Arts Integration in the Classroom - Storytelling Edition


Each year, the 7th-grade students at C.S. Porter practice an amalgamated form of Winter Count.

There is a written component as well as a visual component in which they bring items or make pictures to share with the class that helps tell the story of their past year.

This year the teachers at Porter, with the help of Spark, decided to include an oral history/storytelling component to Winter Count and they called me through the Any Given Child initiative via SPARK to help them do it.

My artist-in-residency was intended to bring arts integration to the classroom using the art of storytelling, and I feel pretty proud of what I was able to accomplish there.

I began the residency by sharing a story of how I broke my teeth. I introduced the concept of oral history and students completed a self-assessment/questionnaire to help them identify what story they might tell and to help them begin practicing conducting oral history interviews. Students shared stories with one another in 1:1 small groups. We listened to an example of an oral history interview. We listened to a story that resulted from an oral history interview. We watched a peer share his story on video and introduced the practice of appropriate peer critiquing using his story. Students identified the beginning/middle and end during group discussions of all of the story examples that were shared in class. Students practiced guided relaxation. Students identified the beginning/middle/end of their own stories and added 3 supporting details for each section of their story. Students shared their stories in front of a small audience of three of their peers and me. I timed their stories and confirmed with students their beginning/middle and end, praised them for the successful parts of their stories and challenged them with some opportunities on how they could improve their stories.


The best part of the residency was student and teacher buy-in and involvement. Teachers also were very helpful in identifying the written component of the lessons and having students write answers to their interview questions. The culture and atmosphere at C.S. Porter is one of caring and encouragement and really fostering students’ learning. I remembered the excitement I felt the first time I entered a classroom as a teacher after graduating with a B.S. in Education from Kent State University because I was feeling that excitement again.

What made this integration experience different and valuable for students (as opposed to learning in a more traditional modality)was that students were able to use their creativity to share their own oral history story and understand why the oral history tradition practiced during Winter Count was important. They had ownership of the learning in this way. One student specifically used words almost verbatim to these in describing her experience of the residency to me.

The most challenging part of the residency for me was timing. I ran out of time! I was unable to provide direct story coaching to 100% of the students. The next time I conduct a similar residency, I will identify students who are ready to begin sharing their stories in small groups of 3-4 by the second day and begin working with those students right away. Note that I had 4 sessions with two different sets of teachers. I began working with students in the small groups of 3-4 on the third session and was unable to hear all of the students' stories because of time constraints. 

I did volunteer 3 hours of my time to return to the classroom to attempt to work with the remaining student that I was unable to provide direct coaching to. I was able to work with all but two of the students in Mrs. Agostinelli's classes. I estimate that of the approximately 60 students in Mrs. Hammitt's classes, I was able to provide coaching for 90% of them.

Not all of the students told awesome stories. They ALL told stories, though, and all of them were engaged and excited to see me when I walked in the door.

I'm looking forward to my next opportunity to bring storytelling into the classroom.


Spoke: Review of a A New Podcast Discovery App

Spoke is a new app that’s been released to the Google Play and Apple App Store. I gave it a spin after being introduced to it when one of the curators began following @pssttellus on Twitter.

First, I submitted the Tell Us Something podcast feed to the app, which was a pretty straightforward process. Submitting is free. My decision to submit to the app was based on the premise that Tell Us Something's mission is to help regular everyday people get their stories heard by as many listeners as possible. What better way than to get their stories in front of the ears of a Sirrius XM backed app?

Spoke helps users discover stories that interest them by using “paths”. Some paths focus on stories that bring history to life, music, sports, politics, acting, health and wellness, and have names like  “Mental Health” and “Oh Hey, No Way!” When I have used it, the app feels like Pandora for podcasts, with “paths” being the “seed” for the podcasts you’ll hear.

The Tell Us Something podcast is included in the “I Was There” and “Slice of Life” paths.

After I submitted the podcast, (in June 2017), I was pleasantly surprised to receive a personalized email from one of the curators:

Hi Marc,
Just wanted to say thanks for submitting your podcast feed to Spoke! It’s funny – I was about to reach out to you today after finding Tell Us Something on Twitter, but you beat me to it.
On our team of curators at Spoke, I’m in charge of finding and sharing great storytelling. I curate a whole section of our app that’s devoted solely to first-person stories, so I’m very excited to have your show onboard. I’m loving the stories I’ve heard so far!
Happy to answer any questions you have about Spoke, and to talk about ways we can promote your podcast – in our app, on social media, or otherwise.
All best,


PS – another coincidence: I happen to be visiting Montana (and passing through Missoula) in a few weeks. I’m sad to see I’m missing Tell Us Something’s next storytelling event by a few days!

