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Nov. 16, 2021

A Story Well Told with Corey Rosen

A Story Well Told with Corey Rosen

Author and storyteller Corey Rosen joins Whitney and Amy for an in-depth conversation on storytelling. We learn about what a story really is and the difference between writing a story and speaking it aloud. We talk about expectations, crafting vs telling stories and the importance of risk taking, and becoming an active and curious listener. Further we play some fun games too. A must listen for anyone who wants to become a better storyteller and how you can use story to communicate more effectively.

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Author and storyteller Corey Rosen joins Whitney and Amy for an in-depth conversation on storytelling. We learn about what a story really is and the difference between writing a story and speaking it aloud. We talk about expectations, crafting vs telling stories and the importance of risk taking, and becoming an active and curious listener. Further we play some fun games too. A must listen for anyone who wants to become a better storyteller and how you can use story to communicate more effectively. 

Besides being the author of Your Story, Well Told: Creative Strategies to Develop and Perform Stories that Wow an Audience,  Corey is an Emmy-award winning writer, actor, and visual  effects producer. Rosen has been featured on The Moth Radio Hour.  He is  an on-air personality for Alice Radio’s “The Sarah and Vinnie Show,”  the #1-rated morning show in the San Francisco area. A performer at BATS  Improv, he is also a writer and creative director at Tippett Studio.  When not writing or performing, Corey works as a visual effects artist  and executive producer. He is credited in movies including “Mission:  Impossible,” several “Star Wars” films, and “Disney’s A Christmas  Carol.” He has taught at NYU and Academy of Art University, written for  Comedy Central, Jim Henson Productions, and Lucasfilm. You can get in touch with Corey via his webstie and follow him @storyrosen on a variety of platforms.






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A Mindful Soul Center Podcast



Welcome to you here now, a mindful soul center podcast. I'm Amy Adams,


and I'm Whitney Walker,


Normally Whitney and I bring on guests to tell their stories. But today we are doing something a little bit different. We're going to talk about stories with a very special guest.


We're really excited to bring on a very special guest today. Corey Rosen, Cory is an expert storyteller and author of the book, your story, well-told creative strategies to develop and perform stories that wow, an audience before we get started, I want to tell you a little about our guest. Corey Rosen is an Emmy award winning writer, actor, and visual effects producer. He's been featured on The Moth radio hour. He is an on-air personality for Alice radio's, the Sarah and Vinny show. The number one rated morning show in the San Francisco area, a performer at BATS improv. He is also a writer and creative director at Tippett studio when not writing or performing Corey works as a visual effects artist and executive producer. He is credited in several movies, including mission impossible, several star wars films, and Disney's at Christmas Carol. He has taught at NYU and academy of art university. He's written for comedy central Jim Henson productions and Lucas film. So let's get to it and learn all about how we can tell our story. Well told.


Thank you. It's so nice to be here.


There's so many aspects of storytelling and so broad and vast. So, um, I think I'll just start with creating experiences. I mean, I think creating experiences and even telling stories themselves is an experience, right? So yeah.


Yeah. I mean, it's, it's, I think the funny thing about storytelling, when you talk about the topic of storytelling is that it's this sort of mushy ambiguous thing of like, well, what is storytelling? Is it what we're doing all the time? When we just communicate with people? Like, is that storytelling or is it some lofty thing of like some person standing in a spotlight in a black box theater or on a giant stage, you know, narrating their life experience to thousands of adoring fans? Like what, what is it? And, uh, in terms of your question about experiential steroid, it's all of those things we're doing this all the time. We're telling stories, we are connecting with people, we are performing those stories. And so the act of storytelling itself in a sense is an experience, right? Whatever that is. If it's an experience you're having one-on-one with a child, putting them to bed at night or experiences you're having in a theatrical setting or a storytelling experience that involves no words where you are communicating visually or, or performative, whatever your medium is, we can find ways to communicate and to, uh, transform using different aspects that, uh, I think all qualify in the box that we would call the storytelling toolkit.


Well, here's the distinction that I'm curious about Corey is that I think that for a lot of people, we think of a storyteller is somebody who's very animated and, and creative and dramatic, and that it's sort of a performance art. So someone who is just sort of sharing a story about, you know, an adventure they had or an incident that happened to them, they don't really view themselves as a storyteller. They feel like they're just sharing a experience, but it's, you know, your, your work kind of describes that they're one in the same that the person telling a story to their friend is the same as the person on a stage delivering this big dramatic story. So how, how are these the, how can somebody see themselves as a storyteller in their everyday life when it's not their profession?


Great question. Um, like I talked to a lot of people that work in say sales, you know, and sales people identify as well. I'm basically telling stories all day. I'm talking to clients, I'm talking to customers, I'm presenting the product or whatever it is that I have to sell to them. And there are different ways of accessing that. You could talk about the features of the thing you want to sell, or you can use the storyteller kind of tool sets and you can draw them in. You can connect with them. You can listen to somebody else. You can hear what they need, and then communicate in a way that utilizes that. So I guess to answer your question, Whitney, it's not that we're all just storytellers by default. I think that we do tell stories. So I think that there is a decision that a person can make to say, I want to tell this as a story, rather than a sort of communicated as to me the, the opposite or inverse of that would be like an anecdote.


An anecdote to me is a thing that happened. This thing happened to me. I went to my kid's school and I helped out, right. That is not a story. That's a thing that I did a story version of. That might be something that I tell you about a time that I went to my kid's school and helped out, and what happened and how I was kind of changed at the end of that experience and what I got from it, what I realized, what I learned, how I valued it. And then you hearing that back, my go, oh wow, you were affected by that thing that happened. You were changed in some way, you and then you made me feel something. You made me laugh, smile, cry, um, feel guilty that I should go help out at my kid's school, whatever that is, a story can affect and pivot a relationship or a message in that way. So I think that's the, the Seesaw that I'm playing on is the idea that sure. There's just saying what happened. And then they're saying what happened in a, in an effective way that might affect somebody else.


