Vancouver Story Slam (VSS) took the stage at East Van’s Wise Hall on Wednesday, April 25th as part of Verses Festival of Words. This year marked the 8th annual festival for Verses, who stakes claim to Canada’s largest alternative literary festival. The program which ran from April 19-29 offered a range of events, like poetry readings, story slams, workshops, and live music mingled with literature.
This event was a special invitational version of the recurring slam that takes place every second Tuesday of the month at Cottage Bistro on Main Street. There are many returning writers, but new storytellers are encouraged to have a go at what is the longest-running live monthly storytelling competition in Canada.
This particular night, ten writers were invited to share their story for a chance to win one of three cash prizes. This included: Crystal Smith, Emily Kelsall, Al Tee, Cory Thibert, Griffin, Nyla Carpentier, Alix Born, TJ Dawe, Dallas Yellowfly, and Don Simpson. To qualify for the audience’s vote, storytellers were given 4-6 minutes on stage. They were not allowed to time themselves or have a friend secretly signal from the audience. At seven minutes, a bell sounded to alert those that got carried away.
Susan Cormier, who produces VSS, opened the evening with a story of her own. It was a passionate monologue from the perspective of a retail sales associate, which was both funny and searing.
Story topics were as diverse as the writers, ranging from overcoming speech impediments, relentless sports hecklers, the politics of divorce, and hiding from your boss that you’re on house arrest. It was as much about the writing as it was about the way those words were delivered. More than a simple recitation, some of them were true performances, crushing the stereotype of the shy writer.
Audience members were taken through a range of emotions, most notably when a story they loved was disqualified for going over six minutes. “It was worth the extra time!” shouted one listener. But host Bryant Ross was adamant, “We are heartless when it comes to that time.”
In the end, seven storytellers were left for the audience to vote for their first, second, and third choice. Don Simpson was awarded the first place prize of $75 for “A Morning Walk”, both a charming and nerve-racking tale about taking a toddler for a stroll. Second place and $65 went to Dallas Yellowfly’s “Santa’s a Lie”, in which he admitted to faking his belief in Santa Clause until he was 15 years old. Griffin placed third for their intimate story about a sensual and melodic lover, titled “Jagged Little Memory.”
Aside from partnering with VSS in creating a fabulous night of entertainment, Verses festival ensured the event, like their others, was as inclusive as possible. Organizers provided scent-free soap for those with sensitivities, resources for potentially-triggering story material, wheelchair-accessible space, and gender-neutral washrooms.