The Gift of the Marginally Competent Magi

Last week my grandparents were visiting in what was their first trip to Seattle and my first bout of hosting family since the move.  It was exciting! It was an adventure! It was…

Exhausting, actually.  Juggling hosting/touristing while also being over employed and having hobbies is a challenge.  So it was with somewhat obsessive, single-minded conviction that, on the Sunday of their visit, I dragged them to a bubble tea stand at a food court of the mall we were in to get me a fix of sugar water and tapioca.  You know I was desperate because I just said I got bubble tea from a place where “Food Court” and “Mall” were accurate location descriptors.  I have a long track record of ordering bubble tea in such places only to sigh and go, “I’d probably have been happier overall if I hadn’t.”  Several times I’ve tossed the drink rather than finish it.  This from me, the raging bubble tea addict.

You can also deduce that I was deep into the mode I encountered somewhat regular back in my coffee-serving days of needing the thing you’re ordering to be functional enough to order it.  Not for myself; I have a default I can order when I’m beyond the point where I can figure out what I want.  No, my problem was figuring out what to order for my room-mate, Dr. Unicorn.

Uni and I have a somewhat competitive relationship.  It started with mix CDs, where we’d battle by trying to make mixes that would emotionally gut punch the other one the hardest.  It has moved on to things like bed making wars, where we stealthily make the other one’s bed.  And also a minor bubble tea war, where we’ll fetch tea for the other one.  This latter one is my fault; Uni was innocently bringing me tea when it was convenient to as he came home from dates. I took it as a challenge and have been trying to keep the score even by similarly fetching tea.

I won the mix-tape war because I don’t have feelings and so you can’t emotionally gut-punch me.  I lost the bed making war before it started because, unlike Uni, I never make my own bed.  The bubble tea war is the tie breaker and while Uni’s wretched at keeping score, I’m not.  I know: I’m losing this war.

So there was no way, even if I was in a Food Court, in a Mall, that I was going to pass up this opportunity to score a point. I was ordering Uni a tea, no arguments. What tea, though?  This is where my need for a sugar-water fix reared its ugly head.  I started with the obvious best choice, Uni’s favorite.  But on reflection, that was a terrible idea since it’s a frozen slushie thing, and it would definitely not still be a frozen slushie thing by the time I got home.  Maybe this other thing, then! No, that won’t work, because Uni’s not a fan of milk in tea and this place only does it with milk. Finally, I settled on what should have been my first choice: Peach tea with tapioca and no ice.

I do not tell Uni I’ve done this, because I think it’ll be a nice surprise.  “I’ve got a present in the fridge for you,” I can say and then wham, I score a point in the war. Victory! Championship! The battle is mine even if the war is hopelessly lost.  I contemplate this impending scene with much joy and expectation as the day wears on and the time for Uni to return home approaches.

The appointed hour arrives.  I interrupt a conversation with my grandparents to check a text from my phone saying, “This is almost certainly Uni giving me an ETA.”

I read the text. Then I look up to my grandparents, who are giving me that, “Kids these days and their texting,” look.  Then I read the message again.  “Uhm,” I announce to the room.  “We’ve got some messed up O. Henry shit going on in this house.”

The text from Uni: I stopped at [place] on my way home. Want me to bring you a tea? I’ve just had the peach tea and it was pretty good.

My answer, after careful consideration and once I stopped cackling? “Lavender milk tea, please.”

The Body Politik

The Framing Anecdote

Once upon a time I flopped down on a friend’s leather couch.  It was summer in Madison, and I’d misjudged just how blisteringly, unpleasantly hot the 3-mile walk to her house would be.  I get cranky when I’m too hot.  So there I am, collapsed on her couch and clutching a glass of ice water like a dead-man switch for the Apocalypse, and what does she say?

“Guess what K called you earlier.”  K, her boyfriend, was sitting in the room with us.

“What?” I asked.

“He called you a good housewife.”

K promptly explained the context for the comment.  He hadn’t actually called me a housewife, though the words “good” “house” and “wife” had appeared in incriminating order with me as the subject.

Cranky when I’m hot, remember?  “K,” I said.  “Your girlfriend is trying to get you killed.  You should probably do something about that.”