Yeah. And then what do you think makes somebody a great storyteller? Because I've definitely had times where I had a story, I was really excited to share, and it was like, I could just watch the person's interest where it wasn't engaging them. And I was like, how is this not reaching you? Like, this is a great story, but it fell flat. And I didn't understand,


I love that question. Somebody asked me a similar question the other day they said, they said, what's the perfect, what's the ideal length of a story. And I feel like the ideal length of the story is just before people get bored, right? That's the perfect blank. They're just like the perfect length of a movie, right? You could watch a captivating three and a half hour epic movie, and it's perfect. Or you could watch it. Oh my God, this hour and a half long movie is way too long. It's it's the storytelling is the same. So in your situation, you're like, oh my God, this is such a great story. How come they've lost interest? What have I done wrong? Maybe you're maybe the way you've told that story has, has made it too long. But I think more concretely of what I think people can do, what you can do, what we can all do to tell better stories is kind of a few simple route of kind of rudimentary, um, tools.


I won't say tricks, but, uh, tactics that we can do to tell better stories. The first thing is, if we know where we're going in our stories, then they're more likely to have that set that shape that a good story has that feeling, that it's going somewhere and it's going to actually resolve an end rather than I'm just talking and saying something that happened because it just feels conversational. It doesn't feel like a story, but if I feel like I am curious, I am interested in what's going to happen. So I'm going to keep listening and then keeping your audience engaged and listening can be done in a variety of ways. It can be done using the characters and the details that you paint in the minds of the person, listening to your story that can be done in the sequence of how you tell like the beats of the story that feel engaging and sequential.


Like, I want to know what comes next and then what comes next? And then what did you do? And how did it all turn out if any of those is missing, if you're, if you've blanked their minds and they can't relate to it, or you've complicated, it so much that they're confused or you've just bored them because there's nothing engaging that any of those things can do that, you know, dreaded thing of like pulling us out of the story and maybe into their own minds. So when I tell a story, what I aspire to do is for a moment, hold, hold someone's attention, hold someone's interest in curiosity, um, you know, tell them enough of the color, like the details of my own stories on bringing them into my mind space, playing a movie in their minds and painting just enough to, to carry them together with me, but also to make it kind of relatable enough that they can picture themselves in it or they can, they can experience it as well. And then get out before they're bored.


That actually kind of brings me to listening as a skill, I guess. So, I mean, I think, um, sometimes we do kind of get in our heads, right? Because as you said, somebody is telling the story and if we're not fully engaged and present, um, then we start to go off into our own little world, but how can we be better listeners to stories?


Great question. A good storyteller is a good story listener. That's I think a fundamental that I really believe, and I think that to become a better storyteller. The first thing that I would say is, listen, listen, better listening allows us to see the world around us and allows us to really connect with each other. And, um, I'm, I'm a big fan of, of active learning and practicing that in different ways that are through like a play in games. So one way to do that would be something like this would be for, um, like Whitney to tell us both like a short story that happened. And then Amy, you and I were going to tell back Whitney's story to Whitney. So, um, you want to try this Whitney? I just want you to tell a short, true, happy story. Maybe a time you are proud of yourself recently that happened recently a long time ago, just a happy thought, and there'll be short. It'll be like 30 seconds, or whenever you feel like it's done, and we're just going to Amy and are just going to listen to your story. And then when it's done to sort of show our listening, we're going to tell you back the story that we just heard. Can you try that again? Okay.


Absolutely. All right. So I'm on a road trip right now


And on Tuesday I arrived at the grand canyon and I was staying at this motel that was like, right before you reach the Southern entrance. So it's literally in the middle of nowhere. So I checked into my hotel and it was kind of cold, um, but not, you know, nothing crazy. And I go to the park and I get in at five, right? When, like an hour before it's gonna close. So I'm expecting just to get some sun set. I get in there and there's snow everywhere at the grand canyon. And I hate to admit it, but I didn't even know that it snows at the grand canyon let alone in October. And so it was just like this magical world was something I felt like I was trans transformed into this like incredible magical world. And I was viewing the grand canyon with snow and it was just amazing.


I love it. I love it. Okay, Amy, you and I are going to tell back the story and we're going to tell it as if it's our story that we are on this adventure together. Right. Okay. [inaudible] remember right now we're on a road trip. Yes. Right. And we pulled up to the grand canyon.




Was magical. It was also like we were going to the Southern rim of the grand canyon. So I remember like, just as we get to the entrance of the grand canyon, there was a hotel that was our hotel, right?


Yeah. Yeah. Pretty boring. Most hotels, but that smell.


Nope. Yes. And, uh, it was about five o'clock about 5:00 PM. Right. And, um, and you know, the sun is kind of setting and it's really beautiful there. And then yeah, when we saw the snow, we didn't even realize that it even snows here. Right. Yeah.


That was pretty shocking. Actually,


Kevin, we were kind of embarrassed to realize, like we didn't know that it snows here. Right. And it truly was a magical, wonderful experience to see this gorgeous place in, in this beautiful setting and with snow on it.


Yeah. Something unexpected,


Something unexpected. How did we do Whitney?




So that's an activity in active listening, right. Of like us listening of being present and hearing somebody else's story and then having the capacity to both retell it, to kind of embody ourselves, to see like these wonderful images that you painted in our minds of this beautiful landscape of the hotel, of the place, of the setting, of course, the snow and all of that. And what I find in terms of like, how does that make me a better storyteller? When I hear my own story back, it actually allows me to take some note of like, huh, what could I do better to paint the picture, to make it memorable for someone else? You know, if that was my story, maybe I would have described the hope that would kind of hotels and a big fancy, you know, um, chain hotel. Is it sort of like a bougie local, you know, uh, Arizona ask thing, is it like a motel is sort of a driver?


