Catherine Burns, artistic director of The Moth, joins us to discuss the twists and turns of her creative life, fresh off her interview with The New York Times and the release of The Moth’s new book, “How to Tell a Story.”
For more information on The Moth, go to https://themoth.org
Tricia [00:00:03] Hey there. I’m Tricia Rose Burt, and I want to ask you a question. What creative work are you called to do but are too afraid to try? Are you in IT but dream of doing stand up? A PR exec who longs to write a screenplay? Did the pandemic change your priorities and you want to leave your fully funded PhD, M.D. program and go to New Mexico and paint? Or maybe you’re like, I was in my early career, trapped in a lucrative but soul crushing corporate job when what I really wanted to do was tell stories on stage.
Tricia [00:00:36] In this podcast, we’ll hear from artists who took an unexpected leap and found the courage to answer their creative call so we can inspire you to answer yours, because this is no time to be timid.
[00:00:58] Welcome to the show. In this episode, we’re exploring the third principle in the No Time To Be Timid Manifesto: Don’t Expect a Linear Path. When I wrote that, I was thinking about a creative person’s need to be flexible and respond to the unexpected. These days, we’re getting a lot of practice with the unexpected. War, congressional hearings, court rulings. And we want to give you some light in the middle of all this dark. But even in making this show, the path was kind of bumpy. We were planning to interview George Dawes Green, founder of The Moth, but his flight got canceled. So we rescheduled the interview. The second time his computer crashed about 10 minutes in. On the third try the WiFi misbehaved, so we decided to redirect and scheduled George’s interview for another time.
Tricia [00:02:00] But I was excited to have someone from The Moth on the show. The Moth is a nonprofit organization that dedicates itself to the art and craft of true personal storytelling. And it’s been an ongoing part of my creative world for years, whether I’m on the Moth Radio Hour, their main stage, or as a Moth instructor. So I couldn’t be more excited that our next guest is the artistic director of The Moth, Catherine Burns.
Tricia [00:02:33] I’ve worked with Catherine since 2010 when I told a story at a story slam in New York at the Bitter End. When Katherine heard my tale about the first time I drew from a nude model in art school, she asked if I’d tell a longer version on the Moth main stage. So I hop in my Honda Fit, drive down I-91 from New Hampshire to New York, convinced I’m going to tell the best story ever. It was this train wreck of arrogance and naivete. I walk into the rehearsal space at the Moth offices, a small room separated by a huge purple velvet curtain. And I meet my fellow storytellers. There’s an international scientist who tells a story about studying the jumping spider in Sri Lanka during a coup while corpses floated down the river. There’s the recovering addict who’d been in a shipwreck and had to drink his own urine to survive. The other two stories are just as intense about racial injustice, family dysfunction.
Tricia [00:03:41] And I went to art school.
Tricia [00:03:45] After rehearsal, I go straight to Catherine’s office and say, You have made a horrible mistake. I have no business being on this stage. And she says, Tricia, first of all, do you think we would put you on that stage if you weren’t ready? And secondly, not all stories are extreme, but they need to be told. That’s some of the best direction I’ve ever received. And I pass it on to you. Tell your story. No matter how insignificant you think it is. With Catherine’s encouragement, I opened the show that night.
Emcee [00:04:24] Please welcome to the Moth microphone: Tricia Rose Burt.
Tricia [00:04:37] Where I grew up in the South, there was a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things, and the right way was to do what your family and society thought you should do. And the wrong way was to do something different.
Tricia [00:04:58] That story, How to Draw a Nekkid Man planted the seed for this podcast. So I couldn’t be more thrilled to have Catherine on the show. Fresh off her feature in The New York Times and the release of the most new book, How to Tell a Story. She’ll talk about all the twists and turns in her creative life. We have a lot of ground to cover, so this episode is a bit longer than the first two.
Tricia [00:05:26] Hello, Catherine. It’s so great to have you on the show.
Catherine [00:05:29] Hey, Tricia, I am so thrilled to be here.