An Approach to the Subject

A ton of good stuff got published last year.  I didn’t read all of it.  Nobody did.  I read a lot, though, and I liked a lot of what I read.  My two favorite SFF novels from last year were, easily, Ancillary Sword and The Goblin Emperor.  On the one hand we have a book that plays on my weakness for Strong AI characters, politics, and of all things, tea.  On the other, we have the most adorable damn emperor ever to encounter court intrigue and not immediately die.  These books are fantastic, I love them with squeefuls of kittens.

In case I have been at all unclear, I am not rational in my love for these books.  I suspect it will be quite a while before the infatuation fades enough that I will be.  I don’t mind.  I enjoy this sort of obsession.

Both books have been nominated for a Hugo.

Along with a lot of other things.

A Flasback

My first and, so far, only WorldCon attendance was at ChiCon in 2012.  I went for a lot of reasons.  Some of them were to spend a long weekend in Chicago.  Some of them were to stalk the staff at Strange Horizons so I could demand that they start podcasting their content.  Some of them were to meet other people who love the things I love, to introduce people to things I love they might not have heard of, and to find new things to love.  I accomplished all these things.

But.  It was too big for me.  I am not naturally nice, friendly, or fond of people.  I’m very good at pretending otherwise, but it gets tiring.  I like small conventions because my baseline assumptions about the people surrounding me shift in a way that makes it easier to hide my rampant misanthropy.  WorldCon was big enough that my baseline shifted the other way.

“Are you glad you went?” a friend asked me when I was explaining this after.

“Yeah.  It was a good experience.  But not one I need to do again right away.  Or maybe ever.  I dunno.  I think maybe I won’t go back until I’m nominated for a Hugo.”

“Oh,” said my friend.  “I knew you were starting to have success with the writing.  Are you that good?”

“No.  It’ll be a while before I get a Hugo nomination for writing.”  Then, because I hadn’t thought this part through until that moment, “But I may have bullied my way onto the staff for Strange Horizons.  They’re already overdue for getting a Hugo nomination.”

Strange Horizons received a Hugo nomination in 2013.  That didn’t count for me because I wasn’t yet on the staff during the time covered by that nomination.  That was absolutely fine.  I was deep in fake-it-til-you-make-it mode with the podcast, and since the fund drive had barely hit the stretch goal for the podcast, I wasn’t even sure my conviction that they absolutely, desperately needed to have a podcast wasn’t personal delusion.

They got another one in 2014.  But of course they did.  They’d been overdue for nominations long before that.  The podcast was incidental.  I’m sure nobody actually listens to it and this is just a vanity project I’m doing because it makes my name notable without requiring me to read slush.  Except.

An email here or there.  People recognizing me at cons not as the person who talks too much on all the panels, but for being part of SH.  Then tweets.  Tweets are becoming a regular thing.  I’m making people happy.  I’m making SH fans happy.

This year Strange Horizons got another nomination.  And this time?  Yeah, I feel like a piece of that is me.

I’m going to Sasquan in August.  I will be representing Strange Horizons at the Hugo ceremony.

The Complication

Everybody knows you can be an asshole without breaking any rules other than “Don’t be an asshole.”  You’re still an asshole.  And when you piss in a pool, even if you like the smell of your own urine, other people are still going to be upset because, hey, they don’t.  There are roughly 1,000 ways the good-faith puppies could have tried to accomplish their goals, and many of them would have been less annoying/upsetting/provocative than what they did.  As for the bad faith puppies, well, they win just by playing.

The problem with the “pissing in the pool” analogy is that the only reasonable response is to get out of the pool and stay out until it’s been cleaned and the culprits are gone.  That means that the people who want to do inflexible “No Award” against both puppy slates are absolutely correct and anybody who does anything else is willingly swimming in urine.  That’s obviously madness.


My two favorite books from last year are up for the award.  My favorite fiction magazine, which is now a little bit me, is up for the award.  I’ve been staring, sniffing, and running pH tests for days now.  There’s no urine there.

The Anecdote’s Payoff

My friend stares at grumpy, collapsed, overheated me.  “That is not the reaction I expected from you,” she said.

“I know.  Can’t afford to be predictable.  Otherwise, it’d be too easy for you to manipulate me into killing your boyfriend for you.  Besides, I’m hot and tired, and murder requires effort.  I win more if I just sit here.”

