Five Creative Things I’m Excited About


August 17, 2014 by Paula Reed Nancarrow

word sproutThis is the third and last of the three guest posts I wrote for Word Sprout’s 2014 blog residency.  These included an introductory post (“How I Got Here“) , a “Tricks of the Trade” post, and a “Check This Out!” post featuring “something you’re excited about (a project, show, book, whatever you want to tell people to check out).” The original is here.

This last is probably the most local and time-sensitive post but there’s still some “evergreen content” that my broader blogging audience should appreciate. (It’s also a little self-referential, as one of the things I’m excited about is this blog.) You can sample the other Check This Out posts from all the residents (including the ones that came after me) here. Below, with slight modifications, and a few extra photos and illustrations, are: 

The Five Exciting Things

1.  Becoming solvent again.

Not me - but I did fight for what I got. Courtesy Celebrity Net Worth.

Not me – but I did fight for what I got. Courtesy Celebrity Net Worth.

I wasn’t trying to be a full time artist during the recession, but I did make the mistake of starting my own grant writing business a month before the stock market crashed. This did not work out. Getting back into wage slavedom was not easy, but I’m finally working forty decent paying hours a week again at two good nonprofit organizations. I have less time, obviously, and often less energy, but I no longer take for granted the amazing creativity boost that comes from being able to pay my own bills.

2. My blog on writing, creative practice and performance.


Still from Merchant Ivory Film’s Bombay Talkie courtesy of My Fave Bit.

Knowing I would have less time for storytelling as I adjusted to juggling two jobs, I made a New Year’s Resolution in 2014 to blog at least once a week. For the most part I’ve used Allison’s slam themes as a structure; I figured if I explored my process of working a story online, using those themes as story prompts, and had regular weekly deadlines, it would keep me disciplined enough to have material to perform at least at that venue, and it might be useful to somebody else.

I’ve also done a number of interviews of story slam winners.  The posts are all pretty short and readable. I started the interviewing before Word Sprout began its blog residency project, and I don’t know if I’ll continue doing so now that the slam season has ended, because that site seems like a better space for doing so. But you can access those interviews here.

I publish stories I’ve told, generally in written form, and I’m currently doing a series on storytellers who are long time bloggers. The creative community I’ve discovered among other bloggers and indie authors on Twitter is lovely, particularly where memoir is concerned. It’s like joining a whole new global tribe, which is pretty exciting and fun.

3. All you crazy young people.

Photo Courtesy Allison Broeren and

Photo Courtesy Allison Broeren and

Like Allison, who has more can-do in her little finger than I have in my entire body most days, and is making a business model supporting artists work. And Sam Cook, who went out and got the grant that funded Button Poetry’s videos, which is what allowed Neil Hilborn’s incredible poem “OCD” (which I featured in my last post) to take off. And who is also making a business model supporting artists work. And Cole Sarar, who produces Ring Ring Poetry, for which she also obtained funding. Having been one of those people who writes the grants, I am especially appreciative of the work that goes into them.

The poem above shows you both Sam and the organization he co-founded. As of this date it has been viewed over 100,000 times. You should see why. You can also see Cole in the video for Jumpin’ Jack Kerouac, somewhat outside her own element, in my recent Fringe review post.

4.  Story Arts of Minnesota


Story Arts of Minnesota (SAM) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization run by an all-volunteer board and funded by event revenue, grants, memberships and donations. It was founded in 2000 as Northstar Storytelling League. (I’m so glad we’re not a league anymore. That always reminded me of bowling.) I was on and off the board for most of a decade, and took my turn as President for a few years. The current board has four people on it who did Word Sprout blog residencies this summer – Taylor Tower, Mimi Nguyen, Ward Rubrecht and Katherine Glover – and it’s awesome. SAM’s mission is to promote storytelling and develop and support storytellers. Anyone can join, either to support the organization or to take advantage of what it offers to artists, or both. They are flexible about their definition of storytelling – that’s one of the reasons for the name “Story Arts.”


SAM produces storytelling workshops, an annual StoryFest and a quarterly storytelling series called Prompt. [Note: I’m actually working on a story for the next one, “Getting Back,” which is stories based on the Odyssey.] SAM also offers the Joan Calof Emerging Artist Fellowship. And they just did a Minnesota Fringe Festival show, which I reviewed here. Members can be listed on their Hire a Storyteller roster, and yes, I’ve gotten work from that listing.

Any member that is in an event can also list that event on their storytelling calendar. It’s like Facebook, only focused, and more search-engine friendly. Several members produce their own events – like Kate Konkel Bailey’s Lay an Egg at the Fox Egg Gallery the last Sunday of the month, Dorothy Cleveland’s Folktales Rising, which is held the fourth Tuesday of the month (check Facebook for upcoming times and locations), Loren Niemi’s Two Chairs Telling (more below), Mimi Nguyen’s Story Club, which she talks about in her post, and Pam Schweitzer’s PJ Stories for children the first Thursday of the month at the Coffee Grounds in Falcon Heights. You can find all these events on SAM’s event calendar, and even import that calendar, or individual events, into your own. SAM is the fiscal agent for Two Chairs Telling and has been a major sponsor for WordSprout’s Story SlamMN!

5. Two Chairs Telling


Speaking of Loren Niemi’s Two Chairs Telling, their season ended in June, but I’m already looking forward to the next. It’s held at the Bryant Lake Bowl on the second Tuesday of the month, and will start up again in September. When Loren has grant funds, he generally pairs a nationally known storyteller with a local artist – sometimes known, sometimes up-and-coming; sometimes an artist who identifies as a storyteller, sometimes not – for 90 minutes of whatever happens. When the grant funds don’t come through (knock on wood) he gets even more creative. Loren produced TCT at the Jungle Theatre from 1992-1998, then took a decade off, and came back with the format in 2008. Next season will be the first time I perform there. I’m guessing your calendar is pretty open in February 2015. You should stop by.

In the meantime, you can actually listen to the SoundCloud version of one of my favorite Two Chairs Telling episodes, featuring the great Texas storyteller Elizabeth Ellis – a national treasure – and our own Minnesota pleasure Ward Rubrecht, below.

15 thoughts on “Five Creative Things I’m Excited About

  1. Norah says:

    Thanks for sharing your excitement and all the lovely links. :)


  2. Natasha says:

    Amen to the first, and kudos for the second. I’ve been giving in to laziness way too often and missing my ONE blog post a week. But now, instead of working on my next book, I’ll be following the lovely links from this post…


  3. lorilschafer says:

    I’m really looking forward to that stories based on the Odyssey project – sounds terrific! :)


  4. Cool for you, Paula! This is such a great post. So very pay-it-forward.


  5. Hi Paula, I had no idea about any of these! The “Two Chairs Telling” sounds particularly interesting to me. If I’m around your way next February I will definitely check it out! Thanks so much for sharing!


  6. stuckinscared says:

    This is such a great post Paula, I really enjoyed listening to the two chairs stories, the second story was so engaging, I loved watching the ladies creation come alive in my imagination :) x


  7. […] are “based on, inspired by, or tangentially related to classic work.” As I mentioned in my last post, the classic work for our show on September 6 is Homer’s Odyssey; the theme, “Getting […]


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