the living art of storytelling in Massachusetts

Revised : AUG 2013

What is a story slam? Based on a poetry slam format and similar to American Idol, a story slam is a contest of words by known and undiscovered talent. massmouth posts a theme on it's website ( and story slammers will sign up on the night to tell a 5-minute short story on the evening's theme and a lucky eight to ten names will be drawn at random from a box. Other audience members may feel moved to join in on a judging team. There will be a team of 5 judges - interested amateurs, storytellers, theater people and anyone who loves stories. Each set of 5 stories will begin with a story by a sacrificial tellers, usually one of the past winners. Listeners will be engaged in story improv games and other interactive entertainments between each 5 minute feature.

Each of the featured 5 minute stories is judged on how well it is told, how well it is constructed and how well the story explores,connects and/or reveals some truth about the theme and, how well it honors the time limit.

The 2 highest-scoring tellers and 1 Audience Choice are awarded prizes and an opportunity to perform in semifinals and if they progress, into the "The Big Mouthoff" at the Coolidge Corner Theater April 17th, 2013 at 7PM. Prizes will be awarded at each slam. Any slam winner may put aside their title and enter again but they lose their place in the semifinals if they do not win another slam.

Two New Rules:
1) It is part of our mission to bring new people to storytelling. Contestants who have already performed in one slam a month or 3 slams this season will have lowest priority and depending on the field of stories may not be added to random draw for a month. If there are no new tellers for that slam they will be added to the draw.

2)A slammer who has not told at a massmouth slam in  the current season (slam season running Autumn to Spring) and has put their name in the hat 3 consecutive times will get half price admission at their next slam  and their name thrown into the newcomers hat, but an e-mail must be sent with information prior to slam at

Depending on the venue, there is a $5.00 - $12.00 cover.  Students get a discount with an ID. Some people with stories, who are new to storytelling also get a deal - check at each event. Discounts and deals vary from theme to theme and venue to venue.

5 minutes?  5 minutes means...5 minutes. You loose points if you use the entire 60 second grace period to wind up.

Real stories? The audience and the judges  are expecting real life adventures.  Real stories have a beginning, middle and end. And they have a point. You are clear about why the story is important to you and why you want to tell it. Retelling any folktale, myth or fable is not encouraged in this context.  No retelling of literary works is permitted and if we discover that you have pirated someone's story or you have told a 90% fictive tale, without explicitly revealing this- you will be disqualified from all competition and prizes in that season (copyright laws apply, and this is a competition of true stories, not storytelling). Poetry is not encouraged -  unless the poem is original, 5 minutes long and tells a story .

Presentation: Your story presentation is important. It tells us why and how we should listen to you. Your voice and body are instruments of your art. You use voice, gesture and movement to the best of your ability in the service of your story.

Theme: Your story, not just the title or "punch line" connects in any meaningful way to the theme. This is wide open and helps you focus at the same time

Practice: You have to practice. One tip is memorizing the beginning and the ending words of your story by heart. It helps with confidence and focus. Practicing - before a mirror, into a recorder, in the car when alone, in your head before you go to sleep or before you get out of bed - all help. Do at least some of these MANY times. You will be glad you did.

Funny, Sad, Genuine? Funny is good, sad is real but all must be genuinely in service to the story. That is what makes yours a story worth listening to and sets it apart from rants, stand up and what you tell your therapist or best friend.


· What is story slam? Simply put, story slam is a competition based on the art of storytelling. It puts a dual emphasis on content and performance, encouraging storytellers to focus on what they're saying and how they're saying it. It is an exercise in crafting stories within a set time limit and it's great entertainment.

massmouth story slams are competitive events in which storytellers perform their work and are judged by panels made up of professional and non-professional storytellers who are massmouth members and members of the audience. Typically, the host or another organizer selects the judges, who are instructed to give numerical scores (on a 0 to 10 or 1 to 10 scale) based on the storyteller's content and performance.

