Open Words

Welcome to Open Words, once known as the Storytelling Expo Stage at FAR-West. For those of you who have been attending FAR-West in prior years, you have seen storytelling emerge into this music conference and stick around for six years to become an integral event. That’s because music and story are two peas in the same pod, so naturally any conference devoted to folk music includes words.

Storytelling covers a lot of territory from Hansel and Gretal to Mos Def to The Moth winners, so we’ve changed the title this year to “Open Words Expo.”

Why? Because we aren’t doing fairy tales and we aren’t doing hard core political spoken word. We are open to a wide variety of personal and original stories or poems.  Perhaps you have come up with an entirely new form of word art. Let us know, we are interested.

Open Words lead to open hearts and open minds. Most importantly, when we are open we make connections between people and connections are what FAR-West is all about. Connecting through stories and songs, handshakes and hugs, business connections and personal ones.

Pete Seeger said “Folk traditions will change as the folk who inhabit this earth change.” Or as bluesman Willie Dixon said “As you change the time, it changes the blues. Every time you change the news, you got to change the blues, because the news ain’t always the same.” Well, the times they are a-changing and FAR-West is leading the charge, integrating Open Words into the folk conference.

We are looking for stories from the heart, from your life. They need to be professionally told, have good strong characters who take on challenges and are transformed in the process. What we can’t accept are routines, gags, standup comedy, rants or political orations. Those things can divide people and as has been mentioned, we want stories that connect people and so #StoriesConnect is the 2019 theme of our Open Words Expo.

If you are a storyteller and think FAR-West is just for musicians, think again. The workshops, panels and networking with media, venue operators, radio dj’s, and managers/agents, is for everyone. Musicians and Tellers who register for the conference will also have a shot at performing in the late-night Tales and Tunes room where story rules. (If you are registered for the conference, you will have access to a private website page with a link to a list of those who are hosting Private Guerrilla Showcase rooms, one of which will be the Tales and Tunes room).

Got an idea? Shoot an email to Mary Anne Moorman (Auntmama_at_gmail.com) or our conference coordinator (coordinator_at_far-west.org) and come teach, speak, network, and enjoy.

Guidelines for Open Words

Our Open Words Expo looks for stories that are not only important to you but will be worth sharing with a room full of conference attendees. Let us know your idea for a story so we can discuss. Below are a few things to keep in mind. The Open Words Stage holds to the same professional standards as all Main Stage Showcase performances at our conference. We want to do everything we can to make sure you look your best. The following guidelines might help.

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Your Open Words story should be true and mean something to you. We’re looking for stories that tell us something about yourself even if you occupy a small corner at the end of the tale. Not every story has a moral but the audience wants to know that’s why the story is important to you; how it changed you or where you stand in the story.
  2. We want you to tell the story, not recite it. Hopefully, you will not need any notes.
  3. Time yourself. Think in terms of 10 minutes. Depending on how many tellers we present at our Expo, the time may become altered. We will let you know how much time you have to tell, and we ask that you respect the slot timing.
  4. You need to keep your story clean. We are in a hotel where children may be present. The Open Words Expo takes place on Sunday afternoon – matinee time – and the audience may include families of all ages. Please: No stories about sex or genitals, and no cursing or sexual innuendo. Think of us as FCC approved because you never know, your story may wind up on radio. (Please note that the entire Open Words Expo will be videoed and uploaded to the FAR-West YouTube account and shared on our social media and website).
  5. No speeches, opinions, or social commentary. Those are all great things, but this isn’t a town hall meeting. Your characters may have an opinion, your story may even take place on the southern border, but that’s where the story takes place. Open Words isn’t intended to get people to change their beliefs; it’s instead intended for the audience to just enjoy and think about the story.
  6. Do provide us with information that might be useful when introducing you. We may not get it all or but we will try to make the stage warm and inviting for your performance. Please don’t plug your own show, website, or blog while you’re onstage. If people like your story, they’ll talk to you afterward and that’s when you can give them that information.
  7. Arrive early to the Open Words Expo stage the day of your show. Take time to walk the room, get an idea of the lighting and do a sound check before the doors open.

Here’s our YouTube playlist of the 2019 Open Words Expo


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