Spark Artist in Residency at Washington Middle School

The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS), the City of Missoula, the Missoula Cultural Council, and a broad range of local arts organizations have teamed up to help bring our community the Any Given Child Initiative. The program, developed by the Kennedy Center, focuses on ensuring equal access to diverse arts learning opportunities for any given child in our community.

Tell Us Something was chosen this year, after developing relationships with SPARK staff and trainers for the previous year, to teach the art of storytelling to 8th graders at Washington Middle School for 8 weeks.

storytelling SPARK Washington Middle School


Arts, specifically storytelling, have the power to ignite the imagination, spark innovation through creativity and transform learning.

SPARK! works in collaboration with artists, classroom teachers, university staff, school administration, and volunteers to ensure that the arts are an essential part of every school day.

This year I began an intensive artist-in-residency program with about 192 8th grade students. I worked with Washington Middle School teachers and staff to develop an intended curriculum that included a brief history of storytelling, how to tell a story and lots of storytelling practice and workshops.

The plan was then to begin working with students on their strengths to identify students who are comfortable telling stories as a form of public speaking. Those who have strengths behind the scenes would then learn more about photography and video as a form of storytelling, as well as how to shoot photos and record video and sound. Then they would learn how to edit all of that into a cohesive format of digital storytelling as photos, video and a podcast.

This turned out to be an overly ambitious goal.

The goal evolved.



We started early with hands-on storytelling. The students used the game Story War to begin getting into the habit of sharing stories. The stories in Story War are NOT true. And, it turns out, as we played the game, they are limited to one plotline: Hero has skills, hero fights and wins a battle. The premise of the game was limiting from the outset. Its success was getting students comfortable and in the habit of sharing stories.

Then we reviewed the 7 storytelling plot types, using examples from well-known movies:

We noted that some elements of each plot type overlap and I tried to use this conversation to inform their choices as they decided what stories they would choose to share. I also acknowledged that there are hundreds of examples I could give for each type of storytelling plot type. With the time allotted to us, I chose these.

We learned how to give constructive criticism using a rubric meant to judge stories and the telling of them. We watched examples of students their age sharing stories, using those examples to practice constructive criticism using the rubric.

We played Grok to teach the valuable storytelling skill of listening and empathy.

This week we are beginning to practice relaxation techniques and continue learning about constructive criticism as we prepare for the next two weeks.

The next two weeks will be workshop intensive in which we practice storytelling and the constructive criticism skills we have learned in preparation for sharing our stories in public. This might mean in front of the class. This might also mean as part of the Spark Artists' Showcase at The Wilma on May 5th.

I'm hoping that the students are learning as much as I am. They have taught me so much about humility, teaching, planning and their age group in general. It's been a long time since I have taught in such a formal setting to students so young. Although this is where my professional training was founded ( I have a BS in Education from Kent State University, waaaay back in 1995), being in the classroom like this again has been one of the most rewarding and nerve-wracking growing experiences of my time with Tell Us Something.

Your story Matters,








Helena Tell Us Something event, take 2: legislative session

Tell Us Something storytelling Photo by Jason O'Neil

Thursday of last week, Joyce and I packed the truck and headed to Helena for the second Tell Us Something event there. Again we were hosted by the very gracious folks over at Free Ceramics.

Last year, the recording failed and I was overly concerned about having it be successful this year. I was stressed out.

Once we verified that the recording device was functioning correctly and that sound was solid, I relaxed.

Last years' event drew about 75 people, including the storytellers. It was a non-legislative season and I was interested how it would compare to an event this year during a legislative session.

I know that Helena is full during a legislature and I was hoping for a sold-out show, which, at Free Ceramics, would be 150 people.

There was an unexpected competing event the same night at The Myrna Loy. Beloved (and old at 91) Helena Jazz guitarist Blackie Nelson was playing with Bob Packwood. When I booked the show at Free Ceramics, the Bob and Blackie show was not yet listed anywhere in the resources I know about. (Hey, all y'all who went to see Bob & Blackie play and wanted to be two places at once, subscribe to the podcast!)