Like what is the, the mental image of the hotel that you want me us to have when we come there? Or doesn't it matter? You know, you talk about magical landscape. I think all of us in our minds have maybe our own versions of what magical snow covered grand canyon or the rim of the grand canyon looks like. Maybe you could describe, or, you know, if it was my star, I could describe the trees had a dusting of snow in the trees, or, you know, the, the roads had, you know, there were, it was piled up banks that were four inches higher, four feet high, like be concrete in our detailing because everything we do when we tell stories creates kind of images in our heads about what we see and how we hear it. And so hearing it back is a really fun way of be like, oh, interesting that she remembered that. Or didn't remember that aspect of it, because that becomes like a, real-time like a mirror to us as how we tell stories.


Yeah, definitely. And I really appreciated, um, one thing that you mentioned in your writing is about if you're kind of struggling to write a story, you know, rather than tell it is to record it, to hear yourself speaking, as you just said, like hearing your story back, because it kind of allows you to sort of almost mentally see the flow and understand the flow of the story and kind of see, well that didn't really work. That segue didn't work or this, this could really be moved here because I think that is a challenging part of writing is you, you know, of course you send them just want to just let it all out. Just go, just write and just, you know, but sometimes you go back and you think, well, I don't know how to put this together. I don't know how to make this a, you know, a story that that works.


Yeah. Storytelling and writing. Uh, they're not like sports, but they are like sports in a way that like Malcolm Gladwell says you don't, you know, people spend more time practicing with their team than they do actually, you know, uh, competing. It's already telling us the same. You know, if you think that you're just going to get on a stage and tell a story and it's going to be incredible. It's like, you do need to practice. You do need to tell your story. You do need to think about what I'm going to say in my story, because the practice makes the performance better. So if you're writing the way that I feel, and I think a lot of people are daunted by the idea of writing in that, it feels so precious. It feels like once I start writing and I start putting my words down, like, well, that wrote that I don't want to change it.


That would be hard. And there's this preciousness to the written word that, uh, many people, myself included feel less. So with the spoken word, if I tell you a story, it's just me telling you a version of the story and it feels a lot more malleable and you know, kind of easier to change. I could tell it to you again, and it's going to come out differently. And I tell it to somebody else, it's going to come out differently based on their cues, their, their eyes, their smile, they're nodding. They're looking at their watch. They're being bored. So recording yourself, tell a story or, or just, or telling to someone else and having them tell it back. It's like a recording become these drafts, these fluid drafts, where you're working it out, you're trying things. And then you go, okay, now I want to put this down on paper.


Then by the time you actually record it and write it down, this is at least a strategy that I recommend to a lot of people that maybe are hesitant to write with, for fear of it being hard or having to change what they write is like, let it be okay before it becomes decent, before it becomes good, you know, like do an okay version of everything and trust that like it will improve. It will, it will get better instead of expecting so much of ourselves. And it's gotta be awesome. The first draft, because it rarely is.


What about, um, choosing, I think there's one part where, uh, in the book where it talks about beginning with an ending. Yeah. I think like there, how, I mean, what are some other ways that we could tell a story to where we were, you know, manipulating, I mean, I guess maybe, um, what is it, everything down so that it's not like a huge novel like that we're trying to pack into a smaller space and then, but like maybe something else besides beginning with an ending or what are other kinds of ways that we can approach telling our story?


Um, so I have two thoughts on that. Uh, the first is about the crack, the crafting of the story. And the second is about the telling of the story. Um, cause I think that those are, are, are two related, but different things. So in the crafting of a story, sometimes the way that I will enter, especially non-fiction something that happened in my life. When I'm trying to think about what happened in the story, I will design the story with the ending in mind. I know how I want it, how it's all going to turn out. I know how I feel at the end. So I'm going to reverse engineer it. I'm going to start the story somewhere that has. So I know where I'm going. You know, um, in the story, the example that I gave earlier of going to help out in my kid's school, that's something real that happened to me this week.


Um, I feel really proud of what happened of what I did that day. And I flashed back to the morning when I got a phone call from, you know, the PTA volunteer saying help. We need you to come help and shoot a video of the school because there's no tours at our public school because of COVID and we need you help red alert. And I was annoyed. I was busy. I didn't have time to go help out and, and much less. I've been helping at that school for 10 years. My kids, my oldest has graduated from this K through eight San Francisco school. My youngest is eighth grader. She's almost out of there. And I mean, I was kind of selfish. I was thinking, I've done my time. I've made your auction videos every year. I've produced all of this content. Isn't there another person, a mom or dad who could come in with their iPhone and film it, but that's not who I am.


So I said, what time do you need me? And I gave them a limit. I need to be out by 10:00 AM. Right? So I only had two hours to do that and to come and film and do a tour on my phone. Once I got there of old feelings come back and you see the kindergarteners, oh my God. I remember when my kids were that young and I'm in the classrooms. And these were the teachers that taught my children that raised my children. And now they have their own children that are in, you know, that are in high school and middle school. Like I've, I've experienced their lives and their families like this is a community. It's not just a place that I dropped my kids off. It's a community. And by the end of the day, I feel so happy that I did this.


And so proud and kind of ashamed of myself that I even was annoyed in the morning when I looked back at all of the things that the school has given me. And I feel like if there's more that I could do, I should do it. So I look at that in terms of like, thinking about the ending of the story and the beginning and feeling like I went through some kind of a change that day, and I could communicate that in the story. Now, the telling of a story is a whole other thing, because in a sense, you can start that telling of that story anywhere that you want. Many people will linearly say, I'm sitting at home on my computer and I get a phone call from the school help, right? Alert. We need you, you know, I start at the beginning. Another way to do that is I'm sitting on the couch with a glass of wine in my hand, watching the video that I've made.


And I can't believe how well it turned out 12 hours earlier, I'm sitting at my computer. You know, you can sort of start with the end in a way of knowing what's coming, like giving sort of the thing, a nibble of the carrot on the end of the stick. So that the audience has some sense of where this is going. What that helps a story do often is knowing where I'm going in the journey so that I'm not frustrated. I guess there's a way you can experience the stories. Like where is this going? I dunno, what's going on? Like giving us a little nibble of the, of the finish line or near the end of the thing, like a taste of dessert and then starting over. So now at least I know that something's coming, I'm curious. And then when we get there's this kind of flash of, oh yeah, I remember.


