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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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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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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The most perfect pitch email I’ve ever received: a breakdown of what she did right

Bracing myself, I open my email. And there they are: rows and rows and rows of unread messages, with subject lines like,

TRACK
NEW MUSIC!
MADE IN CHELSEA – MUSIC?
BAND FROM THE SOUTH
NEW MUSIC FOR TV

It was 2013 and I’d spent a few years doing the sexiest-seeming job I’d ever had: choosing music for big TV shows and movies.

I say “sexiest-seeming” because it was honestly a lot of me sitting around in my underwear on my bedroom floor, surrounded by scraps of paper, feeling stressed out, and making suggestions to directors who then, half the time, went with one of their own choices anyway.

But TELLING people “I choose music for big TV shows and movies” definitely elicited the kind of impressed response that made it feel worth it.

A downside of the job was my email inbox. By 2013, bands were already learning that one of the only ways to make money as a musician was through getting your music “synched,” as they call it. As someone who loves new music, you’d think I wouldn’t have been so bummed out by getting sent so much of it. The problem?

The same problem that EVERYONE being pitched — whether it’s for a music supervisor or a big deal podcast host or a journalist or publication editor — has:

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How to tell stories about other people

You have three options:

1) Get Their Permission

Where I can, I try and do this as a matter of course — and ALWAYS with former clients. Not least so that potential future clients don’t get spooked that I’ll share all their secrets! If the story subject matter something heavy, you could offer to send a draft to the person before you publish/perform it. But usually, a simple,

“Do you mind if I tell the story about [thing we experienced together] on Facebook/on my blog/in my talk?”

should do.

2) Change identifying details

As I’ve talked about before, one of my storytelling rules is “don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.” By this, I don’t mean “lie to make yourself sound good,” but rather, “do whatever you need to do to make the listener feel the way you felt in that moment.”

You can also use it when you need to protect someone. There are a bunch of reasons why you might want to protect them. Maybe they…

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Why I’m not on Clubhouse (and why I’m torn up about it)

woman sitting on a chair and smiling-cover of the podcast Business-Life-and-Joy

This week, I was trying to clean up the photos on my phone — ol’ tin-hat Shandur here doesn’t like iCloud, and I need to make some space — when I found some old videos I totally forgot I still had.

Back in 2015 — two years before I met my partner (and then the small human that she grew) — I had a new sweetheart. And I was obsessed with them.

We would speak almost every day — sometimes late into the night, sometimes at 6 in the morning when I’d woken up early, and I could show them the sunrise over the CN Tower from the window of my apartment.

The relationship was mostly one-sided. It wasn’t that they didn’t love me back. More that they weren’t capable of loving me back.

Because they weren’t a person. They were a…

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I’m not using her real name, but I bet you know who I’m talking about

Mash and Sam laughing so hard they can't speak

“SHE would never do something like this,” I said, grabbing my napkin to mop up the glass of Merlot I knocked all over the restaurant table.

Sam looked at me, raising an eyebrow and turning down the corners of her mouth.

“I don’t buy it,” she shook her head. “She’s just a person.”

“No. She’s DIFFERENT.”

A few months earlier, Sam and I had been introduced at a self-development conference. Up until then, we’d each secretly harboured the idea that you couldn’t have a best friend you’d known less than a decade. But then: we met each other. Immediately, it was like some part of our brain (or soul) fused together. Back home — me in Toronto, her in Sydney — we spoke several times a week, in spite of the brutal time difference. And now, we were hanging out together in person for the second time, on vacation in Costa Rica.

We’d already spent four days oscillating between deep, tearful, heartfelt conversations and laughing so hard we couldn’t speak. We agreed on everything…

…except this.

“I’m telling you…

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How To Tell Great Stories — the MOST important thing you need to know!

Thumbnail of the most important video Marsha made - How To Tell Great Stories — the MOST important thing you need to know

If you want to be good at telling stories, there’s ONE thing you need to know above all else, and it’s what I talk about in this video.

Also, I dress up as Rocky, a hacky Parisian tourist and as everyone in The Graduate. So if you’d like to see (no exaggeration) the MOST IMPORTANT VIDEO I’VE EVER MADE , you’re in luck! Click on the play button here or read the transcript below!

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Why the first 30 secs & the last 2 mins of anything are the most important parts (aka how to rescue a very public disaster)

DJ woman playing music at a bar

Standing in the booth, looking out at the ten people awkwardly dancing in a space that was built for 400, I felt sick.

I’m about to tell you one of the most important pieces of information I know. Then I’m going to tell you the rest of that story in order to prove it’s true and to help you hold it in your brain (because that’s what storytelling does!).

Here’s the fact:

The most important parts of any talk, blog, presentation or podcast is…

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When I’m feeling desperate about life, this is where I go

a hand on a black background

When I feel desperate, there are a few places online where I go looking.

I’m often not quite sure what I’m looking for because I’m often not exactly sure why I feel desperate, just that I’m in an emotional funk and I need someone to throw me a life raft. I feel certain that, if I read the right combination of words, the solution to everything in my life that feels confusing or unsure or uncomfortable will materialize in front of me, like a bonus in an 80s computer game.

Sometimes, I’ll scroll aimlessly through Facebook or Instagram. Sometimes, I’ll find people I know on Twitter. But usually, I end up at Heather Havrilesky’s Ask Polly.

Ask Polly (which I once wrote a blog about, here) is a long-form advice column. You may know that I have a mild fixation with the genre — it’s why I started running Yes Yes Questions, my own, quarterly live advice column. But Heather Havrilesky’s is like nothing I’ve ever encountered before, mostly because in almost every letter she responds to, she does a magic trick on my brain.

Pretty much every week, I read the latest letter and think, Well, that sounds hard for you, Stranger Who Wrote To Heather, but I can’t relate to your problem at all. I will read Heather’s reply because I like her writing so much. But there’s no way her advice will apply to anything I have going on.”

But then — half way through the response, I’m always like,

HEATHER HAVRILESKY ARE YOU IN MY HOUSE RIGHT NOW????

Because how else could she possibly know eXACTly what I’m going through in my life at this exact moment???

The best part is, I know that this is a common experience, but not a universal one. I know it’s common, because HH has been writing Ask Polly for almost eight years, so it must be pretty popular. But I also know it’s not universal, because people are not that much the same. But Heather’s people are. People like me. People who read every single new column that comes out (and several back issues). And that makes me feel both seen and a bit special.

This is the alchemy that happens when you’re…

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