“Tell me your story, in two sentences,” said NextGenRadio founder Doug Mitchell.

“Umm…I don’t know,” I said with a defensive laugh.

How could I be so floored by such a simple question?…one that I knew would eventually get lobbed at me at some point during NPR’s latest edition of Next Generation Radio, which I’m honored and privileged to participate in.

But here I was at our first morning briefing, pitching my story before my fellow Next Genners in a private conference room of the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis, and I was coming up blank in the brevity department. I fumbled around with my words for ten or so seconds. And then the pitch gods looked down upon me with favor.

“Epilepsy changed Erica’s life. Now Erica is changing her epilepsy.” (I still had 74 characters left if I wanted to tweet that!)

To be fair, it wasn’t divine intervention that came through for me. It was a process of collaboration. The night prior, my awesome mentor, Melissa Gerr, suggested I organize my many questions for my subject under two broad question blocks: “It changed my life – why/how?” and “I’m changing my life – why/how?”

Knowing I would eventually be tasked with sharing a tweet-length sketch for my story, I fused those two question blocks together and swapped out some words:

Epilepsy changed Erica’s life. Now Erica is changing her epilepsy. It’s not a perfect pitch by any means. But that’s what makes a pitch a pitch: it gets to the crux of the matter, even if—especially if—it skips past some of the finer details. Notice I said “crux,” not “cruxes”. “Cruxes” may indeed be an actual word (as I successfully managed to play it in a game of Scrabble with my family, much to their chagrin), but nevertheless, when you’re pitching, do limit yourself to one crux.

Later today my mentor and I drove to a public library in St. Paul to start exploring the question blocks behind that crux. But we weren’t at the library to read a book. Well, I guess we were. We were there to read the book of Erica, my subject. Or rather, listen to the most recent chapter of her life—the one where she’s learning what control her epilepsy has over her, and what control she has over her epilepsy. In other words, I interviewed her.

Once Erica has the device implanted, she’ll be only the fifth person in Minnesota to undergo such a procedure.

After I interviewed Erica and her husband, Shawn, I tagged along on her commute:

All of this will make sense by Saturday. At least that’s the plan. Saturday’s when I’ll have strung together a three- to four-minute sound story on Erica’s journey, with bonus visual elements to amplify her story even more. So hang tight, and stay classy, Minneappy!

Stay classy, Minneappy.

A photo posted by Ben Thomas Payne (@benthomaspayne) on

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