So now I'm sitting on the couch and we're watching and maybe now I'm describing and I'm crying or something is happening and it's all kind of comes back together. So using different, like non-linear storytelling presentation styles can be really, uh, exciting for an audience because you're listening to something. And you're you feel like you're in the hands of like a storyteller. Like that's really where again, we talk about being a storyteller versus telling a story. Like if you're going to kind of craft the way that you tell your story, then people listening to, it will feel like what's happening here and, and you may get and hold their, their curiosity and an interest.


So speaking of that about, you know, engaging and keeping your audience's interest, how do you learn to, and I think any artist experiences as any art form, you have to learn, what's important to you and what's important to the audience. And I think there's a distinction as far as, because I know when I tell a story, sometimes I want to include these little details. Cause I feel like we have to know what happened like yesterday, before I got this call and then to give him like a lot of context, but maybe the audience doesn't care about that. You know what I mean? I think that can happen in, in writing and in storytelling and in movie making whatever it is, where you're like, I think this is important and your audience is like, I could care less. I want the meat of the story. So did you have to learn how to do that? Or how can somebody learn how to let things go as far as, okay. I would really like to over-explain this and let them know all these different ones, but I need to let some of these things go to keep an exciting, engaged story.


So you are so right on the money with everything you did is said, because most of the time people are telling us information that we do not need to know. It's interesting to you and you think we need to know it. But the truth of the matter is we would rather hear like, like they say, like starting in the middle of the story is a stronger place to start. Like when you are telling us a story, let us, let us be curious. Let us wonder about that. Fill in the information we need when we need it. You know, if there's so much, if there's a five minute on-ramp to the starting of the actual part of the story, and by the time you start the story, sometimes we're like, oh God, now it's just the once upon a time, like you're just beginning or thing.


It's, you know, I have this whole parlance that I use in my, in your Australia. Well told them my book, there's this whole story spine that I love it's can Adam story spine, which is this framework for storytelling using these eight key phrases once upon a time, every day until one day. And because of that and because of that and because of that until finally, and ever since that day, and when I hear a storyteller and they're, you know, five, six minutes into their five minute story and they say until one day and I go, oh no, because I really want that to be the beginning of the story, like what, what what's going on. And so one day I drive up to the, you know, the south rim of the grand canyon. So maybe the once upon a time was like, once I was, I've been planning this vacation for a long time and I made a list every day, I made this list of all the things that my family and I might need to, to pack for the grand canyon.


So we packed up our car and we drove to the south from the grand canyon. As we pull into the hotel until one day I noticed something was different snow because of that, I realized, oh my God, this is gorgeous. I didn't pack anything for cold weather. For some reason, I was thinking grand canyon, desert rocks, you know, uh, the hot, hot, like it is October 20, 21. I am at the Rankin in winter time. So because of that, I, um, realized I didn't really plan everything. I thought that I needed to bring more than I actually brought, but I also felt really grateful for the magical experience that if I had thought about this, then I might've had an expectation. And because of that, I had this beautiful experience of this place that I had planned to go even more beautiful than I ever did.


And ever since that day, if I ever come back here again, I'm going to check the weather forecast. All right. So I'm just using a simple story spine, a simple story structure to effectively retail, a version of your story, but now framed in that kind of way. And did I tell all the things that I had to do to get ready for the trip? No, but I implied that I had packed and planned ahead, I invented, of course, a lot of this, I don't know what you did or how long you're staying for, but I could say every summer I take a, or every fall, I like to take a trip. One year I took a trip to this place. Another year, I took a trip to this place another year I took dessert. Sometimes I do this, you know, you could give all this backstory about all the things you do, where you can get to the grand canyon, which is the interesting part of this story.


I have a question, um, it kind of taking a little bit of a different direction, but story as a kind of hooks back to earlier about story as teaching and learning from our own stories and learning from other's stories. I mean, even like your example of going to the school and doing the video and everything like that, there was the change that happened. And I think, I guess that's kind of the key word is I guess if a story is teaching others something indirectly maybe, or learning from other stories.


Yeah. I've lately been feeling like, like stories are some form of communicating how we survived and survived might seem like too strong, a word or too loaded a word, but cause it could be any kind of survival, like how I survived, um, a rapid change in the weather medication, how I survived the guilty feeling of not helping at my kid's school, how I survived finding a parking spot at trader Joe's, like it could be a very small micro existential survival, or it could be how I survived, um, being called a bad name, you know, how I survive racism, how I survive being othered in some way. And the story, the way that we tell our story can then go beyond just like this bad thing happened to me and I felt bad. It could be this bad thing happened to me and I learned something.


And so the key for that is that I think we can gather, and we can learn from is that when we communicate what we got out of that, what we learned, what we discovered, what we experienced, it becomes in some small way, a gift to somebody who's listening to say like, oh, next time I'm in that situation, I might think about this, or I might do that. Or I wonder what I would do in that situation, um, how I might respond or react. So it sort of plays those two sides instead of just like, wow, that's an interesting thing that happened to you. It's almost always better when we can, in some way, reflect ourselves, you know, this sort of universal connection to like, wow, similar, but completely different thing happened to me. But I can see myself because I know what it's like to be unprepared.


I know what it's like to feel lost. I know what it's like to, um, laugh myself until, you know, I can't breathe. I was laughing so hard. You know, like, like telling your story that connects to somebody else's experience of living then makes us all feel connected, which is why when I host and perform at like storytelling shows, what's really powerful about that is like any live or even a non live, like through the last few years, um, you get this range of human experience. You're not just in the echo chamber of just people who are like me, who have had similar life experiences at the shows that I host. You might have people that are college students who are telling stories about troubling times that they're going through. Now, you might hear people who are formerly incarcerated talking about going out to a dinner date with their wife, not talking about life on the inside, but talking about their life now on the outside and readjusting to life, you know, they might be, um, you know, an 80 year old Berkeley woman who was a stripper in the sixties, like you're going to hear surprising life experiences told by people that are, you might be sitting next to them on the train and having no idea, my God, you have an interesting life.


