Monday, December 13, 2010

Hope You Like Slammin’ Too

We knew that magazine editors were a diverse and talented bunch—but imagine trying to fit Associate Editor/Writer/Children’s Book Author/Champion Story Slammer on your business card. We recently discovered the many talents of Omar Mouallem, associate editor of Avenue Edmonton, and were particularly intrigued by this “slamming” thing (more on the children’s book and rapping later). You may have heard of it: brave souls test their five-minute stories in front of a lively crowd and a panel of judges.
The upcoming Edmonton Story Slam, December 15th at the Haven Social Club, will be the last of the year leading up to the SLAM OFF! finals February 16, 2011. We asked Omar to enlighten us on the art of slamming, and how it relates to his career in the magazine industry:

MagaScene: How did you become involved in Story Slam?
Omar Mouallem: I just showed up at the Haven Social Club and signed up, put five dollars in a hat, told a story, walked away with a wad of cash. Sure beats the editorial process of pitching, revising and waiting until publication for payment.
MS: Could you offer further insight on what takes place at a Slam?
If you've ever listened to The Moth podcast or radio hour, it's quite similar. It honours traditional, oral storytelling. No props are allowed and the only other rules are it can't be plagiarized or previously published, and it has to be under 5 minutes or you'll lose points from the judges, who are selected randomly from the crowd. The stories can be fiction, non-fiction or a little bit of both. Sometimes there's a theme, like when the society partners with a festival or publication, but mostly it's a medley of genres and personalities.
There are two story slam clubs, Edmonton Story Slam, every third Wednesday of the month at the Haven Social Club, and Blue Chair Slam, every second Wednesday of the month at the Blue Chair Cafe.
MS: How has your writing/editing career benefited from slamming? In other words, do you find similarities between magazine writing/editing and slamming?
I think the strongest stories, not just on stage but in print, are the ones written for the ear. The ones with good rhythm and cadence, and only use pronounceable words. Story slam forces you to do that, if you want to get the best reaction from your audience. I've learned to love simple oral techniques like alliteration in my writing again. It's also taught me to be more relentlessly sacrificial with my writing in an attempt to get a story down to 5 minutes or less, which is about 800 words, depending on how fast you can tell a story.

Omar Mouallem is the special guest host at the upcoming story slam. You’ll also find for sale at the event copies of his new book Q Without U, a juxtaposition of children's literature with playful illustrations by Josh Holinaty and a storyline intended to improve kids' vocabularies. Oddly enough, inside the book you’ll find the unique code to Omar’s downloadable rap album of the same title, but not intended for kids at all. Intrigued? Learn more at

--- Rebecca Lesser
AMPA Communications & Programs Coordinator