Increasing Buzz Around Storytelling (or why I love the Moth StorySlams)
Increasingly over the past several months, I’ve been getting more involved with the Moth StorySlams in Los Angeles. If you’re my friend on Facebook, you’ve inevitably received an invitation (or been hounded) to join the fun. LAist and Flavorpill have been instrumental in getting out the word. As a result, the Moth folks recently gave me the title of “LA Publicist” because of the outreach I’ve been doing.
So why am I so excited about the Moth? In many ways, the Moth represents an in-person form of “user-generated content”, the cornerstone of social media online. The Moth is uniquely participant-driven: people who attend tell stories or help judge the entrants in the contest. It’s also a learning environment where we’re all discovering what makes a good engaging story.
Perhaps this is the reason that there’s been a recent surge in attendence at the Moth: we’re all getting used to collaborating and adding value to spaces both online and off. On the eastside of LA, the storyslams recently moved to El Cid and the respsonse has been so amazing (200+ people), that we’ve had to turn away latecomers because of space concerns. In New York, where the Moth was born, the same thing has been happening. I visited an event at Housing Works bookstore last week. Beforehand there was a line down the block and inside more than 3/4 of the crowd willingly stood the entire time! This month, the Moth launched on the Westside of Los Angeles (see photos) and on the first night, nearly 100 folks attended.
So what’s going on? Has the Moth reached a tipping point? Some folks speculate that it’s a confluence of several things: the Moth’s number one podcast on iTunes, being regularly featured on NPR’s “This American Life” and online outreach. A friend of mine says it’s a “cheap form of entertainment” in financially difficult times. Others wonder if something is going on in our culture right now; something about sharing heartfelt stories and reconnecting with each other.
Stories are getting more attention these days. Advocacy groups are reframing their work to focus on personal stories of injustice. Marshall Ganz, one of the founders of Camp Obama, helped campaigners refocus their efforts to come from their own personal stories. Recently I heard a rebroadcast of an episode by NPR’s Radiolab about the global popularity of American country music. Researchers have found that it’s the story-centric aspect of country music that makes it so popular across cultural divides. There’s something primal about storytelling that we all respond to.
Whatever the reason, something’s happening at the Moth and you don’t want to miss it. Check out the podcast to listen to some stories now. And if you’re in New York or Los Angeles, participate in an upcoming StorySlam. To find out more, join the Moth mailing list and/or the Facebook fan page.