Langley writer Byrant Ross, and his partner Susan Cormier, co-host and produce the Vancouver Story Slam, which is holding its annual championships Tuesday. (KAMEKO WALKER PHOTOGRAPHY)

Langley writers heading up story slam championships

A monthly storytelling competition comes to a climax with finals in Vancouver on Tuesday.

Many have heard of poetry slams, but how many have heard of story slams, or know that two Langley writers are heading up a story slam championship in Vancouver next week?

At 13 years and counting, Vancouver Story Slam is Canada’s longest-running live and competitive storytelling event – apparently the second largest in the world, according to producers and hosts Susan Cormier and two-time slam champ Bryant Ross.

This event has become the most popular event of its kind in the province, as Cormier tells it, attracting competitors from as far away as Seattle and Salmon Arm.

Invented in 2004 by writers Johnny Frem and Sean McGarragle, story slam is a literary competition similar to poetry slam: every month, 10 storytellers share their writing in front of a live audience.

Audience members vote for their favourites, prizes are awarded, and top storytellers advance to the annual finals in pursuit of the championship trophy and title.

During the year-long competition, nearly 100 storytellers ranging from casual journal writers to published authors sign up to compete for more than $2,000 in cash prizes that are awarded throughout the year.

Other prizes include books, DVDs, and gift certificates, and every year the profits from the show are returned to the community in the form of a $1,000 scholarship to someone pursuing post-secondary education in the field of writing.

Unlike many other storytelling events, Vancouver Story Slam participants do not need to fill any qualifications, their writing does not have to be memorized or of a certain style or subject matter, and the stories are not coached or edited by the event organizer, said Ross.

Anyone who has a story to tell, be it fiction or true, is welcome to participate.

Vancouver Story Slam started as an intimate gathering of a few dozen writers in the Our Town Café on Broadway.

At the time, Frem and McGarragle were unaware that a group in New York had had the same idea.

In the years since, both VSS and the New York story slam – now known as The Moth – have inspired countless other groups of writers and performers to found similar events, and there are now story slams worldwide from Montreal to Singapore.

Well, this year’s local finals are being held at the Rio Theatre in East Vancouver next Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $15 at the door and available through the Rio Theatre website at riotheatre.ca

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