So the craft and sort of like the, the risk, I guess, telling a story is a risk it's tiptoeing out and saying, here's something about me, but in doing so what you do is you open up a connection pathway, you know, to other people that say, yes, I see you. And I understand you now in a way I'd never did it before.




How can we even help someone to tell a story? I mean, because even with our podcasts, that's what we do where we're kind of facilitating a storytelling in the beginning. And then we have a little discussion afterwards and, you know, learnings and things like that. But like how can anyone who is having a conversation with somebody or in whatever way they're communicating and um, how can they help a person tell a story?


The question? I mean, what does, maybe I can explore that a little bit more before I, you know, spin my angle. Like, have you, what's a situation that you've been in where someone has not been able to tell a story or it doesn't come off as a story? Like what is


Maybe, I mean, I think like, um, well Whitney is a professional therapist, right? So when she would meet a client, she holds space for them. Right. And it's very nonjudgmental, but maybe like me, I'm not a therapist. So if I'm having interviewing somebody for the podcast, for instance, and I want to make them feel safe and okay about sharing their story and most people who obviously come on, you know, they know what they're getting into. They want to tell their story. But I think sometimes I I've noticed, sometimes people do feel a little more, um, they're, they're willing to tell me, but sometimes they think, Hmm, I don't know. Should we not have that part in the podcast? You know, I think it's like that kind of thing too. And letting people, um, feel safe and secure with telling their story.


Well, I think you've, I think you've hit, you've hit it right there, which is that, um, we all have, we all have our comfort levels, you know, there's our safety zone where we feel, um, safe. And this is what I would like to discuss and reveal about myself to you, to others. You know, this is my, my, my protective state, you know, that I feel okay, there's the danger zone. There's the too much information I feel, I feel exposed. And there's a scary world out there of, I don't want to share this because I don't know you, I don't know who's going to hear this and whatever. And then there's the zone that I like to live in, which is the learning middles zone, the in-between, which is, which is tiptoeing, as I like to say out of your comfort zone, but you're not into the danger zone.


I'm not radically exposing myself or my family or whatever, to those kinds of things. But it's like opening up a little bit to show my heart, my, my, my fears, my, my emotions, my experiences, my thoughts, and understanding that I am flawed and I am imperfect. Um, but I'm not going so far as to make myself feel, um, ashamed of. And like, I think we all need to find that space and whether it's how we tell our stories or, or, or not, um, in the, in the parallels that I use in the book, in terms of like what improv theater teaches like applied improvisation as a teacher, as this idea between the difference between no, and yes, you know, no is a very important word and important concept for feeling safe and protected. We need to say no to protect ourselves and the people that we love and our ideas and all of those things and yeses adventure.


Yes. Is, I don't know what will happen when I say yes, yes. As the path into the unknown. And so it's like finding and moderating our know moments and our yes. Moments allows us to grow and experience. Um, if we all live and, uh, many of us know people who live in a world where everything is no, and they are always shrouded and protected and they benefit from that for the safety that they have benefited. But they also suffer from that because of the adventures that they are not experiencing or the life that they are not enjoying because they're living so protected. Right. And then we probably all know people who are pretty free spirited and pretty Yessi in their, their way. And they could maybe, you know, maybe they get in trouble too. Maybe their experiences are a bit too, um, unstructured or something like that.


So it's like finding that. And I think again, like in the ways of trying to, you know, pull story out of other people, I love what you said, Amy. I think you, on your show and in your community make a safe space for people that feel okay telling what they feel okay. Telling, you know, and hopefully you make them feel comfortable enough that they can tiptoe out of the Noah's zone and share something that they really feel or experience. And in doing so now you will feel connected and bonded with them in that way. And they will feel happy that they also connected with you and each other. So the better we, the better job we do, I mean, Whitney, with your, with your clients as well, I'm sure you experienced that all the time, where there's reticence to open up too much. And yet when they do there's benefits, right. They're connecting with each other, you're understanding them better. You're then able to, you know, help and advise along their journey of where they're looking to go.


And I, I think that what's also incredible, that happens in group therapy is that, you know, the client really does see the power of storytelling because they recognize that they have a story. I think a lot of people don't think that they don't believe that they really have a story. They've just, maybe they feel that nothing they've done is really a consequence or that important or impactful or that it matters. You know? And I think that when someone gets the chance to speak it to another person and be heard and be acknowledged for their story, it's transformational because they're able to say, yeah, I did that. And I lived through that. And it's my story now. And that's powerful to somebody, whether they're doing it as an art form or in therapy, because they're owning and, you know, really engaging with their story.


Yeah. And that's a, that's a perfect tool also to give them as well, is that, that ownership of their story through allowing them to both tell it and reflect on it. And that's the, that's the, the, you know, another part of the secret recipe for storytelling is reflection is there's a, what happened and now let's fly up above, let's look down on what happened and let's play God, let's play analyst, let's play interpreter and look at who was I? And if that was somebody else, what would I see, or what would I advise, or what would I do differently? Like any kind of analysis, interpretation reflection on that, whether it's me helping at my kid's school or you traveling to the grand canyon, like it could be a lovely, happy moment, which could still have a moment of reflection of like, I got to do this more often.


And you know, if anything, maybe I got to plan less because you leave. I left myself open to magical moments that I could discover, you know, like whatever your reflection is, is a gift then to the listener that you're sharing that with, because you're like I said, it's like survival. Like you're telling us now, this is what I got from it. And, um, and it's fun to learn what you learned and then to see how you'll now go forward. And maybe I'll feel that way too, or be influenced to move, to move into my life and my experiences or my like, oh, maybe I should go there. Like you, you can influence people through the stories you tell, you can, you can find peace with your past, with, you know, frustrations or, or troubles that you've had a finding, there's a story. And that story has an ending, you know, it hasn't ever since that day, which of course is the beginning of another story, but maybe that ending helps you move past it, you know?


