From ancient Greek mythology to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Darmok,” storytelling has played a significant part in the development of language and culture throughout history. Metro Phoenix has been a great example of this timeless phenomena, as storytelling events have become more popular on the “must see, must do” calendar lately. With themes ranging from life’s weirdest moments to beloved music on vinyl, storytellers in Phoenix can spin the most tangled of yarns, with life’s passions as the thread that binds them all.
Untidy Secrets is a storytelling and zine swap event held every Final Friday at Ash Avenue Comics in Tempe, and is one of the series that has ignited the Valley’s love of “story.” This month, organizer Sarah Rainier celebrates one year of Untidy Secrets, and as an alum of the event, I asked her some questions about its origin and inspirations.
What is the origin story of Untidy Secrets?
Untidy Secrets started out as my contribution to the renewal of Tempe’s Final Friday. Another artist and I started the Facebook group Artists of MAFW (Maple Ash Farmer Wilson), with the intent to bring together like-minded artists and restart Tempe’s Final Friday. I’m not much of a visual artist, but I was trying to write more and wasn’t really sure how I fit in. That’s when I came up with a storytelling night. The name is a nod to The Lucksmiths’ song “Untidy Towns,” off of the album “Happy Secret.” I started using song lyrics as the theme in November for “I’m Gonna Make It Through This Year If It Kills Me.” Music is an important part of my life and the storytelling night reflects that.
Why host Untidy Secrets in a comic book store?
I really like the feel of Ash Ave Comics’ new shop. I think telling stories amongst racks of comics, art books, and zines has a really nice feel to it. Untidy Secrets is an event that promotes literature, so being amongst literature feels natural. Neighbors have called this evening “Tempe’s Best Kept Secret” and maybe that’s true, but we’re consistently packed. Also, having the event at a space that has been a neighborhood staple for 13 years gives it a neighborly feel.
Why do you think storytelling events have become so popular lately?
Everyone has a story to tell. I think storytelling has always been something that people do but I’m not sure why it’s so popular right now. While there are definitely storytellers that are very skilled in what they do, and storytelling offers an entry point for everyone. Storytelling helps us understanding each other better, fosters empathy, and gives us a new perspective (or validation) on shared experiences.
Over the past year, what has been a story or two that really stuck with you?
Megan McClusky read about her experience being a yes-woman as a first grade teacher. That story stuck with me because I have a habit of taking on more than I can do in both life and work. At the time, I was really struggling by doing too much and balancing work, life, and extra-curricular activities. You can read her story in An Untidy Zine which will be released at the Sept. 30 Untidy Secrets Storytelling Event. The zine will also be available at the after party at Taste of Tops.
Advice for anyone sitting on a story idea they’d like to either write/share?
Do whatever you can to get it out there. Start mapping your story in a way that makes sense to you, look up graphic organizers if that helps, then sit in front of your computer/paper/typewriter and get in to it. Getting an idea for a story is half the battle! Untidy Secrets and Yarnball are both great events for people that want to try out storytelling. Writing is hard and so is storytelling but the world would like to hear your story.
The first year anniversary celebration of Untidy Secrets starts this Friday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m., at Ash Avenue Comics, 806 S. Ash Avenue, in Tempe. Or, as they would’ve said in that “Darmok” episode of TNG: The storytellers, at Ash Avenue Comics. Their tales told.