Becca (and her boyfriend) did indeed meet up with me when they rolled through Missoula. I was on my way to Helena to present a storytelling workshop there and didn’t have a lot of time. They were understanding and both very cool.  We chatted at Butterfly Herbs about Spoke, what the future of the app looks like, and how it can help content creators get their content discovered.
She spoke with transparency about the app, and the vision for its future. The contents of that conversation are not ready for prime time yet, and I’ll let the Spoke folks release those details in their own time. She shared enough with me that I’m ready to stay with the app to see how it progresses. Knowing what the startup world can sometimes look like, having worked as a software tester for three different startups,  I understand the need to keep some feature sets internal until they are ready, as well as to under promise features and over deliver on them.

Before I continue with the review, a caveat is that while using the app I focused my listening habits on storytelling podcasts.
From a listener’s perspective, Spoke has promise. There are no ads from sponsors, and all of the podcasts have a seamless feel because one curator is narrating the intro to each unique podcast. There is a social sharing aspect to the app from within the app itself that may be appealing to some, though I have not used this feature. 
The ability to search multiple podcasts by keyword is appealing and helps users discover content relevant to them. 
Each episode has an audio cue between episodes that became annoying. As soon as I figured out how to disable it, I did (Tap your profile ID → ACCOUNT → PLAY AUDIO CUES → OFF).

Users can, once they understand the UI,  easily tap through a story in a path to discover the podcast itself and begin following the podcast in question.
As a content creator, Spoke does offer some challenges. 
Because the stories are curated, some of the actual content of the podcasts are removed when listening to podcasts using the “paths” feature. That missing content is replaced with a curator’s voice-over. Content creators are losing out on getting their sponsors and the sponsors’ messages out there to listeners. They are also losing out on branding in that their voices are removed. 
Curators also sometimes change the episode names of an individual podcast in a path, which from a content creator perspective is also problematic.

As an example

Alex Sakariassen’s story “Reluctant Journey” became “Stop Signs Will Never Look the Same” when listening to the story from a path. This practice fails to honor both the storyteller and the podcast producer.

When I addressed this concern with Becca, she acknowledged the practice and explained the reason for it. Often the storytelling curators at Spoke are pulling one story from a podcast episode that has multiple stories. The story they are pulling might not have a title and so they improvise. She did say that she and her team will be more cognizant of storytellers' intentions and honor their story names in the future when those story titles are clear.

I know that this is the first iteration of the app. I'm curious how they plan to address the question of analytics for content creators. I'm equally curious to learn if and how they plan to compensate creators for their work.

I had great interactions with Becca via email, in person and on Twitter and I really wanted to love this app.  As it stands right now, unfortunately, the limitations of the app from a content creator’s point of view make it unappealing.

Spoke has recently come out of beta and is available in the App Store and the Play Store. I’m going to keep using it and allow the Tell Us Something podcast to remain on the platform for a couple of rounds of software releases to see how the platform grows.

If you have used Spoke, let me know what you think of it. If you haven't used it, give it a try for yourself and let me know what you think.

Your story matters.


YouTube Stories

Tell Us Something has a YouTube channel. Now what?

Since the beginning, I have intended to share people’s stories on YouTube. I have overcome one roadblock after another in this endeavor. 

Initially, the issue in creating the YouTube channel was obtaining a custom URL. In order to obtain a custom URL, at the time, there were two options. Either the channel had to have 100+ subscribers (which Tell Us Something did not) or a user had to add a CNAME record to their domain's DNS records. I know how to do that, so I did. For some reason, YouTube was not recognizing the record.

After years of trying, we finally cracked the 100 subscribers mark and I was able to get the URL

The next roadblock was learning how to edit video. The intention is to upload each individual storyteller’s story, much like the podcast. I use Adobe Premiere and I used YouTube itself to watch video tutorials, as well as, in order to learn. The video quality will increase over time as I learn. Like any software release, there are bugs that will be identified and fixed in future releases.

I spoke to a Tell Us Something storyteller and YouTuber Nicole Sweeny, who is host and associate producer/editor over at Crash Course Sociology, about the Tell Us Something channel. I asked her if she had any advice. The one piece of advice she offered was: “Determine a production schedule you can stick to, commit to it and be consistent.”