The Point

I’m a cat person.  I’ve never cared about dogs, even in juvenile form, and I still don’t.  The good faith puppies, who really just want to draw attention to the modern heirs of Golden Age story-driven SF don’t have a beef with me.  I read the whole spectrum, and I think the two authors who have first and second place for number of items on my shelves are Robert Heinlein and Terry Goodkind.  Good faith actors who have no beef with me clearly haven’t attacked me, so I don’t need to respond as if I’ve been attacked.  I can go about my life as I was.

As for the bad faith puppies, I said it earlier – they already won.  But just because they won doesn’t mean I have to lose.  I do not have to let their attempts to upset me constrain my actions.  I do not have to let them ruin my party.  They certainly can’t change the fact that “Yes, Fleet Captain,” is common parlance in my household, or that I ducked out of a meeting to tell my office Admin about Maia, the most adorable emperor ever in all time period.

Fandom isn’t a pool.  It’s a body.  Living.  Breathing.  Defecating.

By all means, let’s discuss our waste management.  But let’s not forget to do all the good things bodies let us do, either.

Job Interviews

I just had what is, without question, the single most humiliating job interview of my life.  It was awful.  I am shamed, so very shamed.  I’m so shamed I never want to talk about it again, which is usually a prelude to telling the whole world.  (Nobody else can shame me if I beat them to it!)

First, a preface: I love job interviews.  A lot.  I get to talk about me, and it’s not only “okay” but I’m actually doing it wrong if I don’t.  I like talking about me, but I also like not being a grandstanding asshole, and these two things frequently conflict.  Not so in job interview land!  Also, they ask me challenging questions, interesting hypotheticals, want me to tell them stories off the cuff, and all the while I pretend I’m a civilized, friendly human being, not a self-absorbed, misanthropic wrath-monster.  Also, at the end, I win!  No really.  Either they give me the job (fooled you into thinking you want me, ha!) or they don’t (oh thank god I have so many jobs why did I think this was a good idea?).  In summary, job interviews are the best.  (Note: I submit for publication because I like rejection letters.  I acknowledge my strangeness.)

This particular job was for tutoring.  I like teaching things.  Teaching things is a chance for me to talk about something I like (I like most teachable things) and then twist the brains of whoever’s listening until they get it.  It’s manipulating people into a new state, FOR GOOD.  Or, at least, for a minor net reduction in global ignorance.  The point is, it’s more of me talking, and meeting spontaneous challenges, with added on messing with peoples’ heads.  It’s awesome.  It’s also something I have functionally no outlet to do since moving, which has led to some pouting, and some thoughts of, “Why was it I decided not to get a masters? Am I sure that was the right idea?” (YES. YES IT WAS)  I have long since learned that when I start flirting with ideas of going back to school, it’s time to get a new job.

Fortunately, I’m also a frequent Craigslist browser (don’t ask why, because I don’t know) and there just happened to be a tutoring company advertising there.  And I just happened to apply because, hey, reasons.  And they asked me for the subjects I want to tutor.

ALL THE SUBJECTS.  I WILL TUTOR EVERYTHING.  I WILL SHAPE THE WORLD INTO MY SPECIAL IMAGE AND IT WILL BE GLORIOUS.  Or, you know, Literature, Writing, Beginning and Intermediate Spanish, maybe a bit of math (no, not arithmetic, numbers don’t combine properly when I use them.  And nothing where you learn trig first.  Let’s stick to subjects I’ve tutored before, not things where I needed OMG all the tutors.  Those middle sections with the fun variables and whatnot though?  I’m on that.)

Sure, says their application process.  That looks great, says their application process.  We’d love to talk to you, says their application process.  But first, how about you take a math assessment just, you know, to check that you know what you’re talking about.

I hadn’t flunked a math test since Calc went 3-d and started moving on me.  Until yesterday. Hooboy, did I flunk that test.  “Look,” I explained to the test, “I know how to use the formulas we need to use.  And I know how to ask Google what the formula for the thing is.  Clearly that’s good enough, right?”  The test was unsympathetic.  “Come on. I haven’t done any of this math since high school.  I think my retention here is actually really impressive.”  Flunkety flunk flunk, fail.

