If you’ve been following me and my work for any length of time, you know that I’m an artist and instructor. You might even know that before art I was a journalist. I was a newspaper reporter, freelance magazine writer and, at one time, even the Arts editor for a swanky Scottsdale, AZ magazine. My first love has always been words. The English language is diverse and beautiful. I often search my brain before speaking for the exact and specific word I wish to use because I know how important words are in communication and conveying a message.
Earlier this year I learned about Arizona Storytellers Project, a series of curated live storytelling nights where people gather once a month to listen to real people tell real stories about their lives. Arizona Storytellers has been so successful since its inception in 2011 that it’s now a nationwide program that’s part of the USA Today network called The Storytellers Project.
I was so intrigued by the project that after attending the first one, I immediately introduced myself to the local host and organizer and asked how I could get involved. I was thinking a behind-the-scenes helper job or being part of the committee of folks who go through the applications or some other small task. The answer I received was “We’re always looking for speakers. Do you have a story to tell?”
Hmmmm do I? I didn’t bother to tell her that I wrote a blog for years and years called “My Story to Tell…the Art and Words of Jen Cushman.” Instead, I nodded my head and replied “I’m sure could come up with something!” She gave me a list of the upcoming themes and asked me to come up with an idea on the spot. I liked the October’s topic; Work Stories. I immediately replied with a pitch. “You know, words are my talent but art is my passion.” How’s that for a topic? She immediately liked it and and told me to go online within the next couple of days and fill out the 250-word application. The next day that’s exactly what I did. Rather than embellish or flesh out the idea for the formal pitch, I submitted my idea just as it was. Eight words. It was the quickest pitch I’d ever written.
I waited about a week, thinking to myself that I had no idea which way this idea was going to fall. When I received the “Congrats! You’ve been chosen” email I felt like Matthew McConaughey’s character in Dazed and Confused. “Alright, alright, alright.” I was excited and ready to flesh out my theme.
I’ve been working on my oral story on and off for a few months now. I’ve had my first coaching session with the Arizona Storytellers Phoenix Project Team and I have a follow up next week. Tickets are on sale now for the event and, if you’re an Arizona peep who loves community gatherings and listening to people talk about real events and human emotions, I would be so honored if you’d join me and my fellow speakers for the evening. Work Stories takes place Wednesday, Oct. 11 from 7-9 p.m. at Mod, 2828 North Central Avenue in Phoenix, AZ.
For those of you who do not live in Phoenix, the stories are recorded and replayed on the radio. I don’t have the full details on that yet, but if you’re interested please be sure to follow me on Facebook or Instagram. I’ll be announcing it there as soon as I know more.
I am super excited about doing this. It’s a dream of mine to do more public speaking. This is going to be a great step in this creative adventure that’s my life. I can feel it. I also feel like there’s a lesson in this. If you want to do something that sounds a little crazy, a little out there, but also gets your heart racing a bit and piques your curiosity do not hesitate. Jump! Life is meant to be lived out loud. To be a creative means it’s your duty to put yourself out there. Others will judge. That’s OK. You are not responsible for what the world thinks of you. You are only responsible for you. Happiness is an inside job. Go for it!