Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Confessions of a Serial Socializer

Confessions of a serial socializer:

Lately I find myself enjoying someone a whole heck of a lot, before realizing what a mission they have undertaken to make that possible. Whether it's saving up spoons, medicating, meditating, clawing out a precious pocket of free time from the hurricane-scribble of other obligations, or just working inch by painstaking inch to zip yourself into the too-tight "fine, thanks" human-suit you are expected to wear in public... y'all, thank you *so much* for doing that.

And if I can say something to folks like you, on behalf of folks like me... you know, sometimes we're not very smart or sensitive. Hanging out with you is so easy and so fun for us that we forget that not everyone gets that same rush. But we enjoy you SO MUCH, even when you don't feel capital-A amazing. Please don't ever hesitate to ask for what you need, whether it's extra time, extra space, a corner seat, a quieter room, a ride home from the party, or a guilt-free rain-check. You are so worth it. And nothing makes our extrovert hearts happier than returning a tenth of the joy that we get from being with you. Remember: 'amigo' does not mean 'alike'!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

What's In Your Box-Trolley?

Okay, so guys. You know that one friend you have? The one whose life would be five million percent better if they would just listen to you and [dump that worthless mofo / see a therapist / try the diet or program that changed your life / etc]?

Let me be that friend for a moment. And let me confess: I don't mean to be obstinate or ungrateful. It's just that even if your advice or solution is absolutely correct, I can't make the leap from where I am to where you want me to go. The gap is too big, and I can't see the other side from here.

So if you really, really, super-actually want to help me (your hapless hypothetical friend), here is what you can do: create a space where I can get completely outside this mess of mine, even if only for a day or two - a place where I can rest, catch my breath, and clear my mind. You see my problem so clearly, because you're *outside* it. If you love me, please help me get outside of it too - and then listen to me when I tell you what's really going on in there.


Kathryn McClatchy did exactly that for me this weekend, and it has remade me. I have known for YEARS that I needed help - delegation skills, an assistant, etc. - but have never made any meaningful progress in getting things off my plate. So finally, in a breakdown moment of frustration and despair, I booked her for a two-day intervention at a little cabin in Granbury... and oh my gouda.

She let me dump my entire to-do list in her lap, and then patiently sorted through it with me. She didn't tell me that I had to use a certain program or hire a certain person. She didn't arrive with a pre-fab holy-grail solution in mind. She just asked every good question in the book, and helped me build a system around the brain and workstyle and habits I already have. And I have never felt so helped or so overwhelmingly *heard*.


This here is a photo I took while I was walking the neighborhood around the cabin, and I hope it will serve as a helpful reminder: y'all, build your system to accommodate your nature, and not the other way around.

And if you could use some help with that, holler. I know just the lady you need to talk to.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Biggest Kind of Little

You know, I have never felt smaller than I did when I was trying to be a big name. Now I am a small name, and I have never felt bigger. HUGE love to Nancy Golden and the entire Carrollton League of Writers, and big congrats to Jennifer Rabey Crippen, Lauren Bass, and all the winners. It is an honor to be adjacent to your greatness!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Rapping on the A-Train

So while I was in San Francisco, I took the subway to go visit my friends. It was the end of rush hour, so not very crowded once we got into the city proper. Then a guy got on, carrying a little portable speaker and a microphone, and arranged his gear in one corner.

And then he started rapping.

The song was something about peace and harmony - it wasn't very loud, and I couldn't quite make it out. Of course, my first thought was "God, what a jackass. Doesn't he know nobody wants to hear that?"



When he was done, he walked up and down the aisle, soliciting donations with his white-papered can. Everyone ignored him. And my second thought was, "How pitiful. This is like, the saddest and most awkward thing I've ever seen."

He got off at the same stop I did, but before I headed up the stairs, I waited - and watched him get on another train heading back the way we had just come. His microphone fell and dragged on the ground as he boarded, and my last glimpse was him gathering it up and turning on his speaker as the train doors closed behind him. And my third thought was, "Oh God. That is me. That is what I do. That is what my author-friends do. We are all just hapless schmucks belting our hearts out to a crowd of indifferent strangers and trying to get paid for it."

