The pilot episode you need to make the leap from tv online to a tv program

To make the leap from tv online to a tv program on cable or Netflix/Amazon, you need a few things. One of them is a script for the first or ‘pilot’ episode.

On my watch, ‘improving’ the script for the pilot episode had ballooned it up to a bloated mess. Luckily, I have brilliant co-writers In William M. Hoffman and Mr. Green. But we could never all be in the same place at the same time, so they each gave/sent me notes when they could and with them sliced the script down to a svelte two-thirds of its former self.

For the past week, I’ve been at my desk trying to build it back up to the half-hour length it's supposed to be, which is why I don’t have stories for you tonight of being back out there “knocking em dead” with my pitch.

You can be grateful that I’m not including a picture of the experience, me bent over my desk, the tearful, blotchy face, the used kleenex littering the desk and floor. This writer-in-action is neither glamourous or exciting to look at.

Instead, here’s a picture from after today’s story conference, confidence in life and self restored. Mr. Hoffman, Mr. Green and I sat around a table at a diner and although they made recommendations for more slashing and clarifying ... there was much more. We howled with laughter, we whispered so people at the next booth wouldn't be able to hear. I got so excited, I knocked over a pitcher of milk which Mr. Green and Mr. Hoffman mopped up sort of the way they mop up my 'structural issues' (they never call them that) never mentioning what they're doing and all without breaking stride in their brainstorming.

I'm being guided by two angels.

(Just below the photograph is a late Valentine's Day present from me to you if you click the Like button ...  And if you want to Share this, please just hit the 'Share' button right next door. Thank you!  \o/ )

Take a Little-Known Web Series ...

This past Saturday marked one year and one month since I started the ‘Go Big or Go Bust’ blog. 

With you cheering me on, things have certainly changed.

But then oddly, last Friday, for the first time since starting it, I forgot to title the blog ‘Go Big or Go Bust’. And I’ve decided that I’m going to follow whatever unconscious part of me made that decision: the Go Big or Go Bust part of the blog is ‘over’. We’re not going to go bust. We’re going big. I don’t have a signed deal or a contract to back me up on this, but I have a feeling.

Since posting on this blog last Friday, I pitched our half-hour, single camera comedy based on The Louise Log to an industry insider who’s been in lots of pitch meetings. He sat across from me, eyes narrowed and cold, with a critical and (what actually felt somewhat) hostile attitude. (Mr. Green says he was trying to ‘read me’.)

But his coldness didn’t throw me even a little. I kept up my ‘pitching to a seven-year old’ energy all the way through the pitch and then asked him what he was thinking.

When he responded with the suggestion that I should see if I could get into the YouTube classes to learn how to beef up viewers on The Louise Log, I nodded politely.

When he suggested that I look into IFC’s just-announced online streaming channel for web series, I think I might have winced and said “I’m pitching a television show”. And then I asked if he’d like to see one of our two minute episodes on my phone.

He agreed, he watched #4, laughed more than a few times (in spite of himself) and pronounced it ‘Cute’. I didn’t react even though ‘cute’ felt like a put-down.

But at this point, his attitude seemed to improve: he asked how good our pilot script is. I told him that Sundance’s Episodic Lab seemed to think it was good enough to make it to the final decisions. By the end of the meeting, he came around to suggesting that my job is to find a showrunner to complete the package.

And then I walked out into the cold February evening unflustered.

I don't care if it takes a hundred meetings, I'm all in on this. Of course, I’ll keep you posted. 

Just below is a late Valentine's Day present from me to you if you click the Like button ...  And if you want to Share this, please just hit the 'Share' button right next door. Thank you!  \o/

Practicing a TV Pitch for Feedback: Go Big or Go Bust

There is still a list of things to do before I can get out there and start with the darn pitching. Most of it involves the rather less than telegenic activity of ‘writing’.

One job is to figure out what 40-something actor could play me. ANY SUGGESTIONS?  If you have any, please leave them in the comments and thank you in advance!

Now for your viewing pleasure ha ha, here’s a little clip of me asking for feedback just after having pitched to the force of nature, Suzanne Dottino and using one of pitch coach guru Susanna Baddiel's suggestions - to pretend you're pitching to a seven year old.