· Who gets to participate? massmouth story slams are open to everyone 18+ years of age who wishes to sign up and can get into the venue. 10 names are selected from a box of slips entered by attendees with a story. 

· What are the rules? The basic rules are:  Each story must be of the storyteller’s own construction – Copyright laws apply to literary works, so do not tell them.

The audience and the judges are expecting real life adventures.

Retelling any folktale, myth or fable is not encouraged at our slams.

If we discover that you have pirated someone's story or you have told a 90% fictive tale, without explicitly revealing this, you will be disqualified from all competition and prizes in that season (copyright laws apply, and this is a competition of true stories, not storytelling).

Poetry is not allowed - even if the poem is original, 5 minutes long and tells a story.

Each storyteller gets 5 minutes (plus a 1 minute grace period) to tell a story. If the storyteller goes over the 6 minute time, 1 full point will be deducted from the total score.

The storyteller may not use props(including a written page) , costumes or musical instruments.

Winners may not participate in subsequent competitions but may be invited as feature tellers.

· Are the rules the same from slam to slam? We will adhere to these basic guidelines as updated and posted at / events. We are working out the rules and voting as we are new to this format. Winners advance to the big mouthoff .

· How often do slams happen? What is the big mouthoff ? : Winners advance to the big mouthoff which is a yearly slam between the winners of the monthly slams."the big mouthoff" at the Coolidge Corner Theater on April 17th, 2013 at 7PM Prizes will be awarded at each slam.

· How does a story slam differ from an open mic?A story slam is a challenge to the teller and a gift to the audience, whereas a number of open mic settings are meant as a support network for storytellers. Slam performances are crafted for the audience.

· What can the audience do? Listen, laugh, applaud & weep. No interrupting. No heckling.

· What kind of stories are told at slams? Personal narrative, tales from real life and YOUR personal experience is the intent of these events.

massmouth story slams  2013-2014 "Because have a life, you  have a story. Bring it!"


Sun, Sept 8, 2013 6:30PM-9:30PM @Doyle's Cafe -- "Accident"

Mon, Sept 16, 2013 6:30PM-9:30PM @Club Passim -- "Used"

Sat, Sept 21, 2013 2:30PM-5:30PM @the Burren -- "TBA"

Sun, Oct 13, 2013 6:30PM-9:30PM @Doyle's Cafe -- "Spirit"

Sat, Oct 19, 2013 2:30PM-5:30PM @the Burren -- "TBA"

Mon, Oct 21, 2013 6:30PM-9:30PM @Club Passim -- "Magic"

Sun, Nov 10, 2013 6:30PM-9:30PM @Doyle's Cafe -- "Serendipity"

Sat, Nov 16, 2013 2:30PM-5:30PM @the Burren -- "TBA"

Mon, Nov 18, 2013 6:30PM-9:30PM @Club Passim -- "Dare"

Sun, Dec 8, 2013 6:30PM-9:30PM @Doyle's Cafe -- "Revelation"

Mon, Dec 16, 2013 6:30PM-9:30PM @Club Passim -- "Bittersweet"


Sun, Jan 12, 2014 6:30PM-9:30PM @Doyle's Cafe -- "Foreign"

Sat, Jan 18, 2013 2:30PM-5:30PM @the Burren -- "TBA"

Mon, Jan 20, 2014 6:30PM-9:30PM @Club Passim -- "Lost"

Sun, Feb 9, 2014 6:30PM-9:30PM @Doyle's Cafe -- "Jealousy"

Sat, Feb 15, 2013 2:30PM-5:30PM @the Burren -- "Missed Connections"

 Mon, Feb 17, 2014 6:30PM-9:30PM @Club Passim -- "Desire"


2013 - 2014 Grand Finale  slam of all season finalists ~ this year at

Coolidge Corner Theater • THURS April 24th from 7PM-9PM

Storytelling Techniques:

Storytelling Techniques Laura Gibbs - great stuff in abundance at her sites:

Every time a storyteller tells a story, there are an infinite number of different ways to tell the story. Below you will find a list of different ways you might choose to tell a story. Even though this list is very long, it is not complete. There are still many, many more possible ways to tell a story beyond the suggestions provided here.

