They told stories about sleep paralysis, Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, a pizza delivery gone wrong, an adopted son's bus ride through a Texas slum to see his birth mother, a haunted bowling alley, and a visitation from the Virgin Mary.
As different as they were, though, the stories had some things in common. They were all true and told by students competing in HCC's first Story Slam last week.
The Story Slam was held in the Black Box Theater on the first floor of the Fine & Performing Arts building. Participants told their stories under the theater lights, after a brief introduction from HCC adjunct professor Bob Reiser, who organized the event with HCC English professor Dave Champoux, advisor of the HCC Creative Writing Club.
"Everybody loves to tell stories," he said, "but if you want to have a competition, you have to limit how much time you get."
Each contestant got five minutes to tell a story without notes. Everyone who attended served as a judge, including the contestants.
"Pick a story that you enjoyed the telling of," said Reiser, "one that has a beginning, a middle and an end."
"The story that is the most satisfying, the one that moved you the most," he added. "That's the one you pick."
In the end, the judges awarded prizes to Sheldon Gaynor, for his piece "Visionaries," about Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, and Bill Wieliczka, for his story "The Train Ride," about his experience with sleep paralysis.
First prize went to Ginger Moon for "Conception," a moving, well-told story about a spiritual visitation.
"This is not the run-of-the-mill story about a visitation from your dead grandfather," she said.
It was a story about a visitation from the Virgin Mary, who, she said, tried to hand her a baby, which she refused to accept.
In the morning, she woke up next to her boyfriend and said, "You just got me pregnant."
As it turned out, she was right, but later lost the baby. She coped with the loss, she said, by imagining her child in the arms of the Virgin Mary.
"I choose to believe," she said in closing.
Afterward, Moon said that while she had rehearsed for the Story Slam she had never told her story in public before.
"Only to my phone," she said.
For her victory, Moon won a free admission to the LANES Storytelling Conference Slam at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst on March 28 and a gift certificate for a free storytelling coaching session.
Photos: (Left) HCC student Sheldon Gaynor performs a piece called "Visionaries" at HCC's first Story Slam on Wed., March 12.(Right) Ginger Moon took first prize at the Story Slam for her piece called "Conception." (Thumbnail) Nick Lombardi told a story about ruining a customer's newly paved driveway while delivering a pizza in a story he titled, "I'm Stupid."