So today's thought is: let's do what we can to be kind to each other. Some of us are more skillful or subtle about it than others - but at the end of the day, most of us are just rapping on the A-train.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Seminal Seniors of SMOFcon

On the bus back to San Francisco after a fantastic too-short weekend at SMOFcon (The SMOFs, of course, are the Secret Masters of Fandom). It's a "convention runner's convention", where the programming and presentations are all about hotel negotiations, crisis management, codes of conduct, and so on. But it's also a fraternity of sorts, with traditions both hallowed and deeply silly.



I tell you what, though: for me, the coolest thing was to sit down at a workshop about social media, or software migration, and see that both the presenters and a good majority of attendees are people my parents' age. They did not grow up with any of this stuff. They might not ever use Twitter or Instagram for personal enjoyment. But they are passionately dedicated to mastering it and sharing that knowledge, because that is what their event and their fan community needs them to do. And I am so grateful that they are willing to keep carrying that torch forward, especially when so many people of my generation don't yet have the financial security or free time that you absolutely have to have before you can consider taking up the reins on an all-volunteer nonprofit event that's going to involve a thousand people, a quarter-million dollars, and over a year's worth of planning. 

Now I leave much gratified and more than a little lonely. My commitments to my own little community mean that I don't have the bandwidth to even attend, much less help out with, the fantastic conventions they're building out for next year and the ones after. But friendly friends - if you are ever tempted to doubt or despair, go listen to Ray Stevens' "Shriners Convention" and know that our reverend elders are doing tireless good work that is almost entirely invisible to the outside world... in between running late-night "statistics and probability seminars" with a nickel buy-in :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Well-Earned Campaign Tribute

My friend Michelle O'Neal said it better than I could have:

"I can't wait to vote for Allison Campolo again.

FWST Bud Kennedy said of Beverly Powell... 'Her strongest opponent turned into her strongest ally. Euless Democrat Allison Campolo, a young progressive half her age, ran a tough primary race and then instead of going home, helped organize the county get-out-the-vote campaign.'"

That's how we do it, y'all. You fight for your wins, learn from your losses, and keep your eye on the prize. At the end of the day, it's not about whether you can do the thing - it's about whether the thing gets done. I have NEVER been more proud of my big, beautiful, red-and-blue state... or more thankful that I stopped knocking my sister's teeth out before she started doing kung fu.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Making Space

I don't act on it often enough - but I believe to my bones in making space for the people who are making space for people.

Here's one of them right here. Her name is Shayla Lee Raquel, and for the last three years, she has moved heaven and red Oklahoma earth to raise up a first-class writing community in her backyard. She runs the Yukon Writers' Society, which just hosted the FABULOUS Writers Olympics. She travels down to DFW on the regular, donating her time and expertise to make events like WORDfest possible. She has been the fiercest pro-bono advocate an indie author could ever have (including nailing a VERY pointed set of theses to the Oklahoma Book Festival's double-standard front door). And anyone who has ever taken a turn with the organizer's hat knows how completely a good cause will tornado its way through your own personal life and projects. 


But today at last, it is Shayla's turn for the spotlight. Cinderella finally gets to go to the ball - not because a fairy godmother waved a wand and apparated a Pumpkin Miata for the occasion, but because she hitched up her homespun dress, laced up her trainers and walked her own self to the party.

It is terribly important to me to make sure that people like Shayla get more than a warm, fuzzy feeling for their efforts - that they are materially and powerfully thanked for the hundreds of hours they've given to making space for the rest of us. And if you would like to sign your name to that effort, this is where you can go to give her your congratulations, read up on her work, and gift a copy to the person in your life that her words were meant for.

Friday, October 26, 2018

A Sultry 'Bootoir' Moment

Everybody has been telling me for the better part of two years now that I should start wearing boots.
The WORD squad, knowing too well what happens to *any* task I am entrusted with, took matters into their own insufferably wonderful hands.