I had been to Helena 3 weeks prior to hang fliers. I had the event on Facebook. I had all of the social media cover photos reflecting the event. I contacted the Independent Record, the local paper in Helena, to make sure it was aware of the event. I sent the required blast emails.

The Sunday before the event, I drove over to Helena from Missoula to hold the workshop. Of the 8 storytellers slated to share a story on Thursday, only 4 could make the workshop. I met with one of the storytellers one-on-one prior to the workshop, and video conferenced a workshop/email feedback session with another later in the week. I had a last minute drop out the day before the show and called on the alternate storyteller, who agreed to share her story. We workshopped her story on the phone as Joyce drove us to Helena the day of the show. There was only one storyteller with whom I was unable to workshop, and he is a seasoned public speaker and storyteller in his own right. He's known to me and has shared a story at Tell Us Something before.

All of that to say that I was confident in the storytellers and their stories.

When doors opened at 6 PM, we had only sold around 15 pre-sale tickets. Remember that we are used to seeing crowds upwards of 600 people in Missoula when we host Tell Us Something.

With all of the challenges before us, I took the stage confident and excited for a successful event.

In the end, attendance was solid at 75. All of the storytellers and their stories were incredible. The recording was successful as far as I can tell, and the podcasts are scheduled to be released.

photo by Jason O'Neil


Beyond the recording failing at the first Helena event, we also had a poor visual record of the show, as the photographer then was focused on a documentary of Tell Us Something she was shooting that never transpired. This go-round we have great photographs (thank you Jason O'Neil) and possibly some stationary video of the stories for our upcoming Youtube channel.

Helena is the first town beyond Missoula that we have attempted. We hope to be back. We'd like to expand our services to other Montana towns too. Time will tell. Traveling beyond Missoula to produce a show is expensive and doing it again without a sponsor is intimidating.

Huge thanks to all of the storytellers from April 6, 2017 in Helena at the "The First Time" themed event:

  1. Elizabeth Rivard
  2. Laura King
  3. Andrea Cross Guns
  4. Marc Moss
  5. Sarah Elkins
  6. Andy Shirtliff
  7. Jessica Peterson
  8. Aaron Parrett





April Fools 2017

Tell Us Something never announces storytellers before the event! 

We do this for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason is because we want people to come to the live events to listen to their community share stories. We are avoiding the temptation to use big names to draw crowds. (And there are some big names that live in Missoula).

And those big names are part of this community, of course. We've had big names share stories in the past, and we may have big names again. We want EVERY storyteller to be listened to, and not announcing the names ahead of time helps accomplish that.




Spring Cleaning with a New Hard Drive

Monday night while I was producing the podcast for release that next morning, I couldn't save any files from Adobe Audition. The hard drive was full.

I knew that this day was coming, as I had been getting "out of storage" errors for a while.

I deleted ALL of the non-essential programs in order to move forward, but knew that I had put it off long enough.

Initially I did not understand how my hard drive had become full. It is a 4TB hard drive. What I learned is that when I formatted it, Windows 10 forced a format at 2TB including the operating system.

So I backed up all of my files to the cloud and bought a 2TB solid state drive. I installed it and did a clean install of Windows 10. Then I re-formatted to old hard drive to its full 4TB capacity. I created new user accounts and have finished re-installing all of the required programs, made the necessary tweaks to Windows, un-installed as much of thier crapware as I can, and am waiting for the cloud backup to sync back to the local machine.

Grateful to have been able to save all data. Looking forward to getting back to work. For now, it's beer-o-clock!




Looking Back on "Don't Look Back"

Marc Moss - Don't Look Back


Most of the storytellers who shared their story on Tuesday night were able to attend the workshop the week before the event.  The workshop was successful for many reasons. Namely, they all got to know one another a little bit and build a little support network. They gave great feedback on each others’ stories and hopefully gained some confidence.