Tricia [00:05:32] The theme of this episode is Don’t Expect A Linear Path and I want to talk to you a little bit about how that relates to your career and creativity in general. Now I’m going to ask you. What was your first act of creative courage?
Catherine [00:05:49] I mean, I would definitely say that in sixth grade, I tried to cast my family in a full scale production of Little Orphan Annie, based solely on the fact that my stepsister, who was six, had red hair. It didn’t go that well. But, you know, I feel like I did have a vision even then for something theatrical. So, I mean, that’s simply one act for sure.
Tricia [00:06:16] Now, I know something about you that other people may not know about you because you and I talk. Yes. And we have this shared history. And so I know.
Catherine [00:06:27] We’re both redheads!
Tricia [00:06:30] I know that you played the clarinet in the high school band. I know that. And so I want to know, how did you go from being a clarinet player in your high school band to being the director of The Moth, just this landmark artistic organization, you know, and just recently written up in Shondalands, you know, Head Turners column, which is for women who are crushing it in their careers. You were just profiled in The New York Times. So, like, how does one go from a clarinet player to that? What were some of the steps you took on your way there?
Catherine [00:07:06] When I was young, I always from a pretty young age, I said that I wanted to be a film director and I’d be like really quite young. And I think the reason I said that is because it was an art form I could see, you know, I was growing up in the seventies in Alabama, really rural Alabama. I think, you know, my joke is if you write Alabama across the map I grew up the next the last “A” so like pretty rural and there just weren’t a lot of art forms to see. There wasn’t really much theater there was like I guess choir, you know, at church but there and I couldn’t sing, you know, and even the clarinet aside, I had very clearly very little limited musical talent, let’s put it that way. But I still feel I guess I want to be a film director. And I think that what I meant by that I would have never had these words even at 18. But I think what I really meant was not necessarily that when you direct films, it was that I wanted to do something creative and interesting where I got to work with all sorts of fabulous people that I loved making something that maybe help people understand the world a little bit better. Now, of course, you don’t have that phrase at six, but you’re seeing movies. You’re like, Well, maybe I could do that, you know? Yeah. So but I don’t think I could conceive of anything like them off at the time, but I definitely did not follow a linear path. So ultimately I went to college for film and TV. I still was.
Tricia [00:08:30] And where did you go to and where did you go to college?
Catherine [00:08:32] I went to Boston University. Okay. I went there, studied? Yeah. Broadcasting and film, got my degree. And I think I had this idea that I would just do what people do, graduate, go to L.A., start working as a P.A. if I could, and just work my way up. But I ended up taking an alternative path because close friends had written the script, which I thought was brilliant. And one of them said, You know, I think you’re a better director than me. Why don’t I produce it? And would you stay in Boston for a year and direct it? And I agreed, but only if we wrote it out to be a feature film, because that just felt like a short wasn’t going to do enough right then. And this is right is like Spike Lee, Richard Linklater. Some of these people were starting to emerge and doing these independent features. And I was like, Why don’t we do that? And so we did. But, you know, my plan was the movie would get made, it would come out, it would be like a darling at Sundance. I would, you know, go off into Hollywood and become like Sofia Coppola. Like, I’ve clearly.
Tricia [00:09:34] This is, of course, just.
Catherine [00:09:37] But of course, no. Life is just a series of really complicated things. I mean, the movie did get some really good receptions, but ultimately I was in this crossroads with it. I didn’t move into L.A. and start doing some light PA work with this movie, trying to figure out what I was going to do next. But I was so burned out from just the process of trying to get it made. Then I think I was a little bit tired and then an unexpected thing happened. So this is one of my first not linear, is it? Some call me out of the blue and said two different people called me and said, We heard that you ended up actually doing a lot of the production on the film, but you actually produced it. It was you weren’t just a director who produced it a name. You really got it made. So both of these men were making independent features and they’re like, Would you want to produce our movies? Like we actually have the budget raised. It’s not huge, but would you come and use everything you know and help it like two different projects? And in the middle of it I actually got offered producing a third movie. So even though I know I wanted to be directing, yeah, I ended up over the course of this summer producing three different indie features.
