Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Jul 26, 2022

Storytelling School with The Moth: Monthly Storytelling Activity Lesson #51

by The Moth Staff

Lesson #51: THE WORLD AS IT WAS - “War and Popcorn” - Mariam Bazeed


Storytelling School with The Moth is here to keep your storytelling-brains churning even while on Summer break! This month, we’re taking a look at a story about family and home.

We first met Mariam in a Community Workshop with Muslim Writer’s Collective. The Moth Community Program provides the space, tools and expertise for people to practice the art and craft of personal storytelling. Through partnerships with community organizations, cultural institutions and non-profits, we host workshops that inspire confidence and self-reflection and deepen connections within and between communities.

This month’s Storytelling School story is:

“War and Popcorn” by Mariam Bazeed

After you’ve watched and read the story, you can do the following activities:

Talk to each other about Mariam’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 THE WORLD AS IT WAS. In previous posts, we’ve introduced a tool we use in our workshop programs to talk about story structure: Moth’s Story Map. We call the first element of that structure “The World As It Was”. This gives us the context we need to understand the rest of the story. It could also be called the status quo or the exposition. Mariam does a beautiful job of bringing us vividly into the ‘world as it was’ through the eyes of a young child in the Middle East in a time of war. 

  • What does Mariam tell us about this moment in history that feels essential to understanding their individual experience?

  • How does Mariam use the principle we’ve highlighted in previous posts “Show Vs. Tell” to describe their typical daily routine in Kuwait and then later in Egypt? Instead of just telling us “nothing happened” or “every day was like clockwork”, Mariam shows us some very specific examples.

  • What does Mariam tell us about saying goodbye that gives us important context for this story? 

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 Mariam’s exact experience, it still may have reminded you of a story from your life. Get inspired by these prompt questions to tell your own story!

  • Tell us about a time you had to say goodbye

  • Tell us about a time you were in a harsh and unfamiliar place 

  • Tell us about a time you didn’t understand why someone else was upset

  • Tell us about a time your world went from black and white to technicolor

  • Tell us about a time you recognized a lie

  • Tell us about a time you felt at home


Have you ever had to say goodbye to someone abruptly? What did you feel in that moment? Make a card like this one and write to the person. What warm memories have you shared that you want to remind them of? If possible, mail the card to them to let them know you’re thinking of them. 

  • What things most remind you of home? Either walk around the space that feels most like home to you or imagine it - what objects stand out? Make a list of the top 5. Then, think about the memories connected to those items: where did they come from; how do they make you feel; what do they signify to you? Ask your friends or family to do the same, and share your top items - learn about the people closest to you through items that bring them the feeling of home. 

Share this post with a friend!

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

Storyteller bio

Mariam Bazeed is a non-binary Egyptian immigrant, writer, stage actor, and cook, living in Brooklyn and right now they are in collaboration on a new play about the life and times of Cleopatra.


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

The Moth Education Program is made possible by generous support from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Charitable Trust, the Kate Spade New York Foundation, Alice Gottesman, and The Paul & Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation.

Additional program support is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the New York State Council on the Arts, ConEdison, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.