It is now the year 2021. I still don’t have a flying car, but I’m grateful for a new year all the same. (Side note: I introduced my 7-year-old to The Jetsons, and he was wholly unimpressed. I was all, “I know we have a lot of this stuff now, but when I was your age, it all seemed futuristic and amazing,” He was all, “Well, I guess we don’t have our own spaceship.”)
There is never going to be anything that takes away the immense amount of loss and suffering that our world experienced in 2020, but I do believe that it is vital to find silver linings as often as possible in life. So, there are some things that I am grateful for: the wonderful experience of homeschooling my son this school year–nothing else could have given us this precious time together; remembering to be grateful for the simple pleasures in life; appreciating the gift that is family and friendship.
I am also grateful for the opportunities I have for virtual experiences, conferences, and events that otherwise would not have been possible to attend in person. I have learned so much and become braver.
For example, I participated in PitMad, which is a story pitching event on Twitter. This provided the challenge to condense the essence of Birthday Ranch to 280 characters, including hashtags. I recommend this exercise to any writer, even if you don’t participate in the event. There is no better way to grasp the core of your story.
I also learned what a logline is. Screenplay writers are used to pitching loglines—usually a 1-sentence summary of a story that generally introduces a protagonist, what causes them to embark on the story, their goal, and what that goal will cost them. I entered the first 500 words of Birthday Ranch into a Writer’s Gallery for agents and editors who will be invited to peruse it during the SCBWI Winter Conference.
Part of submitting this was including a logline no longer than 75 words, to try to interest these professionals in checking out my work. If condensing your story to 1 sentence sounds daunting, it is. But I did it in less than 60 words, and I know that you can, too. Here’s mine:
When a neglected young daydreamer is mysteriously transported to a magical ranch and befriended by talking animals, he enters a contest to win a birthday party—but when his fellow competitors are put in danger, he must decide if his dream of finally having a birthday party is more important than saving a life.
If it wasn’t for having to stay at home for nearly a year, I don’t think I would have tried any of these exercises. But I am so grateful I did! I feel that much more in touch with Birthday Ranch, and more prepared than ever to share it with people who can help it spread its wings.
Keep trying new things. Keep challenging yourself. Keep believing in yourself. And always find ways to be grateful.