How Big WAS the Fish?

  “A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves. Sick storytellers can make nations sick. Without stories we would go mad. Life would lose its moorings or orientation … Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart larger."


Story Slams, or live storytelling, a la The Moth Podcast, is a new iteration of a very old artform. Our human ancestors, and perhaps those not so human, once congregated to communicate about their experiences as a way to find and give meaning.

Storytelling competitions allot 5 minutes each to the teller to share their story around a theme, with no notes, but also not memorized. There are many forms that tellers can use to frame their story; plain first person narrative, a diary entry, a frame tale, a modernization or setting change, a dialogue, interview or script, or a ballad.

Telling is both of the mind, and of the body, giving dual emphasis to content and performance. The story’s transmission is a collaboration of energy and imagination within both the teller and listeners. The urgency and vulnerability in exposing so much of the self creates a palpable connection that roots our community and sparks empathy.  

I’ve been telling stories for about as long as I can remember. There’s nothing quite like a well told story. We’ve all of us experienced things in our lives that seem unbelievable, astounding, shocking, and heart-wrenching but it’s in the way the story is told that holds the power. There are stories I’ve told everybody to the point that people who know and love me could probably tell them for me. There are stories so dark and secret and precious, only a few people have ever heard me tell them. There are stories so embarrassing that I probably should have kept them to myself and have ended up telling entire audiences. I have stories that have changed and morphed over time and ones I no longer remember. We all of us have a story burning inside us. How will you tell yours? - Harry Jahnke

We can’t wait for Bozeman Untold’s StorySlam honoring One Book One Bozeman on Thursday, February 21st, on the theme of “Love, and Other Consolation Prizes.” This singular way of honoring the spirit of a community reading project invites participants to tell a story, not read one (indeed no notes are allowed), in 5 minutes - much like poetry slams you may be familiar with. The act of storytelling honors the individual experience, challenges dominant narratives, and deepens community connection. Whether a first person narrative, a dear diary entry, or a modernization, you’re invited to hook the audience and build a bridge with your community.



Make an outline, memorize the bullet points, and play with the details.
Have some stakes.
Have a great first line.
Have an ending - don’t meander.
This is not a space for stand-up, essays or rants.
No fake accents

See you at the mic!

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