If you’ve ever been jealous of great storytellers and raconteurs, you have a chance to get a free storytelling session with local expert Tara Anderson. The Moth producer will present “Fast Class: How to Tell a Story” at the Louisville Free Public Library on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
The Moth is a successful public radio program based around storytelling, with live performances and programs in 25 cities. At Moth events, people volunteer to tell a story, generally about five minutes long, based around a predetermined theme. The program started in 1997, and since then it has helped tell more than 18,000 stories.
Anderson spoke with Insider to discuss how she got involved with The Moth, what kinds of things she’ll cover in the class, and the importance of telling stories in various parts of our life.
“Even if you never tell it to anyone besides yourself, I think it’s helpful to think about the stories you’re telling,” says Anderson.
The Lexington native spent her teens in Louisville and moved to New York after college at University of Kentucky, where she double majored in music and journalism. She laughs when she refers to journalism as her “safety” major.
“(It was), like, ‘Hey, there’s this thing with an open mic story competition.’” After the initial story, Anderson kept in touch with Jenifer Hixson, a senior producer for the national organization.
“They had some volunteer opportunities where they did storytelling workshops at different places around the city,” says Anderson, who decided to donate some of her time. “I was a volunteer facilitator at a storytelling workshop at a shelter for homeless men on the Bowery, and that was a really interesting experience, helping these people find a story to tell.”
She moved back to Louisville in 2009 and expected her involvement with The Moth to end there.
“Then ‘The Moth Radio Hour’ was doing well on WFPL, and Jenifer Hixson reached out and said, ‘Hey, I think we’re gonna start doing story slams in Louisville. Do you have any ideas about venues?”
Anderson sent back three pages detailing possible venues and the pros and cons of using them.
“I guess I showed my hand,” laughs Anderson. Her fervor led to Hixson asking her to come on board the Louisville Moth as producer.
Local Moths started in 2011 and have frequently sold out Headliners, the venue Hixson and Anderson chose. “It has been a total honor to get to listen to these stories month after month and watch people come up on stage and just rip open their hearts,” says Anderson, who believes the main part of her job is to create the right environment for these stories. “I feel like my job is to create a safe container for that, and to hold the space as they get up on stage and share extremely personal things.”
Anderson was invited to share her storytelling tips and tricks at the Louisville Free Public Library.
“The library has historically offered a variety of classes,” says Paul Burns, LFPL’s director of communications. “About two years ago, we started branding them as ‘Fast Classes,’ and they’re taught by university professors and local experts.”
LFPL offers several types of classes, including learning opportunities that meet multiple times, but the “Fast Classes” hone in on one very specific idea and hope to open up learning to people who may not have six weeks to commit to a class.
“Fast Classes” are offered free of charge. “Everything at the library is free,” says Burns. “We like to say, ‘It’s in our name, Louisville Free Public Library.’”
While Tuesday’s class will focus on telling Moth-style stories, Anderson believes storytelling skills are important for everyone. “I think to pay attention to the stories we are telling ourselves is the first step to understanding your life, and to understand the story you are telling to other people, and not just in an emotional sense,” she says.
Anderson mentions more business-oriented reasons to practice your story. “More and more I see this as something used in career counseling. When you apply for a job, you need to be able to tell your story. You need to be able to share with the person you want to hire you.”
One of the reasons she is eager to share her expertise is her wish to diversify the pool of storytellers in Louisville. “I want to see a range of life experiences and backgrounds,” she says. “Sometimes people, if they’re not a natural performer or they don’t think of themselves as a writer, then they may need a little help in how to figure out how to put together a story.”
Anderson says this class will feature clips of some of her favorite Moth stories and also include some discussion. “We’re gonna talk about the structure of a good story, what elements you wanna look for, a little check list, like, ‘OK, this thing happened to me, would this make a good Moth-style story?”
Her goal is to make sure everyone in the class comes out with material.
“I’d like to make sure everybody leaves with a good start at least — they know where to go or feel encouraged to work on a story of their own, whether it’s something they’ll ever share publicly or not,” she says.
Check out “Fast Class: How to Tell a Story with Tara Anderson,” on Tuesday, Sept. 13, from 6-8 p.m. at the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library, 301 York St. The class is free, but call ahead to register (574-1623) and save your spot.