I was bummed, but also empowered.  This company is serious.  They are not, no way, no how, going to let me teach a thing I’m too rusty on.  So let’s go back to plan A.  TUTOR ALL THE SUBJECTS.  If I had ever, at any point, tutored anybody in a given subject, I put it on the list.

“So, you’ve got quite the list of subjects here,” the interviewer said at the beginning of the interview.  I nodded proudly.  I am pan-tutor, teacher of all the things.  “You understand that just because you’ve taken a class doesn’t mean you’re a good fit for teaching it, yes?”

“I was the smart kid growing up.  If I took it, I tutored it,” I did not say, because that’s not how you get a job.  “I trust your assessments,” I say instead.

“Why did you think you could teach math?” my sister asked me when I talked to her immediately after the interview.

“I taught you pre-algebra.  I don’t remember any complaints.”

I still have no idea what the first question they wanted me to break down was actually asking.  I’m sure it’s just a change in vocabulary thing.  I haven’t looked at that material in the better part of two decades, and the curriculum I was being taught from was at least ten years old, but still.  Also, my tablet is a terrible virtual conference device, a thing I should have anticipated (it’s a terrible everything) but had never actually tested until job interview time.  Normally I virtual conference, when needed, on my webcamless desktop, but they wanted to see my cheery smile.  Or something.  Everything was terrible.

Let’s move on to biology!  “Define the pertinent vocabulary in the question, then answer it, please.”  I got this!  I mean, come on, I write SF.  I’m messing with biology all the time for fun.  I can explain to you what an organelle is.  And I can talk to you all day about what chromosomes are and how they work and also are you up to date on epigenetic marking?  I didn’t think so, but it’s neat.  Right, topic at hand.  Cytoplasm, I got that.  I’m a little sad you didn’t ask me about mitochondria since they’ve been a favorite topic of mine since forever, but hey.  As for the answer to this question I….


What is this blank space and why is it in my brain?  You know, the part of my brain where sixth grade biology belongs.  Can we pay attention to the clear demonstration of knowledge I just gave you and pretend this moment isn’t happening?  Please? Oh god please, I have so much shame already from the math.  (The answer, I realized when sharing this story with Uni, was “nucleus” which I would have realized if they’d specified eukaryotic cells, which was sorta implied based on the context of the question but really, I’m a dumbass.)

So that Spanish evaluation.  I know me some Spanish.  I have done a ton of tutoring people in Spanish.  I have also got a very long history of not knowing Spanish as well as I think I do, and not realizing the error until I’ve made an ass of myself.  I was insecure about my Spanish performance before I was mid-interview that consisted entirely of me failing at everything.  I’m used to being a rock star made of awesome during an interview.  Blatantly sucking like this, not so much my thing.  And now we’re at a subject which I’ve actually used in the last three years and I am certain I’m going to screw it up, too.

But!  This assessment is filling in worksheets.  This is what my first 5 years of Spanish training consisted entirely of.  I can fill in a Spanish worksheet like nobody’s business.  I can also butt in to conversations strangers are having about how distressingly sunburned I am on a bus on Buenos Aires, but nobody wants tutoring in being a brash tourist.  I am set, so long as they don’t ask me for future conditional or subjunctive.  I might be able to brass my way through future conditional, but I am sunk, so very sunk, if their Spanish level markers aren’t where I think they are, and subjunctive is part of the intermediate curriculum.  And, frankly, my ego is not going to handle much more fail before I actually wilt into a tiny ball of thwarted egomania and the video conferencing interviewer just hears a cat yowling for cuddles in the background because the work-at-home human has ceased to exist.

“I’m going to scroll through a page that covers several topics on it,” the interviewer says.  Imperfect particples, no sweat.  Conditional, I’m fuzzy but I can swing it.  Subjunctive.  SHIT.  Future Subjunctive. ON A STICK.  Don’t get me wrong, you put those things in front of me, I know what they are and how to interpret them.  But I cannot produce them on my own without a resource.  I have never produced them on my own without a resource.  It’s some grand compromise my brain made for not flinching when a whole new mood got introduced – I can handle the concept, but it will not remember the endings and rules for generating it.  And now it’s two sections, on the first bit of the interview that has gone at all well.  “Tell me,” the interviewer continues as I weep inside, “Which of these would be the hardest for an English speaker to learn.”  Choking noises escaped my throat.  “And why,” she concludes.

