The most useful book I’ve ever read (and some personal info)

For someone who’s loved social media since the birth of myspace, I am weirdly protective about what information I put online — so it’s VERY unusual that I just said all this stuff publicly, where literally anyone with an internet connection can listen. Just over a decade ago, I watched the documentary “Terms and Conditions…

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Small but essential tweak for any story or persuasive copy: SPECIFICITY

The actor Kingsley Ben-Adir, a Black man with, in this picture, dreadlocks smiles out from a car

Standing in the kitchen one morning, I keep looking at the microwave to read the time. I really should be getting on with my work… I’ve done all the dishes. I’ve even done some prep for my lunch. I didn’t NEED to do either of these things when I did. I was just trying to find a legitimate excuse to stay in the kitchen, so I can keep listening to the radio.

The radio is tuned to CBC Radio 1 — Canada’s public broadcasters’ speech channel. The show is Q, the culture show, where Tom Power interviews bands, writers and — as he is now — movie directors. I have a weird relationship with movies; I don’t actually watch them all that often. In the somewhat scant time I have for TV, I tend to err towards shows. But i LOVE learning about movies. I watch all the trailers. I read the reviews. I’ll even do deep dive Wikipedia-ing on films I’ll never watch.

Right now, Tom is chatting to Reinaldo Marcus Green, the director of King Richard (which I didn’t see, but watched the trailer and read about), who is talking about his new film, Bob Marley: One Love. I enjoy the music of Bob Marley; I listened to it a lot when I was seventeen and my then-boyfriend gave me a tape with Bob on one side and Otis Redding on the other. But I haven’t been especially drawn to seeing the movie… until I hear Renaldo Marcus Green talking about it.

He talks about how we tend to know Bob as this legend, this T-shirt picture or poster, but that the actual Bob Marley was so much more. An incredibly hard worker. A man who had some demons. Someone who enjoyed the fame he got maybe a little more than he’d like to admit. But ultimately, a man who was really spiritual, and believed in working to make life better for the people in his country. Then he starts talking about the actor who’s playing Bob, Kingsley Ben-Adir (aka Basketball Ken, who I loved in the TV show High Fidelity, and who I read about (but didn’t see) in the movie One Night In Miami) — which is when I go and grab my pen…

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Genuinely the funniest moment of my life (up until that point)

I’m 13 years old, I’m on the couch at home, and I am HORIZONTAL with laughter. Laughing so hard I’m crying. Laughing so hard I can barely breathe.

On the screen, a man with glasses is leaping about, saying things like, “can you imagine the sheer joy of an empty bin in your kitchen, a new fresh bin liner in the swing top bin? It’d be like a bin in heaven, wouldn’t it?”

What i don’t know at that tender age is that, for the first time in my life, I’m watching observational stand-up comedy.

I love it more than I’ve loved almost anything else I’ve ever seen.

The routine was by Ben Elton on his show The Man From Auntie. It’s still on Youtube (and still holds up) on re-watch, I was once again crying laughing. His delivery! The physical stuff! The fact that he seamlessly brings the point back to politics at the end! How you can hear people SCREAMING in the audience!] And while, yes, I was being introduced to Ben Elton and to stand up in general, what I was more specifically being introduced to was one of my favourite concepts in comedy AND presentations, which is…

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One of my favourite EVER pieces of art (5 mins long)

A Youtube screenshot of Christa Couture and bekky o'neil's movie How To Lose Everything: A Field Guide. An illustration of two women kneeling

“This is what I know – first your heart will break…

You will start by staying in bed. Being awake is the first and hardest thing to get through. You may ache every minute of the hours in between the relief of sleep. The ache will overwhelm you at times. The ache will press on your chest so hard it will be difficult to move. The ache will shake through your body in uncontrollable sobs. The ache will numb you to all feeling. The ache will want to break things. The ache won’t care what does break.

Try to wait.”

The first time I read those words, in early 2020, I was in my home office, tears streaming down my face.

That quote is the opening of the final part of the final chapter of How To Lose Everything by Christa Couture — writer, musician, broadcaster and, co-incidentally, my co-parent (which is how I got to read such an early copy). The rest of her book is a memoir, each chapter about a loss she experienced (cancer; amputation; abortion; death; death; divorce; more cancer — she’s had a few). She is a INCREDIBLE storyteller; she has this gift of being able to show you these really, really hard things, in a way that doesn’t pull you under. One of the reviews of her book talked about how the reviewer didn’t want to read the book at first — too sad. But when they did, they found that it “is actually uplifting.”

The part I want to tell you about today — the part that starts with that passage above — is not the part where she’s telling stories.

right now, your not having clicked display images is denying you a picture of BOOBIES

That might seem like a strange choice, given that I’m supposed to be writing here about how to tell stories. But it’s because this passage — on the page, and on the astonishingly beautiful animation that has just been released on YouTube — does the MOST IMPORTANT thing that our stories do. The thing that I think about every time I even talk about this passage (and, inevitably, cry).

