Lip Service Will Make You Laugh, Cry

Miami Book Fair Presents Live Storytellers

Monica Torres

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”  Joan Didion, The White Album


We tell stories to others and hear theirs, stories we can relate to, stories that entertain us, frighten us, stories that move us to laughter or tears, stories that make us feel we are not alone, stories that help us get through, as Prince said, “this thing we call life.”

Stories like an African exorcism ritual, a teenage mother fleeing domestic abuse, a backyard pet cemetery, a rape victim faced with a difficult choice, a revelation about a broken collarbone, a cult-like women's summit, excessive body hair, and a letter to the Fonz! These are just some of the personal, true stories you will hear, told live by storytellers Claudia Franklin, Mishal Mehrel, Italome Ohikhuare, Nicki Post, Gabrielle Pelicci, Nilsa Rivera, Doug Shear, and Jeffrey Weinstock at Lip Service, the coolest storytelling event in South Florida hosted by Esther Martinez-Kennif and Nicholas Garnett.

I had the opportunity to interview Garnett, one of the show's producers, about this exciting confession-style show.

What's the history of Lip Service?

"Lip Service began in 2006 as the brainchild of writer Andrea Askowitz, who wanted to create a forum for telling true, personal stories out loud. Over the years, the event grew from an intimate gathering hosted at Books & Books to filling the Miracle Theater in Coral Gables. When Andrea wanted to move on to another project and Lip Service needed a home, Miami Book Fair agreed to produce the show. I had participated in several Lip Service events and co-produced a couple. We were fortunate to get long-time Lip Service co-producer Esther Martinez-Kenniff on board as a producer, too."


Why is it now produced by the Miami Book Fair?

"Lip Service is dedicated to presenting the smartest, hottest, and most honest storytelling event in South Florida. The Miami Book Fair has a roster of ongoing year around programs that nurture the literary community of South Florida. It’s a perfect fit a match made in heaven, or at least in Miami!"

What's the purpose of telling "True Stories Out Loud?"

"Ever since humans gathered around a fire to tell about the Mastodon that got away, telling and listening to stories has been a part of the human experience. Now, it’s part of our DNA. Stories create community; they build empathy. And there’s nothing like hearing someone share a personal story to remind us that, when it comes to life, we’re all in this together."


How are the stories selected? How many people apply?

"Anyone can submit a story, as long as it’s true, personal, and under 1,200 words. Often, people who attend a Lip Service show are inspired by what they hear to send in their own story. Sometimes there’s a theme and sometimes there isn’t. We receive dozens of submissions for each show. Some of the most compelling stories are submitted by people with little or no formal writing experience. A super-secret committee of mad geniuses screen the submissions and select the stories. Esther Martinez-Kenniff and I work with the storytellers to get their stories ready to be told out loud."

What do you hope or expect from this latest installment of this blend of theater, storytelling, and literature?

"Lip Service shows are thrilling. The connection between the audience and the storyteller feels more like a revival meeting than a literary reading. As we like to say: 'You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll cringe sometimes all at once!' This time, stories range from an African exorcism ritual to the deleterious effects of an overabundance of body hair. Where else are you going to hear about that stuff? Plus, the after party at Books & Books is always a blast."



  • The performance is at 7 p.m Saturday, May 7 at the Miracle Theater, 280 Miracle Mile,
    Coral Gables, FL 33134.
For tickets and information, visit or

Nicholas Garnett received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University (FIU). He is an adjunct professor of creative writing at FIU, a frequent instructor for Miami Book Fair International, a freelance editor, and a nonfiction editor of the literary journalSliver of Stone. His writing has appeared in, Sliver of Stone, R-KV-RY Quarterly and The Florida Book Review, and anthologized in Sundress Publication’s “Best of the Net”; Tigertail, A South Florida Poetry Annual; Best Sex Writing of 2013 (Cleis Press).

Esther Martinez-Kenniff is a writer, storyteller, and freelance editor. She studied literature-writing at Columbia University and has completed her creative writing MFA at Florida International University. Her work has appeared in various publications including The Columbia Observer, Newsday, and the Daily Beast. She grew up in Miami.

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