So, you can use this list to get a specific idea for how you might want to retell a story... or you can use this list as a way to get your creative juices flowing, so that you end up with a completely new storytelling technique that is not even listed here.

First-Person Narration: Most stories you find in books are told in third-person. You can retell the story in first-person, choosing one of the characters in the story to be the narrator. You might choose one of the main characters as your narrator, or you can choose one of the marginal characters. You can even choose an inanimate object to tell the story: imagine the story of King Arthur and "the sword in the stone" as told by the sword - or by the stone!

Dear Diary: One of the most popular ways to create a first-person narration is to retell a story in the form of a diary or a journal, written by the one of the characters in the story.

Frametale: You can take the story and insert it inside a "frame" which gives an added meaning to the story. So you can imagine a grandpa talking to his grandkids, a preacher who uses a story in a sermon, a reporter writing a story for a newspaper, etc.

Dialogue: You can really develop a story by adding dialogue, or expanding on the dialogue that is already there. Dialogue is a way to bring out the specific qualities of the different characters, allowing them to express themselves emotionally!

Interview: One way to create a dialogue scene is to stage an interview. You can imagine a reporter interviewing someone for a newspaper story, Oprah interviewing someone who is a guest on her show, a lawyer interviewing a witness on the stand, etc.

Television or Theater Script: In a more extreme form of the "dialogue" style, you can write out the story as if it were a scene, or a series of scenes, from a play or movie, expressing the plot of the story through the words spoken by the characters (along with stage directions, as necessary).

Poetry / Ballad: Some stories can be retold in the form of a poem, or in the form of a ballad. In fact, ballads are one of our most important sources for European legends and tales!

Dialect: If a story is written in standard English, you might choose to tell the story in dialect, such as Valley Girl talk, hip hop version, etc. If the story is already written in dialect, you can create your own version of the story by translating the dialect back into standard English.

Modernization / Change Setting: You can change the setting of the story to a setting you are more familiar with, adapting the story to a modern setting, such as a college campus, the business world, world of crime, Hollywood, etc.

The"Twist": You can change the ending of the story, telling "what really happened," ask "what if...?" etc.

Sequel / Prequel: You can use your imagination to describe events and scenes that take place before the actual story, or you can write a story that explains what happens after the final part of the actual story (what really happened when Beauty got married to the Beast...?)

There are all kinds of possibilities, of course - this list is just to give you some ideas if you are feeling stuck!
Author: Laura Gibbs. Kaleidoscope images from Kaleidoscope Painter. Updated: August 14, 2009 9:42 PM .

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about story slams and similarities to certain bugs
Yup - hate that when I mess up a link but worse mess up and even funnier was the original graphic in the Event listing for story slam event
which, when compressed into a square icon, said, in big letters 'assmouth story sla' - too funny!

The slam " rules"were taken from wikipedia "poetry slam" rules and rules like these that are used all over for poetry and story slam events with variations. The info or story tips at our massmouth.ning were written by me from my 15 + years of teaching storytelling - they are, of course, similar to the Moth posting because we ARE doing the same kind of slam. massmouth story slam is looking for good stories, not your average spokenword open mic.

