Tag: aMuse

Considering “Why?” This Giving Tuesday

A note from creator/producer Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons this #GivingTuesday. Click here to donate.

In the spirit of Giving Tuesday and considering the question of “Why?” … Why donate to No, YOU Tell It! Why do I, personally, put so much work in? The answer resides in these words of trepidation that I often hear from participants about the value of their personal story:

“Why had I agreed to do this? Who was I to even attempt a prose form? A performance piece? Why did I think I deserved to have any kind of attention?” – poet Pichchenda Bao, NYTI “aMuse”

The NYTI creative team gives each show our all because we believe: YOUR SLICE OF LIFE IS AS VALUABLE AS ANYONE ELSE’S IN THE WORLD!

Everything we do is worth witnessing storytellers speak each other’s words aloud to empower their voices on the page and stage. In 2019, we:

  • Worked with 17 storytellers
  • Curated 3 live shows
  • Plus 1 special student story swap event!
  • Produced 6 new podcast episodes

All to give life and attention to the value of each other’s stories.

As of today, we need 23 people to donate $25 to REACH our 2019 goal of $5000 raised! Can you be one of them?

Click here to make your tax-deductible donation through our fiscal sponsor The Field. 

Episode 52 – a Muse (Part 2)

Our first story finds a dyed-in-wool New Yorker facing unforeseen suburban horrors. Negotiating neighborly encounters that make her question whether to recalibrate her moral barometer to keep up with the Joneses. Or, in this case, the Weavers.

Kicking off the second half of our special Brooklyn Book Festival event at The Astoria Bookshop, here is Ellie Dvorkin reading “The Neighbor’s Muse” written by H.E. Fisher.

Top left: Ellie Dvorkin; Top right: Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons and H.E. Fisher; Bottom left: Story partners!; Bottom right: H.E. Fisher

Switching it up, in our next story, a daughter fails to find anything amusing about her lifelong role of caretaker. Her mother’s recent health scare causing her to rethink the responsibilities we take on, the ones put upon us, and what it takes to release yourself from burdens of the past. H.E. Fisher reads “Fun” written by Ellie Dvorkin.

For this 2019 Brooklyn Book Festival event, we partnered with The Astoria Bookshop for a special evening of poets and comedians trading true tales inspired by the theme “aMuse.” Stories performed live on September 17th, 2019.

Storeis were directed by Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons who also narrated this episode.

The Plan

Tomorrow! New podcast episode featuring a fab flip up from poet H.E. Fisher and comedian Ellie Dvorkin from the second half of our “aMuse” show. Subscribe on iTunes, AudioBoom, or right here!

H.E. Fisher and Ellie Dvorkin

First, read this personal essay from (wow) 2007, which how our own Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons first met author H.E. Fisher! We are all in on:


I had my annual checkup. Every year, the experience gets increasingly arcane. I’m like an old car: the more miles, the more servicing. I have parts I never knew existed and none of which can be ordered from the manufacturer to be replaced. It becomes a game of maintenance. From a medical perspective, middle age seems to be all about getting into the best shape possible in order to reach the inevitable in one piece. In other words, my job is to stay healthy until I croak.

To achieve this goal, I was told to lose weight, cut my bad cholesterol in half, and lower my blood pressure. The physician handed me a list of foods to stay away from. It included every food that was white, or had salt, sugar, or fat.

Here’s what remained:

  1. Broccoli.
  2. Romaine lettuce.

A few years back I read a fashionable book that was written to help people lower their cholesterol. The author suggested that readers reduce their intake of carrots. Has anyone in the history of cardio infarction ever had the notation in their medical records: CAUSE: CARROTS? Are there people out there blaming their ample midsections on these lovely orange vegetables?

In any case, I did what the doctor said. I don’t eat cheese or red meat anymore. I’ve switched to whole wheat pasta and rice. I try to stay away from carrots. I limit my sweets. I drink decaf with fat-free milk, and green tea. I exercise. And I smile. A lot. Not because I’m so proud of myself for taking care of my body. I am proud. But that’s not what’s behind this ample grin. It’s that I have a plan. A plan that is called Gluttony at 80.

My plan is simple. Stick to a healthy lifestyle – eat well, exercise, meditate, watch Oprah, take my meds. And then, when I turn 80, blow it all to hell.

