Story Jam

Last week I participated in a Story Jam, an event where local writers read their works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry around the theme, “You give love a bad name.”


That’s me reading about First Love

Sponsored by the Philadelphia chapter of the Women’s National Book Association (the original WNBA), and organized by local author, Rae Theodore, the Story Jam drew about thirty-five people–ten readers and twenty-five listeners. The owner of a local coffee shop,  Brewed Awakening, was gracious enough to open late for this special event.

As I listened to these brave souls share their work, I was struck once again by the amazing power of a prompt: give ten people–or twenty or fifty–a word, a phrase, some theme to write about, and you will get that many diverse responses. I see this every Tuesday morning at our Just Write writer’s group.


Our ten brave storytellers

Look closely at this picture of all the writers who read their stories that night and you will see we are looking in all different directions–indicative of how we write–with unique views and unique voices.

Some of the varied takes on our theme involved First Love, Free Beer, Psycho Alcoholics, Ice Cream, and a Vengeful Wife.

As a reader, I experienced the power of having an audience, a mirror for your work. This is a lesson I am grateful to have learned at the Women’s Writing Circle. There is magic in oral storytelling, an alchemy that transpires between speaker and listener when written words are given voice. I can’t explain this in scientific terms, but I’m convinced there is research out there somewhere that would corroborate my claim.

wnba story jam flyers 2016What’s in a name? I tried to have a “reading” last year, but I couldn’t muster any interest. There was no theme, no exciting name like “story jam” or nifty flyers to pass around. My vision of a reading was of a sedate group of listeners pretending to be interested in hearing us read our stories. Having a theme brought cohesiveness, fun, and energy to the event, and having the backing of WNBA lent extra weight and officiality. I will put this in my “lessons learned” category.

These lessons could be applied to other arts as well. Imagine putting out a call for artwork surrounding the theme “You give love a bad name.” Or any theme. Perhaps a combination of arts.

Can you envision a room filled with works of art based on a theme, with authors reading, musicians performing, dancers dancing?

Can’t wait for the next Jam.

8 thoughts on “Story Jam

  1. What an exciting concept, Patty.! Writers, dancers, musicians, all performing to a common theme. Careful, you just may have volunteered yourself for position of event coordinator. 🙂

  2. Finally you have made me see why I was put through piano recitals by my piano teachers throughout my youth. It made me fearful and nervous but your point about connecting with an audience is very interesting. As a method for elevating yourself as an artist it is essential.
    Interesting post. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Candy. It is a frightening thing to do, but maybe easier when it’s voluntary rather than a “forced” performance like a recital.

  3. It’s good to do things that take us out of our comfort zones. As writers, we always talk about our audience. Who are we writing for? With the Story Jam, it was neat to have that immediate connection and then to see, hear and feel the response. Such a great night. So glad you could participate!

  4. An interesting post! I smiled at your observation on our photo…all looking in different directions. It was a fun evening and a great way to support each other!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *