Category Archives: Story Telling Techniques

Do Not Read This.


.לחצו פה להסבר על תרגום לעברית

Whether you are a filmmaker, an entrepreneur with a new app or product, or a blogger, you know that the first few words you say about your project are critical. It’s the make or break moment.

Think of your personal life. When someone says “I have bad news….” your stomach clinches and you brace yourself.  Or if they say “I have great news…” you experience excitement and hope.  But more to the point, do you know the feeling you get when someone says “Well, it’s a long story. But…” and your eyes glaze over immediately. IMMEDIATELY. Because it’s going to be a “long story” which is not appealing. Sometimes the qualifier “well, to make a long story short…” is also an eye-glazer, since that is almost always followed by a LONG story.

So you know you have only a very short period of time to grab and hold the interest of your reader or listener. Really, this idea applies to just about everything, from dating to pitching a Hollywood executive to pitching an angel investor.

Our attention spans have gotten shorter. And in a non-personal situation, your listener has no reason, no obligation to actually listen to you anyway. Or even pretend to. So it’s bit merciless.

Any easy and obvious arena in which to notice short attention span thinking is on Facebook. When you share a post that contains a link, the link automatically generates a lead in – the first few words of the article, generally, or in the case of some manually edited sites, a selected quote that characterizes the piece.

So what happens very often is that a person will “like” the link – and even comment on it – but not read the article itself. They just “like” the headline and make assumptions based on that.

That should frighten us, collectively. As individuals we need to slow down and digest information. Especially in a world hungry for truths.

But as creatives who battle with this (for now) short attention span problem, we really have no choice but to play along and work with it.  Yes, as a blogger, you want a title to have as much curiosity appeal as possible so that people will definitely click on it.

But don’t forget that if you ever aspire to be a writer who is taken seriously by those who matter – publishers, filmmakers, decision makers, etc.? You need to follow through with an entertaining, cohesive article, script or pitch.

So this post is really about two things:

In your personal life: Really be aware that a snappy headline or first paragraph or two are not going to be enough information for you to really grasp a subject unless that subject is George Clooney, in which case, a picture is worth a thousand words. Ha!  But generally speaking, make it a habit to slow down and pay more attention to what you read and to be more critical and analytic of it. You might be “liking” and commenting on things that you actually are not informed of. Minimally embarrassing, this habit can also have major repercussions as you become one of the Willingly Uninformed.

In your business life: Use snappy titles, headlines and opening remarks to grab attention! Of course! But if you really want to make in impact, follow up with information that is well organized, entertainingly conveyed and impactful. That is, if you CARE about getting published, funded or represented.

שלום לכם דוברי עברית! כדי לקרוא את הפוסט הזה בעברית, השתמשו בדפדפן כרום ולחצו על “Translate” למעלה. כדי לקבל הסבר מעמיק יותר, לחצו פה.


Word Crimes!

Truth & Beauty: Making Sense of Our Stories

.לחצו פה להסבר על תרגום לעברית

Recently I wrote an article in Script Magazine about emerging Israeli filmmakers and whether the situation in Israel affects their point of view and their filmmaking. Overwhelmingly, the filmmakers I spoke to wanted the world to know that they are filmmakers first and Israeli second.

Yet the situation in Israel does create a backdrop, a narrative that changes the day to day for Israelis. They don’t say “necessity is the mother of invention” for nothing. According to Start Up Israel there are several Israeli apps that have been developed in direct response to the situation.

Your environment affects your story, whether that’s fiction, a film, or you latest tech innovation. As story tellers, creators and innovators, we use what we know, where we are from and what we are curious about to build new narratives.  With the amount of social media available to use, we can even create disposable stories – meaning we can create something only meant to be used for a short time.

Because I wanted my American friends to know what is going on in Israel during Operation Protective Edge from a real, on-the-ground, human perspective, I created a Facebook page called Truth and Beauty During Wartime. There are several editors of the page and they update content with their personal views ranging from the political to the personal to the funny and ironic. Part therapy, part a human approach to share the point of view of regular Israelis dealing with any number of emotions as we are being bombarded – and as our government is bombarding – Gaza in response to over 500 rockets sent our way in the past four days.

But primarily, the page allows us the opportunity to try to make some sense out of this narrative that just keeps unfolding. To some how give it a framework for ourselves. Which is what you give to others when you create – a framework for their entertainment, for their needs, for the convenience. You are helping build a narrative every single day. What’s your story?




Truth or Dare to be Brasilian? The Demise of Joga Bonito

לחצו פה להסבר על תרגום לעברית.

Tel Aviv Writer’s Salon member Oren Peleg uses the power of story plus his love of football to discuss “the demise of Joga Bonito”.  What interests me in this piece is not the football itself but its importance in our lives and our identities – in our very narratives.  Why are sports so important to us? What do sports signify in our personal and national narratives? Read what Oren has to say.

Learn more about Oren and read some of his flash fiction here.


Brazilian football, yes football not soccer, has always existed as a shining beacon in the sports world, the world at large for that matter. Imbued in its origins is a magical realism worthy of a Gabriel Garcia Marqeuz narrative. The only true magic known to man takes hold of those lucky enough to don the unmistakable Selecao canary yellow and green kits. It’s in the water. Mark my words. I will go to the grave eternally jealous of never being able to drink from that cup.

BrasilPele on a daring run! Garrincha emerges out of a pocket of space that simply wasn’t there! Didi with a pass of pocketknife precision! Roberto Carlos lets fly from his rocket of a left foot! Rivaldo dummies to Ronaldo! Ronaldinho bends it into the top corner over the wall! Romario feints left! Rivellino feints right! Cafu barrels right through! They’re everywhere!

Brazilian football as we’ve come to know it is dead.

In light of Germany’s 7-1 thrashing of host nation Brazil in Tuesday’s historic World Cup semifinal, darkness will now inevitably take hold.

Sixty-four years ago, sons all across Brazil comforted crying fathers. It was a day that Brazilian poets compared to Hiroshima. Tuesday, the Selecao made Brazilians forget all about the 1950 World Cup Final loss to Uruguay in front of 170,000 strong at the Maracana for all the wrong reasons.

Now, it’s July 8, 2014 that will never be forgotten, scarred by Nike, in its World Cup campaign, dares the masses to be Brasilian. an event that shook a nation to its tragically fractured core. Dare accepted, now can Brazilians and outright football purists alike handle the truth?

This serves as a personal tragedy for me. How a middle class Jewish kid born and raised in the East Bay found himself so deeply connected to the lofty mystique of Brazilian football, I do not know. Growing up, I likened my own breathtaking “tripping over untied shoelaces” style of play to the Brazilian style, the samba style, where one doesn’t dribble, but dances with the ball at one’s feet. I held steadfast to the notion that the only noticeable difference between Pele and I was a trivial matter of phonetics. A “g” inserted at the end of my last name was all that separated me from the world’s most celebrated athlete. I vividly recall watching old dusty VHS tapes of Brazilian greats on the old television set in my grandfather’s Persian rug-adorned living room. This memory for me is steeped in a nostalgic romanticism. I sat cross-legged on the floor, craned my neck up at the heavily pixelated screen and saw the greatest version of myself in the players who slipped on the iconic canary yellow and lime green Selecao jersey. The joy they exhibited in the face of such immense pressure against brutal, mostly European-based competition was something, regardless of nationality, to behold and applaud. Oh yeah, and they seemed to always win.

I have no Brazilian blood. I have no Brazilian friends. I just loved the way they played.

This crushing defeat to Germany felt like more than just a defeat. Those of us outside of Brazil felt it too. I speak on behalf of all the outsiders who appreciate the sanctity of what it means to be Brazilian in a football sense. For Brazilian and non-Brazilian faithful everywhere, it felt like the emphatic end of an era.

This World Cup was billed as a return to grace for the world’s most popular sport, the world’s international common language. Football was coming home to its Mecca, its birthplace, where kicking in the womb is thought to foreshadow prowess on the pitch. Even the fan base is drenched in rich lore. The passion is legendary and frankly, alarming. It makes it impossible to make “these guys will be lucky to make it out of the stadium alive” jokes after a poor performance. Aspiration to become the next generation of greats dominates young adulthood. The beauty of the female fans is notoriously jaw dropping. Hell, the girl who had the (un)fortunate nip slip in the stands was more noteworthy than a handful of entire teams that took part in the on-field competition. After Tuesday’s loss, she and a plethora of other Brazilian bleacher beauties are but a foggy memory behind the countless heartbroken fans spotted in the stands. Most notably to many-a-spectator was the broken man sharing a broken embrace with his replica Jules Rimet trophy.

brasilnipsThe unrivaled unity between sport and country has given credence to Brazilians’ divine right to football glory and immortality. Brazil is football. Advertisements plastered all over this World Cup feature this year’s batch of the Canarinho playing the part of the classic Brazilian national side with a flair for aesthetically pleasing attacking football. You know the part. It’s the side that artistically, not to mention competitively, overwhelms the dull, brutish and efficient European opposition. The hard truth is this version of the Selecao doesn’t measure up to past incarnations littered with all-time legends. Didi. Leonidas. Nilton Santos. Cafu. Roberto Carlos. Ronaldinho. Romario. Garrincha. Rivaldo. Ronaldo. Socrates. Zico. Pele. They have delivered eternal glory on the same stage where this year’s team fell flat, on home soil no less. In Hollywood terms, this year’s bunch was horribly miscast in the country’s lone summer tent-pole, the one every Brazilian had been waiting the last sixty-four years to see. In fact, the eyes of the world were collectively transfixed on the train wreck, the catastrophic crescendo that took place yesterday. We all witnessed the destructive demise of joga bonito complete with metaphorical dismemberment performed by the German nationals right in front of our very eyes like some twisted televised Roman Gladiator theatre.

How did this happen?

The roots of all Brazilian football icons are strikingly similar. Scrappy barefooted stars are born out of the favelas with a love and affection for the game that nursed them. The dirt fields. Their sanctuaries. The ball stuffed with paper and socks. Their most prized possession. Their school. Often times, their chore. The crowning achievement of an education here is learning to leave a bewildered defender in the dust on the path to goal. Once the craft is honed, the transfer offers pour in and Brazil’s finest footballers head for greener pastures filled with coveted endorsement deals and exotic call girls. This is the life that awaits them in the hub of world-class football, Western Europe.

In large part, the European game is tactful and decisive. A win is a win and a goal is a goal. Style points don’t really exist, apart from the occasional moment of mastery impossible to ignore from a Cristiano Ronaldo. Rough tackling stifles the opposition. Creativity is a precious commodity and is unleashed when necessary, not flaunted. It’s a game of long strides, not short bursts that dizzy and dazzle. Joga bonito is a distant thought here, a myth really. The methodical modern game reigns supreme.

European football is essentially world football as its lucrative prospects entice every continent’s premier stars. It’s a game of grit, not guile. Plodding set pieces providing scoring is expectation, while scoring beautifully in the run of play provides only fleeting exaltation. Look to this year’s World Cup and its record number of corner kicks converted into goals as evidence. All who play in Spain’s La Liga, England’s Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga, France’s Ligue 1, or Italy’s Serie A, one way or another fall in line and succumb. These are the finest footballers in the world. Every four years they rejoin their national team and bring back with them this style of play.

There is no immunity to this, not even for the blessed Brazilians. They have been spoiled. For the past seventy plus years, Brazil has been steadily manufacturing the finest players in the world with a factory-like efficiency that would satisfy Henry Ford. Right now, this doesn’t offer any consolation. In a cruel twist of fate, old men are coming to the realization that they won’t live to see Brazil win the ultimate prize on home turf. Instead, the hosts now find themselves ostensibly forced to take part in Saturday’s third place game ahead of Sunday’s all or nothing duel between Argentina and Germany, or Messi versus Machine. The deserving Germans are computer precise and technically sound. They are a complete team capable of a cohesive act of football coercion at any moment.

With Brazil’s best are rooted in the confines of European football adapting to a foreign style of play, this type of acclimation takes time. Yes, I understand that Brazilians headline top European clubs and fit in seamlessly to each respective club’s style of play. However, individual brilliance, not tactics, has always been at the heart of Brazilian national team success. In 2002, the team front lined by individual stars Ronaldo, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho won the World Cup not by outdueling opponents, but by outclassing them. They had more talent and flair on their side. It made for a supremely entertaining march to the Final and eventual trophy haul. This 2014 side had good players, but collectively, it was achingly ordinary.

There’s something to be said about the mechanical brilliance of a side like Germany and each team members’ seemingly uncanny ability to be so in tune with one another in the run of play. On the other hand, a sport whose admirers revel in the improvisation, the on-ball wizardry, the sheer artistry of the superstar, the well-oiled machine will always play a broken stringed second fiddle. Brazil, the only nation to participate in every World Cup, has always been able to part the curtains and bring the absolute best players on the planet onto the rarefied global stage of greatness. Pele’s appearance in Nigeria in 1967 momentarily paused a Civil War, halting bloody offenses from both factions. Does greatness peak any higher?

Football in Brazil has always been about just being better. That’s what they have always been able to count on.

Explaining what happened Tuesday night in Belo Horizonte is simpler than you might think. Chalk up this World Cup debacle to bad timing. This time around, the Selecao showed the world that it simply didn’t possess enough firepower to lift the trophy in front of its home fans starving for the victory of all victories. Without the firepower normally belonging to a Brazilian national team, what did the team have at its disposal to compete with? How about a unified discipline centric game plan predicated on organization and tactical mastery? Oh right, that was Joachim Low’s German side. Who can compete with the obedience of Germans? Did any die Mannschaft face muscles move a millimeter during their national anthem? Meanwhile, David Luiz is going all Madame Butterfly on the other side of pre-game proceedings. Brazil couldn’t outclass this German side and couldn’t out-frown them either.

Outside of Neymar, where was this proud football nation’s attacking arsenal? Even the poster-boy of the event, Brazil’s talisman, at this stage of his young career, only possesses a sporadic ability to take on world-class defenders. Fret not, for he will continue to evolve into a classic Selecao great complete with all the tricks. Their vaunted number nine? Fred. Yeah, just Fred. Fred looks like the obnoxious grinning grocer who charges me extra for bags. That’s a thing now?

Historically speaking, this was the worst possible time for the Samba nation to host the World Cup, devoid of legitimate superstars and really without any prospects in plain sight. Imagine if the stars had aligned and the football gods, I mean FIFA, had somehow allowed Brazil to host in 2002. The country would still be caught in the carnival crossfire of a twelve year-long party.


Dear Brazil,

Hey, it’s me again. Not Pele, Peleg. Close. Look, your national pastime of football dominance does indeed live and breathe outside your borders. The game has evolved around the globe into a low scoring, tactical team effort and the rest of the world is better than you when it comes to this approach. They’ve employed it longer than you. Worldwide, the number of fluid, graceful, skill laden superstars in the sport couldn’t fill a four-door sedan. The game is no longer marked by the gazelle grace of the hundred-yard dash, but by the solidarity of the three-legged sack race. Your surreptitious surplus of homegrown talent has run bare.

Croatia’s coach must’ve slept with the referee’s daughter on the eve of the opening game against you. Mexico and Miguel “Mad Hatter” Herrera outplayed you for long stretches and won the coveted Internet .gif war. Cameroon fielded eleven folding chairs against you. Chile could’ve and perhaps should’ve beaten you. That game was a coin flip drawn out over 120 minutes. Colombia was deterred by a brutal game plan authored by coach Scolari that saw 54 total fouls, 31 of which were committed by you. So not like you, Brazil. Then, Germany exposed you as painfully average. (Note: read the next sentence aloud with a gravelly Obi Wan Kenobi voice) The only way to resurrect hope is to find the next great one—or two, or three, of four—who will bring balance to the Brazilian attacking football force.


Nike’s World Cup campaign feasted on the premise that something special resides inside the Brazilian footballer that sets him apart. Nike dared the world to be Brazilian. What does it mean? Rather, what did it mean? It meant to be bold… to be brave… to risk it all… to live in the moment without fear… to wield a killer instinct and a smile. To be all this and leave it all out on the field. It’s one of the great mythos matters in all of sports.

A cold excitement runs through my veins as this next thought dawns on me. I do no know where, but somewhere, deep in the heartland of Brazil, a son comforted his crying father during the 7-1 loss. A son to a father, with a destiny owed to a proud football nation, will rise and take on the dare. Glory waits patiently.

For inexplicable selfish reasons, I pray that FIFA, I mean the football gods, make Brazil host once more in my lifetime so that I can see three things with my own eyes: The Jules Rimet trophy return to its rightful resting place, a nation garner the redemption it deserves, and the best fucking party of all time.

I amend my statement near the top. Brazilian football as we’ve come to know it is dead… for now.

Write Better Content

Yesterday, I attended WordCamp Israel, 2014, a day of learning and discussions for WordPress users. As a long time WordPress blogger, and a former Hollywood script analyst, I thought it would be interesting to talk about something less technical than widgets, coding, or meta tags but to really delve into why story is so important and how an appreciation of it can make your content better, no matter why you are blogging:

I started off with a sad but very illuminating story. About four years ago, my best friend lay in her bed, dying. It was breast cancer. I had just returned from Israel. Julie – she said weakly – tell me about your trip. I thought it was horrible to talk about a vacation while someone was dying!

Please, Lynn said. She was not able to even open her eyes.

I told her about the Red Sea and how warm it was. I told her you could see the hills of the Saudi Kingdom from there. I described the hot, greasy schwarma and the tender, crumbling falafel.

I felt like Sherhezade – I had to keep talking.

I described Petra and the silence in the desert. And the way the old city in Jerusalem smells a little like smoke and oil and flowers.

One tear rolled down Lynn’s cheek. It’s so ancient, she said. That was the last thing she ever said to me and that was the moment in my life when I realized how important – how truly important story telling is.

Because it transports us. Even on our death beds.

Stories only happen to those who can tell them.

~ Paul Auster

Here is a truth: Good stories – good writing – good content – is immersive, compelling and entertaining. Every time. 

You already know this. Because this recognition and ability is hard-wired within you. Believe it. But many of us do not ourselves consume enough good content online (we skim, more on that later) or we assume that it’s easy to write good content and we may not try all that hard.  quote

I learned valuable lessons about mediocrity in my ten years in Hollywood – in an environment of extremely high stakes, where NO NOT GOOD ENOUGH is a daily mantra, I learned that NO is an invitation to better and that mediocrity will never, ever make you stand out from the crowd.

I learned that asking more and MORE of your story, of your idea or concept was a way to sharpen your skills:

 NO. Not good enough. What else happens? Why is this unique?

In Hollywood this might seem like a jaded attitude but really it’s just a reaction to too much material and too little time. And so often, unfortunately, what we think is unique and interesting – just isn’t. It’s a rough environment.

Writing online is a different environment and yet asks the same of a writer – why is this different – because today we are inundated with content and information masquerading as content.

There is an ocean of information online and its easy to get lost in the crowd. How is your blog better? 

Whether you blog for personal reasons or to sell a product or service, your content is just one more piece of information floating around.  Usually when we think of improving readership, we think of SEO, hashtags, sharing on multiple social media outlets efficiently. And this is true. It is important.

But content is king.

Here’s the thing: you don’t need to have a doctorate in English (or any other) Literature to get some fundamental truths of story. You just have to know how important good content is.

Remember – story telling is innate within us. The ancients knew how to tell stories and there’s never really been any improvement on the basic construct, whether in writing or in the oral tradition: odyssey




Or – as I say – Beginning, middle, BLOODY POINT ALREADY!

We are accustomed to digesting stories in three acts – the set up, the complication and the resolution.

Today I went to the store. They were out of tahini. I found the tahini.

In and of itself – this three-part story is not entertaining. Stories have many moving parts. By changing one element we have a much more interesting story – one that begs for our attention:

Today I went to the store. They were out of bullets. I found the bullets.

Now you have my attention. You have aroused my curiosity. The fun thing about story telling is that it has so many moving parts. What point of view should you be writing in? First person? Third? What is the main point of your story? Where is this happening, what makes this unique? You have a world at your fingertips. Practice your “blogging voice” or persona until you get it right.

Imagine yourself at a dinner party. Hey everybody! You say. Hey! You’ll never believe what happened! And you get all eyes on you and you get this immediate reaction to your story. And by dint of the fact that you started telling a story, we know you want to entertain us.  Yes, some people are better story tellers than others but it’s both because they do it a lot and because they enjoy the feeling of entertaining others. There is a high and an immediate feedback.

However, when you blog, you write into the ether. You are greeted by silence. Which for many, is a relief. Many writers are shy. But – how do you know if your blog was successful? By the number of comments and shares? Yes, in part. By the number of followers and those who discuss the article? Definitely.  But there are some caveats. What makes readers share, comment on or otherwise interact with your blog?

There are a few things you should take into consideration. Chief among them is the fact that definitely attention spans are shorter. The internet has given everybody in the world a voice and there is a huge amount of content online. Ergo, writing not just good but great content is more important than ever.

Most people skim content. In the New York Times there is a great article by Karl Greenfeld, about Faking Cultural Literacy – which points to our modern tendency to glean as much information as possible as quickly and easily as possible. Further, we live in an age of “listicles” – Top ten ways to lose weight before summer! Top three things you need to know about sex!

So where does good story telling fit into the modern reading habits and attention span of those who would build our readership? How can bloggers adapt? 


In other words:

Get my attention

Tell me the authentic truth

Make it matter in my life

Here are a few ways you can study up on better content writing:

Keep a diary of what content you read and why.

What do you notice about why you clicked on or read what you read? What grabbed you? Was it relevant to you in your life? Was it written with honesty and authenticity? Was it provocative and interesting – in either the title, the piece itself or ideally both? Did what you read leave you with something you didn’t know? Did it make you want to take action – even if that just means following the RSS feed?

Learn about great content by reading it. 

Curate your Facebook Feed. Follow those publications and writers that consistently write what grabs you. Read great content and study what makes it great.

Establish a clear vision for your blog.

Why do you blog? Whether for pleasure or for business you should be able to define and describe your blog in what amounts to a tagline: Great activities for eco-hikers! Or whatever that description needs to be. When you are clear about your blog, your blog will be clearer. What, exactly, can I expect from your blog in general? And how is it different from other content?

The worst sin you can commit as a writer is to be dull and obvious. Avoid this at all costs. Don’t give me anther stupid listicle of the top three ways I can polish my cutlery. And if you do write for a cutlery business, or a medical supplier? You can still try to find a way in to that blog post that is authentic, truthful, entertaining and relevant. You can find a way.


Beginning. Middle. Blood Point Already.

Get my attention

Give me some truths; make me laugh or think or disagree with you.

Leave me with something that means something in MY life.

Now go out and blog and do it well! If you need some private lessons to improve your writing, please drop me a line. I am glad to help. If you fancy a social situation and live in Israel, come join the Tel Aviv Writer’s Salon and get those creative juices flowing.


We Are Born Story Tellers

The tradition of oral story telling goes so far back in human history that nobody can really find the first examples of it. It was probably something to do with a hunt that was made epic and entertaining. There were stories of angry gods and far away places and battles. Story telling was both entertainment and information gathering. They were how we related to the world.

And yet today we get nervous if we have to pitch something or take a meeting. We don’t know what to talk about on a first date. We find ourselves choked off and silent. But the urge to spin a tale, to hold your listener rapt is one that is written in our very DNA.

You tell stories every single day. What’d you do today? What did that person say? How was your vacation? So why should your meeting be any different? Tell me a story – the story of your script – the story of your new product – the story of your life. whitman

I am a huge fan of The Moth. If you aren’t familiar with the Moth and it’s many, many subsequent offshoots, the Moth brings back the idea of oral storytelling vis a vis “story slams”. Speakers – many famous and gifted professional story tellers – along with ordinary people, take the stage to tell us a story.

Perhaps we are nervous when its our turn to tell a story because we are simply out of practice. Perhaps we listen to or watch other people’s stories so much that our own become atrophied. Why not get back in touch with the art of story telling by attending events in your area or starting  a story telling group?

The ability to tell a great story will not only make you the belle of many a cocktail party but also much more effective in meetings and social interactions in general. Remember, story tellers don’t only talk AT their audience – they engage them. cocktail

You don’t have to take the stage to be a good story teller – again – you tell stories every single day. Have you ever been at a gathering when someone starts to say they’ll tell you a story – and your blood kind of runs cold and your eyes search the room for a way out? Why is this? Because this person is not a good story teller. Their stories wander, are completely self-referential and are not engaging. They are long-winded and too full of details. This person just likes to hear him or herself talk.

