My First Moth Story Slam!

The Moth – June 11, 2019 – Houston

Theme: CHEMISTRY

Vacation Week! I was off this week and had one goal…write 5,000 words on my work-in-progress, young adult novel. But here I sit on Saturday afternoon with zero words written and I’m not even a little bit disappointed.

Because I did something way more fun!

I’ve been listening to The Moth on NPR for years. Ever since I heard my first episode, I’ve dreamed of one day being on stage, sharing true stories from my life. Connecting with people in a medium that resonates to my core and speaks to my heart. Storytelling. This week, that dream came true.

A few days earlier I had received an email about a Moth Story Slam in Houston, and for the first time, I was going to be off work and could actually go. Immediately, I began crafting a story in my mind, spent the next few days fine-tuning it, then drove to Houston, put my name on the list, and was one of ten people chosen at random to tell a five-minute story!

The theme of the night was Chemistry and the ten storytellers each had a slightly different take on that theme. There were designated judges pulled from the audience (I’m guessing there were around 200 people there) and each storyteller received a score of 1-10 from each set of judges.

Host, Dusti Rhodes, introducing me

I was the second storyteller of the night and didn’t know I was going to get on stage until the host called my name. After she did, I made my way to the side of the stage, as previously instructed, and waited as she made the audience laugh by reading funny anecdotes about dangerous combinations. It was a short wait but I somehow had the presence of mind to snap this photo, and text my husband that I was on stage!

My husband did not have the week off, so I was in Houston all by myself. I’d driven down, gotten a hotel room, then called an Uber to take me to the venue (Warehouse Live) and I’d been sitting in the audience alone. Now I was alone back stage getting ready to stand behind that very microphone and tell the story I’d prepared.

And that’s what I did. My story (Chapter 16 from my memoir, More Than Everything) was about my one and only psychedelic drug experience in the 1980’s. The audience was fun and receptive. They laughed at all the right places and gasped when appropriate, then applauded loudly when I finished. I stayed on topic, kept it within the five minute time frame, and got great scores (9.0, 8.5, and 7.7) but I didn’t win. And that’s okay.

I DID IT!

There were so many great stories and everyone did so well. I felt like I shared the stage with a bunch of professionals. And as soon as my turn was over, I wanted to do it again.

Me (front center) with the other storytellers, the host and producers.

Later, many people approached me to say they enjoyed my story. One guy thought I should have won. One girl asked about my process, and another told me she loved my story and my outfit. A radio producer asked me if I had other stories and handed me his business card. People were so nice and friendly and supportive. It was surreal. It was fun. It was exhilarating. The whole experience felt almost serendipitous. Like clicking on that email set me on a path that led me straight to that stage to share that story with that audience.

It is an experience I’ll remember forever. And I want to do it again. And again. And again. Maybe some day one of my stories will make it on the radio.

After the show, I Ubered back to my hotel, sat in the bar, and drank a margarita to celebrate.

So while I didn’t get any new words written on my WIP, I got something so much better…a rich, beautiful, forever experience ripe with stories I’ll tell for a long time to come.

Excerpt from my WIP – YA Novel

pink sunriseThe sunrise bathes the stadium in a pretty pink glow, but I just might puke.

Coach takes my jacket and looks me in the eye. “Jovi, there’s no need to be nervous. You can run three-point-two miles in your sleep. Forget that it’s Regionals. Use your mantra: Just another run. You got this.” He pats my back—three quick exclamation points on the end of his pep talk.

Easy-peasy.

“Yes sir.” I walk toward the starting line. Just another run. Just another run.

This is not just another run—if I don’t win today, and place at State in two weeks, I’ll never get a running scholarship and college will be out of the question. There’s zero money to help make my dream come true. If I’m going to be the first one in my family to go to college, I’ll have to find a way to pay for it myself, and a scholarship is at the top of the list.

The bleachers are packed. It’s a sea of colorful blankets and jackets pulled tight against the crisp dawn. Yet, none of my family is here. Just like every other day, Dad, Luke and Sassy are working in the pecan orchard, and GrandMary doesn’t drive. If Dad had his way, I’d never run another mile in my life, and I’d spend every spare moment working in the family’s pecan business: clearing branches, bagging pecans, shelling pecans, cleaning equipment, whatever needs doing. It’s Dad’s life. It was his father’s life. And he wants to make it my life.

My best friend, Morgan is here, but only because I bribed her with ice cream after the meet. Morgan has perfect skin the color I like my coffee—with three creamers—can sing like an angel, mixes plaids with prints, and doesn’t know right from left or north from south. She changes the color of her wild curls with her mood, and right now I’m glad I can spot her pink hair in the stands. Otherwise, I’d be here alone. Again.

Fifty-seven other long-legged, pony-tailed girls line up on the grass at the one-yard line. I wedge myself between green and gold, and purple and white. Somewhere in the pack, wearing black and gold, with matching size ten Nike’s, is last year’s state champ, Shianne Boggs. She may have big feet, but off the course, she’s the girl with the $100 blowout, designer jeans, and way too many trophies.

“Runners, take your marks.”

I crouch into position with one foot in front of the other, one hand on the ground. Eyes straight ahead. At least I know this course. It’s my third time at Wimberley Regionals. The next twenty minutes of my life will be fields, creeks, hills, and a wooded path wide enough for four fast feet.

“Set.”

Okay adrenaline, work your magic.

The shot cracks through the air, turning my tension into thunder. I bolt forward.

It doesn’t take long for me to pull out front, along with six or seven others. Shianne’s weird exhale whistling in my right ear helps me focus. My jitters are gone. I have one job to do—win this race—and it’s starting to feel do-able.

The first mile is fast. Maybe five-minute-mile fast. My heart is a machine in my chest. Elbows bump. Colorful running shoes slap the ground in comfortable rhythm. My body is slick with sweat.

Several minutes tick by in an instant. All I know is my breath and my heart and my desire to win. I can do this. I’ve won my share of races but this is the one that counts. Winning today would be an upset but Coach says it’s my time. He’s had me in the gym lifting weights and doing flexibility training for months and I feel stronger than ever. I’ve never wanted anything more in my life. A win today would change everything.

With less than a mile to go, I’m one of four leaders packed in tight, and the pace is grueling. Quads on fire, lungs exploding. We splash across a creek—the cold water on my legs a refreshing surprise. I lean in and climb the last hill, giving it all I’ve got. One more turn and we’ll be back at the football field for the final 400 meters around the track.

It’s way too crowded in the turn. I’m on the inside. Not enough room.

Can’t find my footing.

My right elbow slams into another runner. Black and gold tumbles into my fall. Shianne Boggs. We’re a slow-motion collision of arms and legs and sweat.

Until our heads slam together.

And a dark explosion swallows me.