Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Arizona Storytellers Holiday Spectacular 2015

I laughed hysterically one minute and held back tears the next.

I  wanted to attend the Arizona Storytellers Holiday Spectacular for years, and I finally made it this week. Storytellers events are nights when people share tales from their lives, often with a particular theme. The audience is encouraged to actively participate by taking the story in and being engaged listeners. It's my second Storytellers event -- I attended one last year at The Newton -- and this time the audience was 630 people vs. a couple hundred. The Arizona Biltmore opened up its McArthur Ballroom for the event and served holiday cookies, hot chocolate and coffee. I opted for a glass of wine to calm my anxiety about being among so many people. Introversion, you know? Among the audience members were some of my former co-workers from The Arizona Republic. It was such a treat to catch up with a fellow (former) copy editor and hear about his adventures traveling the country with his wife. Retirement sounds like a distant, heavenly dream. *Sigh.*

The stories began with Joe Finnerty, who is not related to host Megan Finnerty, talking about his family's Christmas traditions. I was already emotional hearing it, and it was just the beginning. Not all of the stories were about joyous family traditions, though. One story talked about the harsh realities in the teller's life one year, including finding out a loved one was addicted to heroin. That story hit home because I have relatives who suffer from addiction and I know the impact it has on the person and his or her family and friends. That sadness turned to laughter when I heard another story about a father who made extra-special tamales for his family one year after being pressured to make them. And then I craved more tamales.

I have absolutely zero photos of the night because it's not an event that can be easily documented while being an engaged listener. I wanted to truly get into the stories and the messages, and I did. The Storytellers nights have expanded to cities like Louisville, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Find a list of them in this Poynter article. If you have a chance to go to a Storytellers event, I highly recommend it. You can also sign up to be a teller, which Megan will be thrilled about.

Get more information about the events in Phoenix on the Storytellers website, and let me know what you think!

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