Story SlamMN! Interview: Leif Wallin


April 14, 2014 by Paula Reed Nancarrow

leif on stage

Leif Wallin on stage at Kieran’s Irish Pub. Photo courtesy of

All three of the winners at Wordsprout’s Story SlamMN! “Thankful” in March were willing to answer my questions about their story process.  So here’s interview #2 from Leif Wallin.

For those who were not at StorySlamMN!, please give a quick summary of what your story was about. What connected it to the theme “thankful”?

I was adopted as an infant. I knew my Bio mom was 20 when I was born, but that was about it. I’m living a pretty darn good life, so I never felt the need to do a full search. Many adoptees have a black hole in the soul, until they find out why they were given up. I didn’t have that.

Then my daughter turned 20, the same age as my bio mom when she gave me up. I thought, what goes through the mind of a young woman, not much more than a girl, when making that decision? What if she has a black hole in her soul wondering about me? I decided to do the full search.   I didn’t find out what I wanted, but I was “Thankful” at the connections that I made and the people I reconnected with during the search.

How did the idea for your story come to you? Did you create this story specifically for the slam, or did you use a story you have told in another context because it fit the theme?

The timing was incredible.   I completed the Bio search in January and the “Thankful” slam was just 2 months later.   It fit perfectly. I like story slam themes because with a little tweaking,   I can fit a story into various themes. I could have fit this story into a theme about Family, Lost and Found,   or Love Hurts…   As I modify a story, I invariably discover another angle as to why that story resonates within me.

Is there a particular practice or process you find helpful in shaping your story to fit within the theme and time limitations of a slam?

If my draft is on the long side, I prioritize the vignettes within the story. Typically the lower ranked vignettes are interesting, but not crucial to the story. I put that vignette aside as it likely will become a standalone story that fits another theme.

What do you think is the most difficult thing about telling a story on stage? What is the most rewarding?

Difficult: On stage, you are revealing a part of yourself.   I want my story to connect to others. It doesn’t have to be the best of the night, or the winner, but my fear is that it will not connect with anyone.

Rewarding:   one night after telling at The Moth, I finished near the bottom of the pack. As we were leaving,   several people told me that my story was the best of the night, for them. That made my day and it reminded me that you will never connect with everyone, but if you connect with a few, then it’s worth effort.

About Leif:

Leif didn’t give me a bio or a web site link; I guess what you have above will have to do. You can see, however, see Leif, both on stage and in the audience, along with a number of other storytellers (including me) for brief moments in this story KARE11 TV did when The Moth story slam first came to St. Paul.  (For some reason I’m the only one on stage you don’t actually get a story snippet from.)

Leif did provide me with a YouTube video, though he said if it was “too lame” I shouldn’t use it. But hey. It’s had over 8000 views. This blog should be so lucky.

Note: After this was posted, I learned Word Sprout’s YouTube channel actually has the “Thankful” story Leif told.  So enjoy.


The theme for next month’s StorySlamMN! is “provoked.”

I attended a workshop last weekend at Story Arts of Minnesota’s second annual StoryFest taught by Loren Niemi, who answered the questions above in last week’s post as one of the winners of the slam theme “thankful.” During that time we actually worked on the theme “provoked” a bit. It was interested to see who had positive associations with the word – reflecting on the idea that something was “thought-provoking” or provoked a good discussion – and who did not. I love good discussions, and thought-provoking books, but the word “provoked” has some very negative baggage for me as well, and the story packed inside those bags is one I have been trying to tell, and failing, since I first took Loren and Nancy Donoval‘s Intermediate Storytelling course in 2005. It will be interesting to see how far I get this time around.

Related Posts

Story SlamMN! Interview: Loren Niemi

Story SlamMN! Interview: phillip andrew bennett low

Story SlamMN! Interview: Ani Lovoll


2 thoughts on “Story SlamMN! Interview: Leif Wallin

  1. It is so interesting to hear where different people get their inspiration from for storylines. That is a LOT of YouTube views too!! Thank you for linking to PoCoLo :) x


  2. […] the video for Jenna, I’ve now added the story Leif Wallin told for “Thankful” to his interview. Check it […]


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