Ego. Saved.  For some reason, I managed astonishing eloquence on this point.

“So, teaching reading,” she says.  “Explain to me Jargon Jargon Jargon thing.”

“Uhm,” I say.  “Look, I’ve taught reading.  I TA’d an elementary school class my first year in college and the remedial reading groups were mine.  I did well.  But I have no formal training and I have no idea what you just asked me.  Maybe we should skip this section?”

“Phonics then.  Explain to me RULE.”

Funny thing about me and phonics.  I learned it.  I did the smart kid in class thing and taught my peers.  And I haven’t touched it since.  “Er, it’s been over twenty years since I taught phonics,” I say.  Also, I’ve gotten a degree in Linguistics in the mean time.  Want me to explain the phonotactics of the thing you’re asking me about?  How about a generalized survey of similar rules across language families?  There’s a neat cognitive ling study on how visual data can interfere with brain processing of those particular phonemes I could talk to you about!

No?  You want the answer from how it gets taught as English phonics?  Are you sure?  Because the visuals with the study are really neat and once you can read you don’t really need any of the jargon they teach you in phonics…

We moved on to writing and Literature from there.  It got better.  Much better.  I didn’t notice at the time because, well.  I’m in chronic need of humbling, but I can’t really say I’m a fan of the experience.  At all.  Even a little.

I got the job, though.  I’m all official and greenlit to teach Spanish (up to intermediate), Language Arts, Literature and Writing.  I’m a little surprised she didn’t hang up and put us both out of our misery when I couldn’t summon NUCLEUS as the obvious answer to a question, but I’m guessing she took a look at my resume and knew exactly what was going to happen.  Good for her.

Also, all you people who talk about how much you dread job interviews and I usually stare blankly and don’t understand?  I GET IT NOW.

Minutes from the Anaea Lay Semi-annual Business Meeting

I told people I was going to have a business review meeting where I wore all my different hats and gave performance reviews.  And I mentioned how none of my hats were very happy with my other hats.  There was a request for the minutes.  Here they are.

In Attendance:

Anaea Lay, Business Manager (Real Estate)

Anaea Lay, Realtor

Anaea Lay, Chief Executive Officer

Anaea Lay, Hobby Keeper

ALB: We’ve already completed over 16% more transactions this year over all of last year, with a total revenue so far this year equal to last year’s total gross.  Hiring of additional staff has increased operating expenses but projected increased revenue should more than cover that.  Additionally, we’re trimming marketing expenses that no longer perform sufficiently.

ALCEO: Excellent.  Are there any major revisions to the projections developed at the December meeting?

ALB: No.  At our current rate we’d exceed projections through the end of the year, but we’re expecting a taper in the market beginning in late June and, of course, there will be an extreme taper in October due to the structural overhaul in the business.

ALHK: You’ll all appreciate me more then, won’t you?

ALCEO: Let’s move on to the next item on the agenda – Performance Reviews.

ALR: Good.  I have complaints.

ALCEO: Shut-up.  You’re in trouble.

ALR: I’m in trouble?  It’s not even June yet and I’ve already done more work this year than I did last year. I’m tired. I’m cranky. If things don’t shape up around here, I’m coming after you for running an abusive work environment.

ALB: You have nothing to complain about.  We’ve made significant investments in your hardware and work environment which were not in the budget projections from last year.

ALR: Whose fault is that?  It’s not like we didn’t know a ten inch netbook wouldn’t be reliable forever.

ALB: And you’ve been slack in your basic duties.

ALR: (Pause for stunned, infuriated silence) I’ve been slack?  Were you listening to yourself when you were talking earlier?  I’ve been performing like a champ. I’m a fucking nerdy real estate god. I’m converting leads, closing deals, and satisfying customers phenomenally well, with cat jokes and references to Cthulhu the whole way.

ALB: You haven’t had an open house since March.

ALR: I’ve been busy on Sundays.

ALB: Open houses are a cornerstone of our client prospecting strategy.  Moreover, you like doing them.  You just haven’t.  Since March. We’re in the middle of peak open house season, and you’re not doing them.

ALR: Are you shitting me?  I haven’t been doing them because I’ve been out with clients.  Multiple clients.  Am I the only one who remembers three-client Sunday? Probably, since IT WAS EASTER.  Two of them wrote offers.