It says, to the right people, the four most powerful words in the English language:

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How to tell a good ghost story (3 essential components)

As Rico is talking, I think, Oh I am SO glad I said yes to him running through this with me first!! I’ve been doing my live storytelling show — True Stories Told Live Toronto — for 10 years. It’s currently on 4-5 times a year, but there’s one show in particular that I look…

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I beat myself up about this for YEARS

Standing at the streetcar stop, David smiles down at me and I smile back. But the pit of my stomach is clenched. I know today is the day I have to say something. **in a rush? In a VERY RARE MOVE, I’m running an open-to-the-public storytelling workshop *THIS* Weds Sep 27th 12–2pm ET (with replay…

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The most terrifying pee I’ve ever done (+ a review of Laura Belgray’s memoir)

A couple of months ago, I had one of those moments where you have to sit yourself down and give yourself a talking to.

“MARSHA.” I said to myself. “You are a FORTY-SIX YEAR OLD WOMAN. With a reasonably successful career. From the outside, it looks like you have a WILDLY successful career. People like you! They find you charming! Stop responding to this situation like you’re in your twenties with zero life experience!!”

When I was in my twenties, I was working as a radio DJ and A&R (new music) scout. This meant I spent a lot of time at radio, comedy and music industry events. There were conferences, where the heads of the stations would be schmoozing. There were late-night stand up gigs where That One Off The Telly would be stood at the bar. Then there were the music gig aftershows, where the indie band of the moment would be hanging out, being fawned over by anyone that managed to get into the party.

I hated all of those events.

I mean, sometimes I loved some of them. But mostly I just felt totally stressed out. Trying to talk to the exec, the comic or the band — even if I knew them! Even when we were old friends from before they got famous! — was a matter of hovering a few feet away, waiting until it was your turn to be spoken to, and always feeling like a fangirl. But equally, not trying to talk to them felt like wasting an opportunity. Arg!

My second career — as a Storytelling coach and trainer — has been mostly online. This has meant almost ZERO stressful events like this, other than industry conferences where, usually, I’m one of the speakers myself. But last month, I was faced with the same feeling as in my twenties:

I was going to…

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One of the best (and SURELY the most ridiculous) days of my whole life: A REPORT

Muttering under my breath, I’m talking to myself.

“Don’t miss this, Marsh. Don’t spend the time spacing out, planning how you’ll tell people about this experience. Just BE here.”

I smile and wave. 40,000 people smile and wave back. Most of them are cheering. For me.

I’d been waiting two years to be invited to a ceremony. It’s the final part of getting your Canadian citizenship. And “ceremony” is a pretty grand word for what it usually is: forty people on Zoom, everyone in their own house, muttering their vows into their laptops. In early June, I was finally offered a date for the following week: 1:30pm on a Wednesday afternoon — when all my people would be at work or school, so I was probably going to be alone as I crossed this milestone. O well. 

Except…I couldn’t make that date. I was going to New York (for the launch party of Laura Belgray’s brilliant and soulful and properly laugh-once-a-page-or-more memoir “Tough Titties”). Given that, as part of the proceedings they make you cut up your Canadian visa card (which I needed to get on the plane home), I had to choose between the ceremony and the NYC trip. Nervously, I chose the trip. Three days later, the Citizenship Office called and offered me a new ceremony. In person… 

on Canada Day… 

on the field at the Rogers’ Stadium, before a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game. 

I KNOW!!!!

On the Big Day, we spend the morning…

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In 11 days, 40,000 people will be watching me speak into a microphone (!!)

Something happened (slash is about to happen) to me and I cannot stop laughing about it. I laugh at least 6 times a day. Especially and literally EVERY TIME i tell someone about it (which I’m doing a LOT). So I want to tell you.

Two weeks ago today, I got voicemail from an unknown number, that sent me into a tailspin. When I called my voicemail, the lady’s message said,

“Hi, I don’t know if this is the right number, I’m calling from Immigration Canada about your citizenship ceremony. I will call back later.”

Immediately, I panicked. What if she doesn’t call back???…

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Everyone that I tell this idea to FREAKS OUT ABOUT IT

A few months ago, I got the kind of email none of us ever want to receive.

I opened my inbox to see that my beloved friend Karen Ward (and mentor, I’ve learned SO much from her) wrote to me to say, “I have cancer.” Ugh.

Endometrial. Early stage and treatable, thank the GODS, but still requires major surgery and also radiation. OOF. On top of this, she’d just been through six months of Long COVID. Like me, she works for herself, so the financial worry is no joke. I immediately messaged her on whatsapp:

“I know everyone says, ‘if there’s anything I can do’, but if there IS anything I can do, please tell me.”

She and I don’t live close enough for me to go round her house with meals or hugs. She said,

“Just send a support pony when you can.”

She was kidding, but I immediately ordered her this one.

I also offered to run her a GoFundMe. She was a little reluctant to do one at first, until a few of us convinced her, “Karen, you are ABSURDLY generous. Maybe it’s time to just… receive..?”

Eventually she capitulated and let me and our friend Sara Smeaton run it. But I suspect something about her not HAVING to be involved opened up her creative brain and, while she was away from the admin part, she came up with what I think is one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard.

You know how people have baby and wedding showers? Karen was noodling on the fact that we somehow are fine to ask our friends for money when we’re experiencing those big high milestones. But when it comes to injury and illness, it feels so much harder.

Why???? it’s SO effed!!! And actually, people LOVE to help people they love. So she came up with this idea…

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