  (12 sec)

Meanwhile, here's a late Valentine's Day present from me to you if you click the Like button ...  \o/ And if you want to Share this, please just hit the 'Share' button right next door. Thank you!

Go Big or Go Bust: Personal Impact Training ... So I Can Make An IMPACT

I met Susanna Baddiel last Spring at the launch party for Veronica and David James’  (wonderful) book “Going Gypsy” and was taken with Susanna’s lovely English accent and her warmth.

As we chatted, I discovered that Susanna is a Shakespearean actor who teaches ‘personal impact training’ and helps people to become more ‘dynamic’ and more ‘focused communicators’. She might help, for example, people who are going to be interviewed for the first time on the radio or television or people who are, God forbid, taking a crack at ‘public speaking’.

At the time, I had no inkling that within the year I’d be planning to be pitching a television show. (I’m putting ‘pitching’ in the category of ‘public speaking’ even though my public may be showing up only one at a time.)

And so, being on the verge of pitching, I emailed Susanna. She happens to be abroad these days so we set up a time to Skype.

Susanna is like a combination smart and funny best friend crossed with a fairy godmother. She’s businesslike and time-efficient in sharing her wealth of knowledge and tips and then she turns into a gentle and fun coach.

My favorite exercise was that she had me pitching ‘as if’ to a seven year old.  It's great because with that audience in mind, I get less inhibited and a lot more fun.

I'm sorry that I can't post a whole video of me pitching cause I'd love to show you my pitch and get your feedback. The thing is, I've got to keep it under wraps so that when I actually get into a room, the pitch is still fresh. 

Meanwhile, here's a late Valentine's Day present from me to you if you scroll down a little and click the Like button ...  \o/

Susanna Baddiel, Personal Impact Training coach of coaches

Susanna Baddiel, Personal Impact Training coach of coaches

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Go Big or Go Bust: How This Pitch Wrote Itself (With Help From The Runes)

Oh so many lessons. It's clear that I’m not nearly as evolved as I like to think I am.

But at least things seem to be working out, regardless of the amount of << suffering through >> my karmic path requires. THANK GOD FOR FRIENDS.

Lisa Levart tweeted the link to this very interesting piece on creative minds which is making me feel more accepting of the fact of ‘the way I work’. (Will not use the hated “P” word.) "Creative people have messy processes, and often messy minds, full of contradictions."

And good old Mudd Lavoie turned me on to the Runes which, no, does not mean you have to go out into the woods and try and read broken sticks and stones. More about that in a minute.

As you may know, I’ve been trying to get it together to pitch a half hour comedy series to cable since last August. At this point, it feels like it’s been years. Everywhere I turn, I get help and advice from people who've been there, done this and know what the heck they’re talking about. My reaction has been growing confusion to, frankly, the verge of hysteria.

Last Friday night, desk stacked high with piles of papers, each one with suggestions on how to boil everything down into a 1 - 20 minute pitch (whaa?)  It felt like I was going to be facing another Slaughter on Tenth Avenue weekend with the possibility of That Moment when you seriously want to rip your hair out. And so, before coming to that point, I decided to ask The Runes (Ralph H. Blum’s book and set of Runes) for guidance.     

What a surprise.  A three rune spread turned up this advice:

- counsel against overreach and striving (I am (what I suspect is) a classic case of someone trying to ‘overachieve’ which would explain why this very term annoys me so much.)
- don’t try to exceed your own strength (ditto)
- go within (Ew.)

- the battle is with the self. (no comment)
- observe pain. don’t try to deny it.
- timely right action and correct conduct are your only true protection (Now this one put the fear of GOD in me as all the astrologer/psychic types told me that delay could sour everything, that the time is at hand.)

- disperse resistance, then accomplish the work.
- the will must be clear and controlled (NOOOOOO.)
- may need expert help.
- modesty and patience

It was all so clear. Forget the desire to be brilliant or to even have a 'great' pitch. Just do what you can do. Keep it SIMPLE. Keep it short. (Susan Kouguell had locked eyes and said: “One minute.”) I was going to have to do the hardest thing:

stop trying
let go
simply do what I can do

AND BOOM. The pitch was written and memorized by Sunday night. HOW WAS THAT SO EASY??  (immediate and gorgeous early Valentine's gift if you click the 'Like' button below)

Go Big or Go Bust: This Pitch is Getting Real

Bursting with good news.

