Wednesday, February 27, 2019

To Slam or Not to Slam?

Article by Madeline Pots, award-winning Storyteller and Slam Artist.

Why I Slam.

The room was packed.  It was the first event of the newly formed Orlando Story Club and my first slam.  I put my name in the hat and hoped I would be called.  I had practiced my story.  I had condensed it from a longer story, isolating just what I thought was truly important.  I was ready. 

Ten names were pulled.  Some of the tellers were obviously experienced.  Others were new to any genre of public speaking,  but they all had a story.  And the audience listened.  They intuitively recognized sincerity.  They responded to honesty.  They laughed at what was genuinely funny.  They forgave the stammering starts and stops and showed support for the speaker. The stories had heart, and so did the audience. 
As it turned out, it was an experienced storyteller who walked away with the honors that evening.  That was because her story was real and bravely told.  It set an example that has characterized the quality of this long-lasting event, now five years old and going strong.

A story slam is a level playing field.  Anyone can slam.  The tellers are randomly picked.  The stories are often like uncut gems, rare and valuable even though unpolished.   Other times the stories are crafted, poetic and powerful.  For sure, there are the occasional stories that ramble, but that does not negate the open-hearted reception of the slam audience.  It is a supportive community that values the candor of the teller.  It’s a community I love.

I no longer try to condense my longer stories into mini versions of themselves.  I prefer to start fresh with a beginner’s eye.  I know that a glib turn of words will not do it for a slam audience.  They respond to content.  It makes me dig deep for message, while keeping within that infamous five-minute limit.

Slams are contests, and it is certainly nice to walk away with the honors.  But the biggest prize is being part of a community that accepts all equally.  The best reward is the experience, from both sides of the stage.  That is why I slam.

 Madeline Pots is a storyteller and musician living in Winter Park, FL. She has performed on the National Storytelling Festival's Exchange Place stage, Tallahassee's Stories At Blue, the Cracker Storytelling Festival and Stone Soup Storytelling Festival. She leads FSA's Youthful Voices.