Entries in storytelling (7)


Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

Performing at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY (photo by Jessica Salinas)Not only was 2016 the best year of my life, it has also been the hardest. I became a mother in January, and my son, Stanley, is a source of pure joy. When he was diagnosed with the rare liver disorder biliary atresia in March, our world turned upside down. He underwent a surgical procedure called the Kasai and spent three weeks in the hospital, during which we discovered he also had bilateral cateracts and needed two more surgeries. The doctors followed his progress and eventually determined that he would need a liver transplant. In June, Stanley was put on the organ list, and we got the call on July 15th. He spent 37 more days in the hospital, 31 of which were in the pediatric intensive care unit due to various complications. As one would expect, the experience has been an emotional roller coaster, so of course I turned to my favorite coping mechanism—writing and storytelling. Talking about what I'm going through while I'm going through it has helped me more than any therapist could and I feel more inspired than I have in a long time. I'm the kind of person who tries to make the best out of any situation, and this one has proven to be quite a challenge, but not impossible. 

One of the highlights of the last few months was performing in the chapel at the Green-Wood Cemetery as part of Encampment: Fireside Tales & Tunes in August. Another was October's All Stars of Comedy: Super Heroes Night at Pete's Candy Store, where donations were taken to benefit the Children's Organ Transplant Association in honor of Stanley. You can watch videos from both shows on my Storytelling page. 

I also appeared on a couple podcasts. I discussed Stanley's diagnosis and treatment on How to Get Away With Parenting and shared clips from old cassette tapes on Lost and Rewound. You can find links to both episodes, as well as other podcasts that have featured me, on my new Podcasts page. 

In addition, I'm relaunching my open mic Another Round Storytelling as a weekly show with cohost Drew Prochaska, starting Wednesday, November 9th, at Over the Eight in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. RSVP here for the event and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

You can read more about Stanley's hospitalization on his COTA website blog. And if you like looking at pictures of cute babies, you can also follow Stanley on Instagram or Facebook

Stanley at home two months post liver transplant (© 2016 Amber Drea)


Summer Sun and Inspiration


Rockaway Beach (© 2015 Amber Drea)I have two goals this summer: to finish a first draft of my book and to hit the beach as much as possible. So far I've got the second one on lock. The first one, not so much. That doesn't mean I've been lazy. Over the first third of the year, I performed on some of the best storytelling shows in the city, including The Anthology Presents The B-Side: Nirvana Edition, Comic Sans: The Virgin Chronicles, Split Personality, FastTrack Storytelling and Treat Yourself. You can check out videos of my performances from these shows and many others on the Storytelling page.  

Amber Drea, Dana Rossi, Chi Chi Valenti and Matthew Trumbull at QED (© 2015 Amber Drea)

I'm especially excited about my appearance on episode #227 (Jackée!) of The Soundtrack Series podcast (download on iTunes here), hosted by knowledgeable music maven Dana Rossi. The episode features my story about the time I had to live in a motel as a kid and my only friend was Heart's album Bad Animals, specifically the hit power ballad "Alone." I performed the story live at QED in Astoria, and the show also included an interview with Chi Chi Valenti, creator of Night of 1000 Stevies, and actor Matthew Trumbull, who shared a tale about the hometown crazy man and his connection to "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by The Rolling Stones. 

Screen shot of Akashic Books' website

I also got a piece of flash fiction published as part of Akashic Books' Thursdaze series. Titled "Acid on the Fourth of July," the super short story details a trippy night in South Florida in the late 1990s. Check it out here


Risk and Relaxation

Tour Eiffel in Paris (© 2014 Amber Drea)

Summer may be a time of relaxation for most people, but it's been the opposite for me. Between family visits, work deadlines, storytelling shows, literary readings and a European vacation, I've had little time for kicking back. It's the third week of July and I haven't even hit the beach yet! A travesty in and of itself. I supposed it's better to be busy than bored — though that's never a possibilty for me (see this Louis C.K. quote). In writing/storytelling news, I was featured on episode #539 of the Risk! podcast — titled "3 Women" — along with stand-up comedian Cameron Esposito and feminist sex educator Betty Dodson (my story starts at the 20:06 mark). I'm pleased with how the piece turned out, thanks to the directing skills of Risk! host Kevin Allison and sound design by Risk! audio editor Jeff Barr. I also performed at the July editions of No Name Super Storytellers at Word Up bookstore and the Lamprophonic reading series at Bar Thalia — check out photos here and here, respectively.

Mott Lake in North Carolina (© 2014 Amber Drea)I made my biannual pilgrimage to North Carolina to visit my mother in May. We celebrated my sister's 16th birthday, which featured ladder toss, hula hooping and an appearance by a baby pig named Lady Chubbington. We also visited the North Carolina Museum of Art, ate dinner at Poole's Downtown Diner (which serves the best mac & cheese on earth), took a walk through the Cape Fear Botanical Garden, kayaked at Mott Lake and played many rounds of Cards Against Humanity. 