ALB: If we don’t prospect for new clients, we’re depending on chance and Zillow for new clients.  We do not have enough clients in play to meet our optimistic projections, so prospecting is essential if we’re going to survive the infrastructure transition.  And open houses are only part of it.  You’ve dropped your Craigslist postings, too.

ALHK: About the transition, I have pertinent information.

AL CEO, B, and R: Shut-up.

ALR: You know, I’m not the only one you have on staff.  Maybe you should work on those delegating skills you claim you have and give that “additional staff,” something to do.

ALB: I suppose that’s a fair suggestion.

ALR: And while you’re at it, maybe some time off, ever.  I’m a little burned on this 24/7 thing.  We’re not really in start-up mode anymore, so I think it’s time we stopped treating me like slave labor.

ALB: You are constantly asking for time off.  You are one constant stream of, “Oooh, I’m going to take Wednesday afternoon off.  Hey, I’m taking Friday off to read.  Yeah, Sunday’s getting spent cooking and doing yard work!”

ALR: Do any of those things actually happen?

ALB: …

ALCEO: I think what B is trying to say is that you whine a lot.  We’re tired of hearing you whine.

ALR: I’m not whining.  I want more than a day off a month.

ALCEO: It says here you took a whole week off in April.

ALB: You did.  We had to hire staff to cover that.

ALR: That was a week away, not off.  I navigated a bunk appraisal, mentored the new staff, and taught a buyer’s agent how the financing and appraisal contingencies work on the paperwork that got updated four years ago.

ALB: She’s whining again.

ALHK: Can I speak now?  I really think you guys should let me speak.

ALB: What do you even do?

ALHK: I take care of all the things we do that aren’t day job things but involve money.  Remember, you gave me a mandate that all hobbies had to start paying for themselves or get axed.

ALCEO: Oh yeah.  How’s that going?

ALHK: Pretty well, actually.  We’re officially getting paid to read. This is supplementing the vice-fund when writing income doesn’t keep up with our non-grocery food and beverage consumption.

ALB: Still no chance of kicking the bubble tea habit?


ALB: Just asking…jeez

ALHK: Also, the voice acting has started to pay.

ALB: Speaking of hardware investment, we just spent significantly more in recording equipment than we’ve seen in voice acting income.

ALHK: The difference can come out of the vice-fund.  It has a surplus.  And the equipment upgrade will make it easier to get more paid work.  In fact, we’ve had a few feelers coming in that indicate the voice work might be able to contribute to the expenses of the impending infrastructure overhaul.

ALB: Say what?

ALHK: It’s nothing solid, but we might get a thing over the summer which would cover a significant portion of the expenses associated with that.

ALCEO: That’s fantastic!  Why didn’t you say something earlier?

ALHK: Excuse me?

ALR: They’re fucks, aren’t they?

ALCEO: You’re the one in charge of making money off strangers, and the one with the filthy mouth?  I don’t think we did this personality division optimally.

ALR: I went into the office three times this week. You’d have a filthy fucking mouth, too.

ALCEO: Are there any agenda items left?

ALB: No.

ALR: Yes there are.  We haven’t actually fixed my time off problem.

ALB: Yes we did.  We’re relocating your problematic performance areas to the new staff’s job duties and you’ll quit whining.

ALR: The only thing that actually changes is that I stop asking for things to improve.

ALB: So?  If you wanted to escape sadistic management, self-employment was not the way to go.  Have you met you?

ALR: We’re blaming the victim now?

ALCEO: That is a thing we do.

ALHK: I think she should get more time off, too.  I’m kinda suffocating on just her dregs over here.  I get that I’m just the vice-fund, but let’s face it, we’re made of vices.  I’m important.  Also, wear her out enough and she’ll start solving problems with homicide, and that’s really expensive.

ALB: True.  We don’t have enough flexibility in our budget, even if we meet the optimistic projections, to afford homicide.

ALCEO: It’s three-to-one now?

Nods from all the hats

ALCEO: Fine.  You can flag three days a week for potential days off.  Schedule showings accordingly.  Real estate work that takes less than an hour does not invalidate its status as a day off, though.  Aim for one day, or three half days, off per week.  Fair?