So here is my first-ever 'bootoir' photo, captioned thusly: if you are lucky enough to know Marsha Hubbell, Kathryn McClatchy, Daniel Wells, David Douglas, Sarah Hamilton, Amanda Arista, or god help you, William Humble, then you know one-seventh of the joy, passion, generosity, patience, hard work, and unrelenting refusal to quit that knocks me acock on a near-daily basis. I expect working with these folks for the past two years has been perfect practice for donning a pair of Ropers, actually - cuz they have seen me through ten thousand miles, in every kind of weather, and they just won't quit.

Thank you for everything, posse. They fit like a dream.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sock-Sacks and Happiness

Okay, so after Writers in The Field, I have a new thesis statement: we have too many huge, giant, apocalyptic nigh-unsolvable problems in this country, and not enough small ones.

On Saturday, for example, my main problem was not dropping the cookies (that LB Clark and Erin McGowan brought all the way up from Galveston!) while a hundred of us were running through the mud to escape the tornado warning.

On Sunday, my main problem was not owning a second pair of shoes. (As it turns out, grocery sacks make fair-to-middling sock-condoms.)



Today, my main problem is that I can't quite figure out how to get up off this couch.
And all of these are small, satisfying, and completely surmountable challenges.

I didn't have to worry about getting Kathryn McClatchy up off the floor of the ticket booth during the tornading, because Marsha Hubbell is a PTA Green Beret. Didn't have to figure out how to feed everyone after the food truck fell in a ditch, cuz Alex and Allison Campolo delivered pizza through flooded roads like Evel Knievel jumping the Snake River Canyon (in a Lexus, no less). Didn't have to know how to get the food truck *out* of the ditch, because as far as I can tell, Shane Richmond just Force-lifted it up like an X-wing from the Dagobah swamp. Didn't have to stop and thumb-type every late-breaking announcement, because Kathryn and Sarah and Amanda blew up the hashtags harder than a questionably-colored dress. Hell, I didn't even have time to wonder about getting the margarita machines in during the storm, because Brandon Burgess is the all-weather swashbuckling Jimmy Buffett this country needs.

My point is: all of these very short, specific, twenty-minute micro-crises are now 100% handled. Mostly because we had exactly the right people on point to handle them.

But also - you know, in a world where everything we need magically appears on a shelf or in a box at our front door (even as we wither in constant, paralyzing, existential fear), it was so good to remember what small, short, tangible challenges feel like. And now that I'm back home, clean and dry in my climate-controlled condo-box, I am jonesing for my next fix. Can these shoes go the dryer after I hose them off? I don't know, but I can't wait to find out!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Tilting at Tomorrow

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a parallel universe. I get so wrapped up in making flyers, planning activities, visiting and traveling and trying to keep up with myself - and after a long, happy day of hard work and hobbit-wrangling, it's a shock to log on and read about a profoundly broken world.

I worry sometimes that I'm too fortunate and insulated - that all of what I'm doing basically amounts to building castles in the sky while Rome burns. I hope that's not true. More than anything, I want what I'm doing to matter. I expect we all do.

But here's what I know for a certain fact: there is going to be a tomorrow in which the all-consuming crises of today don't feature. Our current problems will pass away, just as surely as the Cold War and the 1918 flu did before them, and new ones will grow in their place.

And when tomorrow gets here, I want to make sure that we still remember how to co-exist. I want to make sure that clickbaiting and fearmongering and runaway intellectual inbreeding don't deprive us of our friends and neighbors. We're in the middle of a hard and essential fight right now, but there's something completely unlike it already waiting in the wings... and whatever that is, we absolutely can't afford to meet it at half-strength.



I hope you registered to vote today, if you weren't already signed up. I hope you have been using every good means at your disposal to weigh in on the big decisions, and take ownership of the small ones.

But I also hope we remember the last vital stranger who helped us - on the side of the road, in the hospital, a thousand miles from home - and how little their political views mattered when we really, desperately needed them. And I am going to join my fellow big-hearted eventroverts in continuing to raise up little tentpole-spaces for good people to meet face-first and practice helping each other out... because that's the best way I know to ensure we still have a common ground left to come back to after today's fight is finished.

And because I just god damn love wearing a fancy name tag and buying tax-deductible donuts.