One difference is that massmouth story slam accepts traditional stories on the theme and who knows? Such a story could even win, if it meets the story meets the major criteria - you&nbs p; know why you are telling it and tell it so well that we want to hear it
Curious about the judging ? Here is a draft of our "Instructions to the Judges"

Fill in the chart below and in numbers, from 1- 10 grade decimals are fine, to rate the performance on these three criteria. Comments are optional may be shared with performers… if they request it. Please be forthright but kind. People are here to slam stories not each other. Reveal your final number, which is an average of all three criteria, to the team captain. As a team you will Throw out high and low – if someone wants to adjust, you may. You will hold up the remaining middle grade. All three teams grades will be noted and high and low thrown out – middle will be the grade for the teller.
Judging criteria you will rate these elements -

Story has an arc, a beginning a point of change a resolution
Story presentation
Time + connection to theme

When ready and prompted by the emcee you will hold up the number cards – like Olympic judges, to reveal only the middle grade . All three teams ratings will be noted and then high and low team’s rating thrown out – the middle grade of all three teams will be the grade for the teller.

In case of a tie – the tellers will have a “sudden death round “ where they take a story starter and tell a one -minute story. Or drop out…
Storyteller Lorna MacDonald Czarnota
Lorna gave us permission to repost this:

Storyteller Lorna MacDonald Czarnota wrote at 20:19 on 12 October 2009
Scary stories are about more than just scaring the listener, and should never be about scarring the listener. When a good storyteller takes the audience on a journey through story, it is always with the audience’s best interest in mind, serving story second and the teller last. Telling scary stories is not about the storyteller’s ego boost. A good storyteller also respects religious beliefs when telling a scary story.

There are many kinds of “scary” story. The simplest type, usually preferred by young listeners, is the jump tale.
In this type of scary story, the storyteller brings the listener into his or her confidence, slowly unwrapping the tale until the end of the story when the teller produces the jump. This is done in several ways, sometimes simultaneously. The teller might change from a soft voice to a SHOUT! Proximity changes from having space between teller and listener to almost being on top of the audience. Body movement might actually have the effect of throwing the story at the listener. These jump tales often have elements of fooling the listener into believing the story is really scary or creepy, but with a comical twist at the end. Both the comical twist and the jump produce laughter breaking the stress of the tale.
Purpose: Jump tales show us that our fears are unfounded and allow us to laugh at our foolishness.

There are the saga or myth scary tales that have elements of the macabre or strange, sometimes involving monsters. These stories usually have fictitious, larger than life characters that experience the fright on our behalf and overcome it, Beowulf is one example.
Purpose: This story happens to someone else from a safe distance. The hero must win to show the listener that evil can be overcome.

Urban Legends are highly believable stories because they are told as if they happened to the storyteller or someone the teller knows. Best when told as a local event, we want to trust the teller to tell us the truth, while at the same time we are skeptical. We may or may not be told whether the tale is true, we must decide for ourselves.
Purpose: fun and thrilling while creating a need for logical thinking.

Ghost story: These stories must have ghosts in them. Most ghosts have a reason for haunting, seldom are they actually able to or wanting to harm an individual. Ghosts are present to solve a problem, finish an incomplete task, warn or help the character. Now and then, the fear the character has for the ghost is their demise but seldom is it the ghost that harms. Occasionally there may be a haunting without a ghost, such as an enchanted object.
Purpose: gives a glimpse at the beyond, lends hope, teaches a lesson, make us think.

There are trickster scary stories too. Sometimes there are no ghosts or creatures in these stories but peers who play tricks by creating rumors of hauntings.
Purpose: teaches a lesson

Some scary stories will be decidedly more frightening than others and an experienced storyteller will be able to gauge how far to push the envelope with a particular audience. Three things that make these tales work are believability, environment which includes venue, teller’s presence and voice, and safety in numbers. When we listen to a scary story we are not alone, there is always at least one other person there with us, the storyteller. A good storyteller always keeps us safe. They may dare us to walk the edge and face the fear, but they always bring us safely home.

Finally, there are key elements that make listening to scary stories different from watching a horror movie. They are imagination and experience. A listener can only be as scared as they can imagine and will only understand the fear that they have experienced in reality. I am one storyteller that usually scares myself more than my listeners when I tell scary stories, I have a wild imagination.