ALR: Behavior like this is why we’re afraid of labor uprisings.

ALHK: Oh come on.  You wouldn’t know what to do with yourself if you regularly had a proper weekend.

ALR: I could learn.

Glares from all hats.

ALR: I’ll take it.  It just isn’t fair. (Muttering) My boss sucks.

ALCEO: Okay then.  This meeting is adjourned.  We’ll reconvene in late August to plan the structural overhaul.

Winning Writers of the Future Was


“I’m going to make such an ass of myself,” I explained to Dr. Unicorn*, my best friend who moved away last summer.  “It’s a contest for beginners, and I don’t think of myself as a beginner, and when I won I’d sold enough stories to be disqualified twice over, they just hadn’t come out and the contest doesn’t count them until they do.  I’m having backward Imposter Syndrome, where I feel like I’m too qualified to be worthy, and I can’t talk about this with other writers because, come on, who the hell gets uncomfortable about winning things because they’re too successful?”

And that was basically it.  I felt like my level of ass-ness was directly proportional to how awesome winning was, because it was a win that should have gone to somebody who was a beginner, who did need the validation winning the contest would give them.

“Is this the sort of thing where friends and family would come to support you for?  Because I’d go, if you wanted me there.”


That was the moment where all of the awesome of winning finally sank in.  It was like putting sugar in black tea or a dash of salt in cake batter.  On my own, I look at me winning and I see all the writers who haven’t been as lucky as me and had the same opportunities I’ve already had, who would get so much more out of winning, and who work really hard for it, quarter after quarter, and I feel like I cheated them.  Dr. Unicorn let me short-circuit that, made it something cool, let it be this awesome thing that was going to be fantastic.  I needed that. Bewildering

I started preparations for WotF in November.  I had to – I run my own business and if I didn’t I’d never survive a week away and absorbed by something else. My flight out to the workshop left on April 7. My first official communication about the workshop, including such information as the exact dates, came on February 15.  If dependent on ASI, I’d have had less than two months to prepare for the trip.

I didn’t get a schedule or agenda of any sort for the workshop until the day I got there.  What they gave me was a lie, more likely to lead me into error than actually represent what was happening.  They were irritated when Dr. Unicorn hadn’t already made travel plans for an event we had no information about.  During the workshop week, they’d get irritated when somebody believed the printed schedule and wound up wrong, or missed a thing because they’d been pulled away for a photo shoot, interview, etc.  It wasn’t malice.  They really are that disorganized and badly managed.


This contest has had such a huge, massive impact on so many people that there’s a sort of “induction into tribe” effect surrounding it.  Past winners reached out to create spaces for the new winners to connect, ask questions, get the logistical details that ASI wasn’t together enough to provide.  The generosity displayed by those people, and then during the week itself by the judges and other professionals who don’t have to be there or do anything, but do anyway because they care and think it’s important to teach the industry and the business to the new people who are getting in and might not have any other way of learning…it’s astonishing.

I don’t mean they’re being pure altruists.  It’s in their interests to find fresh talent and build relationships with them.  But they’re far, far more generous than they have to be merely to accomplish that, and the fact that they care is enough to make the contest and the experience something special.  Things become valuable simply because people value them.


ASI’s first question when they called me was whether I’d be bringing a spouse.  I did a little dance, then gloated a bit when I said, “No, but my best friend is coming down from Seattle for the gala.”  Best friend.  I don’t mean boyfriend.  I don’t mean partner.  I mean best friend.  I mean the person who gave me the space I need to feel like I deserved this.

“Oh,” they say after a long, awkward pause.  “Well, good for you.”

The next day I got an email letting me know that the men would have their measurements taken for tuxes during the workshop week, and somebody would be in touch with the girls about acceptable colors for their dresses.  My grandmother, who loves clothes and buying me pretty things, was taking me shopping when I went to visit her.  I tried to find out from the contest what their guidelines were.  I got my dress six weeks before leaving for the workshop.

The guidelines finally came three weeks later, when their hair and makeup coordinator asked me for a picture of me in the dress.  The gorgeous dress my grandmother traipsed around Richmond with me to find.

The only question I have is if your dress is not too tight. Something like one size or even two sizes too small? It is true that the dress is probably made to be fitted but sometimes is looks better to have it not too stretchy. That is a bit of a concern I have. Is there a way to trade it for a bigger size?