Awesome. I think, um, I have one other question that I wanted to ask you about with the performance aspect of it, because as you host them off and, um, in San Francisco and Berkeley area, um, how do people come to you for that? Do they, it, is it a competition actually, too? Like I know at some point it was, I dunno if it was still wiser, how that works or


It's framed that way. The moth shows, I mean, there's many, many storytelling platforms and shows all over the place. Online national storytelling network has their own ones, regionally many people. I have friends in Chicago and Virginia and New York who put on their own show. So they all have different formats. Um, the moths is well there. The moth has two main formats. One is called their main stage, which is where they kind of curate stories, work with storytellers and then put a show on where you come and you watch four people tell 15 minute long, true stories. Those are ones that also, you often hear on the radio show with the moth story slams that I host our open mics. So anybody can come, can tell a short story on the topic of the day and there's a time limit and there's a thing, but there's also judges and the judging and the competitive quote unquote, um, aspect of it is funny because, you know, really, I think the spirit of the show isn't to be competitive.


It isn't about winning. You know, I think what you're really doing is you're at least this is my perspective is that you're, you're part of a community. You're putting yourself out there, you're getting on a stage, you're sharing your story. And you're creating a night of theater where we are now taking an idea. And then we are exploding that idea. And we, the community get to hear 10 interpretations of that idea. And it creates this almost this story unto itself of like life. This is what life is life through the lens of a word life through the lens of a feeling or an emotion. So the competitive aspect of the mov is, is to me a structural decision that like, if we make a competition, then the, it keeps the audience engaged. It's not just like 10 stories and ridden. It creates sensorized and like, Ooh, which was my favorite story.


And that story will win. And then the winner, the way that we do it with the moth is that the winner of that show all, there's like a show of the winners it's called the grand slam where all of those winners then go to another theater and they perform. So now you have sort of a messed up, but even though there's a winner of the grand slam, you know, with the moth, we always say like, they're already winners. Like it's like effectively playful competition rather than like, you know, a, you know, competitive that said, I know a lot of competitive people who come and they're like, well, I got second place, three times in a row. And then I want, you know, like they're aspiring to win and I can't fault them for that. It's, it's nice to win, but it also maybe helps them understand what is the, what is missing? How can I, how can I communicate better? What is it? Is it me? Is it the way I tell my story? Is that the story itself? Um, that might be the tipping point.


Yeah. But actually, uh, about communicating, which is something, um, I had was looking at some of the reviews of your book, just because I like to, like, it's like YouTube. I like to read the comments. I always like to see what other people are saying, you know, besides my own opinion. So, but one person, uh, wrote something about how she had a dilemma. And then after reading your book, she knew exactly what to do. And she knew that she could tell a story to let somebody know how important something was to her. So I really liked that idea too. And really thinking about storytelling is more than, um, in, in all aspects of our life, right there where this person then said, well, I'm not a storyteller, but I realize I can tell a story to, without making this person feel attacked and I can express my viewpoint.


I connected. I connected with her and I got the story on here. The story that's actually a good one. She, so she's a school teacher in New Jersey and, um, the situation was not uncommon. It was something that happened that upset her. And what are we doing? We're upset. Often we write an angry letter or we have a confrontational conversation with the person that upset us in anger to us. But she was reading a book about storytelling. She was reading my book and she was like, what if I try this using telling a story version of this? And the situation is that she's a school teacher in this pre post pandemic world. I don't know what world we're in right now, where it's somewhere. We are not, we're not out of it, but what's not in it. And in any way, they're going back to school after a year of distance learning and a decree comes down from the principal, no more pets in classes, no more classroom pets.


That was the thing. And as anybody who is a teacher or knows, a teacher knows, usually the pets are not a expense to the school. That is something that the teacher decides usually buys the food, cleans up and makes it part of their they're actually learning. It's like a science curriculum, but it's also from a therapeutic standpoint, there are all of these other benefits that having a hamster in class or something can do. And she felt very strongly about her pet and having a pet in the classroom. So instead of saying, I'm angry, I'm upset. She wrote a story. And the story was about a girl in her classroom the year before, who had a lot of trouble focusing and, you know, she would get extra help and she would be disciplined and she'd be sent out of the room and she would be sat down with it.


You would be warned, but when the pet was involved, she could hold that pat in her lap that, that hamster her or whatever it was. And it would calm her. She could stroke it. It would sit in the, in her hoodie, in the pocket of her hoodie and she would keep a hand rub it. And whenever that shareable was in her lap, she was there. She was present in the learning, not just distracted by the pet, but she was present right there. And, and, and her takeaway from that is that these are, these are helpful. These help discipline, these help, calm, anxious children. These bring people together. And these are not an expense that the school needs to even bear please reconsider. So the children like her can help teachers like me and telling that story about a child who has changed was affected change the policy. The principal said, you're right, I'm revoking that up to the classroom. You can do whatever you want. And the policy got changed. So right there, it was taking instead of the angry letter of like, that's the wrong. And I disagree a little bit survey and, uh, uh, you know, uh, petition, whatever. There's angry ways to go about it. And then there are softer ways and storytelling is a softer way to say this happened, and this is why. And it communicates a feeling and a change through a story.


Yeah. And it helped the student and the teachers. So I love that. The how it coalesce.


So It's the power of story is yeah. And so we think sometimes we think we're telling a story and we're not. And so it's a little bit of a consciousness thing of like, let's, let's aspire to tell this as a story. And if so, how, how do we tell our story? How do we tell it in a better way? And that's, that's a way of doing that.


