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 after). To get access to this (+7 more amazing workshops) just donate to Jess Manuszak’s fundraiser at SpinalShower.com**

David and I made friends when I became his fan. I was living in London, working as a radio DJ and A&R (finding new music for a publishing company) and was out seeing new bands and artists play every night. My friend Martin told me, “You’ve got to come and see this new guy I just found. You’re going to LOVE him.”

As I stood in front of the stage at the dirgy — and, at 7pm, still pretty empty — music venue, I thought, *Martin was not wrong*. On stage, the tall gentleman with the American accent was singing and playing acoustic guitar. His songs were beautiful, gentle and soaring. And his voice made me want to collapse on the floor, weeping. In between songs, his stories are second to none.

“I think the first time I really felt homesick was the time I got kicked in the nuts by a goat…”

a white man with lots of brown hair sits in an orange chair looking pensive

David Berkeley, as he looked back then (he is now much more hairy)(which really works for him)

Afterwards, chatting in the bar, I realised David is as much of a delight onstage as he is off. He told me about how he, his wife, and his small child had all moved from New York to Corsica (an island that’s just South of France), and were living in a tiny village (population: 32). She was doing a PhD, and he was hoping to come and play a lot of shows in the UK.

Over the next several years, we became fast friends. There was none of the awkwardness that can sometimes come from one of you being a massive fan of the other’s art. I called us “Soul Neighbours” — the term I use for those people who you’ve never lived close to, but your brain feels like “Surely that’s nonsense? Surely to feel this connected to each other, we must have been next to each other for several years?”

Even once David and his family moved back to the US, we stayed in touch. He’d still occasionally come over for shows (and now, he and his bandmates would stay at my place). And if I ever travelled to the US, I’d try and time it to when he was doing shows in the city I was visiting.

Or vice versa… which is where The Thing happened.

I was going to Nashville to visit with the publishing company I was working part-time for. When I mentioned it to David, he said, “I’ll organise a couple shows there that week so we can hang out!”

He knew that, as a fan, I’d be thrilled to see him play live again. But once I get there — before he arrives — everything else becomes quite exciting.

The publishing company team are HUGELY welcoming. They take me around everywhere and introduce me to everyone. Charmingly, they always do this using our full names,

“Maya Solsbury, this is Marsha Shandur.”

“Marsha Shandur, meet Stephen Johnstone.”

One of them starts telling me about a show he’s going to out of town on Thursday. “Hey!” he says. “You should come with me! Road trip!”

OMG! I would be going on a REAL, AMERICAN ROAD TRIP!!!!!!!! It’s the same night as one of David’s two shows in town, but he’ll be cool, right? He’ll be happy for me!

When he arrives the next day, I say, “Hey, you don’t mind if I miss your show on Thursday, do you? I’ve been invited to go on a ROAD TRIP!”

He looks confused. “Um, I kind of arranged these shows specifically so you could come to them and we could hang out? So….”

It suddenly dawns on me how rude I’m being.

“Oh, of course! Yeah, I can stay!”

In the end, the road trip gets cancelled, so it’s a moot issue. But I hold onto my guilt.

For years.

And years.

And years.

David never says anything. I never say anything. But every time he and I are in touch, I feel it hanging between us. What a shitty friend I’d been, to even consider that. It eats away at me.

About five years later, I’m living in Toronto when David comes to stay. We’re standing at that streetcar stop, and I’m working up my courage. He’s come for a folk music conference that I’ve also managed to wangle my way into. Ahead of us, have a fun day of seeing bands and schmoozing. But I know I won’t relax until I get this apology off my chest.

Eventually, the streetcar comes, we get on it and sit, chatting. When there’s a lull in the conversation, I take a deep breath.

“David, there’s something I have to say.”

He looks concerned. He is listening.

“I still feel awful about what happened in Nashville. That time I said I was going to go on a road trip and blow off that show you that you’d organised for me to see you and hang out. I’ve felt terrible about it ever since.”

He furrows his brow. Dips his chin. Looks me deep in the eyes. And says,

“Marsha, I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”

I remind him of the whole thing — my excitement, his response, my retraction. He’s smiling and shaking his head.

“Nope. None of this sounds even slightly familiar.”


I turn back to the window.

Laughing, David points out the CN Tower as we pass, then nudges me. “Isn’t that your girlfriend?”

We trundle down the street to the hotel, then get off the streetcar, and go in to the conference.


As you may know, from now on, every time I tell you or share a story, I want to share a storytelling lesson from it. This week’s:


The difference between active and passive language is whether or not, if you were writing it, you would use quotation marks. Active uses them:
My friend Martin told me, “You’ve got to come and see this new guy I just found. You’re going to LOVE him.”

Passive doesn’t:
My friend Martin explained that he’d just found this new guy I was going to love.

Active is more exciting for our brains. It creates an action scene that puts us right there in the story. Obviously, you can’t ALWAYS use active dialogue, as sometimes it takes too long and/or you need to summarize a conversation. But when you’re going to use about the same amount of words either way, make the spoken language active — or throw in one active sentence at the end.

Do you love reading stuff like that because you want to become a better storyteller?

GREAT NEWS: this Weds (Sep 27th — with a recording after), I am running an online storytelling workshop that’s open to the public. I’ve literally only ever done this once before, and may not do it again soon. I’m doing at as part of the Spinal Shower we’re throwing for Jess Manuszak (cliff notes: her spine is trying to attack her and she needs expensive surgery to survive it). If you want to come to/watch the recording of my workshop AND have access to 7 other incredible workshops AND a party with TV-famous comedians from Parks and Recreation/Veep)…all you have to do is donate to Jess’ Fundraiser.

tl;dr: want to come to my storytelling workshop? Go here:


Any questions? hit reply.


You rule!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

PS if I may, for a moment, sound EXTREMELY un-British and un-Canadian for a moment: I usually run this workshop for companies (hence the rarity of this being open to the public) and more than once I’ve been told by people “I did an 8 week storytelling course and I learned more during your two-hour workshop than I did in all of it” and “this is THE best training we’ve ever had as a group” and “usually we don’t get that many feedback forms filled in, but 50% of people filled them in and everyone gave you five stars”. Actually, that last one has a small lie — one time, there was one person who only gave me four stars. But you get the picture.

Wanna come and see what all the fuss is about? SpinalShower.com for sign up details!

PPS Thanks so much for reading! If you know anyone who feels guilty ALL THE TIME FOR EVERYTHING and would enjoy this, you can share it with them by pressing one of those round buttons below. And if you’d like more stories in your inbox, along with tips and advice for how to Be Unforgettable AND my free guide to the magic bullet for captivating storytelling, come and join the Yes Yes Family. Just pop your details in below and I’ll ship it over*:

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You rule!


David Berkeley playing a concert at my apartment in 2017. Astonishingly, in almost two decades of friendship we have ZERO photos of the two of us together.

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