I am sure you also have people you know who are excellent story tellers. People who get going and you are grinning because you are so entertained, because they give just the right amount of details, without too much, because they use sound effects and mimicry, because they really put you right there in the situation. Because their stories have a point. We all have stories – we’ve done so much in our lives. But part of being a good story teller is knowing when that story is best used. Yes, yes, you’ve been to Borneo, but would that story really fit into this situation? What is relevant about the story? In what way is it entertaining?  story

Telling yourself stories is something we do everyday too. We just don’t think of it that way. We narrate our lives every day – sometimes positively, often times negatively. This always happens. That never happens. So-and-so thinks this or did that. You would be amazed at how your life can change if you change the stories you tell yourself.


StorySlam Live in London is an amazing organization that you can get involved with if you are in the UK.  The Story Slam in Tel Aviv is great, if sporadic fun with great stories. The LA Story Telling Festival is an active community of story tellers.


Your Meeting Isn’t About YOU

“If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen.”

~ John Steinbeck

This great American author was talking about literature in this quote but really, this quote applies to just about all conversation. We pay special attention when what we are hearing concerns US in some way, right? bored

Have you ever endured having someone talk AT you rather than WITH you?

It’s exhausting. I hold that two of the most terrifying words in the world are:

…and THEN…

Oh no, you think to yourself… there’s more… does this person not get that they lost my attention?

Your pitch meeting is not all about YOU. It is about the person listening too, isn’t it? It’s about getting them as excited as you are about your story – be it a new horror script you’ve written or a new smart phone application you’ve invented. This is ultimately a sales meeting, no?

A pitch – or any meeting, really – is not a one-way street.

Your pitch is really a conversation between you and someone else. Yes, a conversation in which you are giving information but you are indeed speaking to another human being, so act like it. No taking a big breath and just speed talking your way through your presentation. Slow down.

There are two important things to think about:

Learn to speak in a way that never allows the listener to wander out of the conversation and keep pretending to hear anyway.

Learn how to recognize when you’ve lost someone’s attention and how to bring the person BACK to the present moment.

The best way to really illustrate this point, I think, is to put yourself in the shoes of somebody who is listening to a pitch or presentation that isn’t executed all that well. How does it feel to be bombarded with information, to be talked AT and not to? Of course you tune out a little bit. And think about this: if you are taking a meeting with someone pitching or presenting, this is probably something you do a lot. So it can get old.

There is a paradox if you are a listener in these situations. First, you get jaded, you hear “great” stories and ideas and pitches all the time. But usually they aren’t that great.

But – here comes the paradox – you also don’t want to be the person who said “no” to something that turned out to be great, now do you? That’s a straight path to losing your job. So you’re torn. You want to love this idea but you get meeting fatigue. And most people pitching do a pretty terrible job, whether their idea is great or not.

But you, the person pitching – this is a big chance, right?! It’s huge! It could launch your company, make your innovation come to life, start a writing career! So your job is to not only pitch what you’re pitching well – but to do so in a way that is memorable and engaging for the listener.listening



Don’t Wait for Inspiration, Strike Up a Conversation

We were all sitting patiently in the bank with our numbers when Isaac shuffled in.

Isaac is, I would soon find out, 84 years old. He looks good, although his eyes are a bit rheumy.

Quite cheerfully, if slightly inaudibly, he asked where he could find the numbers. He was standing right in front of the machine, which he acknowledged with a laugh. Using his cane, he sat down next to me to wait patiently. We sat and we sat.

We are growing old together, in this bank, he said with a chuckle, in perfect English.

Isaac, as it turns out, speaks five languages: Yiddish, Hebrew, English, Arabic and French. He was born in Cairo in 1930 and came to Israel in 1950. cairo

1950, I said – wow, you must have seen a lot! In typical Israeli fashion, Isaac smiled mysteriously, tossed his chin up and shrugged.

