The season has arrived. No, not the “holiday season”—the Hallmark Channel Original Movie Season.
Two weeks ago, I was reclining on the couch, rewarding myself with staring at a screen after a long day of staring at a different screen, and I stumbled upon the Hallmark Channel. At this point in the night, my DirecTV options were slim—Family Feud, Looney Tunes, or a two-hour-long story about a prince and his queen mother, stranded in a quaint Christmas-loving town, presumably in the Northern-Midwest (there was ample snow), who naturally had to discover the true meaning of the holiday, inevitably setting aside his responsibilities to state and country in order to be with the woman he just met, who was persistently kind and taught him what Christmas actually means, all while helping her single or widowed father run a B&B.
Now is probably as good a time as any to inform you of my love for long sentences. If you’re planning to persist with me in this blog venture as readers, just be aware that long, stretching sentences, rife with commas, are my jam. Staccato sentences just don’t do it for me. I use them sparingly to provide little breathers for eyes, internal voices, and if you happen to be reading a post out loud (not that you would, but just in case).
Contrary to my thorough synopsis above, I did not sit and watch this Hallmark movie. After reading the two-sentence description and witnessing about five minutes of some slightly forced overacting, I felt like I had seen it all and knew exactly where things were headed. Could I be wrong in my imagined synopsis? Absolutely. But do I think I’m wrong? No. I think I’m hitting the proverbial red nose on the guiding reindeer based on what I saw.
What this movie did, though, and what this time of year always reminds me of, is my adventure of writing my own Hallmark movie story/screenplay/thing. I don’t have a precise name for what I wrote because it’s broken up into acts; it’s kind of a strange rambling conglomeration of narration and dialogue. But, it is what it is—the approach was satirical, and the desire was to craft cliché humor, and I think I was moderately successful. What spurred this on, bringing my malformed piece into existence, was a November 2018 conversation with a coworker friend.
At my previous place of employment—Crooked Tree Arts Center—I worked at the front desk. I wore many hats and balanced a litany of duties, one of which was transforming the main level reception space and sales gallery into a holiday shopping experience with my right-hand bro, AKA, the CTAC Inventory Specialist.
Each year, right after Halloween, the two of us would start planning the layout and decor for the upcoming gift-giving season. With help from the CTAC Facilities Manager, I would unearth the numerous ramshackle faux evergreens from the basement depths, and we would spend a day assembling them, fluffing their branches, lighting them, and placing ornaments on their boughs. Our hands were so dry and red after fighting with those artificial trees.
We strung lights around pedestals and played curated holiday tunes—anything from Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me” to Frank Sinatra’s “The Christmas Waltz,” which apparently isn’t even in three-quarter time? We even brought decorations from home to add to the overall vibe. Needless to say, we enjoyed this gallery transformation process.
On one particularly quiet afternoon, with the sky darkening earlier than usual, CTAC Inventory Specialist and I sat at the front desk, surrounded by glowing lights, artists’ wares, and seasonal songs—we were basking in the Christmas cheer we’d created. But that wasn’t enough. I don’t recall which one of us brought up the topic, but Hallmark movies entered the conversation. After bemoaning the multitude of these annual small-screen flicks, we decided to create our own with a little game of what I shall call Hallmark Hot Potato.
Do any of you remember being in grade school and having to participate in “popcorn reading”? It was a “fun” way to get through a chapter of a textbook or assigned book that I’m convinced teachers would enact just to make sure students were paying attention during class—no one wanted to be the kid who was caught not following along when their name was called.
Personally, being a planner (something I readily admitted in my last post), this “fun” activity caused much anxiety. So much that I would read ahead, just enough, to make sure, in case I got called on, I could pronounce each and every word in the coming paragraph(s). I won’t say I was a teacher’s pet—not by a long shot—but due to my self-worth being unfortunately attached to my level of achievement (grades and classroom approval), I wanted to perform well and definitely not be embarrassed.
Anyway, popcorn reading is what inspired our little verbalized writing session of Hallmark Hot Potato, which, I’ll have you know, was only a bit anxiety-inducing to my then 28-year-old-self—unhealthy habits die hard. So, between phone calls, fluffing the fresh merch, and taking two to three-minute breaks to sing and dance along with solid holiday bangers, we took turns telling our own Hallmark story, each of us adding parts as we went along. Three years on, I couldn’t tell you one thing about the story we crafted that afternoon, but what the activity did was inspire me to write my own story as a silly gift for my coworker.
I won’t bore you with the minutiae of my untitled work, but I’ll tell you that the story is set in Shelburne, Vermont (it seems like Vermont is a popular Hallmark locale), and follows city viper, Cassandra, as she attempts to buy the rights to small-town confectioner Ollie’s recipes at the behest of her womanizing supervisor Scott in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Most likely, you can surmise that romance occurs and realizations arise and that everything wraps up nicely for all involved, except Scott, because, duh.
And come to find out, my coworker also ended up writing her own magical holiday tale for me—we were clearly feeling creative, inspired, and were on the same wavelength. Of course, I will probably never do anything with this Hallmark yarn I wove years ago (I already checked, and the Hallmark Channel does not accept unsolicited screenplays). But what I find most endearing about the entire experience is that anything—cheesy movies, a season, or random conversation—can bring about inspiration, even if the finished piece only ends up being an exercise in creative futility.
Coming up next:
A very special anniversary