I was able to better select the ordering of the stories in order that the night flowed well.

The night of the event itself was unusual for me because one of the people who had committed to sharing a story was unable to join us because chronic health issues were plaguing him and he had to back out. He did so on Tuesday morning and I had to make a choice: call one of the people who said they could help in a pinch, or tell a story of my own.

I opted to share a story.

Generally, I choose not to share my own stories at Tell Us Something because I want to remain out of the spotlight as much as possible, keeping to focus on the storytellers and their stories.

The fact that I was also sharing a story brought back the nervous energy I hadn’t felt in a while. What to share? How can I keep to 10 minutes? There is such a huge range of details from which to choose when telling the Tell Us Something story I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it.

Turns out, I did. 

Spring break affected attendance a little, and I learned from that (Look at ALL the calendars when scheduling an event, not just event calendars).

The storytelling was strong all around, the audience left feeling good.

I breathed another sigh of relief before turning my attention to recruiting storytellers for the April 6 Helena show at Free Ceramics. The theme: “The First Time.”

(you can get tickets for the April 6 Helena show here.)

Your Story Matters.


2016 Year in Review -- FINALLY!

2017 has been jam-packed with new opportunities, challenges and obligations. I'm finally getting a breather and wanted to share this year-in-review from 2016 with you.

Thanks for your support!


2016 year in review
  1. Produced 6 live events
  2. Produced the first non-Missoula live event  in Helena, MT
  3. Mentored the first Tell Us Something intern
  4. Self-produced all podcasts
  5. Finally earned enough subscribers to be eligible for a custom domain on YouTube: Watch for the Tell Us Something YouTube channel to officially launch this spring.
  6. Co-produced two Tell Us Something Radio shows with Cherie Newman for MTPR
  7. Participated in SPARK trainings led by Kennedy Center teachers
  8. Developed relationships that led to a 2017 SPARK youth residency at Washington Middle School
  9. Developed new sponsor relationships with, Missoula Broadcasting Company, The Good Food Store, Gecko Designs and Martin McCain Woodworks and Design
  10. Led a storytelling workshop during Philanthropy Northwest
2016 - challenges

2016 - challenges

Challenges are opportunities in disguise.

Knowing this, I will talk about the the two biggest challenges Tell Us Something faces (*besides* funding) in terms of how I began trying to solve them.

1) I started training with The Missoula Non-Profit Network about volunteer recruitment. I learned that one of the reasons the volunteers have been difficult for me to recruit is that I am seeking them from the wrong pool of potential volunteers. I am also not clearly defining the volunteer need and what their responsibilities are. In 2017 I will spend time completing a self inventory of strengths and weaknesses, using that inventory to define the volunteer need before launching another recruitment campaign.

2) Sandwich boards are an effective and free means of advertising live events. They have a very specific allowable area in Missoula in which they can be placed. Signage of this sort cannot impede traffic views or pedestrian traffic. I worked with a city official to understand that regulation and I deployed sandwich boards based upon that knowledge. Multiple times I was, according to the city, in violation of the policy despite doing everything I could to comply to the best of my understanding of the policy. Because an infraction costs $500 per sandwich board (I deployed three for each event), I determined that the risk was too high. I then began spending money on advertising for the first time.

your story matters

Looking into 2017

The Tell Us Something season opener is March 21. The theme is "Don't Look Back". GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!

Tell Us Something returns to Helena on April 6th at Free Ceramics. We are still recruiting storytellers. The theme is "The First Time". Call 406.203.4683 to pitch your story. GET YOUR TICKETS HERE.

Missoula Gives is May 4th and 5th this year.

Missoula Gives


Thanks for reading. Remember: your story matters!



Communication Breakdown...It Drives Me Insane!

Everyone has a story to share. Everyone's story is valuable & deserves to be heard. So many people love Tell Us Something & want to share their story.

There are so many different ways to communicate with one another now compared to even 10 years ago. My two biggest tools in organizing Tell Us Something are my email inbox & my calendar. If something does not end up in one of these two repositories, I will almost certainly forget.