First up: cheesecake. One from Juniors of Brooklyn, the other from Venieros in the East Village. Next, pastrami on rye with mustard. The real stuff, nothing derived from a turkey. Whatever vein-clogging part of whatever animal it’s made from, that’s what I’m eating. So long as it’s greasy and smoked.

Bread is on the list. Any kind and a lot. With butter.

Anything vegan is out of the question.

Just to make sure I really enjoy myself, I’m going to put myself in the position of having the munchies. Therefore, I will also re-introduce non-prescription drugs into my aged life. I figure I might as well make it a lot of drugs. I haven’t quite worked out how I’m getting them, but my hope is that I will have college-age grandchildren or even greatgrandchild upon whom I can call to hook Granny up with some good shit.

Now, because I want to eat anything when I turn 80, but will simultaneously desire to retain my slender and fabulously toned physique, I will resume smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Maybe two. And this time, I’m going for broke. Marlboros. Nothing with reduced nicotine. I will be the de facto poster child for mid-century cigarette campaigns. The Marlboro Nana. My wrinkled face shall grace billboards and magazines all across the country with the words GRANDMA SAYS, “SMOKE!”

The suburbs aren’t conducive to high-end, top-shelf enjoyable gluttony. They’re too judgmental. This plan does not include lectures or sideways looks. Therefore, I am going to have to move back to Manhattan. A nice doorman building on the East Side so that there will always be someone there to help me carry up the groceries and recreational contraband.

Gluttony at 80 will allow me to take certain liberties. My email will be set to a vacation response saying, “I am out and won’t be returning.” I will advise my accountant to roll my retirement savings into fast food conglomerate investments. I will commission a glassblower to create a lead crystal bong with a platinum bowl. I will host a soiree at a gallery space with a single piece of art: a 65 inch flat panel LCD HDTV featuring a continuous loop of one of those insurance commercials in which a geriatric white couple wearing matching velveteen jogging suits power stroll along a sun-dappled wooded path in a perfectly manicured public park, just to hear my guests comment, “How ironic.” At the end of the evening, I will hand out goody bags filled with food made from processed sugar as well as gift certificates from reliable head shops in New Paltz.

Good health requires hard work and dedication, and alas, relinquishing a certain number of temptations. It seems to me that by 80 we all have earned the right to reclaim at least a few of the things that float our boat. Octogenarians should be able to say, “I’m with the band,” and be handed an all-access-pass to life’s pleasures. Until then, I’ll watch my weight, eat well and exercise, always with a smile on my face.

Episode 51 – a Muse (Part 1)

First up, Pichchenda Bao’s “Speak, Muse” contemplates the roles we are assigned in life and the roles we adopt: refugee, American, daughter, mother, artist, citizen; the compromises we make for survival and the ways we interpret silence, and ultimately how we can expand, not contract, our relationship to each other and the world.

Read for us here by Carolyn Castiglia.

Story partners: Pichchenda Bao and Carolyn Castiglia

Switching it up, in Carolyn Castiglia’ s story “A Friend Request,” the author looks back at a time in her early twenties when she chose comfort over vulnerability and suffering over fulfillment. A small gesture reminds her how people who pass through our lives can show back up on our radar years later to remind us how we’ve weathered life’s storms.

For this 2019 Brooklyn Book Festival event, we partnered with The Astoria Bookshop for a special evening of poets and comedians trading true tales inspired by the theme “aMuse.” Stories performed live on September 17th, 2019.

“Speak, Muse” was directed by Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons.

“A Friend Request” was directed by Erika Iverson.

Podcast narrated by Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons.

Congratulations “A Muse” Story Partners!

Poets and stand-ups trading true-life tales inspired by a theme was a jumping-off point for our Brooklyn Book Festival Event… Our four storytellers ran with that aMUSE-ing idea and all took fantastic leaps last night.

Congratulations to our story partners on fully embodying each other’s stunning stories and captivating the crowd. There was standing room only at The Astoria Bookshop but not a word was missed.

