Two weeks from today, I will be launching Tenx9 Nashville, a satellite of Belfast’s popular Tenx9 event. Tenx9 (ten by nine) is a monthly storytelling night where nine people have up to ten minutes each to tell a real story from their lives. Created by the delightful geniuses Paul Doran and Pádraig Ó Tuama, Tenx9 is not a creative fiction seminar; it is not a poetry reading or a musical concert. It is not a common sharing of favorite short literary stories or book excerpts. All these are important and beautiful practices, but they do not describe Tenx9.
This event is about us, our stories, our lived moments. Each month has a theme, specific enough to structure a night of storytelling but broad enough that anyone could find a life story that relates. Pádraig introduced me to this magnificent Irish proverb: “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Tenx9 is an attempt for us to live in each other’s shelter – through drinks, presence, and story. In a rocking chair lit by a small lamp on a side table, storytellers invite listeners to enter into moments of their stories and feel. I attended Tenx9 regularly while studying in Belfast, and I consider Tenx9 the highlight of my time in Northern Ireland. Any given night would leave me in tears, often from both side-splitting laughter and from heart-wrenching tales of pain. I knew I had to bring Tenx9 home to Nashville, TN, and I’m most grateful to Pádraig and Paul for allowing me to do so.
This fall, Tenx9 will vibrate at the popular Cafe Coco the third Monday of the month at 7:30pm. We will kick off the storytelling September 16 with the theme “Journey.”
I have also brought Tenx9 to a more isolated area in Nashville: Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. Behind the walls of the men’s prison on the last Tuesday of each month, I and a few friends share stories with inmates. Having engaged themes of “Journey,” “The First Time,” and “When I was a Kid”, storytellers bring a fascinating diversity of life experiences into spoken narration each month, as the audience sits on the wooden pews of the prison chapel communing through coffee, cookies, and attentiveness. After the first night of storytelling, one of my inmate friends, Anthony, came up and hugged me tight, saying, “That’s the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to tell a story about myself in public.” I told him, “And that’s why Tenx9 exists.”
Tenx9 is as beautiful an event as I’ve been privileged to experience. Real people sharing real stories. Only nine people can share each night, so most participators are simply willing listeners. Audience members will never be asked to tell a story impromptu. There is no requirement to share a story if you wish to attend. Just come listen. It is a special thing.
Peace to y’all, mtm