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March 09, 2012

I won another Moth StorySlam, and this time my wife deserves all of the credit.

On Wednesday night I won The Moth’s StorySlam at The Bell House in Brooklyn. The theme of the night was Theft, and I told a story about stealing shoes when I was nineteen years old.

I’ll order a video recording of my performance and eventually post it and all of my previous Moth performances on a YouTube channel for you to see.

In July of last year, I competed in and won my first Moth StorySlam, and I was ecstatic. Beyond excited. It was one of those moment you never forget. My feet didn’t touch the ground for days.

Last night marked the third time I have competed in a StorySlam, and the excitement over winning was at least equal to my first victory, if not greater. I couldn’t be more thrilled. Nothing will bother me for days. 

Sometime this summer, at a date still to be determined, I will have the honor of competing in another Moth GrandSlam championship.

I can’t wait.  

And I learned an important lesson from my performance on Wednesday night:

My wife always knows best.

Unfortunately, I had about five stories that I could have told that would have matched the the theme of Theft perfectly, and that didn’t even include the three stories in which I was the victim. I had stories of petty theft, grand larceny, embezzlement, theft for the sake of a prank and more. I have a theft story that actually includes an arrest and prosecution, complete with trial and acquittal. 

But right form the start, Elysha told me to tell the Kid Shoes story. I considered using that story briefly but then dismissed it, thinking it lacked the gravitas I desired. Instead, I decided to tell a story about a time when I was forced to misrepresent myself as a charitable worker in order to acquire the proceeds needed to get home.

I’m being deliberately vague because I still may use this story someday.

But the problem with the story is that it was too long. When I first wrote and spoke it, it was ten minutes long, twice as long as allowed at a StorySlam. In the week I spent preparing the story, I began cutting out unnecessary material, eventually getting it down to the five minute limit. 

That was the story I was going to tell when I awoke on Wednesday morning.

But as I began running through the story in my mind during lunch on Wednesday, something felt wrong. Too many of the pieces of the story were now missing, and though the audience wouldn’t know that the story has been edited and condensed, I knew, and it felt as if I had stripped the story of its heart.

My wife had read the story earlier in the week, and her reaction wasn’t sitting well with me, either. She liked the story, but the enthusiasm that she usually has for my work was not there, and I knew it. 

So about eight hours before the StorySlam, I decided to forgo a week of preparation and switch to the Kids Shoes story, as she had originally suggested. During my lunch hour, I wrote the story as quickly as possible and then began running through it in my mind, editing and revising on the fly. I told the story aloud just twice before the StorySlam: once in the car for my friend, Shep, who accompanied me to the show, and once in a McDonald’s in Brooklyn so that I could time the story and ensure that I was under the five minute limit.

And it worked. Though the story was not nearly as prepared as the first one, the great thing about The Moth is that you’re always telling a true story, so it’s not as if you can forget the details. The story may not come out as eloquently as you’d hope, but it’s not as if you will get lost along the way.

It was a great honor to win on Wednesday night, as I ended up competing against some of my favorite Moth storytellers, men and women who are considerably more experienced and skilled than me. I squeaked out a win by a tenth of a point, but there were two or three other stories from that night equally deserving of victory. 

I owe my win to my wife, who always seems to know best, and who I try to listen to whenever I can.

I’ll just listen a little harder and a little sooner next time.

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