Schlock Mercenary book release shippings usually have 1200 to 1500 packages. So when the quantity of coin packages racked up beyond those number, I knew this would be the biggest shipping job yet. We topped out at just under 3000 orders, so I thought the job would take about twice as long. I forgot about the force multipliers. Book release packages average three items. The average for coin packages is eleven items. My job isn’t twice as complex it is some other multiple which takes into account the difference between three and eleven. My brain is too tired to math it. On our test day Janci and I timed ourselves assembling sets. We figured the man hours and decided we’d be able to get all the sets assembled in one day. Instead we had six people working for five hours, we got half of them made. So Monday will be yet another set assembly day.
All of those coins are sitting in my garage. Two file boxes of invoices are sitting in my office. I will feel much more at ease when both start flowing out and into the world where they belong. Next week is going to be long.
Total work hours spent so far on shipping coins: 56
Actual thought process this evening:
I’m trying to hold all the events in my head simultaneously. It isn’t quite working, which is why I am constantly checking my calendars and to-do lists to remember where I am in the endless list of things and which things need to come next. Also, I’ve arranged for there to be other people around to double check me. This is good because I make mistakes. Janci shows up to help with shipping and makes it all more organized. She solves problems I haven’t thought of yet. I’m also quite grateful to my past self who was smart enough to know that I would be frazzled and dumb right now. Redundant systems are actually useful when I can’t keep track of which day I’m in.
Thursday. This is Thursday because I dropped Howard and the airport first thing then raced back to the Elementary school for Gleek’s 6th grade graduation. She got to walk in a line and wear a paper hat. The principal shook their hands and the whole leaving Elementary school got a little bit real. Kiki also had a leaving school getting real type of day. She cleaned out her drawer in the art room. It was a little space at the school that has been hers for three years. Next year it will belong to someone else.
Tomorrow the assembly work begins. Also: Helping Patch throw together a book report before school. Making sure the mummified chicken goes to school. Delivering art to CONduit in SLC and picking up art from the Covey Center from a show that is complete. And Delivering orders for pick up to Dragon’s Keep. There is probably something else too. I’d better go check my calendar.
If you are local and would like to help with assembling and shipping challenge coin orders, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ve already emailed and I responded no need to do it again. If you can only come for part of a day, we’ll take whatever we can get. We’d dearly love to be able to get the majority of the coins shipped by the end of May.
EDIT: All current volunteer slots are full. Thank you! once again I’m blown away by how wonderful and willing to help you all are. There are likely to be additional times to volunteer during the first week of June, this is a huge project.
Volunteers acquired Friday May 24 9:30 am – 1:00ish
I’ll update the volunteers needed numbers as slots are filled. You will earn our gratitude, gifts of merchandise, and food is provided.
Yesterday the coins showed up as a big pile of boxes. I also had shipping supplies stacked in various corners of my house. Today Janci and I sorted through all of it and set up the garage to be a warehouse for shipping coins. We assembled the first 100 sets of coins and packaged up the first 100 orders. This test of the process gave us time to figure out a dozen small things, like we need two glue dots per coin instead of one. Which means I had to place an order for six more rolls of glue dots. We also realized that the Maxim 11 key drop does not come with a ring. We ordered those express shipped because it really doesn’t seem fair to sell key chains without rings on them. We’ll draw the line at actually attaching the ring. It only takes a minute to do one, but doing a thousand would seriously crimp the mirth around here. There were half a dozen other problem spots that we identified and resolved. It took us six hours of work to set everything up and test it all. But now we have a process and it works. I’m sitting right next to 100 packages of coins which will go out with tomorrow’s mail. On Friday we start assembly lining this project.
Today Janci and I spent four hours organizing the work spaces, sorting invoices, and generally cleaning up so that coin shipping could proceed. This flurry of activity was triggered by the UPS packing tracking stating that the coins were out for delivery. And they were. My garage is full of coins. I spent an hour sorting to pull out samples of all the types of coins. They had to be inspected. Later this evening I spent another 90 minutes making sure all the addresses were in order and everything is cleared for test shipping tomorrow. That will be the day when Janci and I start putting packages together and trying to figure out how everything works.
The coins are gorgeous. Holding them makes me very happy. I would be more eloquent about that if I were not so very tired.