People who want to sign up to share a story at Tell Us Something contact me in so many different ways: verbally on the street or at a coffeeshop, text message, Facebook message, email, through other people sometimes even. If I forget to follow up immediately using email, or I forget to add their intention to share a story to the sign-up sheet, there is a chance I will forget.

I'm admitting this as an apology to those I have let slip through the cracks. Also as an intention to allow it to happen less or not at all. And as an acknowledgement that it may occur in the future.

If you want to share a story, I'll do everything that I can to help you do that successfully. Some of the responsibility for signing up is on you, too.

To sign up to share a story:

  1. Go to the Tell Us Something home page to review the themes and dates
  2. Find a theme that resonates with you
  3. Click the link to sign up
    1. A spreadsheet opens
    2. Add your name, email address & phone number to the spreadsheet

I will contact you as the date of the event for which you signed up nears.

Thank you for your patience with me & for your enthusiasm in wanting to share your story!

Your Story Matters,






Keeping Tell Us Something Podcast Ad-Free

Tell Us Something podcast

Recently a podcast monetization company reached out to me inviting me to use their service at no charge. We set up a phone interview.

Their promise to me was that, to start, the Tell Us Something Podcast would be earning net about $400/mo based upon current estimated listening trends of about 10,000 monthly listeners. They would also give me tools to help grow the listening audience. The other service they would provide is better analytics.

All of this sounds desirable, right? I mean, $400/month is not a lot of money, but it’s SOMETHING.

“What do I need to do?” I asked.

All I would have to do is run a pre-roll ad at the beginning of the podcast, a mid-roll ad & a post-roll ad. I would have complete control over all of the sponsorship mentions & the ads would be automatically & randomly generated from their pool of advertisers.

“Who’s in the pool?” I asked.

Chain restaurants, box stores, national insurance companies.

“Are there ways to opt out of certain advertisers?”

Yes, but that would negatively affect the quoted revenue stream.

“Ok, is there an option to opt out of the mid-roll ad?”

“No. But you have complete control as far as where the mid-roll ad is placed. You could have it come right as the story arc is peaking,” he said to me.

This is a deal breaker.

I explained to him that the whole mission of Tell Us Something is to value people’s stories & have those stories be heard uninterrupted. Everyone has a story. Everyone’s story is valuable & therefore everyone is valuable. Interrupting a story with an ad for car insurance (or anything else) goes against what Tell Us Something stands for.

He thanked me for my time & told me to call him if I reconsider sometime in the future.

I won’t be calling him.

Your story matters,


Podcast Publication Schedule

podcast calendar

Many people ask "when is that one story coming out?"

You'll never have to wonder again. Below is the podcast publication schedule for the rest of the year. Be sure to SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST so you don't miss a single story!

Click here or click on the calendar to view full size.

Taking Salt out of Soup & Transcription News

Tell Us Something podcast


The last time I checked in with you all here, I was trying to fix the audio from the Helena, MT storytelling event at Free Ceramics back in May. I hired a sound engineer, who did some work on it & admitted that it was unusable. He said that trying to fix the recording was like trying to talk salt out of soup.

I provided the enhanced version of the recording to all of the Helena storytellers & they all agreed that it was not fit for public consumption.

Lesson learned & I'll be more diligent about testing unfamiliar recording equipment in the future.


When I began offering transcriptions of the stories told at Tell Us Something, my goals were twofold:

1. Provide another way for people to "hear" the stories. Because I believe that everyone's story matters & is worth hearing, I wanted to provide another way for stories to be experienced. The hearing impaired population can also benefit from transcriptions.

2. Improved SEO. The more text, the more words Google indexes & the more likely would return in search results. Again - the goal is to get the stories into as many people's ears & eyes as possible.

When transcription of the podcasts began, Tell Us Something had an intern who was providing the transcription service for free. She struggles with it & it took her a long time.