I pitched the two minute version of the pitch to Mr. Green last night. He started off looking at his lap, looked up tentatively a few times and finally LOCKED eyes. He thought it was good, even very good. He said I ‘had’ him.

This afternoon, I pitched the two minute version by Skype to my friend and coach Mudd Lavoie. She threw both arms in the air and shouted “I LOVE IT.”  Then she gave me the two thumbs up.

There are a few more things to organize and then ... I’ll keep you posted.

Screengrab of the elusive Mudd Lavoie giving me two thumbs up after I pitched to her over skype

Screengrab of the elusive Mudd Lavoie giving me two thumbs up after I pitched to her over skype

Go Big or Go Bust: On How The Crazy and Mysterious Hand of Fate Intervened and Hijacked My Plan

Even though it never feels like I have the time to meet a friend for lunch, I decided that I was going to do it anyway. I hadn’t seen Susan Kouguell in decades and we’d been talking about getting together since last summer. I really needed a break from the alternating frenzy and paralysis of my pre-pitching state. We set a date.

In the early 1980’s, Susan and I had both won top prizes at the Black Maria Film Festival with our first short films. As I remember, we met at the awards ceremony. Susan wore stiletto heels as if she’d been born in them.

Over the next years, we’d run into each other at various film-related events but we never hung out. Life for an indie filmmaker, especially in the pre-digital days of 16mm, was busy and expensive. Between a job to pay the bills, a second job to pay for film stock, lab fees and equipment rentals and then the third job of making the darn films, who had time to hang out?

That was part of the reason. Another part was that I felt both competitive and timid around Susan who seemed so much more accomplished and confident. And then Susan moved out of the city, we both got married and had kids and decades flew by.

Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, we talked on the phone last summer, a long, no holds barred catch-up which lead to this lunch.

No sooner had we sat down in the booth (Susan had had a word with the maitre d’) than she fixed me with her laughing twinkling eyes and asked about all these references on Facebook to me and ’pitching’. It turns out that Susan has had more experience pitching than almost anyone I know, and from both sides of the table. She’s even been drafted to teach seminars on how to pitch!

“How can I help you, Anne?”

I had to forcibly close my mouth which was hanging open in astonishment. Apparently, when the student is ready, the teacher really does appear.

Our lunch lasted three hours. Luckily I’d only ordered soup cause I have a hard time eating and talking and this was going to be so much more than ‘talking’ having suddenly morphed from gabfest into pitching tutorial.

Susan can be very focused as she lounges in a booth, laughing, and tossing out suggestions on how to structure and write a pitch. I sat across from her, bolt upright/hunched forward, scribbling on the single (mercifully over-large) receipt in my pocketbook and trying to keep up with her fountain of ideas. It was a very stimulating three hours, but it wasn’t till we parted that the full effect hit me. I was ready to collapse.

Two subways and a dazed walk later, I was still in such an altered state that work was out of the question. It seemed like a good idea to watch a sixteen minute interview with Mick Jagger (1985) and then compulsively read a novel until bed.

Tomorrow is another day.  

But in case you want to get a dose of Susan for your own work, take a look at how she might help you.

Go Big or Go Bust: Keeping Going toward Pitching

I want to tell you that, as much as the last few blogs have been all about how scared I am at the prospect of getting out there and pitching, the fear is countered to an extent by excitement. I’m actually on fire about “the project” I’ll be pitching.

And when I lose touch with that, what do I have? I have you. Your encouragement and kind words ring in my ears, in a reassuring and comforting way that is precious beyond description. You are my polar-opposite version of Louise’s downer inner voice, sort of a personal cheering squad, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Go Big or Go Bust: The Practice Pitch (Part 2 - with mystery professional *Lynn*)

And so last Friday morning I set off to meet Lynn, someone I’ve known for almost forty years during which time she has worked in top positions in Development.

When I was trying to make the leap from shorts to a feature, Lynn was the one who suggested that I give her a call each day before I’d sit down to contemplate the ream of blank pages I would have to fill to write a feature film. She further encouraged me to give her a call five (or two hundred) minutes later, whenever I finished. Without her support and encouragement, it’s an open question if I would ever have made “How To Be Louise”.  

