Collaboration Closeup: Ophira Eisenberg and Peter Aguero

Peter and Ophira at a show at Belleville in Brooklyn

When putting together the Telling Your Story course, I wanted to add interviews with some of my friends--people who were not only amazing storytellers themselves, but who also had experience teaching storytelling. I loved the idea of working with Peter and Ophira, and giving us a chance hear from someone from a comedy background and someone from an improv background, to explore how our varied experiences impact the way we approach the art and craft of this medium.

Also, I will own up to some purely selfish motivations: there were some conversations I was longing to have, conversations that don't happen standing in line for a show or hanging out in a crowded bar afterward. There were questions I wanted to ask these two that really require a quiet room, the chance to sit face to face, cozy into your chair and really be listened to.

Ophira at Argot Studios

Ophira Eisenberg is a celebrated comic who has appeared on Comedy Central and was named a "Top Ten Comic" by New York Magazine. I've always been drawn to Ophira because she's so damn real. So much of the time when she makes me laugh, it's this laughter of surprise because she has said something so honest, and so previously unrecognized or unnamed that I'm like, "Oh my god it's so TRUE!" She has this astute observation and this willingness to own up to all kinds of things that simultaneously inspires me and makes me feel relief at not being "the only one".

A lot of people can rock a persona or a character on stage, but it takes something else entirely to stand in front of a crowd and a microphone, under a spotlight and just be true. Ophira is the real deal, all the way, and it's no surprise that she is so beloved in our community. I love that her Sound Studio interview gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how she navigates vulnerability and how she prepares stories with high emotional content.

Aguero at The BTKristmas Show, 2010

Whenever I think about the way that love makes us brave, I think about The BTK Band. The improvisational storytelling rock band, led by Peter Aguero, is my favorite to stand on stage with when I'm telling the stories that are hard to tell. They're the ultimate safety net--I know I won't lose their affection, even if I swing out wide and fall, and there is literally no where I can go that they won't go with me. I wanted TYS participants to feel that same safety, that same sense of bold permission, and having Peter collaborate on the project was the perfect way to create that.

Peter really embodies this mix of badassery and tenderness that gives me hope for my own budding inner baddass. In his sound studio interview, he gives participants the full range, addressing fears with compassionate, bold advice. He shares about the stories that have changed him forever and what gets lost when we hold back.

We recorded the Sound Studio first, in December 2010, and as I designed and finished the interactive curriculum I did my best to infuse the whole project with the spirit and sensibilities of Peter and Ophira, just as much as my own. The result is that this project is more urban and more rock and roll than anything I've previously produced. It's really an hommage to the NYC storytelling community, featuring photos of some of our favorite venues and quotes and wisdom from the friends and mentors that have taught me everything I know about the art and craft of storytelling.

There is no greater gift than working in the company of friends, and creating the Telling Your Story course with Peter and Ophira was nothing short of a dream come true.

You can find Ophira's comedy album, As Is, on iTunes. Her memoir, Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy, will be available through Perseus Books in Spring of 2012.

The BTK Band can be found causing trouble the second Monday of every month, Under St. Mark's Theater. Peter and I will be together again for BARE on December 29th.


A New Companion

Sometimes it's more than you can carry in your own two hands--the parts and pieces of your journey, the artifacts of your living. The things that remind you of who you are and the ones you can't survive without. Your phone, your keys, your cash. The laptop and the one particular fine-tipped pen that feels just right in your hand. The journal crafted by your girlfriend out of hand-made paper and the words--your words--coming to life in its pages.

Now all the things you need can get to all the places you need to go--the office, the coffee shop, that little corner of the house that is yours alone. Just fill it with your treasures, grab it and go. Let it be your companion as you venture out into the world, your gentle reminder as you find your way, always, home.

Just Be True Limited-Edition Tote

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Features large main section with small interior fabric pockets. Left side pocket is perfect for travel mugs and water bottles. Dimensions: 14" (W) x 12" (H) x 6.5" (D) Quantities are limited.

What to Do When It Still Hurts

Stumptown Coffee, Portland, OR, Horizon Perfekt Camera with Lomo 400 filmI was flipping back through old journal pages, looking for some project notes when I found this list. I think it felt too tender to post when I wrote it, but layers of time have created some cushioning around the words and they don't poke and prod at me like they used to.

And stumbling back upon it, I thought, that's a pretty good list. So I'm dusting it off and giving it its moment in the light.

What to Do When It Still Hurts (Even After All This Time)

  1. Wash the dishes in the near-dark.
  2. Listen to The Rosebuds.
  3. Eat the blueberries. All of them, even though it is late, because by tomorrow they won't be crisp and sweet anymore. Rub the place where the skin raises in the shape of a star with your tongue.
  4. Tell yourself what your friends do: it's understandable. It hasn't been as long as you think.
  5. Remember that nostalgia is a lying bitch.
  6. Drink a hot beverage, but for the love of God wait long enough to spare yourself that first-sip burn.
  7. Think of something kind you can do for yourself. blueberry blueberry blueberry
  8. Talk to someone else who is well-acquainted with grief. Notice how strong and clear her voice is, like an outstretched hand after a fall. Consider the same clear strength is in your own hands, your own voice.
  9. Avoid proclamations including words like ever and never, particularly those including both. They're really not helping.
  10. Use strong language for strong feelings.
  11. Feel the urge to numb out, to put on a good show, to lie a little even to yourself. Try to be true anyway.
  12. Notice that these moments are fewer and farther betweeen with every passing day (if you are so lucky) and be glad.
  13. Sit and stare out the window. Feel your feelings. Drink your drink.
  14. And when the cup is empty, get up.