Tricia [00:10:49] Living in Los Angeles. You’re living Los Angeles.
Catherine [00:10:51] So here’s another risk. I went back to Boston to do it because it was these filmmakers in Boston who heard that I knew how to, like, work with the city and like all of these things, I just had to figure out, you know, on my own to do it. And actually, right before I left the city, I finally got a big break and I was offered an excellent job being a very high level assistant to a pretty big deal agent. And she was like, I think you’re really talented and I’ll teach you everything I know. And if you want in two years, you can be like a coach, like I’ll work out. And I remember agonizing because here it was just like my little original career, right on the eve of me throwing everything away and being not throwing everything away, but going to Boston, where I was going to couch surf, you know, to do that.
Tricia [00:11:38] Yes.
Catherine [00:11:39] But I just had this overwhelming feeling that that wasn’t my path. And so I walked away from it, got on the plane for like the much less guaranteed road and went and did it.
Tricia [00:11:49] And which is why you’re on the podcast called No Time to Be Timid. So keep going. Yeah.
Catherine [00:11:55] I mean, like, look, things went wrong when the first person whose movie I was to make, I was doing one movie first. Then the second movie was actually directed by then boyfriend. When I got to the city within 24 hours, he told me that he’d been seeing someone else for four months. Maybe he could have told me that before I so I did not quit though. I stayed like what? You know, poor little me in 1994. You just want to be like, Sweetheart, just walk away. But I still assistant directed his movie, even though he was like off with his other girl. But anyway, I did meet some amazing people on that movie, I have to say who I’m still really good friends with to this day, so I don’t really regret that. But yeah, I came to Boston and just was like living in this crazy ways, got through it. And at the end of it, this is actually an interesting point to make people listening, I think, is that on the very first movie, it was kind of a tough shoot, you know, lots of overnights, really intense work. And there were two people working under me for free who were just like very baby PAs. I mean, I was only like 25, so they were 22, you know, but, and they were working with me and they actually then went on and got jobs on this Miramax movie that was coming to town. It was this movie. Wow. And when you.
Tricia [00:13:10] Explain P.A., tell listeners who may not know.
Catherine [00:13:12] Right? Production assistant. Yeah. So they actually went off to do this Miramax movie called Next Stop Wonderland. And I got a call from the line producer of that movie saying that someone had just quit, and his two PAs swore that even though I’d never worked on a Miramax movie, that I was really good and did I want to step in. And so like the two people working under me for free. Yeah, yeah. It’s like you never know who’s going to get to your next job. They then got their next big paid break and like, top their boss into calling me to hire me.
Tricia [00:13:50] That’s fantastic.
Catherine [00:13:51] Totally unbelievable. So actually, though, I was already signed on to a third very low budget film, which I did not walk off of, which I still feel proud of, that stayed with them. I finished up that movie, but then that same producer had another big gig coming up, and for that he called me and I got it. So then I was able to jump up and I ended up working in film production for the next couple of years before actually pivoting. I had a couple of bumps in my career where I referred to like, Is this all there is moment, you know? And so there was a point where I was like, burned out. I like the indie films because even like $1,000,000 budget, you’re doing 14 hour days. Like it’s just so intense. And so somewhere in there I pivoted for a while and started producing television like I was a segment producer would run around the country interviewing bands and doing travel segments and different things for this national show. There was also still shooting out of Boston like I was still somehow in Boston, and then within all of that, ultimately doing that sort of TV production work, which then started to move into the Internet, that moved me to New York City. And at the risk of like going on all day. Well, there’s a funny thing about me going to New York City, which is when I was still in Boston, I was sent to Aspen to do interviews for this comedy festival, to interview comedians. And that was determined to get an interview with Robin Williams. And because I felt like if I could bring home Robin Williams, that I would earn the respect of all my new coworkers at this new gig. I was only like, at this point, I’m only like 27, 28 years old. And so I was in a standoff with a producer in Aspen about whether or not I would get an interview with Robin Williams. And it really got he was just like, Catherine, it’s not going to happen. Go home. No, I was like, okay, I’m just going to go stand over here. And I just didn’t give up. And finally he relented and I got this amazing interview with Robin Williams. So should you have Robin Williams tape? Yeah, for 90 seconds, you know, you’re set. So they send him the Robin Williams footage. I am heralded back home, kind of a hero of my crazy dot com, I guess for I was rookie at the time and that’s what I hear, that there’s going to be a new comedy wing of our Web site and it’s going to be out of New York City. And there’s a big job opening there. And do I want to apply? And I’m like, yes. And they’re like, okay, you just have to do one. It’s really just to check a box. You have to interview the new head of I Cast Comedy. And lucky you, he’s going to be in town today. And guess who it was. It was a guy in Aspen who was like, it’s not going to happen, you know, get out of here.