Top left: Pichchenda Bao, Carolyn Castiglia; Top right: H.E. Fisher, Ellie Dvorkin; Bottom left: Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons, Ellie Dvorkin, H.E. Fisher; Bottom right: Carolyn Castiglia, Pichchenda Bao

Meet “A Muse” Storyteller Carolyn Castiglia

Sep 17 2019 @ 7:00PM

Meet comedian Carolyn Castiglia who is rehearsed and ready to “aMuse” you.

TONIGHT! 7 pm SHARP at The Astoria Bookshop.


Carolyn Castiglia is a stand-up comedian you may recognize from her television appearances on Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, HLN, NickMom, Lifetime, fyi, WE tv and more. Or from the thousands of live performances she’s given here in our great city of New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her 13-year-old daughter and their very handsome cat.

Don’t miss this special evening of poets and comedians trading true-life tales!


Event Information

Sep 17 2019 @ 7:00PM

The Astoria Bookshop (31-29 31st St Astoria NY 11106)

Meet “A Muse” Storyteller Pichchenda Bao

Sep 17 2019 @ 7:00PM

Tuesday! Arrive at The Astoria Bookshop early to grab a seat (and wine!) and stories start at 7 pm SHARP. Rehearsals begin tomorrow but first, meet “aMuse” storyteller Pichchenda Bao.

Pichchenda Bao is a writer and poet. Born at the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, she was an infant when her mother carried her across the Thai border. She and her parents arrived in the United States as refugees. Now she lives, writes, and raises her two young children in New York City. Her work has been published by Newtown Literary, the Stilt House zine, and great weather for MEDIA, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is a 2019 Aspen Words emerging writer fellow.

Event Information

Sep 17 2019 @ 7:00PM

The Astoria Bookshop (31-29 31st St Astoria NY 11106)

Meet “A Muse” Storyteller Ellie Dvorkin

Sep 17 2019 @ 7:00PM

Second story meeting for No, YOU Tell It! “a Muse” is tonight! The full group is coming back together to workshop each other’s revisions in preparation for next week’s Brooklyn Book Festival event at The Astoria Bookshop. First, let’s meet our next aMUSEr, comedian Ellie Dvorkin.

Ellie Dvorkin is an actor/writer/host who is best known as one half of the hilarious comedy music duo “Mel & El”. Hailed as “outrageous” by The New York Times and “ready for prime time” by The New York Post, Mel & El have brought down the house at Joe’s Pub, Ars Nova, Gotham Comedy Club, Upright Citizen’s Brigade, 92Y, and onboard Atlantis gay cruises. These days, El’s bathroom humor can be seen/read on MomCaveTV, but it is most appreciated by her five-year-old son Charlie, who loves to talk about butts. See more at elliedvorkin.com and welcometothemommyshow.com.

Event Information

Sep 17 2019 @ 7:00PM

The Astoria Bookshop

No, YOU Tell It! “a Muse”

Sep 17 2019 @ 7:00PM

Join us at The Astoria Bookshop for this special BKBF Bookend event! FREE. We are bringing poets and stand-ups together to develop their nonfiction stories inspired by the theme “aMuse” on the page.

Top L: Pichchenda Bao, Top R: Carolyn Castiglia, Bottom L: Ellie Dvorkin, Bottom R: H.E. Fisher

They will then trade tales to present each other’s story on stage. Storytellers include:

Pichchenda Bao (Newtown Literary, 2019 Aspen Words emerging writer fellow)

Carolyn Castiglia (Comedy Central, NickMom)

Ellie Dvorkin (Mel& El, MomCaveTV)

H.E. Fisher (The Rumpus, 2019 recipient of The Stark Poetry Prize)


Click here to RSVP via Facebook. More info on our “aMuse” storytellers coming soon…

Event Information

Sep 17 2019 @ 7:00PM

The Astoria Bookshop (31-29 31st St Astoria NY 11106)

BKBF Bookend Event

Summer’s flying by but we have a reason to be super excited for September.

Save the date for No, YOU Tell It! “aMuse” on September 17th at The Astoria Bookshop. THIS IS AN OFFICIAL 2019 BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL EVENT.

For this special BKBF Bookend event, we are bringing poets and stand-ups together to develop their nonfiction stories inspired by the theme “aMuse” on the page. Then trade their true-life tales on stage.

Check back for more info on our storytellers soon!