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Interview: Dana Norris Talks Story Club's Top Hats And Tales Benefit

By Allison Kelley in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 22, 2014 6:00PM


Dana Norris, founder of the popular national storytelling show and online magazine, Story Club, has a crazy idea. She actually believes artists should get paid for their work and she intends to do something about that. We sat down with Norris to discuss Story Club’s first annual Top Hats and Tales benefit Nov. 2. This event brings together jazz, stories, fancy pants Gatsby era garb and literati hobnobbery, in the iconic Green Mill. The goal of the night is to raise $6,000, enough money to pay all Story Club Magazine contributors for 2015.

CHICAGOIST: Top Hats and Tales is all about supporting artists financially. Why are you so passionate about this cause?

DANA NORRIS: I think the more we pay artists for their work, the more likely they are to do the work. One of the reasons a lot of people talk themselves out of being creative is because in our society we value money, and when we don’t pay artists we are telling them they are not valued. So even if you just give someone $50 for their story, you are also telling them their work has merit. I really want to encourage people to submit to Story Club Magazine, and maybe if they get paid they’ll be more likely to risk it.

C: What about publications that offer “exposure” in lieu of money?

DANA NORRIS: Exposure isn’t payment. I know a lot of people would like exposure to be payment. I am a writer who has been published in many magazines and have been paid by very few of them. And I thought, if you don’t like the way something is being done, you need to take it upon yourself to change it.

C: A lot of people these days set up crowdfunded campaigns to raise funds. Why not do that instead of an event?

DANA NORRIS: I wanted to have a party and invite some of the best storytellers in the city and people we’ve published to come to the show. I also have this really great silk dress I’ve wanted to wear (laughs). Mostly I wanted to make it something fun, to show attendees that they can support artists and also go to a swanky party on a Sunday afternoon. Instead of you getting a t-shirt or button for your donation, like you would on crowdfunded platform, we’re giving you a really fun party. You give us $20 and we give you a party.

C: It’s just that simple?

DANA NORRIS: Just put on some pearls and come to the Green Mill. Take photos and put them on Instragram, make all your friends feel jealous. It’s going to be during Daylight Savings Time but just calm down, come to the party, get a little bit day drunk, listen to some stories, hear some music, and help writers get paid. Don’t make artists go work at banks.

C: How will Sunday’s show differ from a typical Story Club performance?

DANA NORRIS: We’ll have live music provided by The Morphtet, which is a very fun and upbeat band. We’re also doing Story Jazz. It’s going to be six different veteran performers, three of them are going to get up and read a story, then the other three will tell improvised stories based on the stories they heard before them.

C: Who are the performers on the lineup?

DANA NORRIS: Samantha Irby, Megan Stielstra, and Jennifer Peepas will be reading stories, and Kelsie Huff, Lily Be and Don Hall will be improvising stories.

C: What additional goodies does your ticket get you?

DANA NORRIS: You get one raffle ticket for coming and can pick up more when you come. For prizes we have V.I.P. tickets to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, tickets to the upcoming Moth Grand Slam, and you know, things that are pretty hard to get. Plus First Slice Pie Cafe is giving out munchies. There will also be an "I'm So Fancy" costume contest, so come dressed in your best fancy clothes.

Top Hats and Tales: A Fancy Pants Party to Support Story Club Magazine will be held Sunday, Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. at the Green Mill, 4802 N Broadway St. Tickets are $20 in advance and $30 at the door. Story Club is continuing to collect additional raffle prizes. Email for more information.