Tricia [00:16:36] No, no way!
Catherine [00:16:37] And I was like, Oh, no. What am I going to do? What am I going to do? Ultimately, I walk into the room, he sees me, he realizes who I am. And I’m like, But just one thing before you say anything, don’t you want me working for you? And he said: Sit down. And he became, like, my most awesome boss. You know, for the whole next year, I moved to New York, he got me to New York. And then I guess, like, if you want to jump to how I did with The Moth, it was like from out of all of that, I was still doing TV trying to write my next film. I hadn’t quite let go of that, but just not really. My heart wasn’t entirely in any of it, even though I was having fun. And so the dot com like everybody else’s dot com imploded.
Tricia [00:17:24] Yeah.
Catherine [00:17:24] And I actually got what had been a dream for me for a long time, which is I got a job producing at MTV. And what I think people have to be careful of is a dream can come true years after you’ve had it. MTV went on the air when I was 12. And so I think it really made an impression with me. And I love music videos and I would like fill notebooks with analyzing music videos. And so I was like, Wow, MTV. But I think the truth was, is that was the dream of maybe 20 year old me, but it wasn’t the dream of 30 year old me. And I was 30 and I got the job and I was trying to figure out what to do. But then for me, like, they truly did intervene because my first day of work was meant to be September 12th, 2001.
Tricia [00:18:08] Okay. Yeah.
Catherine [00:18:10] So I never actually started there. And in the midst of waiting for MTV to kind of pull everything back together and kind of go back to, quote unquote normal, I at that time had discovered The Moth, which is all about true stories told by people telling stories that live onstage. That’s how we know each other. Of course, originally and I had fallen in love with it. And one of the things we were trying to figure out where their heart is, where their career goes now, just the things that you really love, like notice what wakes you up. Because I love the Moth. I loved everything about it. And I would resent if, like, I had a writing meeting I needed to go to with like my screenwriting partner and made me miss the Moth. And I think that was like a sign of how much I loved them off. And so I started going to the Moth all the time. I always tried to help them out, like trying to figure out what I could do because they were just two employees at the time, a small not for profit. Now, they were so big now, but like compared to then, it was like just a couple of people.
Tricia [00:19:03] And now you’re 20 times bigger.
Catherine [00:19:05] Yeah.
Tricia [00:19:05] It’s so many times bigger. Yeah.
Catherine [00:19:08] I really did love it. And so in the midst of me waiting for MTV and all of that and the world kind of being a big mess, the Moth’s artistic director Joey Zanders quit. And it just felt like this third door was open in because I’d actually been working at ground zero for the Red Cross. They’d actually offered me a job and it appealed to me because it was kind of like film production only, unlike in film, there was always actually an emergency. And so I like, I liked that it was actually real. And I come from a family of doctors, so I was like, maybe I’m just going to walk away from art. But it seemed.
Tricia [00:19:46] Like.
Catherine [00:19:46] Really, am I? You know? Because I was like, am I really more interested in the Red Cross than MTV and what’s going on? And then when the Moth opened up, it felt like it was third door. It was like something that really mattered to me that I felt like was helping people in a completely different way. But it was also artistic. And so I applied for what was then. The producing job at The Moth was a producer and there was an artistic, an executive director, and I got hired and eight months later I was made artistic director. And that was four years ago.
