Comedy and storytelling

I had a blast at Tinder Tales last Saturday! I arrived early with some friends, enjoyed a nice meal with a couple of cocktails, then joined the other performers downstairs. The mic was not in service, but I learned how to project back in high school so I wasn’t nervous about that.

Thus began my crash course on the differences between comedy and storytelling. I am still processing some of the finer points, and there is a huge amount of overlap in this particular Venn diagram. I’d like to take a workshop on comedy, or read about it, do something to expand my knowledge and help clarify these new thoughts.

I sat back and appreciated the performances, laughing along with the crowd, which was a very warm and friendly collection of faces. Then came my turn.

“This is less of a Tinder tale and more of a Scruff story,” I began before launching into my performance. You know how it goes: you meet a guy for drinks, you have a chat, you find out your ex lives with his ex. I got some good laughs, and I even saw some sympathetic looks as I went into more vulnerable parts of my story. I don’t know if I stuck the landing so much as slid to a stop, but I felt good on the whole. I know I’m being my own worst critic here, but it’s helpful to think of how I can do better next time.

Thank you to an amazing audience, including several friends; your support means everything to me! Thanks to Adelade LaFontaine for producing, Monica Hamburg (catch her show Pornomedy) for hosting, and to the hilarious performers who got up and told their tales. A special shout-out to Heather Hurst (@ForceOfStature on Twitter and Instagram) for looking at a table of three bearded men and asking, “What is the name of your podcast?” We had a good laugh after the show when I told her they were my people.

I’m pretty sure I’m a storyteller and not a comedian (or perhaps some hybrid creature?), though I do enjoy the relationship between tension and laughter and I would like to learn how to better manipulate said tension. So it’s practice, practice, practice and on to the next story!

I don’t have anything in the works just yet, so it seems like an opportune moment to return to my long-neglected novel. I’ve got Shut Up & Write next weekend, I’ve submitted a total of three chapters to two writing groups, momentum is building and I need to harness that energy and let it take me as far as possible.

A moment of calm

I’ve reached the end of the Confab Storylab, culminating in our breakout performance at the Freestanding Room. It was a great night of awesome stories in an intimate space, I was able to feel fairly laid-back even though part of my brain was screaming about how much improvisation I was about to attempt (like, a lot).

It worked? I had to ask for some outside opinions, naturally; I got caught up in the flow of the story, went off on an unplanned tangent, and wrapped it up as neatly as I could. Telling a story seems to happen in a breathless rush with me, though I don’t feel like I sped through it at all. Those minutes go by in a flash, then I’m bowing my head and retreating to my seat to enjoy the heady rush of a story told.

One of my fellow workshoppers shared a story that centred on the Main Deli, so a few of us went down the road for smoked meat and latkes. My first. Yeah, I’ve been in Quebec 11 years, lived on the island for three and a half, and still had never gone for a smoked meat sandwich. What kind of a Montrealer am I?

A Montrealer-in-progress, obviously.

Since that night, not a lot of work has been done on stories. I have Tinder Tales coming up May 25 at Lord William Pub, I should probably run that by a few people and get some feedback. I have a submission deadline in my calendar for a nonfiction contest organised by the Malahat Review, and a vague notion of what to write for that. QWF’s Shut Up & Write is starting up again, and I am keenly aware that the last session earned me nearly 4,000 words of my novel. I can’t expect that every time, but my word count has not increased in (gulp) months and I need to change that.

February up and left

Where did February go? Time for a retrospective.

I started off freshly unemployed, and at the beginning of the month I was still riding the high of putting my foot down and making a decision for the sake of my own good. I had tons of free time, perfect for getting lots of writing done!

I feel like I wasted a lot of that time loafing around, but my calendar begs to differ.

I had my first meeting with a new writer’s group, this one comprised entirely of queer men. Since I make up the entire gay section of my previous writing group, I felt the need to seek the opinions of folk who are a bit more familiar with my subject matter. This isn’t to say I’m leaving my first group! I need as much feedback as I can get!

I slayed at my last Shut Up & Write, managing over 4,300 words in two and a half hours. I was buzzing and eager to get home and print up the new chapters and add them to the manuscript pile. I submitted one of them to the queer writing group, with a specific question of how much sexual detail is too much? This rough draft is extra steamy, I’m looking forward to hearing what they think of it.

Then I pitched for next month’s Confabulation, a special challenge as the stories are only two minutes long. My rough draft was shorter than usual, but still clocked in at nearly five minutes. Oops. It’s fun to make big cuts, though, so now it’s under the time limit and I’m ready to rehearse. Not too much, though; I aim to tell a story, not recite a bit of nonfiction.

I also started a new job, so my income woes will soon be over! I want to lament having less time to write, but my chequing account is sobbing, so it seems silly to complain. I’ll just have to include writing time in my schedule, maybe bring my laptop to work and set up in a café for an hour or two once a week. Or come home, fix myself a nice tea, and hole up in the office. There are options.

In fact, I’m off to Vermont next week for work, and my laptop is definitely coming with. Job by day, writing by night. Both of my writing groups meet the week after, though, so I’d best print up the pieces I’ll be critiquing and get to work on them.

I hit a bit of a wall with my French story: I got excellent feedback, then realised that I made the all-too-common error of losing myself in time while telling a story. I wrote out a reminder for the corkboard: what happens in the story is in present tense, what comes before is past, and anything beyond the scope of the story has to be in future. The me who is sitting at the keys and writing now gets confused about that, though.

I got overwhelmed by all of my spelling errors and the daunting task of changing tense for a couple pages of French text, so I abandoned it for the moment and did other things. It’s still there, I know I can tackle it, I just had a bit of a freak-out in that moment. It’s fine. I’m fine.