She left Tell Us Something & I began doing the transcriptions. Tell Us Something purchased a dictation app called Dragon Dictation. It was not effect for transcriptions because it would provide a huge block of text with no punctuation. I would then have to go back and listen to the story again, punctuating the dictation & correcting inaccuracies.

The process took about 5 hours for one 10 minute story.

Then I looked into transcription services. The least expensive one I found was $1/minute. If there are on average 8 storytellers for an event, the cost would be at least $80/event.

Without having any data on how many people are utilizing the transcripts, for now, I have made the decision to suspend transcriptions until I can capture and accurately analyze that data. The time & money required to offer transcriptions are better spent in other endeavors for now.

Expect the next podcast episode to be published tomorrow at 9AM. Subscribe here if you haven't already.

Thanks for listening.


Podcast Update - Helena Edition


A brief note to apologize for no podcast the week of July 4th. The recording quality is not up to Tell Us Something standards. i thought I could fix it & when I was unable to do so, the newest Tell Us Something intern wanted a crack at it. She also was unable to fix the audio quality.

By the time we realized the issue is bigger than us, the publication was already upon us.

I'm talking with a couple of sound engineers to get the issue resolved. For now, I will push forward with podcast publication of the June 22 event in Missoula at The Wilma.

The theme was "Bad Advice".

Expect to see those podcasts start rolling out next week.

If you haven't already, you can subscribe to the podcast by clicking this link.



April Fools

Tell Us Something never announces storytellers before the event! 

Tell Us Something never announces storytellers before the event! 

"It's the perfect combo of believability & something everyone wants to have happen. They skip right past the skepticism.... it's ... a perfect illustration of how amazing optimism in humans is."

--anonymous individual in on the David Sedaris as guest storyteller announcement



Tell Us Something Radio

Tell Us Something Radio

Cherie Newman producing Tell Us Something Radio

Tell Us Something has come a long way in 5 years & last night we finally hit the radio.


We've been podcasting since 2011 and people have to seek out podcasts.

With radio, many people are in the habit of having it on all of the time. We were able to reach potentially 500,000 listeners in 10 unique communities across a 200 mile radius last Sunday with the premiere of Tell Us Something Radio.

Montana Public Radio is the regional branch of National Public Radio. Being on MTPR lends a new legitimacy to the program that I run & gives me access tp PRX -- Public Radio Exchange, where other public radio stations across the country go to get (and pay for) their content. It is where The Moth & This American Life get distributed.

This is huge.

You can stream the show by clicking this link.


Special Guest Storyteller Announcement

David Sedaris to Tell a Story in September!

Tell Us Something is excited to announce this epic storyteller gracing the Tell Us Something stage!

We are excited to announce that we have confirmed David Sedaris will be joining the other storytellers on the Tell Us Something stage in Missoula Montana September 20th! The theme is "Fork in the Road". More details as they become available.

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me?

Marc Moss with storytellers from Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me Tell Us Something event. Photo by Steven Begleiter

Marc Moss with storytellers from Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me Tell Us Something event. Photo by Steven Begleiter

Another sold out show at The Wilma! 710 people came to listen to their neighbors & friends share stories. And what an incredible night! We heard stories of science, survival, and gratitude; rivers, the call of nature, and the eternal struggle of managing trouble makers; questionable medicinal drinks in Hong Kong; Philipino cowboys; sleeping in the car in LA as a homeless person; learning about string cheese; masturbation & flooding the study; burning down the apartment in Billings, MT; and cluelessness & lies from the man during a breakup.

We experimented.

For years Tell Us Something has shunned the intermission because the energy of the crowd might dissipate. Last night we included the crowd so that did not happen. Celebrating Haloween in Japan, skirts tucked into tights all day, giving in to disposable diapers, film directors dying leaving actors in the lurch, meeting and liking Ann Coulter. It was a great experiment that worked well.  People were able to be part of the storytelling fun, get a drink, stretch, smoke, use the restroom.  We'll be doing it again.