Radio [00:20:30] This is the Moth Radio Hour and I’m Catherine Burns. Big news this week. The Moth is celebrating our 25th anniversary on June six. Two and a half decades will have gone by since our founder, George Dawes Green, held the first moth event in his living room in New York City.
Catherine [00:20:48] You can see the zig zags in this whole thing.
Tricia [00:20:51] Yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah. And it’s fantastic because I think I would have never in a million years thought I’d be having a conversation with Catherine Burns. My life has been anything but a linear path. You know, just there’s none of. It’s made any sense, really. Now I look back and go, Well, of course. Right, of course. But in the middle of it, it’s like, I don’t have a clue. But what’s what’s interesting about you and me, Catherine, is we have both landed in a place that we were not necessarily primed for. You know, we both started out in the South. We live in the North. We’re both surrounded with Republicans. We’re now surrounded by Democrats. We’re both we came from places that were not filled with art, our living is making art, you know, and we’re both sort of bridging gaps in everything that we’re doing. You know, and I love with the line right now for the Moth has been building empathy one story at a time for 25 years. Yeah. And you have this great quote that you all put together about announcing the book, and it says, Storytelling is a bridge. It not only transforms, but informs. Do you have a specific story that changed people by educating them? Do you have something you know that opened their minds? Was there a story in all? I mean, you’ve heard a gazillion of them all these years, but is there one that you can think of as like sort of changed the way that they were navigating?
Catherine [00:22:20] One story that comes to mind, Cynthia Riggs. She’s wonderful. She called our pitch line. She’s an older woman and it’s a story about her finding love again in her late seventies. And so many people, I feel like I’ve gotten found that strength in her. Among other things, she was a scientist who went back to grad school in her sixties and became a bestselling crime fiction writer in her seventies. Wow. Yeah. And her story is about, like, going through a terrible divorce with a not great guy who she had kids with, but he stalked her like he was just a mess. And she really wanted to open her heart again. And then she receives in the mail this package of these cryptograms written on paper towels. And they were from this guy who she’d known when she was a teenager working in California. And she was kind of teased because she was like the young girl, and they would write these cryptograms to each other to figure out like he was her friend. And in this package were all these cryptograms that he had saved for 60 plus years. No way. Yes. And the top had a brand new one that when she worked out it said, I have never stopped loving you. And so the story is all about her finding the strength to go to speak to him and to meet him. And they did eventually meet up and he proposed within 2 hours they were married. He moved across the country to live with her. And they were married for six years and he died in her arms. But it’s such a story of like, you know, just daring to take a chance again. And I mean, also just the fact that she went from being a scientist to a crime writer, you know, in her sixties at a point when most people would have been like, Yeah, well, I guess my life is being a scientist. And she just followed her heart. So I have seen so many people light up when they hear Cynthia stories and think like, what if I always wanted to do what am I afraid of not trying that I think it’s too late, but maybe it isn’t. So that’s definitely one that comes to mind.
Tricia [00:24:27] I know. And just the experiences I had when I listen to them of how I can be so changed and the responses I’ve gotten when I’ve told a story and people have reached out to me after hearing it. You’ve got so many different parts of the Moth. I mean, I’m a part of the corporate arm, but you have the community work that you do and the work with the Innocence Project that you do. And I also know that you have an awful lot of work around women and girls that trying to empower women and girls. And, you know, I have this question, given the way that the world is going and Supreme Court rulings and there’s just so much that’s happening right now, there’s so much upheaval and there’s a lot of people who are scared. How do you see story being used not only as a way to connect through empathy. How do you see it as activism? Do you know what I’m saying? How do you see a connection there as well?
Catherine [00:25:28] I definitely do. I mean, a lot of great activists are people who really know how to tell their story. And often people get overwhelmed by the masses but can react to one person. And one of the things about stories is it takes the issues out of these like broad essay, blah, blah, blah, you know, headlines. And it just brings it down into humanity. It brings it down to how the issues actually affect people in their day to day lives. And so we definitely think that the more somebody can just ground an issue in individual stories, in my stories, the more they are likely to reach someone, especially when it comes to potentially changing hearts and minds in some way.
