Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Jun 07, 2021

Storytelling School with The Moth: Storytelling Activity #38

by The Moth Staff

Lesson #38: AND THEN ONE DAY: "The Secret Letter" - Paola Ayala

Welcome back to Storytelling School with The Moth! We wanted to wish everyone a very exciting and very happy Pride Month! We hope today’s story will be a fun way to kick off your celebration! For this month’s blog, we’re taking a look at a story about having a secret revealed.

This week’s Storytelling School story is:

“The Secret Letter” by Paola Ayala

  • Watch the video. 

Talk to each other about Paola’s story. 

For each post, we’ll highlight a different crafting strategy for how to make your story compelling. For this post, we’ll focus on AND THEN ONE DAY.  As a tool to talk about story structure, The Moth Education Program uses a Story Map (see previous blog posts here and here). We call the second ‘chapter’ of that map “And then one day”. It’s called that because storytellers often use those words or something similar to set the action of the story in motion. After giving us some brief opening context, Paola launches her story with the words: “I remember one day my sophomore year…”. After that, the entire story takes place over the course of one very memorable day playing out in real time. 

  • Paola tells this story in the present tense with the events unfolding moment to moment. What effect does this style have on your experience of the story? 

  • What details does Paola include that help take us inside her physical and emotional perspective? 

  • While most major life changes happen over the course of a longer period of time, there is often a moment or a day that we can point to when something shifted to make that greater change possible. What are some memorable days in your life that marked the beginning of a new era for you?

*See previous posts on The Story Map here and here. And previous posts on CHANGE here and here

Write or tell your own story.

At The Moth, we believe in celebrating the diversity and commonality of human experience. Often, listening to someone’s story will remind us of a story from our own lives. While you almost definitely have not had Paola’s exact experience, it still may have reminded you of a story from your own life. Get inspired by these prompt questions to tell your own story!

  • Tell us about a time you had a secret

  • Tell us about a time your house was a mess

  • Tell us about a time someone entered your private space 

  • Tell us about a time you got a letter from a loved one

  • Tell us about a time you were anxious about having a conversation with someone

  • Tell us about a time you revealed a truth about yourself 

  • Tell us about a time you didn’t have to lie

  • Tell us about a time you finally felt like you could breathe


  • Have you ever written or received a secret letter? Have you ever created a secret code? Try it out! This article from Scholastic will teach you how to use ciphers to write a hidden message that only people “in the know” will be able to read. Write a coded letter to a friend and give them the key to crack the code or see if they can crack it on their own!

  • Paola does an incredible job of keeping us in the moment throughout her story! How do you like to keep track of your emotions throughout the day? Try tracking your feelings today. Spend a few moments jotting down notes, writing a journal entry, drawing pictures or even thinking of a song that matches your mood! At the end of the day, look back at your tracker and see if you can remember the feeling of each moment.

Share this post with a friend!

And check back the second Tuesday of next month for another story.

Storyteller bio

Paola Ayala participated in The Moth High School StorySLAM Team at Beacon High School in 2013.

The Moth Education Program works with young people and educators to build community through storytelling workshops, performances and innovative resources. To learn more, visit themoth.org/education