The format of "Real Stories" is "5-6 people telling 10-minute true stories, no notes" in front of a microphone and a small crowd (numbering around 40 last night by my guess). This night's theme was "Judgment Call," about the decisions we make, the circumstances under which we make them, and their consequences.
One of the featured yarn-weavers was David Corbett, author of two excellent thrillers The Devil's Redhead and Do They Know I'm Running? (reviewed by me here) plus two others. David told a touching tale that gracefully and mystically arced between the passing of his first wife and the slow discovery of the second love of his life.
The other storytellers were strangers to me, but they had fine true tales to tell: Richard Neumann's painful tale of his struggle to forgive a woman who had cruelly dumped him; Lynn Wallace's story of her experience with a Native American shaman; event organizer and host Kay DeMartini's humiliation when she got caught telling a fib to a parking lot security guard about an accident she caused; Ericka Lutz told the suspenseful tale-and they were all suspenseful--of discovering a mysterious, password-protected file on her deceased husband's laptop and her anguished wrestling with her psyche over whether or not to open it.
My favorite story of the evening was told by author and former bank robber and ex-con Joe Loya, author of The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robber. Joe told about his conversion to Buddhism and the challenges he's faced living up to its precepts after a life lived entwined with violence. Both funny and moving, the story followed the path Joe took from almost killing a man to how he finally had to reach out to the same man for help many years later. Forgiveness is a good thing.
At intermission a drawing was held and a name selected to step to the mike and tell a story of their own . . . and, as you might guess, this correspondent who won the pull. Following the precept that the best stories are the ones you tell on yourself, I told a favorite chestnut about visiting a brother of mine one Christmas and espying a collection of novels by a pop-genre writer I heartily despise and sneering with my best Nabokovian haughtiness, "My God! Who the hell is reading that crap?"
In reply, my brother snatched the book off the shelf, held out to me and said, "Merry Christmas."
Thomas Burchfield's contemporary Dracula novel Dragon's Ark will be published March 2011 by Ambler House Publishing. His essays and blogs can be read at The Red Room website for writers. He can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter.
Causes Thomas Burchfield Supports
The Nature Conservancy; Africare; Capitol Public Radio