Tricia [00:26:11] I was reading in one of your I think it was in The Bitter Southerner article that you were saying that the episode that you had on the Women and Girls episode, podcast episode, it has been downloaded more than any other episode that you’ve had. Did I read that correctly?
Catherine [00:26:27] That is right. People really love it. Love it. And you know, we do a lot of work with the Gates Foundation. And a lot of what we do is they fund all kinds of people around the world who are, you know, the head of NGOs and who are creating organizations to help people. And often in the communities where they grew up. Women and girls is, you know, the Gates Foundation, especially Melinda Gates, has done so much around that and continues to and we’ve just been really proud to be a part of it. We’ve done numerous shows at the UN that feature all women from around the world who come in for the U.N. General Assembly and for, you know, goalkeepers and some of these other amazing projects. And we are always just honored to help on that in any way that we can.
Tricia [00:27:12] But yeah.
Catherine [00:27:13] We found early on at the bar we found that the people were trying to use telling stories, like to get on a soapbox with stories. It doesn’t work that well. Whereas if you just truly tell us about your lived experience, people are more likely to at least think about things in a different way because they’re considering your experience, as opposed to feeling like you have an agenda to try to change their mind or to change them in some way. I mean, if you could just come out and actually tell your story and tell it in a way that’s powerful, and by powerful, I mean to get in touch with why it means so much to you, because that’s going to help you tell it better. I think that we there are ways that we can find to connect even when it sometimes we only look out and see the differences.
Tricia [00:28:00] Yeah, absolutely. You’ve created a wonderful tool so that people can learn how to do this. The Moth’s new book, How to Tell a Story, which we’re going to talk about later in the show. You know, I think about how story changes attitudes. And that’s why I would love another example around how attitudes get changed. You know, these larger attitudes get changed through story. And so if you could just give us one more and I thought that Hector Black may be one person. That is a story possibly that might have shifted some ways that people can approach.
Catherine [00:28:33] I’m sure that’s true. Yeah. So Hector Black, we actually met because he did a story for StoryCorps, and I first heard him that way. He’s an amazing man. He died last year at age, I believe, 96. But he was just a wonderful person, World War Two vet, really remarkable man. And his story was about being a part of the civil rights movement in Atlanta. And he and his wife ended up adopting this young woman. And then when she was in her early twenties, living on her own in Atlanta, a man actually who was high on drugs broke into her apartment and raped and murdered her. And so the story is about Hector and his wife. They’re very deeply religious people and them going to the trial. And Hector was like consumed with rage, understandably. And he was just walking around filled with hate towards this man, Ivan Simpson, who had killed his daughter. But ultimately, he just found himself not recognizing himself. And he felt so consumed by hate. And he’s like, I’ve got to find my way out of this in some way. So what you decide to do is to try to find out everything he could about this man, Ivan, and what in the world could lead him to do this? And he ultimately discovers and it’s total heartbreak that when Ivan was a little boy, his mother, who was mentally ill, had tried to drown him and his brother and his little sister. And he and his brother got away and watched as his mother drowned his little sister. And so one of the lines of Hector’s story that always stays in my heart is he said, the richest country the world has ever known, and there was no one here for that little boy. And so he concludes like, of course, he ended up like high on crack. And, you know, he committed this heinous crime and took out the life of Hector, his daughter. But Hector ended up standing up in the trial when he was given a chance to speak for the family and told Ivan that he forgave him. There’s tears running down Ivan’s face. And it’s just the most moving story is that Ivan wrote him a letter. They started writing back and forth, and they ultimately became something like friends. Hector and his wife would send him Christmas gifts because Ivan was going to spend the rest of his life in jail, like I think is. I think he’s still alive and still in jail. But it’s really a story about finding that way back, you know, and finding some sort of forgiveness. And I think one of the reasons it’s one of my favorite stories is because in understanding Ivan’s story, Hector is able to forgive him in some way and move forward in his life, which, by all accounts, I feel like Hector’s daughter would have wanted, you know, she would have wanted her father to, like, live. Consumed with hate and anger, you know, for the rest of his life. Nor her mother. It’s definitely a story that he told it twice. Once in New York, once in L.A. He’s a organic farmer from rural Tennessee, and he always wears overalls. Yeah, he’s just a really moving person. Mean, he was just so full of life, you know?