There is a *LOT* of video that needs to be edited and uploaded. I’d eventually like to be at a point where the video from the most recent live event is being uploaded around about the time the podcast from that event is being published.

In order to get there, I am uploading videos on Mondays and Wednesdays. With around 216 stories over the course of the past 6 years, and 24 stories already uploaded, I estimate all of the stories will be uploaded and current within one year.

With such a backlog, I must make some decisions about what to upload first. Should I begin at the beginning and upload stories chronologically? Should I work backward from the most recent stories? 

I decided to meld these two options. I’ll go back and forth between recent stories and stories from the archives. 

The most recent batch of uploads came from 2015 and was recorded live at the Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT. The next batch will be from the December 2016 show themed “Illumination/Revelation”.

One caveat about the number of stories, as I am going through the archives. Yes, around 216 stories exist on the podcast at least. I have discovered that of the 26 events Tell Us Something has produced, 10 of those events do not have video. This can be attributed to a variety of things: equipment failure, corrupt data or just poor record keeping. At one point I had 7 external hard drives with video on them PLUS I had my main hard drive fail last year.

Once I have a clear grasp of how many videos I actually have, I'll check in again.

Editing each video takes me about 30 minutes, and then another 30 minutes for it to render. The uploading process itself takes about 10 minutes. 

The entire process is, as you can see, very time-consuming. Expanding Tell Us Something’s services in this way helps to continue fulfilling the mission of helping people tell their stories, and helping them get those stories heard by as many people as possible.

Please support the project by subscribing to the YouTube channel and share the videos you enjoy on social media.

Your community. Your stories.



August Newsletter


Wow!  Summer is here in full effect.

The fires have arrived and the smoke is thick in parts of Missoula Valley. I hope you all are staying cool, creating new stories and getting out of the smoke when you can.

My intention at the beginning of 2017 was to send a newsletter each month with some updates about what Tell Us Something has been up to, maybe some links to some storytelling articles. I fell out of that habit because, well, summer, right? This is not to say I haven’t been working hard to continue helping people share their stories.

Let’s catch up.

Teaching Artist

The spring of 2017 saw me in the classroom at Washington Middle School teaching storytelling to eighth graders. I’m hoping to return there again in the spring, and have tentative plans to be at C.S. Porter teaching storytelling to sixth graders this fall.

With that in mind, I attended a Spark training called “Teaching Artist Training "Mapping the Journey: Planning Effective Residencies for Students”. Basically, we spent two days learning how to better write residency plans and lesson plans. It inspired me to do better this year in the classroom than I did last year and it’s always exciting to grow and learn new things.

June Live Event

The June 20 live event at The Wilma was a success by all measures. When the doors opened at 6PM, I was confident in all of the storytellers and thier stories. One thing I was uncertain about was: would anyone show up? June has traditionally been the least attended Tell Us Something event of the year, and it was, after all, the Solstice. It was a beautiful day, and on the longest day of the year, around 410 people came out to support live storytelling in their community. What an incredible night. If you missed it, subscribe to the podcast, as those stories are trickling out now. 

Tell Us Something hosted our first adult non-performance based workshop in Helena at the Lewis and Clark Public Library.


New YouTube channel!

We also launched our very own YouTube channel. The channel will feature storytellers' stories from the past 6 years. Expect to see two stories each week on Mondays and Wendesdays. Subscribe to the YouTube channel if you haven't already!


Live event in Sept.

September 10th

Tell Us Something is partnering with the In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival to bring you a night of storytelling and I've been working hard prepping for the September 10 live event on the theme “Up the Blackfoot”. Looking forward to seeing you at The Wilma for this evening of stories that closes out the Festival. Tickets are available now at the Top Hat box office, Rockin Rudy's or

Live Event Pricing

Buy your Tell Us Something tickets now!

After the June 20 live event, several people either spoke to me in person, emailed or called me to express their concern or confusion about ticket pricing. Their concern is one I shared and I’ve worked to eliminate this confusion. Tickets, since we began selling them, have traditionally been priced affordably at $8 in advance and $10 the day of the show.

Selling tickets in advance requires service charges. There is no way around this.

The service provider who prints the tickets needs to get paid for their service ($1 to Ticketfly) and the seller needs to be paid for the work required to sell the tickets ($1 to either Logjam Presents or Rockin’ Rudy’s). Even buying tickets online involves person hours putting the event page in place and marketing to bring awareness to the availability of tickets.

Some attendees were surprised by the $2 fee when they came to the venue to purchase tickets the day of the show. I understand this.