Jeb at Stirling Castle in Scotland (© 2014 Amber Drea)In June, my husband, Jeb, and I met up in Paris for a week-long adventure that featured stints in England and Scotland. Highlights included viewing the full moon rise over the Eiffel Tower, watching comedian Stewart Lee at Soho Theatre in London, eating fresh local seafood at Cafe St Honore in Edinburgh and touring the Tullibardine distillery in Blackford. Detailed accounts of my dining and drinking experiences can be found at LobsterLover.me and NewYorkDrinkie.com

Gin & Tonics at the Beefeater distillery in London (© 2014 Amber Drea)

Following our return from Europe, my 10- and 12-year-old nephews came to stay with us in New York City for three days. I took them to a New York Yankees game (they lost), to a public pool on the Upper East Side (so many rules!), to see "How to Train Your Dragon 2" (beware of creepy guys who talk to themselves, then fall asleep and snore loudly) and to Brooklyn Bridge Park for the Macy's fireworks display (so many people!). Despite some crankiness ("How much farther to we have to walk?" / "I'm hot." / "I'm cold.") and questionable sportsmanship during a game of Monopoly Empire, they were impressively well-behaved. I almost can't wait until they visit again next year! (Yes, I can.)

Fireworks on the Brooklyn Bridge (© 2014 Amber Drea)


California Dreaming and Wintertime Scheming

Lucia Lodge in Big Sur, California (© 2013 Amber Drea)The last few months have been a blur of activity, both professional and personal. My husband and I started fall with a long vacation in California, driving down the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles and stopping in Big Sur along the way. Nothing beats drinking sparkling wine under the stars on the Pacific Ocean and waking up to the sounds of waves crashing on the cliffs below. 

While we could have stayed there forever (or at least another week), we had to get back to New York City for a slew of shows and readings, including the launch for David Moscovich's book You Are Make Very Important Bathtime and the October edition of Sideshow Goshko, which also featured Kerri Doherty of Geeking Out and Andy Ross of Real Characters. You can check out a video of my performance on the new Storytelling page along with videos of my appearances at The Moth and Local Stories. 

In addition, I published the short experimental humor piece "The Anatomy of a Mosh Pit" on McSweeney's Internet Tendency and the essay "I Was Stalked in High School" on Hypertextmag.com. Needless to say, 2013 has been a great year for me and I look forward to what 2014 holds. 

Sunset in Big Sur, California (© 2013 Amber Drea)


Springtime Shows and Shenanigans

Cherry blossoms at Brooklyn Botanic Garden (© 2013 Amber Drea)

Spring has been full of excitement. In April, my drinking-themed storytelling series, Another Round Storytelling, relaunched at LaunchPad in Crown Heights with comedian and performer John Flynn, host of "Oh, Hey Guys!" at UCBeast, and ginger-rum cookies from Spirited, a boozy bakery run by Kimberly Wetherell. This month's show on May 2nd featured Cammi Climaco of Ask Me Stories and Six x Six at the PIT, and June's edition will welcome the sexy storytelling of Jefferson, who hosts the Bare! and Spill! series. In addition, I'll be doing some storytelling of my own at Local Stories on Monday, May 20th, at Three of Cups in the East Village at 8:00 p.m. The theme is "elimination," and my tale will recount my breakup with religion. And on Thursday, May 30th, I'm reading a new piece of short fiction at Molasses Books in Bushwick alongside Ben Bush, Michael Thomsen, David Moscovich and Matthew Jent. Dubbed "Selfies: A Supergroup," the reading will deal with the concepts of image, self-consciousness and the individual in community. Stay posted on all my upcoming events here.

Blue heron sculpture at Ferran Park in Eustis, Florida (© 2013 Amber Drea)

On a personal note, I visited my uncle and cousins in Eustis, Florida, during a recent trip to Orlando for a work convention. I hadn't seen DJ in 12 years and was surprised that it seemed no time had passed. I always had a great relationship with him since I was a kid, and we grew especially close when he lived with my dad and me for a few months in 1992. His children, on the other hand, were only 1 and 5 the last time I saw them, and now they were teenagers. Soon-to-be-13 Stella, who was named after my grandmother, loves Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, particularly the nerdy intellectual Donatello (the one with the purple bandana—her favorite color). She also likes to punch her dad when he teases her. DJ's son, Austin, is impressively polite and hard-working for a 16-year-old whose Instagram handle is 420keepitreal—he puts 30+ hours a week in at his job at the car wash and has already saved up enough money to buy his own vehicle. When he graduates high school, Austin plans to enter the military and has even taken the large-gauge plugs out of his ear lobes so they'll be fully closed up by then. We had dinner at Copacabana Cuban Café in nearby Mount Dora, a quaint town that reminded me and DJ of Mystic, Connecticut—our hometown—but with more gun shops. My uncle and cousins had never eaten Cuban food before, so we tried nearly everything on the menu, and the bill totaled only $88! We were also serenaded by a couple of musicians playing traditional tunes on acoustic guitars. If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend going there. And say hi to DJ, Austin and Stella for me!

Stella, DJ and Austin on Dora Drawdy Way in Mount Dora, Florida (© 2013 Amber Drea)