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Feb 24, 2023
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FVCC Class Focuses on Live Storytelling

By Heidi Desch

A new non-credit class at Flathead Valley Community College wants to help both experienced and inexperienced students perfect the craft of live storytelling.

Barbara and Glenn Schiffman are co-teaching the class, entitled Tell Us Your Story. They plan to take students through eight sessions designed to help them craft their true story in advance of performing during a live story concert with an audience during the final class in April.

The Schiffmans are both active with the Authors of the Flathead group and Glenn teaches writing courses at the community college. Both have been involved with spoken word events in the past and say that it provides a different venue than an open mic night, which is geared more toward musical performances.

“Presenting short true experiences there’s nothing else like that here,” Barbara said. “We’re hoping that the class will begin something that can become a dedicated time and place for people who are story lovers to listen and those who want to tell stories to share.”

Storytelling has become popular through media like the Moth Radio Hour, TED Talks and PBS’s “Stories from the Stage.” Final stories presented will be roughly 5 to 8 minutes long and are curated, meaning that they have been practiced and storytellers will speak in a particular order based on their topic.

They look forward to making the story concert performance an ongoing event.

“Bringing people together in the same room for a shared experience live at the same time is different than listening to a podcast,” Barbara said. “You can feel it and you all get the takeaway when the story goes from being personal to being universal.”

The course is good for anyone who has a brief true story they’d like to share verbally or those who are looking to get over a fear of public speaking. Spoken word storytelling is different from improv, and also requires a different type of writing than for online or printed publication.

The class is not just for writers, they note, as some of the best true stories come from people who don’t consider themselves writers.

“Writing a personal essay that is designed to be read silently alone on your own time is a different experience than writing to perform,” Barbara said. “We’re looking for true stories from people who have lived them — in vulnerable moments and funny moments.”

“This is the story you tell at the Thanksgiving table,” adds Glenn. “Stories are what holds us all together. Stories are about where you’ve been and where you’re going and what ideas you have to share.”

The class is $124 and meets on Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. at FVCC. The first class is March 1.