I had a crew of volunteers for the first time. I learned a lot from that and the next time we have volunteers I will be more organized. I spent the evening behind the curtain listening to stories and coordinating a three-tiered Instagram effort that went really well and let me focus on my other responsibilities. I shuffled the papers less.

We had a few hiccups, I flubbed my opening greeting. Everything worked out and the stories were fantastic.

The stories were fantastic. Did I already say that? The storytellers fell in love with each other & every time I do this my heart melts. I am so lucky to be doing this work. So lucky.

Thank you, Missoula. I love you.


Tell Us Something in the News

PHOTO BY AMY DONOVAN Marc Moss told his first ive non-fiction story at the Badlander in 2011. Now he serves as the executive director of Missoula-based storytelling series Tell Us Something.

Marc Moss told his first ive non-fiction story at the Badlander in 2011. Now he serves as the executive director of Missoula-based storytelling series Tell Us Something.

Many colleagues and friends are encouraging me to step forward more frequently as the face of Tell Us Something. My stance is always that I want the focus to be on the storytellers and their stories. "You're the face of Tell Us Something" they say.

The reporter said, "Moss clearly loves telling stories—even in an interview he unveils things with an animated and confessional air. But it's obvious his greatest passion is in providing a space for the community to be bold and vulnerable and discover its own voice."

Deep breath.

Check out the full article in the Missoula Independent by clicking this link.

Hi! I'm the Intern.



Hi, my name is Ashleigh, and I am the Tell Us Something Intern! One year ago, in the midst of an existential crisis, I decided to give up my career as a Hair Stylist so I could pursue my college degree. This dream led me to find the Media Arts program at the University of Montana. I chose Media Arts because I know that I will only be happy if I am being creative. I haven’t been able to nail down the one thing that I want to focus on in the Media Arts world because all of it is so new and fun at this point.

The skillset I am acquiring has allowed me to join in on some really great projects. Along with working with Tell Us Something, I am also currently helping a non-profit organization set up a website and social media campaign to help build a hospital in a remote area in Tanzania. Working with organizations like Tell Us Something and New Hope International Hospital is really a dream come true for me. There is something intoxicating about working with people that really care about what they are doing, and how they affect the world around them.

During my time with Tell Us Something, I will be responsible for producing the weekly podcasts, as well as posting about the podcasts on social media. I will also be helping shoot and edit some video of the actual event. This video will be cut down into a series of youtube videos that will be structured similarly to the podcasts. This footage will also be used to create a short documentary about why Marc Started Tell Us Something, what the process is like for the storytellers, and how much work is put into each event. It’s amazing to think that this has been a one-man show for so long, and Marc deserves some recognition for doing all by himself!

I don’t think that I am brave enough yet to actually share a story myself, but I am excited to be involved with the behind the scenes processes. Missoula is such a great community to be a part of. I am hoping that my work with Tell Us Something will help me get to know the people of this community in a more meaningful way!





All Hail the Unpaid Intern

Recently Tell Us Something has acquired an unpaid intern in cooperation with The University of Montana. She receives college credit for the work she does for Tell Us Something and has been the one responsible for producing, transcribing and uploading the podcasts for the past couple of weeks. 

She's doing one hell of a job and has freed up time for me to be able to focus on organizing the next Tell Us Something event, a small house remodel project and working a day gig to pay some bills.

I'm very grateful for her and her hard work.

She'll be introducing herself here next week.


In Defense of Story

Tell Us Something allows a sharing transaction between storytellers and listeners.

The act of sharing stories goes beyond performance, beyond telling.  Tell Us Something storytellers do not memorize their stories and most of them do not write their stories. Because of this, they are not only sharing their story with the listeners, they are sharing themselves. 

"...when you share a story in a way that invites your listener to conjure their own experiences, you respect and empower listeners. When you share a story, it connects with your listeners’ existing knowledge and invites them toward their own understanding of the experience you are sharing."

           --Thaler Pekar

 Read the entire article here