We sat in companionable silence, but it was not lost on me that I was sitting next to the last of a generation of Israelis, who have lived through every major war, who were here before Israel was a nation.  I was sitting next to history.

What was it like growing up in Cairo in the 1930s and 40s I wondered? Isaac had lived through Mussolini’s invasion, British rule and Rommel’s attack.

What’s your number, Isaac asked, moments later, adjusting his cap.

878, I said, glumly.

I have 879, Isaac said, and laughed. We went back to our friendly silence, side by side in Bank Leumi, as the digital read out remained more or less stationary.

What had Isaac seen and experienced in his lifetime? Where was his wife? I was afraid to ask; I’m pretty sure I know the answer.

A few minutes later, we traded numbers in line.  I figured I’ve got a bit more time to grow old than Isaac does. As he left, Isaac tipped his cap, smiled, and said something in Yiddish. I think I understand what he said.

It’s amazing, the stories all around us, I thought, as I watched Isaac shuffle away, slowly. You just have to ask.

Everyday Storytellers

“Call me!” I text to my friend. “I have a great story for you!”

And it is a funny story. About the cop who pulled over in front of my bus stop and motioned me to him only to ask me out for coffee. About how he offered me a ride to my destination and I made him show me his badge, much to his merriment. And how moments later, my errand done, I ran into him again as he was on patrol.

Stories happen to me every day. And they happen to you too.  But as Paul Auster says:

“Stories only happen to those who are able to tell them.”

Most of us are good at story telling, whether we know it or not. We regale friends with funny occurrences, what happened yesterday, how the job interview was, who you saw on the bus or on the street doing such-and-such. We mimic people’s voices and gestures, instinctively, we make the story entertaining. In many ways, our stories are our social currency, aren’t they? storyteller

Because we love it, we love to get someone else to laugh or to gasp and to feel this story along with us. When I was growing up, my parents did not allow us to have a television for many years. Consequently, my family members were consummate story tellers. Nothing exotic – we lived in a rural area of Northern California, but boy did we tell each other stories.

For some reason, many get unduly nervous and freaked out when they are telling the story of their script, their business or even themselves to someone they do not know.

Remember the old saw, “picture everyone in their underpants when you are speaking in public”? That one never worked for me, I tossed it out long ago. Rather, imagine in a job interview or pitch in which you are regaling someone – not reeling off a list of what your book or script or start up is about, but conversing with this person in the same way you would with a friend that you are telling a story to.

  1. entertain or amuse (someone) with talk.

The world has shifted on its axis in the past 20 or 30 years, more of us work for ourselves, work at home and work online. Creatives with “soft skills” are no longer sidelined but valuable. The gap between creative and technical work have all but vanished.

Book editors no longer take writers under their wing and do the talking (or editing) for them. More and more Hollywood representation “hip pocket” writers (representing them only for one project at a time), entrepreneurs in every space mix, mingle and network, creating their own connections. Goodbye, man in the grey flannel suit - hello, brave new world. flannel

As the boundaries between our personal and professional lives erode, we must be careful to get our downtime, to take days off, and to maintain at least some personal time. That’s the bad news. But the good news, in this brave new world is that your personality IS your selling point. You should not feel different pitching your idea than you do telling a funny story about what happened to you today.

What makes so many people choke in pitch meetings or job interviews? Fear, lack of confidence, believing that everything is at stake.

Here’s the good news: it isn’t true that everything is at stake. Even if it seems so. Even if you are broke. Even if you’ve had many such meetings and they’ve never panned out. It only takes one “yes”.

And do you know who gets the “yes’s”? Those who are calm, personable, friendly, relaxed and good story tellers. Those who can achieve what can seem like the unachievable – NOT believing that this meeting, yea or nay, is the end of the world. Because it’s not.

We all know this as well as we know that you can’t find love when you are looking for it, or that your luck won’t change by freaking out.

You tell stories every single day of your life. To others, to yourself. It is a part of life and when you are pitching your work, it is no different.

Relax. Tell your story. If you think it’s entertaining and amusing and wonderful and visionary – so will your listener. Because your confidence and belief in yourself and your work is contagious.

Story telling. We do it every day and this day is no different.

Some of my favorite storytellers:

Spalding Gray

David Sedaris

Garrison Keillor