Let Me Tell You a Story Jack
Oh my word, how did we get to being five years old?
It feels like only yesterday that we were cramming 80+ people into the back room of the The Crofters Rights, the venue so fresh from their recent refurb that they didn’t even have a drinks licence yet (which meant BYO for us, wooo!).
Flash forward five years and we’ve hosted over 30 events, given out 50+ medals, heard hundreds of stories, and made more friends than we could ever have imagined along the way. We’ve forged a proper little community out of our eccentric events, and for that we’re both ridiculously proud and honoured.
Who’d have thought people would put up with five years of Will and I making up songs, improvising gameshows, pretending to be on a desert island or acting out our own version of Sherlock – it’s the free Maoams, right?
Sharing stories is such a powerful thing, whether it’s making people chuckle at your tales of teenage misadventures, or moving them with relatable memories of family, grief and lost love. I’ve laughed until I’ve ached at so many of our events, and I’ve also cried, cringed, screamed and winced. The bravery and openness of our storytellers always blows me away, whether they’re a seasoned raconteur or it’s their first nervous step on to a stage.
And all the way, our audiences have been just as brilliant – we’ve seen new faces every month, as well as managing to keep lots of lovely regulars who’ve supported us for years. Every month without fail, they’ve been respectfully hushed at the right times, and booming encouragement whenever it’s been needed. It’s what sets our events apart I think – an audience makes or breaks a show like ours, and for that Will and I are truly grateful for you always being awesome. Long may it continue.
So come and join us on 13th November in our new home at Left Bank on Stokes Croft to celebrate what we’ve achieved together over the years, and hopefully what’s still to come! The theme this time is Milestones, so bring along your tales of new experiences, key events and turning points to share in whatever medium feels best.
It would also be lovely to see as many of our medal-winning storytellers there as possible, wearing their medals and up for sharing a story – even if it’s of their first time at LMTYASJ!
See you there, legends.
Shonette & Will x
WE’RE BACK! We’ve got a new venue just in time for our fifth birthday in autumn (the lovely Left Bank, just across the road from our previous venue on Stoke Croft), and we can’t wait to celebrate with you all. But first, let’s get back to the important issue of BODY TALK.
We all have them, and they have quite the story to tell. How do you feel about your body? What’s your favourite bit? Has it ever let you down in public? Or impressed you with its resilience?
We want to head your stories of body parts, functions and self perception, in any medium you see fit. Read us a short story or poem, sing us a song, perform an interpretive dance or draw us an intimate map of your leg fracture. Or just come to listen!
Storytellers have a max. 5min limit and get a free drink for going up to the mic!
***A FREE DRINK FOR STORYTELLERS***
This is a guest post from one of our regular storytellers, Mel.
The first time I read a short story aloud the paper was shaking, the edges softening in my sweaty hands, and I was clenching so hard trying not to crap myself.
A few years before, I’d stumbled into a storytelling night, which I later realised was the first ever Let Me Tell You a Story, Jack. An enthusiastic Belgian guy was telling a story about giving out free hugs in Iran. He’d only been in Bristol for a few days – he was there to be with a girl he met whilst travelling. That enthusiastic guy is Sven, and I went to his wedding last year. I still remember how I felt hearing his story: excitement, apprehension, fear. I’ve done a fair bit of travelling and know what it’s like to feel that mixture of liberation and terror when you pack your backpack. It’s the fear of running out of money. That you’ll get lost or stranded. That you’ll miss home. All those things happened to me, but I didn’t go home – I stayed regardless of my fear. Being out there was scary but being home was boring, and I’d rather be scared than bored. We never get to experience anything new unless we do something scary.
I’d been journaling for years but started writing short stories too whilst I was away travelling. The first story I wrote was about a talking alien cockroach who abducted a young woman. I said it was going to be a novel but then I stopped after about two pages. The second one started out as a short story, turned into a novella and then went back to a short story, then turned into a different short story. It was inspired by a place I’d been in northern Laos and was about a backpacker held hostage in the jungle. It’s fair to say that’s how I was processing some of my fears at the time. I knew at that point I would never – could never – stop writing.
I returned to the UK and co-founded Stokes Croft Writers, an eclectic group of fiction writers with dreams of world domination… or at least a bit of money and recognition for the stuff we write.
I wrote a story about an alien invasion via Facebook. It was called Poked by an Alien (but doesn’t it feel like about 50 years since we used to poke people on Facebook?) I found it hard enough sharing my work with people in writing groups at the start, but the thought of reading it aloud made my stomach churn. I hadn’t been back to Let Me Tell You a Story, Jack as I was often working evenings. But, my writing group had started attending storytelling events so I knew I had to keep up. If they were performing stories aloud, then I had to as well. I decided that Let Me Tell You a Story, Jack was the place to do it. They had a friendly audience and I would have my writing group and my boyfriend there to support me.
