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A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak about writing and storytelling during the kickoff of Oregon State University’s Annual Vert Fest, a community celebration of climbing and outdoor adventure. Despite the simple truth that public speaking terrifies me to the point where my voice gets shaky, my stomach tightens into knots and my normally linear thinking jumbles into something that looks a bit like an intergalactic star map, I said yes. I said yes because I believe in the outdoor program and because I love the men and women who work there.

It seems like it should be simple, right? Talk about what you do. Talk about what your passionate about. Why it gets you going. Talk about adventures and opportunities. Answer a few questions. Yeah.

My approach to getting ready for the talk? I tried to forget about it. I was mostly successful, which on the good side allowed me to sleep at night, but on the bad side, left me largely ill prepared for a 30 minute talk. The Festival organizers suggested a slide show, some pictures, shots from adventures. Something straightforward and ‘easy.’ I didn’t go that route. Maybe because I was afraid, or maybe because my hard drive with pictures was on the other side of the pass, or perhaps because I really do believe in classic storytelling, I went for the words.

Simple words: Pay Attention. Be Authentic. Honor the tribe.

I’m sure those words came out a little jumbled, a little disconnected. I’m sure I swore at least once, and forgot what I was going to say at least once. But I think I got most of it out. I hope I did.

To all the folks who came out and listened, and to all the ICC and outdoor program staff who made sure I wouldn’t fail, Thank you.