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Overheard at MothUP Atlanta’s first storytelling night

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The Moth

Non-fiction storytelling seems to be enjoying a resurgence in Atlanta.

Last week, I wrote about the True Story! reading series, which I’m told had quite the crowd at Kavarna on Monday night.

Then last night, it was standing room-only inside Manuel’s Tavern for MothUP, a local installment of The Moth storytelling series. (Organizers apparently told Manuel’s staffers that it would be a party of 10. What a merry kind of oops.)

A quick explanation: The Moth began in New York in 1997, but has roots in Georgia. Poet and novelist George Dawes Green, a native of St. Simons, wanted to recreate the experience of sitting on the porch and swapping stories. As attendance grew, it moved to larger venues, it became a popular podcast,  appeared on radio programs like “This American Life” and has split off into satellite programs — like Atlanta’s.

Every MothUP has a story theme. This month’s was denial, next comes tradition, then rules. The stories are supposed to be true, but it’s clear, too, that they’re based on the storyteller’s experience, and told to a group of strangers — nobody is fact-checking. Those who who prepared a story, or have one just waiting on tap, can drop their name in a hat. If and when it is drawn, they’ve got 10 minutes and a microphone.

But even with more than 60 people in the room, the MothUP hat emptied quickly last night. Everybody there seemed to crave a good story, but fewer were willing to get up and tell them. (Myself included. I can think of a dozen decent personal stories involving denial. I can also think of tripping over my words as I try to say them, forgetting the punchline and scurrying away in tears.)

Still, every time host Lance Colley tried to end it, someone else would step up. They were funny, surprising, sad, nonsensical, difficult, relatable, hard to hear, harder to leave.

Here are a few choice lines from storytellers:

“Oh, it’s just one of those pre-conscience imprints.”

“I’m the world’s oldest non-religious virgin.”

“He just looked with this no-expression-at-all kind of dad face.”

“PUSH!”

“It just felt so natural to fall in love.”

“Second date. He came over to meet my cat.”

“She’d always been a moody, troubled woman, which was my specialty.”

“I was raised Buddhist. I didn’t become it in college.”

Good stories.

Want to go? MothUP Atlanta meets once per month. The next one is 7 p.m. March 22, when the theme will be tradition. Manuel’s Tavern, 602 N. Highland Avenue N.E. MothUP on Facebook.

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