I read the alien story over and over and over again in preparation. I wasn’t just nervous as I arrived at Crofters, I’d been nervous the whole day. My rational self tried to kid my panicking self by pretending I wasn’t going to be reading anything. But that didn’t work. I can’t kid my own body. I questioned what could actually go wrong. I could stumble on my words, which would be no big deal really. But I could fall over on the way to the stage. Or I could wee myself. Or poo myself. Or projectile vomit over the audience… I pushed the thoughts out of my head and bought myself a large glass of wine.
The moment came and I walked up to the microphone instantly feeling ALL the eyes on me. All of them. I started reading from my shaking pieces of paper and I didn’t look up once. As I’d practiced so much, I went on autopilot – the words were coming out of my mouth hopefully in the right order. Though all I was thinking was…
I shouldn’t have worn this dress – I’m sweating – can they see I’m sweating – I bet they think I’m a big fat sweaty mess – they can probably see me shaking – oh God the paper is shaking so much – please don’t poo – just don’t poo – are the words still coming out? – oh yes they are – oh no, I’m not even halfway through – what if there’s pizza on my face – is something on my face? – or my hair – what if there’s cheese in my hair – Oh God, what if I didn’t put a bra on and they can see my nipples – okay good I think I did put a bra on – just don’t poo – just don’t poo…
And I didn’t poo.
I’ve read lots of times at storytelling night since then and you know what? I’ve never pooed myself. The more times I do something scary and don’t shit myself, the more I think… I’ve got this.
I must’ve read all the words in the right order because I won a prestigious Let Me Tell You a Story, Jack medal that night. I’m now the proud owner of two of these medals. Sven has a lifetime achievement award and an actual crown, though I haven’t seen it as he probably keeps it in an alarmed glass cabinet. Since my first reading, my writing group and I set up our own storytelling night called Talking Tales which I’ve read at numerous times. I’ve even been the compere and still didn’t poo myself. I entered Poked by an Alien into a the Henshaw Press Short Story Competition and came third. The fame went to my head and I bought a yacht… which cost only slightly more than my £25 prize winnings.
So the moral of this story is quite simple – if you have a story to tell then JUST DO IT. You probably won’t poo yourself, but if you do it’ll make for a really great story.
Thank you so much to Shonette and Will for facilitating such a friendly, supportive event. Here’s to lots more stories!
Mel Ciavucco is a Bristol-based fiction writer, blogger, screenwriter and content writer. She has been published online and in print, and has appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC2 and Radio 5 Live. She was recently called ‘the Liam Gallagher of flash’ for downing half a bottle of wine and swearing a lot during a story performance in the Bristol Festival of Literature Flash Slam.
Mel is just in the process of setting up her own freelance writing and editing business called Write Kerfuffle. She currently spends more on coffee and cake than she earns.
“If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” – well, that’s what Albert Einstein said anyway, so we want to hear your tales of good ideas gone awry, or poorly-thought-out plans which led to something glorious.
Maybe you decided to make a life-sized penguin out of papier-mache, or book a last minute ticket to Cambodia – but what happened next?
Bring your short stories, poems, songs and anecdotes to share, or just come to listen. Entry is free, we’ll give out free sweets, and every storyteller gets a free drink – hurrah!
Let us know you’re coming on the Facebook event.
We’re changing location for a special one-off event as part of the Bristol Festival of Literature, and this time our theme is The Great Outdoors!
Are you a fond rambler, explorer or adventurer? Tell us of your frolics, whether it be trekking across mountains, or scaling the heights of the nearest NCP car park – we want to hear it all!
What is your most memorable meal? When you cooked for the first time? How you accidentally gave your first love food poisoning? Is it a treasured memory of learning how to bake from your granny, or maybe a meal shared on your travels?
Whether you have a story to share or just want to listen, join us in celebrating our 3rd birthday with songs, sweets, games, and of course, CAKE!
Entry is free, plus we’ll be giving out sweets, cake & other birthday paraphernalia (feel free to bring us a card or a present…), and all storytellers will get a free drink, how nice is that eh?
Here’s the Facebook event, we’ll see you on Thursday 1st September!
Shonette & Will
Join us for our first event of 2016 and tell us about your ambitions, poorly thought out resolutions and general ill-advised attempts at self help or reinvention.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Are you too shallow for a meditation retreat? Too drunk to do Dryanuary? Or maybe you actually realised your dreams and achieved something amazing – we want to hear it all!
As per usual, bring any stories, songs, poems or crude sketches you want to share with us (5min time limit) – the theme is only a suggestion, and if you like you can just come to listen.
Entry is FREE, all storytellers get a FREE DRINK and you all get FREE SWEETIES for being bloody lovely.
Oooh ooh, and if you’re needing a double fix of us in March, come see us for the Bristol Seed Swap at Feed Bristol on Sat 5th March – we’ll be doing our usual mix of storytelling, music & games alongisde some green-fingered folks who will be giving talks, sharing cake and of course swapping seeds.
Shonette & Will x