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Getting Personal in Public

OPB | Feb. 25, 2010 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:16 p.m.

The Moth storytelling series, which includes people telling true stories on stage without notes, traveled to Portland recently and the show sold out in a matter of hours. A glance at Powell’s bookshelves will reveal a wide-ranging array of personal stories told in zines, essay collections and full-length books. One of the local bookseller’s employees recently added his own narrative to the store’s collection.

Just when it seemed like the genre was becoming impossibly oversaturated, Beau Breedlove announced he’ll be chronicling his affair with Portland Mayor Sam Adams in a forthcoming book. Some would say Breedlove’s motivation for writing his personal story is rooted in greed or an insatiable desire for fame, but what about storytellers with less notoriety? What motivates them to stand up and share intimate details from their personal lives with strangers? What drives people to listen to or read their stories?

Have you ever shared a personal story in a public way? Why did you do it? How did you feel afterwards? Have you attended a live storytelling event or read a memoir you loved (or hated)? What drew you in? What made you uncomfortable?

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