Just speaking of how to tell your story. I have another question. Yes. Me directions. Again, I listened to you on the datable podcast and I loved that interview. It was fantastic. Yeah. They brought up the question that's always asked in your first date, what is your story? So how do you approach that we're going to make you a dating coach right now as a story, because they're not, you're not asking for one succinct story, right? Like, oh, well this one time that I did that, it's, what's your whole story of you? What are you all about? How do you make that into a story? That's, you know, that gives information, but it's also entertaining and fun and, and portrays who you are. That's a lot of things you're trying to achieve. And one, one day,


Yeah. Um, here's what I would advise. I am not a dating coach. I'm a storyteller and a storytelling coach. So I do, I do appreciate that is a question that gets asked on dates. Like, so what's your story. Um, and there's a game that I like to play. That's related to that, which is this. You, we won't play it now, if you, unless you want, but I'll explain what the game is. The game is that you do it, but with a time limit, you know, like, like if somebody on, on a date asks this, this is what I would suggest is like, let's do this as a game. I'm going to tell my whole life story in 60 seconds. Right. Right. And then you're going to do the same thing. You're going to tell me your life story in 60 seconds. So what does that mean?


That means we're going to have to be selective. I'm not going to do a 20 minute version of everybody's. I lived every school. I went to everybody I dated and broke up with, I'm going to choose the 62nd version of my life. Right. And then you have to choose and telly version of your life story. Right. And then after that, the game is called life story times two. So now the challenges let's do it again now. And we can't include anything that we included the first time. So now you tell your life story again, but now you're going to go somewhere else. Maybe this is my spiritual life story. Maybe this is my dating life story. Maybe this is my, um, my, um, my future life. I don't know, like something else is that when we go through a chronological itemizing of everything that happened, you're not actually telling a story.


You are listing, you are going through my resume. You're not saying like, tell me your story. Like, tell me your resume is story is something in which something changes. Right? So my life, my life story might be that I always wanted to do this. And I realized I actually am this or my life story was I always planned to do this. And then I got my dream job and decided it wasn't for me because I had something else that I got more interested in, you know, or my, my story, if it's a dating story is I've always been afraid. Like, here's my, this is my dating story, my true dating story. I was really good at avoiding love. Right. I dated a lot. And I was, I, I took too long distance dating. I think I talked about this on the datable podcast. I was a serial long distance data because truly, I kind of realized it was fake dating.


For me. It felt like dating. We would talk on the phone and we would write to each other. And then when we would see each other, it would be, oh, we go on romantic nights out and nights in. But when we were, when I was not together really independent, I was doing my own thing. And it was like having, having love in my life. But it was also like, like on paper, I had a, I had a relationship, but I was really avoiding it. And when I actually met somebody that I really liked, I was afraid to ask them out because I felt like, oh, no, I can't ask them that because I'm going to have to marry them.


That was honestly what I fear. I was like, that's gonna, that's gonna, that's gonna, you know, I don't know how to deal with it. And, um, well, I'm gonna flash back before I get to, to that is that I, I caught myself that I was in a pattern I'm in a pattern of avoiding relationships. So I started to date someone long distance and it was going pretty well. My parents really liked them. They were actually from my hometown, like we grew up together. So I had a long history with them. And right when they decided that they were going to move to be closer to me to go to grad school, I felt like, Nope, time to break up, because that was what I do. I avoid it. And I caught myself and I said, Hey, this is what I do. I need to not break up.


I need to push through this because this is me just being afraid. And they moved and things didn't get much. I mean, they were good, but they didn't get much better. But I was like, okay, well, Vanessa, now she's moved here. I have to give it like six months. Right. I have to, like, I can't just break up with her. Now. I was in a certain guilty spiral of sustaining something that I didn't like, because I thought I was fixing myself. And in fact it got to a point where I needed them to go to a therapist. And she was so happy that I was seeing a therapist and working on it. And I was working on myself. And what I ultimately realized with my therapist was that I was in the relationship, not for me and not for her, but because my parents really liked her.


They liked her and I needed to break up with my parents. It wasn't that it wasn't her. It was that I need to stop listening to mom and dad, like I'm in my twenties. I need to make my own decisions. So I, so we broke up and the very next person that I, that I asked out was the person I was afraid to ask her because I was like, I'm going to have to marry her. Because at that point I felt like I'm ready. Like I knew who I was. And I knew what I didn't have to do was listen to other people. It's a very long-winded way of saying, how do you tell your story on a date? Here's I guess a way of saying that, I just told you a story of like a relationship and how I got out of that relationship.


I didn't tell you my entire life story where I grew up, what happened to me? Who else I did, where I went to school, any of that, but in the little snapshot, I think I just gave you of that troubled relationship and getting out of it. I implied a lot of other things, right. Did you sort of gather, oh, he's the kind of own his parent. He listened to his parents. He's that mama's boy, you know, like there's things that I didn't have to say that like you get it. So if there's any conclusion to this rant that I'm on right now is that every story doesn't have to be every story. In other words, when someone says, what's your story, you don't have to tell them every one of your stories, if you a story, that story itself could be like a micro story that implies who I am and what I'm all about and what I believe in and what I want to do.


And then as soon as possible on a date, stop talking and start listening. Because if there's a trouble that happens and this is what they always talk about on data bowl is monologues. I think they call them when you're on a date with someone who just goes on and on and on. So I'm now becoming aware of monologuing that I'm talking too much, but you know what I'm saying? It's like is share the floor. Don't just go on that. It's the Michaux. And then when you're done talking about yourself saying, okay, so what do you think about me?


Um, the game part to kind of doing that. I think that would apply great for even people on a job interview. Like even if they had an approach to that of when they're asked a question, then they kind of like, okay, in 60 seconds, I'm going to give them the key points or whatever into a story I like, or you can apply that to so many different things. The little game,


There was another game in the book that I use for storytelling, but it's also a great date game it's called that reminds me of the time. Right? So the idea of this game is, um, it's a conversational game where the idea is it's not premeditating your stories. It is it's riffing in the way the conversation often goes. But the idea is that one person starts with a, sometimes you start with an object, right? Like I'll start with, um, there's Legos in my house. So it might say Legos and say to someone else, like, does that remind you of anything? And so you would say, okay, Legos reminds me of anybody, either of you, like go remind you of anything,


The grandparents' house in Baltimore.