So this Halloween, I hope you will cuddle up with a trusted friend and listen to a scary story, tales that make us think, give us chills, and almost always allow us to laugh at ourselves.
Storyteller Lorna MacDonald Czarnota
from Laura Packer
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Where storytelling really happens
Every time I tell a story successfully in front of an audience (and this is not every time I tell a story) I am forcefully reminded of one thing.

Sure, I worked on the story. I learned it, thought about it, honed it. But this is not the only crucial factor for storytelling success. Sometimes an improv where I'm making the whole thing up as I go along can be the most successful piece of the night.

And of course, the setting may be just right. The lights are good or the campfire crackles. But I've told stories in some pretty harsh environments and had them work, while other times the best locale has seen me crash and burn.

And I've had experiences where I've selected the right story for the audience, I'm paying attention to them so I can shift my telling along with them and it still doesn't quite gel. Maybe they have other things on their mind (the economy, the overall purpose of the meeting for which I've been hired as entertainment) or maybe a cute baby wanders onto stage. You just can't compete with a baby.

What time and again matters the most for successful storytelling is allowing the audience time to listen, the opportunity to experience and build the story in their own imaginations. As a storyteller, my job is give the audience a well-crafted narrative, well-presented, and then get out of the way.

The real work happens between their ears.

I can tell the most familiar story and every listener will experience it differently. What color is Red Riding Hood's hair? What's in her basket of goodies? While I may never mention those things you know the answers and that deepens your story experience. When I tell an unfamiliar story the listener still fills in the blanks and knows the story with an intimacy that I can never match. If I were to try to fill in all the details (What does Crazy Jane wear? What shape is the Djinni's bottle?) I both take up too much time and steal some of the experience from the listener. I serve my audience and the story better by painting around the white space and letting them fill it in.

The work of storytelling happens in the white space, which the listeners fill in. My job, as a teller, is to give them enough detail that they know the shape and texture of the space, then they can make it their own.

Next time you hear a story try noticing all the things that aren't said. Enjoy the richness of your own imagination. Next time you tell one (even if it's to your dog or partner or kids) notice how much you don't have to say. Who cares what tie your boss was wearing: It's enough to know they were formal in their dress. If you have a chance, ask your listener what they saw and enjoy how their world, made from your words, differs and aligns with your own.

Storytelling lets us build these bridges of words and imagination. It's a marvel to me how many worlds we build together in the simultaneous moment, and how varied and similar these worlds are.
Hi Norah, etc.

I have been very inspired by this event, and have just come up with a brand new 'scared to death' story for Monday night! I'm looking forward to being frightened in turn by the contestants.

can't wait to hear what you got - excited for monday!

Lynne Cullen said:
Hi Norah, etc.

I have been very inspired by this event, and have just come up with a brand new 'scared to death' story for Monday night! I'm looking forward to being frightened in turn by the contestants.

Here are medical madness pdfs - print at a copy shop or resolve to use a ton of ink at home.
got it! ordering it and will be meeting with HR to tackle the task list!

how would I order photos or videos of performance...nov 18 RISK?

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Grand Prize for South Shore Grand Slam Story Slam generously donated by Nicolette Heavey and Stories In The Streets (A Maine Get Away)

Stories in the Streets in an outreach literacy program that focuses on families in at-risk areas and fosters community engagement in storytelling by: 1) Creating opportunities for public storytelling wherever families gather — a farmer’s market, laundromat, or food line; and, 2) Offering storytelling workshops that raise family engagement in literacy, cultural awareness and community understanding.  The program is currently active in Lawrence, Brockton and Randolph.


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The South Shore story Slams presents The GRAND SLAM STORY SLAM MAY 5TH @The Company Theater 6:30PM the winners of Doyles and SS Story Slam Season compete for Maine Getaway valued at  $1,000. Get your tickets before they are gone $25.00 in advance $20.00 members at door $30.00 non members 



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