In order to provide as much transparency as possible, I’ve worked with Logjam Presents and we have agreed to build in the service charge into the advertised price of tickets for the September 10th Tell Us Something live event.

Tickets for the Sunday, September 10th Tell Us Something event are affordable at $10 in advance, including service fees, and $12 day of the show, including service fees.

The theme for the September 10th live event, which is presented in conjunction with In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean, is “Up the Blackfoot”.

Tickets are on sale now at the Top Hat box office, online at and at Rockin’ Rudy’s.

As always, I welcome feedback and comments as I work to bring live storytelling to our community.

Your story matters.


artwork by Tabatha Beard

artwork by Tabatha Beard

Procrastination be Gone! Missoula Gives Thank Yous on the Way

Thank you so much to EVERYONE who gave to Tell Us Something during Missoula Gives. I have been chipping away at the thank you cards since May 6th, believe it or not, and I finally wrote the last one.

Premiums are on the way to those of you who donated in that capacity. As soon as I post this, I head to the post office to post them.

Thank you for your patience while I dragged my feet gettign them to you.

Next week's intention: catch up on Quickbooks (I finally got my taxes back from the CPA, and the accountant's copy of the Quickbooks file). Then start on the YouTube editing. I hope to have an official channel launch BEFORE the next Tell Us Something live event (which is June 20, you know. And tickets are on sale now.)

Have a good weekend y'all. Keep telling stories. Your story matters.


SPARK Storytelling Artist in Residency Reflection

storytelling here

Last Tuesday I finished my SPARK artist in residency at Washington Middle School. I was there to teach approximately 190 students the art of storytelling. These 8th graders taught me a lot, and I hope I taught them a little bit about storytelling and how it’s done.

The first day, I was nervous. I’m trained 6-12 as an English teacher. I have taught in the best classroom in the world as a Park Ranger/Naturalist in Yellowstone National Park. I ran a storytelling summer workshop for a week with 5 kids at Zootown Arts Community Center last summer. But I hadn’t been in a formal classroom since 1996. I was confident in my grasp of the material, I was not sure how I was going to win over 7 sections of around 26 kids in each section.

I knew what I WANTED to see happen. I wanted to have engaging, excited class discussions. I wanted kids to begin sharing their stories the first week. I wanted them to be excited about telling stories. I detailed many of those goals in an earlier blog post here.

I wrote that post with 2 weeks remaining in the residency, which were to be focused on workshopping stories. I talked about this in the above-linked post as well.

I was overly optimistic and ambitious.

The kids were awesome. They were full of energy and very attentive. The stories they were telling in small groups were well formed good stories. I needed to do a better job of drawing those out of those small groups, of more effectively engaging the students.

And that is the challenge all teachers face every day, isn’t it?

storytelling illustration

Tuesday of this week I finished reading the evaluations I had the students complete. These evaluations were not prescribed by SPARK, nor were they required. I wanted to hear what they had to say, and I gave them the opportunity to anonymously tell me what they really thought. I did this to get a feel for how I did and, more importantly, to show me where I need to improve for next year.

The questions were on a scale using radio buttons:

  • Strongly Disagree
  • Disagree
  • Agree
  • Strongly Agree

The questions were:

  • As a student, I am usually well-prepared for class.
  • I understand what is expected of me in class participation.
  • I feel encouraged to participate in class and respond to others.
  • I received clear responses to what I said in class and/or I find out how to improve.
  • Marc treats students with respect.
  • Marc effectively directs and stimulates discussion.
  • Marc effectively encourages students to ask questions and give answers.
  • I am a better storyteller because of this experience.

Students tended towards “Agree” and “Strongly Agree” overall on most questions. I am not a fan of graphs and charts and won’t include the hard numbers here (If you want to see them, shoot me an email, and I’ll send them to you). What interested me more was the short answer section.

I know where I think I did well and where I was lacking and why, for myself, already.

I did well in modeling storytelling for the students. I showed them examples of other people telling stories and we workshopped those stories to practice giving constructive criticism without any risk of anyone’s feelings getting hurt because THEY were being critiqued.  

I needed to be better at getting them telling stories faster, at learning their names (I was with each section once a week), and at a more lively pace for the material.

I wanted to see what the students thought. So there was a short answer section.

  • What would you like to change about this course?
  • What do you think Marc's greatest strengths are?
  • What suggestions do you have to improve Marc's teaching?

I am most interested in the answers to the first and last questions.

