HCC readies for first Story Slam

March 6, 2014

Bob Reiser offers tips about telling an effective story. Gail Herman talks to HCC students at a Story Slam workshop.

Mark Twain said, "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't."

With this theme in mind -- "Stranger than Fiction" -- HCC will launch its inaugural Story Slam on Wednesday, March 12, in the Black Box Theater, room 111 in the Fine & Performing Arts building, from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

"What is a story slam?" asked HCC English teacher Bob Reiser during a Story Slam warm-up workshop last week. "It's a competition."

Like a poetry slam a story slam is an event where writers/performers stand up in front of an audience and share a short piece of writing.

Unlike a poetry slam, however, a story slam is one in which writers tell a short story based on an event, incident or experience from real life. The story must be true -- and told without notes.

"You're not really supposed to memorize it, so it's fresh," said HCC English professor Dave Champoux, advisor to the HCC Creative Writing Club, which is organizing the event.

Another rule is that the story must be told in less than five minutes.

At last week's workshop, Gail N. Herman, an Easthampton writer and storyteller, demonstrated the gentle chime story slam performers will hear when their five minutes is up.

"That's a lot nicer," said HCC student Bill Wieliczka, co-editor of Pulp City, HCC's literary magazine.  "At No Shame Theater, if someone goes over their five minutes, we shut the lights off and yell, 'Get off the stage!'"

Champoux, who also organizes HCC's Spoken Word and Flash Fiction contests each semester, said story slams like this one are growing nationally as an outlet for creative writing. In particular, a radio show called "The Moth," which is broadcast on National Public Radio, is giving exposure to these types of events.

"It's like the moth is drawn to a flame, or people gathered around a fire, telling stories about their lives," said Champoux.

In the same way, Champoux hopes students will be drawn to the Black Box Theater next week, to listen to their classmates tell true stories about their lives -- in under five minutes.

All performers will receive prizes, with the winner earning a spot in the LANES Storytelling Conference Slam at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst on March 28.

For more information, contact Dave Champoux, Creative Writing Club advisor, at dchampoux@hcc.edu or DON 363.

Photos: (Left) Bob Reiser, a member of HCC's adjunct faculty, offers tips about telling an effective story slam tale. (Right) Storyteller Gail Herman talks to HCC students and Pulp City editors Stefanie Hotaling and Bill Wieliczka during a Story Slam workshop.


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