TELLING MY TRUTH OUT LOUD by Cara Jones

Knees shaking. Heart pounding. “What are you doing?!” my thoughts spin as I sit in the back row at a MOTH Story Slam. I just put my name in a hat to tell my most personal story in public. Like maybe two-hundred-people public.

My name is called to a microphone on an empty stage. The story I’ve been working on for five years in writing, speaking, and filming is calling. All of it unexpressed. Just. Like. Me. Until this moment.

I have five minutes.

My legs wobble as I walk up on stage. With hands clenched behind my back and a shaky voice, I begin to tell my story.

“It’s the summer of 1995 and I’m standing in the Seoul Olympic Stadium holding the hand of a man I met just a month before, and am about to marry,” I hear my voice trembling through the microphone.

I was always the shy girl growing up. Waited to be asked questions. Never raised my hand. Never talked back. Never wanted to make anyone uncomfortable. But this story was about to make me and others, including my family, just that.

I can barely breathe as I continue explaining my upbringing in the Unification Church, including my participation in a mass wedding and arranged marriage when I was 20. How there, on the Astro Turf floor of the Seoul Olympic Stadium, I committed to marrying a man I’d met just a month before. How Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church I was raised in, officiated the wedding and had matched me and my then-husband using 8×10 photographs. How I ultimately left the marriage and broke from my parents and the church.

This story was one that, in the past, I could only tell in dark corners of bars.

“Stay quiet, stay small, stay perfect,” I’d tell the story.

“Speak it, get it out of you, TELL YOUR F&^&@# STORY” it would yell back.

It took me years of pillow bashing and talk therapy and countless storytelling workshops to become the woman who could finally stand in its truth.

The ripple effect of excavating and telling this story resulted in the documentary film Blessed Child (premiering two years later at DOC NYC in 2019) and inspired my current story coaching business.

I believe a powerful story is determined not by how dramatic it is, but by how much truth it holds inside. I now support others in excavating and sharing these truths and untethering their voices. The writing, businesses, projects, awareness, and healing born out of this truth telling has taken my breath away.

As I exited the Moth stage that night, I felt as if I had left a five ton burden on it. My story was no longer mine. It was everyone’s. The feeling I felt on my way home that night wasn’t elation, but something I hadn’t felt in all those years of holding my story back.

Hello, freedom.

Cara Jones is a former Emmy Award winning broadcast journalist, founder of Storytellers for Good and story coach. Her current story coaching work was born out of a seven year journey of telling her own story through the documentary film, Blessed Child. Cara now helps entrepreneurs untether their voices through the telling of their deepest personal stories, wisdom and truth. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Huff Post, The Moth and Boston Globe.

 

A SHY TV ANCHOR by Wendy Tokuda

Wendy Tokuda

A story from a successful TV news anchor about her extreme shyness . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT WENDY TOKUDA

Wendy Tokuda was a San Francisco Bay Area television staple for more than 30 years, as both TV news anchor and feature reporter. She retired from broadcast journalism in 2016.

A NOVEL IDEA by Kristin McCloy

A story about how caring for animals feels as novel (if not more) as writing a book . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT KRISTIN MCCLOY

Kristin McCloy is a thrice-published author (Velocity, Some Girls, and Hollywood Savage), working on her fourth, and fifth, and a book of short stories, and living in Oakland with the cat who owns her, Zelly, and the family who took them in.  

WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, THERE’S FIRE by Caroline Paul

Caroline Paul

The first dog I ever rescued bit me. I held on, so he dropped two poops onto the sleeve of my fire coat. I couldn’t blame him: I was just the latest bummer in what had been a very bad doggy day. There had been flames, there had been smoke, there had been the shouts of strange people. With an axe at my side, and an air mask on my face, I was as scary as the rest. But I held him tightly and, whispering promises of dog bones and hugs, I carried him to fresh air. The owner rushed at us, arms outstretched, crying.

This was a fairly typical workday for me. I was a San Francisco firefighter, part of a crew called Rescue 2. Our job was to search for victims in fires, and sometimes those victims were dogs who pooped on our fire coats.

When my career began back in 1989 there were barely any female firefighters, in the whole wide world. In the San Francisco Fire Department, for instance, I was the fifteenth woman hired. That may sound like a lot, until you realize that there were one thousand five hundred men.

This meant that I was the only female firefighter on my shift. Sometimes I was the only female firefighter the other men had ever seen! I loved the job and I respected many of my coworkers but, let’s face it, it’s tough to be different. As the only woman, I was left out of the jokes. I was excluded from the easy camaraderie. I often didn’t understand the social rules. For the most part, the ostracization wasn’t purposeful. I was like that new kid in school with weird hair and crazy clothes who couldn’t find someone to eat with at lunch.