Students corroborated some of what I knew:

“We need more student storytelling time.”
”The pacing of the residency needs to be better.”
”More interaction.
”I think maybe tell more stories.”
”I would make it less about just talking.”
— --Student's evaluation of my performance

They also said some things that one would expect from students:

“I would change how many days we did this. We did a lot of extra work in my opinion.”

”Not to have to share stories.”
— --Student's evaluation of my performance

They also surprised me in some ways:

What would you like to change about this course?

“Make sure everyone has to tell a story in front of the class.”

”More group work.”

”Make sure everyone gets to share their story.”

”Make it longer.”

”I did not like choosing my story. I think you need to be more specific in what types of stories we should tell.”

”More explanation and history about storytelling.”
— --More student evaluations


What suggestions do you have to improve Marc's teaching?

“More 1 on 1 evaluation/help.”

”Give more examples of his own ways of overcoming fears.”

”Have maybe one assignment to turn in.”

”Let us do more of figuring it out on our own.”

”Don’t take storytelling always seriously.”
— --Students' evaluation of my performance

I’m proud of the work I did with Washington. I am grateful for the students’ honesty. I look forward to building a new, more engaging curriculum for next year and hearing more stories from our future -- our kids!

Your story matters,


Missoula Gives was a success!

Missoula Gives was a success!

Thank you to everyone who donated.


This year's Tell Us Something fundraiser was a success. We haven't hit our goal (yet), and there is still time to give if you haven't already (or if you want to give some more).

The experience of Giving Day was much less stressful this year than previous years, ESPECIALLY last year when the donation platform failed for thousands of organizations across the country.

This year, Missoula Community Foundation worked with a new the donation platform provider, GiveGab. Their customer support was outstanding for organizations and for donors. They offered a custom URL to all participating organizations, making donating easier and the process faster.

So where does the money go? Tell Us Something operates on a shoestring budget. Our financial needs aren't very sexy. Office equipment and supplies, software, recording equipment, marketing materials, utilities, and health insurance. One thing that many people might not know is that Tell Us Something does not pay me a salary, or even an hourly wage. I am a full-time volunteer. I am working to change that and make Tell Us Something sustainable, and every dollar counts, so thank you to everyone who gave.

Beyond the mundane costs listed above, one of the things I want to do with some of the donation money this year is some professional development. Storytelling workshop training specifically. I'd like to be able to begin offering storytelling workshops to people who are not necessarily signed up to share a story at a live Tell Us Something event.

Stories are the currency of our time, helping people share their stories is like investing in future generations. Thank you for these great opportunities....
— Sarah Elkins, Helena storyteller


The workshop that I require of all storytellers is offered to them free of charge in exchange for their sharing their story. There is a cost involved beyond time and knowledge in hosting these workshops, of course, namely food and drink. The workshop is still one of my favorite things about Tell Us Something.

Our goal for Missoula Gives this year was $5,000 because I had to select a number when setting up the giving page, and $5k is the average amount of grant money awarded to non-profits in Montana. My true goal was not a monetary goal at all, however. My goal was to recruit 50 NEW donors. 

50 total donors gave to Tell Us Something during Missoula Gives and many of them have given to Tell Us Something before (Thank you!). I have not crunched the data to determine how many new donors showed their support during Missoula Gives. That is on the todolist.

Tell Us Something is a shining example of a bootstrapping, dream-following, people-empowering, community-building entity.
— Grace Decker, audience member, storyteller


The first thing on the todo list, though, is to get the premiums and thank-yous out to donors.

Premiums? Yep! We have premiums this year. Some pretty good ones, too.


Rough Around the Edges beer koozies -- stories can be a little rough, we all can be a little rough. Hell, Montana itself is a little rough around the edges. How about a beer koozie to take the edge off?

Stainless steel double walled pint cups - Share a story, Share a beer. These cups keep your beer cold from the moment you pour it from your locally filled craft brewery's growler.

CD of Tell Us Something Radio, broadcast on MTPR and produced by Cherie Newman. Aired spring, 2016.

Tell Us Something hoodie! Printed by Zoo City Apparel, these hoodies lack the annoying drawstrings most hoodies have and feature "YOUR STORY MATTERS" emblazoned across the back.

2 reserved front-row seats for the remainder of the 2017 Tell Us Something season! Woot! Three Missoula events remain. get it!

Thanks again to everyone who donated this year. We can't do this without your support.

The next live Tell Us Something event is June 20 at The Wilma. Tickets are on sale now.

Thanks again. Remember, your story matters.



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.