Usually I’m in my element, but I was absolutely terrified

Woman working on a laptop
Yes Yes Marsha-Woman sitting at laptop with coffee cup

Twice in the last month, I’ve been on a Zoom call with someone doing the thing I usually PRIDE myself on being great at—and I’ve been a stuttering wreck.

My next live storytelling show happens this coming Tuesday and, for the first time in months, I’ve been coaching storytellers for it. Most of the online shows have been “Best of”s of the live ones — Lockdown is hard, and I wanted to give myself off the hours I usually spend coaching each new storyteller. But I’d happened to be chatting to two people I really wanted on the line-up, so I invited each of them to speak and to get free coaching from me. Both started off great!

Each time, we did what I usually do with the storytellers I coach: sat on a 2 hour zoom call, with me asking them a million questions (900,990 of them are “And how did you FEEL??”) and taking lots of notes. Then I got to the last bit:

Giving them the story structure. Usually, this is the easy part:

My brain does what I call “story tetris”—pulling out all the parts I think should stay in the story, in an order that flows and makes sense, all tied up neatly with a captivating beginning and a strong, moving ending. I read the story back to them as if I was telling—but using words and phrases they’ve shared with me in the first place.

Most of the time, this happens naturally for me (I’m never quite sure how, but I’ve learned to trust the ol’ YYM brain enough to know it always will). But this time, my delivery was VERY NERVY.

Because, even though I was sure the story structure I was giving them was rock solid, for these two speakers it involved them talking about the difficult parts of being part of a marginalized community that I am not part of. And I was terrified of saying something I shouldn’t.

As a white, cis, nondisabled lady who reads to straight people as straight (unless I’m, like, kissing my girlfriend on the mouth)(though even sometimes then), I haven’t experienced much in the way of being discriminated against, or even worrying that I might be. So trying to re-tell a story to someone from their point of view when I have never had to have that point of view felt really wrong.

With one storyteller, I stumbled and stuttered my way through. Then I looked from my notes up to her face on the screen. And she was crying. Oh no…. But then…

“That was amazing. It sounds so good when you say it like that. I can’t believe “


And the other guy?

A long look. Oh no….. But then, a smile broke out across his face, and arm snaked into the air as he punched it and said, “YEAH!!!!’

Ok, so



2) Wanna hear those two stories being told, along with a magician telling a story AND doing a magic trick, one of my favourite stories from the past 7 years AND an exceptionally charismatic woman who’s already been on This American Life?


You can find the recording of that show (along with a coupleof others) AND details for the next one, here:

I’ve been running this show for 7 years. It’s always pretty good but every now and then, there’s a show where afterwards, the whole audience staggers around like, WO WHAT JUST HAPPENED TO US?????

That is what it was like at this show. I’ve had a ton of messages from attendees, ranging from “OMG HOW?” to “The best storytelling show I’ve ever been to.”

Take a look for yourself (and/or come along to the next one!) here:

Thanks so much for reading! If you can think of anyone else who’d like LOVE a live online storytelling show, please send them to that link, or share this page with them using one of the round buttons below.

You rule!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

photo credit: Ioana Han

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