Firefighting was full of adventure and excitement, but it was also difficult, those first years. People had a lot of questions. Were women strong enough? Were women brave enough? I was watched very carefully. Any mistake would not just reflect on me, it would reflect on all women, and each female firefighter knew it. Some of the men were mean in ways that were so dumb and embarrassing for them it isn’t worth mentioning here. But many were decent and respectful, even if they, too, had doubts. Soon three of us women had joined the biggest station in the city, on the rig that responded to the most fires, called Rescue 2.

Art 80 - What it looks likeJoin me now at a fairly typical fire. That’s me, crawling down a hallway. I’m hauling hose, but you can’t see me because the smoke is so thick. I can’t see me, either – not my hand in front of my face, not the beam of the flashlight on my shoulder, not the floor beneath me. My partner, Victor, is behind me, and he keeps bumping into me, but that’s okay, because I keep bumping into Frank, who in turn must be bumping into Andy, who is at the front of the line and is most certainly bumping into walls. The is how it goes in what we call “a really good fire,” which to most people actually means “a really bad fire” – terrible visibility, a lot of clambering around, and air that seems made of molten lava stinging your ears.

One day, there was a small fire, confined to one room; an engine crew had already extinguished it. We jumped from the rig anyway, and walked toward the chief for instructions. I could still see smoke wafting from the window several stories up, but clearly the flames were out. Then something caught my eye. A small black object, on the ledge outside the smoking window. I squinted. Was it alive? Yes, it was.

I took the stairs two at a time. I rushed past the crew in the apartment. I asked someone to grab my coat, then I leaned as far as I could out the window. There she was, just within arm’s reach: a tiny, mewling black kitten. “Hello,” I said in my most soothing voice.

Below a crowd of gawkers milled like ants, but I didn’t allow myself to look down. I extended my arm slowly. I tried to communicate pure thoughts of animal love. I murmured nonsensical assurances. I hoped for a miracle. And the miracle happened. The kitten didn’t run, as kittens are wont to do when strangers approach. I grabbed, latching on to her tiny scruff and pulled her back into the apartment. She was shivering, so I dropped her into my coat. I held her next to my heart. “You’re okay,” I told her, “you’re okay,” and together we headed for the stairs.

Caroline PaulOnce a young scaredy-cat, Caroline Paul grew up to fly planes, raft rivers, climb mountains, and fight fires. In her book, The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure (illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton) Caroline shares her greatest escapades and encourages a new generation to conquer fears, face challenges, and pursue the lives they want — lives of confidence, self-reliance, friendship, and fun. 

A COMEDY WRITER’S STORY by Alexandra Rushfield

A Comedy Writer's Story

A story about joining a top-rated TV comedy writing team . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT ALEXANDRA RUSHFIELD

Alexandra Rushfield is a TV comedy writer and producer. She was a writer and co-executive producer of Undeclared, Parks and Recreation, Love, and Friends from College; co- creator and executive producer of Help Me Help You, In the Motherhood and Shrill; and creator and executive producer of Santa Inc. She is currently recovering from years of non-stop work and trying to figure out what is next. 

MRS. SPOOK, SPAIN, 1965 by Lillian McCloy

Lillian McCloy

A story about assisting her husband, a CIA officer, by trailing a suspected Russian spy . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT LILLIAN MCCLOY

Lillian McCloy was the wife of a deep undercover CIA officer during the Cold War. This story is an excerpt from her memoir, Six Car Lengths Behind an Elephant, which was published shortly after she turned 90 years old. John le Carré describes the book as “a charming and unusual portrait of the secret life.” Her memoir averages 4.5-stars from nearly 100 reader ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. 

A LIFELONG DREAM REALIZED by Melissa Haynes

Hi

A story about quitting a high-paying corporate career to volunteer at an animal reserve in Africa  . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT MELISSA HAYNES

Melissa Haynes is a shark advocate, animal lover, adventure junkie, conservationist, and author of the book, Learning to Play with a Lion’s Testicles. Her book appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and on Ellen

ISN’T THAT FABULOUS? by Jenna Jolovitz

Isn't that Fabulous Jenna Jolovitz

A story about daring to go topless in France, and the unexpected happens . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT JENNA JOLOVITZ

Jenna is a writer and an alum of Second City in Chicago, where she wrote and performed shows alongside Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and others. She has been on the writing staff of such shows as MADtv, and Steve Martin’s The Downer Channel as well as a guest writer on Saturday Night Live