And so, sitting under this auspicious grouping of photographs, I explained that after Thursday night’s pitch fiasco with Mr. Green, I was going to try to wing it, abandoning all the preparation of the past weeks and flying by the seat of my pants.

Lynn chuckled and encouraged me to give it a shot and so I dove off the high board, (this is a metaphor) pitching the essential short summary (the so-called ‘logline’), relating it to my own life experience.

Lynn listened, beaming at me with love and acceptance even when, after the opening summary, my pitch became somewhat scattershot. There were some good moments and at these Lynn nodded and called out ‘YES’. There were also a number of weak moments which began to overwhelm the good moments and so, after a while, I ground to a halt, admitting that I had lost my way.

We sat for well over an hour while she brainstormed what directions I might take, what points seemed essential and in the meantime, she came up with evocative and hilarious language to get the substance and the tone across in the fewest number of words.

She reminded me that this pitch was going to be a work in progress, that the people I’d be meeting would also have suggestions on how to improve it and that it might be a good idea to set up a camera on a tripod and practice practice practice it.

It’s funny that I left feeling neither elated or dejected as I’d imagined I would.  Instead I left with clarity that this job is a big and new challenge which has mostly to do with letting go. It has to do with radical self-acceptance and with figuring out a way to connect the points I need to make to my life experience so that it comes out as naturally and effortlessly as an anecdote.

Naturally I was so thrown by going out to do this first serious practice that I ran out the door leaving my house keys in the house. There’s certainly at least one telling metaphor in that ... the deciphering of which will have to wait for another day.

Check back on Wednesday to hear about TODAY'S meeting! And if you got even a shred of pleasure from reading this, please scroll down and click the Like button. I love that. 

Go Big or Go Bust: The Practice Pitch (Part 1 - with Mr. Green)

Before I launch into the story of today’s FIRST EVER serious (practice) pitch, I have to tell you about last night.  

I was getting myself and my many pieces of paper (never a good sign) organized for the morning and realized that I should try the pitch out on Mr. Green.

Because I didn’t have my pitch solidly memorized— okay, it was no where CLOSE to memorized— (but only because it was so well written and rewritten)— I had to mostly read it to Mr. Green. 

photo by Julie Clark Shubert

photo by Julie Clark Shubert

Of course I didn’t read it in a dull or flat way, I looked up frequently, my face bright and animated, my voice modulated and full of excitement in all the right places. And when I’d made it all the way through, Mr. Green and I locked eyes. He looked away, shook his head and looked back, locking eyes again: “Terrible.” he went on, “It’s TERRIBLE. NO ONE is going to listen to that.”

I was too stunned to react. Lucky for me because it looked like Mr. Green had more to say.

“It’s a comedy, right?” (as if he didn’t know) “It sounds like a tragedy! It’s not funny. At ALL. Tear that up!”

It was eleven o’clock at night. I actually like to be in bed at ten thirty.

Mr. Green suggested that I approach pitching in a completely different way. Instead of writing up a-script-to-memorize following a so-called ‘pitch template’, he asked if I could tell it conversationally. “You know the story inside out, it’s your story. You can do this!”

Amazingly, with my first pitch meeting scheduled in less than twelve hours, I was able to go to bed and fall right to sleep.

(to be continued on Monday)

(immediate and gorgeous early Valentine's gift if you click the 'Like' button below)


Go Big or Go Bust: On believing that you're good enough (part 2)

As you may know, I’ve been feeling over-the-top anxious about my next step in this adventure of ‘going big or going bust’: pitching the pilot is on my list just above ‘having fingernails pulled off’. But because it's under the surface. I'm not usually conscious of feeling anxious. I'm taking actions! And you (wonderful people) are giving me all kinds of support and encouragement ... so I have some new tools!

Naturally it came as a surprise to wake like a shot at 3 AM the other night,  and then to toss and turn for a full hour and a half.

But, lucky me, I had what might turn out to be a life-changing revelation.

I’d tried all my tricks to get back to sleep, the breathing, the hypnotherapy, the hot milk and honey. Lowering my expectations to simply ‘stay warm’, I huddled in the fetal position in the 40º room (window open, the way I like it) covers pulled over my head. Sixty minutes passed, seventy, ninety, BOOM.

It came out of nowhere: the image of a jacket made out of plaster. MY jacket. The jacket I’ve unconsciously chosen to wear for my entire life. But one that is no longer serving me.