Last week I did a series of tweets talking about going through Body Politic and finding a hundred errors, fixing them, then finding thirty more, fixing those, and finding another dozen. It was an excellent example of iterative publishing. I ended the series by saying that even with all our attention beforehand, we always find mistakes in the finished books. How many? Well take a look at Tub of Happiness to the left. I’ve identified over a dozen things that I want to fix before it heads out for its second printing. That printing is imminent, so if there is a typo or other error in Tub of Happiness that has been driving you crazy, please email email@example.com with the error and page number. I may already know about it, but you just might be saving me from holding yet another printed book and finding a mistake in it.
This week and next week I have so many irons in the fire that there is hardly any room for a fire. I’m not likely to have brain enough to write full and thoughtful blog posts. Yet my brain is thoroughly trained to notice things, think about them, and then hold them until time to write. My brain fills up with fragments, each of which would be a lovely post, but time and I have to march onward. By the time I have space to write there will be some other thought more pressing. So I shall record some of the fragments in the hope that if I pin them down with words, they’ll stop fluttering around in my brain begging for attention I can not spare.
No one told me that the sales people would begin circling the minute my child completed her ACT and declared her intention to both graduate from high school and attend college. Circle they did, first with suggestions of the importance of commemorating high school. Surely my child needed a ring, a jacket, a hoodie, photographs, a tassel, graduation announcements, all with her school logo. I was assured that these things would be forever treasured, just like her years in high school. The brochures were pitched to appeal to nervous/nostalgic teens and parents alike. We got her a tassel. While the pitches to commemorate high school were still in full force we started hearing from colleges. All of them wanted us to know that they were very impressed and giving Kiki a very special opportunity for a fast-track application. They very carefully did not say how much they want our education dollars. Kiki applied to a single school, got in, and began bouncing the rest straight into the trash. I thought that would be the end of it, but today we got the first of a new onslaught. Our child is going to the dorms, surely we want to buy her a super value kit of bedding, laundry hamper, toilet kit, all at extremely reasonable prices. Every where I turn someone is hoping that during this transitional period in our lives we’ll be ready to throw around some money in an effort to appease our emotions. It makes me think of the stories Howard tells about the shark-like tactics of coffin salesmen. They’re worse than used car salesmen because they prey on the bereaved.
This morning I gave the final go ahead for the printing of Body Politic. I will next interact with that book when it shows up at my door. As usual, I do not have time to luxuriate in something completed. Instead I am immediately setting to work on the reprinting of Tub of Happiness and even more critically on the shipping of 30,000 coins. Latest word says that those coins will arrive at my door by Wednesday. Tomorrow I’ll begin triaging to figure out how the shipping processes need to work.
We’re in the last rush to complete school work before the year is over. It makes me resentful of the one last complex project that Patch has to complete. The other three kids mostly have at-school things left to do, not homework.
I spent this morning re-creating financial data after my hard drive crash. It was tedious, but finally validated my tendency to keep paper statements. I’m still maintaining a list of data lost. So far it is only four items long. This is good.
I wish I had more time to luxuriate in the process of helping Kiki prepare for her CONduit show. I would love to do right by her there. Particularly since her latest birthday was not everything she hoped it would be. Yes the circling sales people are right, we are a bit emotional during this transitional phase. I just don’t think that buying her the perfect dorm room trash can will make up for whatever lacks there have been in the past eighteen years. Instead I’ve been trying to soak up normal before normal changes. She graduated from Seminary on Sunday. Next Thursday she’ll don the classic cap and gown and march with her classmates. I don’t know where that will put us all emotionally. We’re in uncharted territory here. The kids afterward will have a road map that they can follow or avoid. For now I’m doing small nice things for Kiki daily between now and the beginning of June. It won’t be enough, or rather, if there hasn’t been enough to date, no last minute effort will fix that. But it feels like the impending launch is a good one. We’re nervous, but ready. Also, we’ve still got months. Graduation closes off high school, but it does not begin college.
Howard is feeling better, for which I am daily grateful.
I read a novel draft for a friend. It was how I spent my Saturday instead of the ways I’d assigned to myself. I love when a book pulls me in and earns my tears. Note, there is a difference between pulling strings and really earning sadness. Also, I love it when I can love the books of my friends.
My poor correspondence box is gathering dust. I hope to write letters again in June.
It is late and there are more irons in the fire for tomorrow.