Where This Woman Creates (Really)

I'm often intrigued by the immaculate photos I see of people's homes and workspaces perfectly staged and decorated. Do people actually live that way? I wonder.  It's too easy to compare other people's picture-perfect to my own life-in-progress and find myself lacking.  Some sites I don't even read anymore, because I don't come away inspired--I come away feeling like an inferior human being.

My dissatisfaction is born from a desire to honor our very real times, our very real spaces.  When you see where women by and large actually create, it's a marvel.  We write words that will change people's lives in journals that hang off the desk while we're writing in them, with papers and restaurant napkins and unused visitor passes to the local gym at our feet.

We create in spaces that we share with partners and children and people we love, in moments we steal away from the messy, stormy, unpredictable, untamed and beautiful lives we are creating together with our families and neighbors and friends.

We write on the sofa while a little one makes a paper bag puppet next to us in the early morning hours while the rest of our bustling city sleeps. 

Our families patiently squeeze bowls and plates onto tables sprawling with the artifacts of our days while our minds weave new songs, new pictures, new paintings and phrases that we can't turn off until we simply get them out.

They don't complain when we're having pasta for dinner. Again.  We dream of the day when the words are finally out and we once again remember to buy vegetables. And cook them.

We walk past sinks with dirty dishes, and half-eaten gingerbread houses that are still on the counter even though it's half-way through January.  We fill up our cups and keep going.

There are other days, quiet days, when we will want to tame our spaces and restore order.  After the creating is done, when our spirits find that calm like a baby finally rocked to rest.

But until that time comes, we remind ourselves that this time is beautiful, too, and this disheveled space that testifies to our life as it really is and not how anyone else thinks it ought to be.

If you'd like to join me in honoroing our very real times and spaces, you can share photos of the spaces you are living and creating in (just a quick pic, without moving anything) in this new Flickr group: Real Spaces.

An Access Point to Authenticity

at Coney Island. Horizon Perfekt, xpro Lomo 200 film.

When the authenticity conversation first came our way, many of us were raising our hands and murmuring, amen.  Our trusty bullshit meters promptly sounded whenever someone was posing or hiding something, and we hated that.  "Don't be a fake" could have been an early slogan, or "Give it to me straight."  Hell yeah, authenTIcity, man.

At first, we want to be given something real or true.  But the conversation doesn't have to sit with us for long before we inevitably turn the lens on ourselves.  We want to be authentic--we don't want to be a faker or a poser or someone who ever sets off the bullshit meters of others.  We want to know who we really are, we want to give ourselves permission to be that Real Person in the world, but this is the very point on which we so often get stuck:

Which one is the real me?  Is it my private self or my public persona?  Is it the way I am with my parents, or is it the way I am with my partner?  Is it only the way I am when I'm alone?  Is it the self I was 5 years ago, or the self I am today?  Or what about the self I'm aspiring to become--doesn't she count for something?

We are a bag of endlessly differentiated parts.

We are complex.  We live in a modern cafeteria of contexts, with modern technology gradually erasing the physical divides between work space and home space, between personal time and professional time.  Instead of switching hats throughout the day, we're more likely to stack them on our heads all at once. 

Many of us share the desire for authenticity, but we haven't always been given a lot of access points into it.  There aren't a lot of clear roadmaps for how to take each part and to understand and experience how it relates to all the other parts.  How they all belong.  How they can ever form something even resembling an authentic sense of self.

This is where the integration conversation comes in.  It addresses what to do with the bag of parts.  It leads us into a place where the parts become a whole.  And from that place, we can experience a revelation in what it means to be true.

Click through for updated details about the Integrate in the Rockies Retreat this fall.

Merch: Available Online for a Limited Time

This year, for the Squam Art Fairs, I designed a small line of apparel.  It seemed like a fun and light-hearted project.  But once my items arrived, I couldn't believe how soft and comfortable they were, or just how good it felt to wear those words close to my heart.  It felt amazing, as if something true could seep into me by osmosis. 

They felt so good that I didn't want to wear anything else.

Some people noticed the shirts in the Spring Squam pictures and enquired about them.  I don't like anyone to be left out, so I'm making them available here on a temporary Merch page--for how long, I do not know.  I'll try it out for a week or two, and see how it goes.  I'm not set-up right now to ship the apparel items internationally, but that may come.

I'm so happy to share the soft and cozy goodness with you.  Go on over, and get 'em while you can.

Photo by the amazing Tracey Clark.