, I was able to inspire others to do the same: find what you love and live it out loud.”
Thus, the mission of The Moth became clear: by momentarily departing from pen and paper, we can use our voices to tell our own story. Even the most ordinary of experiences, such as a family dinner, can illuminate an integral part of us and capture something that a list of attributes couldn’t. It is the power of storytelling as a craft that allows us to communicate real meaning.
After warming up with the classic Girls Write Now ‘Opening Lines’ exercise, mentees and mentors were left to ruminate on their own stories using a series of prompts.
- Think of a time when…
- You did something you couldn’t believe you did
- You felt envious or jealous
- You felt grateful or relieved
- You felt guilty or regretful
- You felt panicked or terrified
- You felt angry or rebellious
One by one, stories came pouring out. Grandmas covered for grandchildren, people swung out of windows, and daughters revealed secrets to their mothers. Mentors and mentees from all walks of life shared the material of their lives.
Future sessions will focus on really honing these stories to get at what’s really at stake, with the hope of moving beyond anecdotes to really digging into meaning. From the looks of it, we’re off to a great start: attendees told their stories with confidence and vigor, a clear mark of their Girls Write Now background! We eagerly await the stories to come.