Imagine this four inches thick, made of plaster and with crumbly bits of plaster and gauze hanging off the edges.

Imagine this four inches thick, made of plaster and with crumbly bits of plaster and gauze hanging off the edges.

What was once maybe protecting me, feels like it’s become the problem. I think I’ve been wearing fear 24/7 in the form of a rigor-mortis-stiff, pretty much impenetrable jacket. Sure, it blocks the possibility of getting a knife in the back, but it also makes receiving and even 'feeling' next to impossible.  

Huddled there under the covers, I threw my shoulders back to break up the ‘plaster’ and wriggle out of the ‘jacket’. Yeah it’d leave my back completely unguarded and vulnerable to attack but I immediately felt more, and more free and more comfortable in my body. And that feeling continued the next day and into the following day and shows no sign of abating. (to be continued)

A hoop skirt from 'the good old days' when women WERE actually trapped by their clothes.

A hoop skirt from 'the good old days' when women WERE actually trapped by their clothes.

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Go Big or Go Bust: On believing that you're good enough (part 1)

I woke like a shot at 3 AM last night and, after an hour and a half of tossing and turning, had what might turn out to be a life-changing revelation.

Twelve hours earlier I’d met X, a dear friend of many years, in a café on the edge of the Village. X is a writer who’s pitched a lot and knocked some out of the park. I wanted to check with him to be sure that I have all the elements necessary to get out there and start pitching.

We laughed and talked and he pointed out some missing elements and then, midway through our coffee, X dropped his voice and leaned forward. “Anne, do you believe in the core of you that you’re good? Because if you don’t, I don’t want you to go out pitching. You’ve got to know that you’re good.” (something like that)

There were four 20-somethings sitting uncomfortably close to us, one on either side of each of us. Regardless of how absorbed they all looked in their own lives, I was not fooled. There was no way that I could come up with an answer to that question in that situation but I gave it a try and came back with a firm: “Yes. I do.” I even filled X in on some Louise Log-related justifications to back up my yes. And I was telling the truth.

But twelve hours later, in the cold darkness of my bedroom, I was not so sure. No matter how much I like my work or how many people tell me I’m ‘good’, I don’t totally believe it. And what’s more, I don’t have a clue about how to change this.  (to be continued Friday)

(Trying to keep the blogs to 250 words)

48 hours earlier - dealing with the same issue at TJ Maxx

48 hours earlier - dealing with the same issue at TJ Maxx

Go Big or Go Bust: On Pitching and Getting Help From Marie Forleo and Marie TV

Just to clear things up for anyone confused by my ‘dancing’ video in the last blog … the video was not shot as I danced my way through the pitch. My phone and I were dancing in the dressing room at Century 21 while I tried on clothes to pitch in. I haven’t even written the bloody pitch (much less rehearsed it…). The mere word ‘pitching’ is still sending icy fingers of anxiety down my spine. But, best news of the … YEAR?? … An old friend (who happens to have an Oscar nomination for screenwriting under his belt (among other things) BUT WHO’S COUNTING) wrote me, and I will quote:

“I have a feeling you'd be very good in a pitch. Enormously good, actually.”

Unfortunately, he went on to darken the mood:

“Like anything, it's a question of starting.”

GAAAAAAAA. I’d so much rather be dancing in fitting rooms at every cut-rate store left in New York than actually start working on the pitch. I've got to comparison shop for godssake!

Fortunately, a few years ago, I discovered a force of nature in the form of Marie Forleo. She’s really smart, she’s really successful and her blog/vlog topics are like crack: ‘get more done in less time’, ‘addicted to work?’, ‘overcome fear and self-doubt’. You see why I'd be interested.

(AKA I can deal with my control issues in the privacy of my own home.)

(AKA I can deal with my control issues in the privacy of my own home.)

In a recent vlog/blog, Marie recounted a Stephen Covey story. A professor showed his students a jar chock full of rocks and asked them if it was full. The students saw that no more rocks could fit in and answered “Yes!”. The professor poured a bag of pebbles over the rocks, filling a lot of the empty space with the pebbles and asked them again if the jar was full. Embarrassed at having been tricked they were reduced to muttering “Well now it is.” Of course the crafty professor had another trick up his sleeve and poured a bag of sand over the rocks and pebbles and filled every open space in the jar. The shame-faced students sat quietly in their seats.