Tricia [00:31:37] And also this this great example that once you hear somebody’s story, you cannot demonize them.
Catherine [00:31:42] Yeah, it’s very hard to.
Tricia [00:31:45] Tell me about your book.
Catherine [00:31:47] So this book is like a huge labor of love for many of us. Five of us wrote it together, which is in itself. People thought that we were crazy. All of our writer friends were always going to say, My goodness, great. Yeah, that sounds like a nightmare, you know, all my friends. But we had a wonderful time doing it. But beyond the five of us, over 221 people contributed to it, but with like a clip or a quote or like something in some way. So I have been describing the book as a love letter from the Moth community to the world, and I think it really is. But I think there was a great desire for us as we just had our 25th anniversary in June, just a few weeks ago, and there was a desire that we all had to put down on paper everything that we have learned, because the five of us, I think collectively it’s almost 100 years of coaching. And if you put everything together and directing stories and working on stories, I mean, there are things that we’ve learned like, Yeah, how did you figure out what your story might be? How do you give a great beginning how to really land your ending? What details are too many, you know? Like, how do you know if you have to fill these holes in your story? How to create scenes when you talk. Now, there are just a lot of things that we learn learned. We have have a collective language internally and there is just a strong desire from all of us to put this down on paper and to hopefully write it in a way that’s not just for people who want to tell more stories, but to also include people who just might want to connect easier with their family over dinner or ask their mom a bunch of questions about how she grew up. There’s so many times we have to do public speaking, whether we want to or not, you know, wedding toasts, funerals. Yeah. Usually at the funeral, you have had no time to think about it or prepare. You’re probably emotional. It’s a tough time to have to speak. So how do you do that? You know, job interviews. There’s just so many ways. Storytelling is a part of our day to day life, even if you’re not someone who considers yourself like a great orator or something. And so we tried to write the book in a way that would help everyone, not just people who have like a dream of giving a TED talk or something.
Tricia [00:33:53] Yeah, right. And you know, we can get the book anywhere. It’s any bookstore online, which is fantastic. And I’m incredibly honored to be on page 181.
Catherine [00:34:04] We’re so happy that you’re in the house. It made my heart full.
Tricia [00:34:08] I was just like, I was so.
Catherine [00:34:09] Excited to write you and tell you.
Tricia [00:34:12] I mean, I can truly say that this has probably been the most satisfying creative relationship I’ve had. Mean, I just it’s just I’ve learned at the feet of the masters, basically, because I was on stage with you guys in 2010. Yeah, that was the first time. And you were still in that little office in West Broadway and maybe you had six people working for you guys then maybe a little bit more. I don’t know.
Tricia [00:34:35] What is the next thing you’re doing that scares you?
Catherine [00:34:40] Well, right now I am trying very hard to get into really great shape. I lost a bunch of weight last year and I ran the marathon, the York City Marathon. I’ll be very, very.
Tricia [00:34:56] You didn’t. I did not know that. Oh, I did. Oh, my word.
Catherine [00:35:01] Oh I got it done- It took me 7 hours. I like that. Was crossing the finish line in the dark. It was it was the most amazing experience. And but the thing that I’ve given myself a year to do is I really love the show American Ninja Warrior.
Tricia [00:35:15] Which. Yes.
Catherine [00:35:16] And so I have found out that there are ninja gyms in the city. And so I’m going to try to set the sign up for some sort of beginner ninja gym class. And you’ll be.
Tricia [00:35:28] A ninja and you’ll be a ninja warrior.