The other morning I read a post from a woman who deliberately stayed home from LDS Storymakers conference because she has discovered that writer’s conferences are a negative experience for her. The post got me thinking about my experiences at conferences and conventions. They are always a mixed bag for me. I usually come home very glad that I went and exhausted. Yet there is almost always a time during the event when I wonder why I’m even there. Suddenly all the differences between me and the other attendees loom large, I feel outside, like I don’t belong. One of my least favorite manifestations of this is when I go home in the evening and spend the next several hours stewing over how everything I said was dumb and convincing myself that everyone was offended and/or thought I was an idiot. None of those things are true, at least not from an outward perspective, but they feel true to me in those moments and those moments are definitely part of every convention or conference experience.
I think there are those who experience these conferences and conventions differently. Perhaps in their regular lives they are constantly misunderstood or disregarded, then they arrive at the conference to discover it full of people who are passionate about the same things. For them convention attendance has a profound feeling of coming home to a safe place. Over time a few events have developed that feel for me, LTUE is like home, CONduit used to be, but isn’t anymore, Storymakers began to feel like home just this year. An event feels like home when people there are glad to see me and I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. All the other conventions and conferences in my life have me feeling like a stranger in a strange land. I spend lots of time observing and thinking.
I was at a convention last summer where Lois McMaster Bujold was also in attendance. She is one of my writing heroes and so I watched her for things I could emulate. I saw many things, one of which was that she went to panels and presentations as an audience member. I almost never do that anymore, in part because many of the panels cover topics that I’ve already heard a dozen times. Yet I admire that teachable quality and I do try to seek out those people from whom I can learn. There are some teachers who pour out good information even if the stated topic is not something I particularly need. Most of my best convention moments come from quiet conversations that happen in the green room or the hotel lobby. Then the chaos of an entire convention narrows down to a conversation between a few. These are the moments when connections are made, hearts are healed, and the beginnings of new opportunities are begun. Those moments would not happen if I did not come to the chaotic show. These days my primary defense against feeling out of place is to find someone to talk to and ask a hundred questions about their life.
Even having acquired a suite of emotional management techniques for conventions, there are times when I decide to stay home. This past year I stayed home a lot. It was what I needed to do. I’ll be staying home again in September when Howard goes to Worldcon. The primary reason for this is bad timing, Worldcon lands the week after my kids start school. They need me at home to provide stability. There is a lesser, but still significant reason as well; Worldcon has been really rough for me the last two times I went. I’ve spent a couple of years stepping back and figuring out which emotional strings to disconnect so that the event will no longer turn me into knots. The process is not complete, but I think it will be by 2014, so perhaps I’ll attend Worldcon then. There are other shows I’ve skipped and been glad that I did. Sometimes staying home is the right answer.
The thing I have to remember is that my presence at a conference changes that conference. I add something to it by being there. This is hard to realize because the conventions and conferences are big and it is very obvious that I am irrelevant to most of the people there. All that accumulated irrelevance is what sends me into spirals of self doubt. Yet I never know when a comment or class from me will be the piece that another person desperately needs. Sometimes I never find out that I helped another person, other times I get to see it happen. I love when I get to see it, but I have to remember that these effects are often invisible. I can’t help others if I don’t show up.
In the next year I’ll be venturing forth more, at least I think I will. I have to consider each event individually to decide whether going is right for me.
This morning I’m thinking about The Doctor’s speech about time during the episode Blink. It is all about how time is wibbley wobbley Timey Wimey. My brain adds that to The Doctor’s insistence that some points are fixed in time and unchangeable. My life is like that. There are some spots that are fixed, usually not by me and definitely not to my convenience. They are events that can’t be moved like graduation ceremonies, birthdays, or school performances. Everything else wibbles and wobbles its way around those fixed points. Usually I can see the fixed points coming from a long way away and adjust to make space for them. These next two weeks are like a slalom course of fixed points. The opportunities to forget something important arrive daily. My lists are my friends right now.
On the other hand, it is 8 am and I’ve already completed the things that absolutely had to be done before 9 am. So maybe we can manage it all if we just do one thing at a time.
These are my things, not all of my things, because I know I am forgetting some of them. I’m pretty sure the kid leaving junior high also has some things, but I haven’t seen that list of events, so I don’t know what they are or where they fit.
After that there is more stuff. I’ll think about it when I either get all of this stuff right or recover from failing at it.