Next, the professor poured everything out of the jar and then proceeded to put only the sand back into it. Then there wasn’t even room to fit all the rocks back in, much less the pebbles.

The moral of the story is time management. Let the rocks of your life, the big things which really matter to you, be what you schedule first. Marie Forleo shared her own priorities (and one of them was ’time off’ ahem). (That’s another blog.)

Obviously getting this pitch together is one of my rocks. I can’t let my new infatuation with Instagram or spur of the moment distractions be the sand which fills my days and crowds out time for my rocks.  

I hope this was helpful! Thanks for reading!


Go Big or Go Bust: Dancing In The Fitting Room at Century 21

So the Go Big or Go Bust thing is now resting squarely on this pilot script for our Fake Reality Show.

I’m determined to get it together and do what’s necessary to pitch it. Naturally, after spending a glorious weekend with my sisters (talking, laughing and eating), a mountain of work awaited me today. But I felt so relaxed and happy, like any sane person, I took myself right over to Century 21 to look for clothes to pitch in. Naturally I ended up dancing around the fitting room. Hey, they happened to be piping in music. I knew you’d want to see.

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Go Big or Go Bust: How An Indie Gets In The Door To Pitch A Pilot (Part 1)

So it’s getting down to the wire over here.  I mentioned to a friend (let's call her Susan Miller) that I want to go out and pitch this pilot idea in January ... February?

She emailed me back:

friend:    It just occurred to me -- who is setting up your meetings? Do you have an agent or a producer who is scheduling these?    

me:        I have neither an agent nor a producer. This is the root of the problem.  I’m tackling the thing twig by twig and hoping they don’t all snap off.
friend:    Do you want to go over your plan with me? I mean, how are you getting in the door to producers/studios/networks?

me:        I don’t really have a plan.  I don’t have the connections to get in the door.  

friend:   Maybe we can have a regular phone convo. Because I'm concerned about your not having a plan. But maybe you have viable or possible ideas.

me:       I have a list of people …  people I sort of knew… once.  One guy I worked with thirty years ago.    

friend:   Anne, you can’t go out to LA without meetings set up.

me:        Who said anything about going out to LA?

friend:    Well you said you were going out to pitch…

me:        I meant going out of the HOUSE. 

Stay tuned.  And please leave comments if you have suggestions on how you or someone you know successfully stormed the doors of HBO, Netflix, Amazon, etc. 

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Go Big or Go Bust: On Pitching and the Burning Question: Do You Have to be Cool to Pitch Successfully?

As I see it, there are three types of people: people who are cool, people who are not cool andpeople who, through an alchemy of body type, style and self-restraint (silence is a great tool), manage to give the impression that they're cool.

I fall into the third category. Or I did. And let me tell you, it’s a sad life. And it’s exhausting. With all that energy going into creating an impression, into pretending excitement, empathy, interest and everything else. I always felt like the inside of a pumpkin, hollow and a little slimy.

To get somewhere as a filmmaker, you pretty much have to pitch. And the essence of pitching plays into all of the darkest fears of someone who doesn’t feel cool, who has a fear of rejection,  of being publicly humiliated, who has, let’s just call it what it is, a fear of *annihilation*. And so, up until now, with one miserable exception in front of a Brooklyn arts organization and one horrifying weekend at IFFCON (a pitch festival by invitation only, GOD HELP ME) I have avoided pitching. That is about to change because I want to make this fake reality show for television and am going to have to pitch the idea. I feel compelled to explain the depth of my anxiety.  

In middle school, new to the area, I asked the girl who sat next to me in study hall if we could be friends. I agree it seems more like a question from a pre-schooler than from a seventh grader. Hey, I was young for the grade. Anyway, she had an interesting long nose and was serious and thoughtful. She answered me the next day: her mother wanted her to be friends with girls who lived in town. Dagger to my heart. We lived way out in the country, far from school and she lived in town. Obviously, the cool people lived in town.

I spent the rest of the next six years trying to become the most popular girl in the school.

I’m not sure if my classmates would agree that I succeeded but I did get elected to a lot of positions. And I felt popular. Hey so what if I barely graduated? I felt cool.

(To be continued)