Catherine [00:35:30] I mean, we’ll see. I mean, I don’t think that they’re going to let me on the show, but I mean, just even take a class, you know, at 53 feels like scary, but also really exciting. And so, I mean, that’s for the next things. I’ve also tried to do more my own writing and, you know, I spend my days helping other people tell their stories. And in the over the course of the pandemic, I had two or three pieces of writing published, which was really fun.
Tricia [00:35:56] Like real simple magazine in real simple. I saw that the piece about your momma. Yeah.
Catherine [00:36:02] And so I feel inspired by that. And so it can get really scary sometimes to put yourself out there in that way, but I’m determined to do it more and so I’m trying to set some challenges for myself. So one of the things I’m going to be doing in the next six months is writing and submitting something to Modern Llove. And if you never hear about that, then you’ll know what happened.
Tricia [00:36:24] At least to try.
Catherine [00:36:25] You know, I think it would be healthy for me to sometimes put myself out there. I’m ready to put myself out there creatively a little bit in a different way. And I know that rejection will be part of it. But so I guess those two things is I want to challenge myself mentally with the writing, but also physically to just take on some new challenges.
Tricia [00:36:44] I think that’s great. Do you mind if we touch base with you in six months and say, Hey, Catherine, how are you on these projects? It would be great.
Catherine [00:36:51] It would be to be amazing. That would be. Yeah. Yeah. Accountability is important.
Tricia [00:36:56] I feel like that same tenacity that got you the interview with Robin Williams is going to work on your side.
Catherine [00:37:03] I hope so. I hope so.
Tricia [00:37:05] Catherine, again, it’s just been a joy and a privilege and an honor to sort of watch everything that’s happened at The Moth and you spearheading it and me being lucky enough to be on the receiving end of some of your great direction.
Catherine [00:37:18] Oh, I love working with you so much. You know that it’s always it brings so much joy to me. I love connecting with you here and I love the topic and I love listening to the show.
Tricia [00:37:27] Thank you. Thank you for joining us. It’s just really such a pleasure to have you on the show.
Tricia [00:37:35] Catherine’s words got me thinking about my own path and the choices I’m making. Here’s some things for you to think about, too. Are you making something that helps to open people’s hearts and minds? If not. Do you want to? Is your path zigzagging right now, pointing you in a different direction? Does that feel like a good thing? And lastly, consider telling a story. You have no idea how many people you might touch.
Tricia [00:38:06] If you’d like more information about the No Time to Be Timid Movement, please check out my website, Tricia Rose Burt dot com. And if you feel like this is no time to be timid in your own life, then maybe I can help you with that. In my private coaching practice, I help my clients to tell and live a better story. Some of them are artists and creatives who want to express themselves in a new medium. Some of them are leaders who want to motivate groups to take action. Some of them are business professionals who want to better communicate with their customers and employees. You can reach out to me at Tricia Rose Burt dot com. In the meantime, make sure to pick up a copy of the Moth’s new book, How to Tell a Story. And while you’re there, check out George Dawes Greene’s new novel, The Kingdoms of Savannah, which hits bookstores mid-July.
Tricia [00:38:56] If you want more creative courage, please tune in to Episode Four: Creativity is not a frivolous pursuit. We’ll be talking to Mark McGinnis, an award winning poet and thought leader in creativity.
Tricia [00:39:15] No Time to be Timid is sponsored by Interabang Books, a Dallas based independent bookstore which takes its name from the symbol that combines a question mark and an exclamation point. At Interabang, their dedicated staff of book enthusiasts will guide you on your search for knowledge and the excitement of discovery. Shop their curated collection online at Interabang Books dot com.
[00:39:48] No Time to Be Timid is written and produced by me, Tricia Rose Burt. Our executive producer is Mia Rovegno. Our sound engineer is Jim McClure of Betsy’s Folly Studios. If you like what you hear, please spread the word. Subscribe to the show and review us on Apple Podcast or wherever you listen. No Time to Be Timid is a presentation of I Will Be Good Productions.