Coyote Tales builds bridges one story at a time — Even in a pandemic

Overlaid image: Main image Getty images; overlaid image, Kayenta Arts Foundation logo, location and date not specified | Logo courtesy of Kayenta Arts Foundation, St. George News

At a time when social gatherings are down and people are struggling to connect, Coyote Tales keeps the connections strong.

When Victoria Topham had to pull all-nighters to keep her Piñon restaurant in Salt Lake City humming, she’d tune in to storytelling programs on the radio. “Being alone at night, the stories became my friends. I’d get lost in peoples’ tales and I’d feel a connection to them, like I somehow knew them.” Stories from across the country coming through on the radio waves replaced her loneliness with a sense of connection. This sparked a big idea. When she and her husband Matt moved to Kayenta in Ivins in 2016, Victoria decided her gift to her new community would be to put on live storytelling events to help folks feel connected. She called it Coyote Tales, a fitting moniker, given the bands of coyotes you can hear on any given night in Kayenta, howling in unison as if they were holding their own storytelling convention. Her actual Coyote Tales events have captured the animals’ same Wild West sensibility in the heartfelt, captivating stories locals and professionals take the stage and tell.

Each event has a theme that storytellers—amateur or professional—are asked to follow. From “Lessons Learned,” to “Enchantment,” to more tantalizing themes like “Frenemies” and “Flawed,” the topics get people thinking of stories from their own lives that might fit the theme. The results are true stories—some hilarious, some gut-wrenching—that give the audience a sense of who the storyteller is, what shapes them, and what matters to them.

Topham’s Coyote Tales took off like wildfire since the first event in October 2017. All told, she’s hosted ten events, the last two of which have been virtual, a feat that speaks to her passion for keeping people connected. “I felt like, given the isolation people are experiencing, I felt like Coyote Tales was more important than ever, so I worked with some techies to figure out how to take Coyote Tales to the virtual space. I wasn’t sure it would work, but I’m both relieved and gratified to say, it has turned out much better than I expected.

The next live virtual show takes place this Friday, October 2nd, at 7pm. “I’m very excited about this event,” Topham says, “I’ve been able to preview the stories and they’re some of the best we’ve ever had.” Three renowned storytellers will take the stage: Matthew Dicks, 50-time Moth StorySLAM champion and six-time GRANDSLAM champion; Shannon Cason, Moth host, Main-Stage storyteller and GRANDSLAM champion; and Utah’s own David Lindes, singer/songwriter, speaker, and educator. A few local storytellers will be joining these pros to share their true stories on the theme of “Chance Meetings.”

The winner of the event (as determined by viewer votes) will receive a 60-minute private storytelling workshop with Matthew Dicks. The prize was funded through contributions from Coyote Tales supporters and Kayenta story lovers.
Keeping with the community-building theme of her event, Victoria uses the proceeds to strengthen our local community by donating to local charities like SwitchPoint.

When it’s safe to gather again, Ms. Topham hopes to host her Coyote Tales Events at Zion Pub Brewery and other venues in the city. Get more information at

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