Reading prose straight from heart

DimeStories has a new leader and a new location in Laguna Beach.

Michele McCormick, a psychologist-turned-author and a Laguna Beach resident, will be minding the three-minute time limit during the once-a-month open readings, to be held on second Sundays at Salt Fine Art starting this Sunday.

McCormick says she's been hooked on the format since DimeStories began in Laguna about two years ago.

McCormick's reading of an encounter with a Kenyan wise woman and her initiation into "womanhood" in a Kenyan village is posted on the DimeStories website, along with other compelling three-minute prose works. She also read at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

"I love it," McCormick said of the open readings, where nervous participants wait their turn at random. "It's playful, fun, and nerve-wracking. We have attorneys, professionals, and students. The stories have a huge range and diversity."

McCormick pulls names out of a tin can, and when the speaker reaches the three-minute limit, she rings a chime. "If you go over the limit, you get a booby prize," she said. The stories are about 500 words more or less, depending on how fast the reader can get through them.

All the readings are recorded, and a group of curators selects the best for posting on the website or for broadcast over National Public Radio.

DimeStories started out at Laguna Beach Books, then migrated to Latitude 33 Bookshop, which was considered too small a venue for the readings, McCormick said. Latitude 33 will still be involved in the reading program, she added.

McCormick began leading the reading series in June, when founding facilitator Meredith Resnick stepped down.

McCormick has deep roots in South Orange County, but left her Newport Beach home to work in a Kenyan village "in the midst of a midlife crisis," as she states. She worked alongside tribal women building a community center and was ultimately honored with the name "M'penzi," or "loved one" by the village matriarch.

Returning to the U.S., she lived in Taos, N.M., for about 10 years, where she met and worked with Julia Cameron, author of "The Artists Way," with whom she co-facilitated workshops on creativity, McCormick said.

McCormick relocated to Laguna Beach in 2005 and opened another practice in Newport Beach.

In the interim, she has collected stories from elders around the world for her book, "Legacy's Gift," a collection of wisdom and recollections, and now divides her time between Laguna Beach and Taos.

She is a founding member of Transition Laguna, the environmental group.

DimeStories will begin at 5:30 p.m. Sunday (signups start at 5 p.m.) at Salt Fine Art, 1492 S. Coast Hwy. Wines from the Organic Wine Cellar will be served. For more information, call McCormick at (949) 715-9931, e-mail or visit

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