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Learn More About Sunday’s “Storytelling Night”

Storytelling - Amy Daml

Storytelling is an art as old as speaking, and it’s a monthly event at The Bookworm. What’s it all about? We posed that question, among others, to host Amy Daml (pictured), who gives us the low-down.

Tell me a bit about the history of this event in Beijing.

Beijing Storytellers started long before my time in Beijing. I don’t really know who formed the group, but it has changed hands several times as people come and go in this crazy expat life we lead. In the wake of popularity from The Moth events in New York, Beijing Storytellers became a platform for people to tell stories about their lives, because we believe that everyone has stories that are worthy of telling.

Why storytelling? 

Oral storytelling is the oldest form of telling stories, myths, urban legends, moral lessons, etc. It’s something we can all do, and with practice, it is something we can do well. There is an art to telling a story as opposed to writing it that is often overlooked because there are far fewer opportunities to practice it publicly. I feel that from watching how others craft their stories, I am much better at telling my own stories, and therefore a much better party guest!

What makes people want to go up to share stories, especially when they’re not allowed to use notes?

Some people want to practice their public speaking, others are just inspired by something they heard in another person’s story. I think the more storytelling events you go to the more you see the story potential in things that have happened to you. For example, whenever I travel and everything is going wrong, my mind automatically tries to think of the best way to tell that story. As for notes, I think it may be intimidating the first time, but most people don’t need notes to talk about events in their lives. Especially our best stories from our lives, we have those pretty well burned into our memories.

What’s the best story you’ve heard?

When in front of an audience, we tend to want to tell funny stories because laughter is a good measure of how well people like your story, but the best story I’ve heard at Beijing Storytellers was a very serious one. The story was about being gay in small town America. The storyteller was bullied by some classmates who burned him with their cigarette, so his friends beat up the bully and sent him to the hospital. Years later, the storyteller came face to face with the bully and they both had to atone for what they’d done to each other.  I cried at that one.

What’s the best story you’ve told?

Hmmmm….I think the best story I have told was a pretty gross toilet story, so I’ll spare the readers here. The second best story I told was during our Metamorphosis theme. I told the story about dressing up as David Bowie from Labyrinth for Halloween. I felt super sexy because A) I looked just like my sex idol, and B) I had found a perfect sized fruit cup with which to stuff my pants for the full effect. Just as I was strutting my stuff down bar street in Sanlitun, these guys asked if my ‘package’ was real and then grabbed my crotch to check!

Can you give first-time or soon-to-be storytellers some advice?

Start with the action. Many people include a lot of information or background that may be relevant to themselves or that they think will help clarify the relationships between all the people in the story or why they ended up where they are in the story. But in reality, storytelling is very similar to writing short fiction. You just don’t need to know every single detail and mostly the audience cares about what is moving the story along. So the best thing to do is try out your story on victims…eh, I mean friends, at a party or at the bar. Figure out where your story drags or what is really necessary and find the best way to tell it.

What can we expect this Sunday?

Every storytelling night is so different because I try to get different people up to tell stories each time! Some nights have been so serious. Other nights we’ve laughed our asses off. Come ready for either or a good mix of both.

Anything else?

I’m very curious what other people think makes a good story! There are so many different styles, I am always interested in what keeps people listening.

Storytelling happens this Sunday at 8 pm at The Bookworm. FREE

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