I don't know about you, but my favorite time of the school day was story time. I liked it much better than recess, which required physical exertion and was usually spent hiding from the class bully. Story time required exercising only my imagination. Sitting on the floor (sometimes with snacks!) and listening to the teacher read to us was pure bliss.
(If you are young enough that you were denied this privilege, because your school district was convinced that reading was a waste of time and that your five-year-old self would be much better off learning computer skills, then I pity you. You need to go to one of these sites right now, sit on the floor with a snack, and let yourself be carried away by a good story!)
Especially if you are working on writing or recording your own life stories, listening to other people tell their life stories is a fantastic way to get inspiration and ideas. Listen, and take notes: what makes this story work (or not work?) Why was it compelling? Did it surprise you? How could you use these techniques in improving your own stories?
Here are three of our favorite places to listen to true stories:
TED.com. If you don't know about TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design), you are in for a treat. This nonprofit website has short talks (18 minutes or less) from speakers from all over the world, in every discipline: science, technology, human interest, humor, business, global issues...Their tagline is "ideas worth spreading." Here is a link to six TED talks about storytelling.
The Moth Radio Hour. This program is broadcast on National Public Radio, and my favorite time to listen is on the weekends when I'm in the kitchen, cooking or cleaning. But you can also go to their website and listen to the stories any time. Stories on The Moth are all true stories, told by the person to whom the stories happened, in front of a live audience. Some stories are funny, some poignant, and some even disturbing. But they are always fascinating. More than once, Tom has heard me laughing out loud (or crying) in the kitchen and has to come see what's goin' on.
You can also apply to tell your own story on The Moth! Maybe the next story I hear will be yours...
StoryCorps. StoryCorps is an organization that travels around the country (in a cool Airstream-trailer portable sound studio) gathering and recording oral history interviews. The stories are then saved in the Library of Congress' American Folklife Center archive and many are posted to the StoryCorps website. Some are played on NPR radio as well.
Tom and I went to check it out the last time StoryCorps was in Salt Lake City. We sat in a cozy little room in the Airstream, and I was surprised at how quickly I lost my inhibitions about being recorded, with Tom as interviewer. The terrific sound crew gave us a disc containing the recording when we were finished.To my surprise, my story was played later on NPR! It was a great experience and I highly recommend it if Story Corps comes to your town. In the meantime, there is a lot of great listening on the StoryCorps website.