So beautiful. So can you, so in the Vic, can you, can you identify like maybe a time, like sitting on my grandparents' floor, playing with Legos when I'm, how old or something, you know,


Sneaky back into the room where our Christmas tree was during Christmas, where they're still open presents and toilet over the ground and the new Legos and just ripping them open with my brothers and just playing with them under the Christmas drink.


Perfect. So Whitney's this done in 10 seconds is giving us this snapshot of a story, right? It's not a full story. There's no beginning, middle and end, but it's a glimpse into Whitney's childhood, right? It's Baltimore, it's Christmas morning. It's sitting on the floor ripping open presents. It's very relatable and very noble. And it's a little tiptoeing out of like, we know something about Whitney, right? So now Amy or I will be like, okay, some aspect of that story that reminds me of, so you could say ripping open presence reminds me of, or my grandparents' house. Amy, you go next. So what does any part of that story and say and say, what part reminded you of like ripping open presents reminded me up or


Ripping open presence actually reminds me of a dog I had, who would actually we'd give her the presence and she would do it for you. So she would work all the paper off and then that would be it. So that that's a beautiful memory actually that you just triggered from, from story a dog,


Doug, I love it. Okay. So, um, so pets, dogs and pets reminds me of the day that we got our kittens, which was actually very recently, we got, um, two kittens. Um, and, um, my daughter who they're really her cat she's 13 years old and just the look on her face when she actually got them, because she had seen them on Instagram. There are these rescue kittens and they're sisters, and she just fell in love with them. And just seeing them in person had this incredibly like calming, melting effect on her. And you just saw all the love that she was going to give him, um, in that moment in the airport where my cousin brought them from LA to Sacramento, where we greeted them, that's the gate. So you basically can kind of go around and go back and forth is it's flashes. It's it's moments, it's memories, it's light storytelling.


But really what it's doing is it's sort of opening up these pathways to memory. And what do we do when we share those? We shared a little glimpses of ourselves. Oh, he has cats. Oh, she has a dog. She loves dogs. Oh, she, you know, has family on the east coast. Like, there's just like these moments, that stories open up and by playing, by letting it be a little bit playful. And that's when I really, you know, sort of recommend this idea of taking some of the formality out of a first date and letting it be something like, listen, I read this book and there's a couple of like games in it. You can we try one? It's going to feel really weird to ask, but almost nobody there's nobody that I would want to have dinner with would say, no, I will not. We're going have quiet thoughtfully about the prepared remarks that we are going to share. He goes, Hey, you want to try this thing? I read it about it in a book. And I say, sure. And then you start to do a, like a thing. And next thing you know, you really know each other and you found out who they are and you might feel connected or find things. Oh my gosh, I did. I went to the same summer camp. Like you might actually discover things from their memories that would have never come up.


Yeah. You can learn more about somebody than some of their best friends might know one day, because there might be stories they've never really thought. Cause there's so many stories we have that maybe the time or place doesn't seem to come up to share it, except for one specific event where you're like, oh my gosh, this reminds me of that time. So what, it does a great game to play because it's fun. I like it it's playful, but also it takes kind of a sales Eunice out of a first date because I think most people when you're like, so what's your story? It's like, um, um, okay. So I went to college here and then I worked here and you're just listing off, like you said, a resume or accolades or achievements. And then you feel like you're just trying to sell yourself to,


Yeah. Please stop. Then go on dates, resume. We all, we read it already. And we stopped you on LinkedIn and Facebook. We already know all that. We know the people that you have in common, right? Like we live in the same, your world. Use your date time to do something else. Right? Tell, tell stories, right.


Experience, right.


Experience. Yeah. Yeah. So what do you like to do? Oh, I like to do this thing. Like tell a specific thing. Like, well, um, when I was a kid, you know, my dad tried to teach you how you like to cross country ski. And I thought it was the most exhausting thing in the world. Like one time we were out, you know, like tell a story about an activity, don't tell a list. I like to mountain bike. I like to run. I like to do all the things that I think you're going to, like, if me, if I say that I like to do them, I would rather just talk about, you know, like find out about each other, but through this, this lens and that sort of opens up, um, how we are not just, you know, um, what we've done, where we've lived.


Well, thank you. Are you sure you're not a dating coach?


Well, Corey, I want to thank you both. Thank you to join us here today and sharing about storytelling. I really feel like our audience is really going to enjoy this and I know it's going to help me help others to tell stories for the podcast too. So


Well thank you for asking me and really, really appreciate the time. And I loved hearing you to both tell stories today


And thank you so much for writing your book, wonderful book. And it takes a lot of work to, it's such a labor of love and you work it out and give it to the world and we're all grateful for it. Great.


Yeah. Well enjoy it. I'm working on a new one. That's more specific. I'm writing like tactical storytelling writing, maybe writing like a, um, a wedding toast or a eulogy or specific stories. So yeah. And people can follow me at, at story arose in this, my social media handle. If people want to follow me and find out more story Rosen, oh, I love it.


Um, all of the information, the website and the book and everything will be in the show notes so people can get all the information and get your book. Thank you so much again,




So that concludes our podcast for today.


And we really hope that you enjoyed this special episode. Next time we'll be back with a new guest telling her story and don't forget to like subscribe, review all the good things. You can find this podcast on all your favorite




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Corey RosenProfile Photo

Corey Rosen

Author / Storyteller

Corey Rosen is an Emmy-award winning writer, actor, and visual effects producer. Rosen has been featured on The Moth Radio Hour. He is an on-air personality for Alice Radio’s “The Sarah and Vinnie Show,” the #1-rated morning show in the San Francisco area. A performer at BATS Improv, he is also a writer and creative director at Tippett Studio. When not writing or performing, Corey works as a visual effects artist and executive producer. He is credited in movies including “Mission: Impossible,” several “Star Wars” films, and “Disney’s A Christmas Carol.” He has taught at NYU and Academy of Art University, written for Comedy Central, Jim Henson Productions, and Lucasfilm.