And when I replied saying that my dress fit fine, but I’d be willing to wear a tux if they were concerned?

 I’ll look at it when you have arrived. If needed I will find a solution in locating another dress. I have done it many times. I am made responsible to have you all look great. I just am looking for a back-up in case, so I am not having to handle any last minute which I am sure you understand. What is your size?

One of the stories I didn’t get to hear about the contest until after I won was about the winner they made cry over her dress.  The awesome, fantastic celebration of the launching of a new writer’s career, and they made her cry.  Over a dress. Oh, and it’s not that anybody would ever say anything to Dr. Unicorn about them not being a straight man, but they shouldn’t dress too femme because the people at ASI don’t really like that.

I very nearly didn’t go.

Inspiring Have you ever watched somebody as they realize they have a shot at their dream?  I mean watched the actual realization happen, over the course of several days, where they get tired and overwhelmed and it just clicks that they’ve got what it takes?  I get high on that.  It’s part of why I like working with first time buyers as a Realtor – seeing somebody realize they get to have a thing they deeply want but didn’t actually expect to get is amazing.  The workshop week was full of that.  And watching other people watch it happen and seeing how it affected them was fantastic, too.


It’s possible I dove over furniture to hug Dr. Unicorn upon their arrival Thursday night.  I’m not sure.  I know I was mid-sentence with Mark-from-Kobo, stopped to say, “Excuse me a moment,” and then I was hugging Uni.  There was furniture between where I’d been and where Uni was, and I don’t remember going around any furniture. Whatever I did, it was with grace and dignity, and I am not ashamed.

Infuriating The winners are not real people to ASI. It’s not malicious.  From ASI’s perspective, there are no real people, just pawns in their great publicity machine designed to sell books with L. Ron Hubbard’s name on them.  The workshop is a side effect, and one which clearly gets in the way of their staged publicity shots. All of their shots are staged.  They will drag you out into the afternoon L.A. sunlight, even when you’re protesting that you’re over-heated, extremely photo-sensitive, and already have a massive headache from too much daylight, then expect you to harass strangers on the street so they can film you “interviewing a stranger” for your 24-hour story. Then they’ll ask you to do it again, except could you give me that smoothie you’re clinging to as a defense mechanism?

They’ll stalk you while you’re trying to write that story to the point where the only way to avoid them is to leave the building.  Then turn off your phone, because they’ll call you to have you stage “writing” for them.  They’ll take your drinks, your bags, your jackets, whatever they think doesn’t fit with their image, and it might take days for you to get them back, if you ever do. By the end of the week I’d been triggered into disaster mode so hard that I had a pharmacy, snack bar and toothpaste in my bag, which I was clutching for dear life.  It’s been several weeks and I’m still twitchy whenever somebody’s behind me with a camera.

At the gala, they fed the vegetarians London broil.  They fed everybody London broil.  They never asked about whether there were vegetarians.  The ones who got to eat instead of being dragged off for more photo ops or for documentary interviews were lucky.  The writers never got to see the displays of the artist portfolios put out at the after party. That really bugged me since I was very invested in the artists by then.  ASI dragged me away from the signing so I could give an interview that was not remotely subtle in its attempt to bait quotes praising L. Ron Hubbard.  I’d rather enjoyed talking to strangers while signing their books.

But honestly, the most infuriating part?  Before the interview, they handed over forms with blank fields and generic release  language and asked for your signature.

“What should I put into the blanks?” I asked.

“Don’t worry about it.  We’ll fill that out at the office,” they answered.

That’s more or less the opposite of the model for good business practice they ought to present.  Especially to beginners and new people who might not know better and are there to be mentored.


This is definitely more of a commentary on my daily life than the typical workshop experience, but I worked less that week than I had any week all year.  Right up until my body figured out I was on the west coast and it should adjust my sleep cycle accordingly, I was the best rested I’ve been all year, too.  Having a week to think, breathe, and do nothing but books and writing and related things?  Fabulous.

Then again, preparing for the workshop was a significant source of extra stress in the first part of the year.


“How’s your week been so far?” Uni asked during post-hug unpacking.  I’d just seen my art for the first time a few hours before and I was absolutely buzzing about it.  Half an hour later I was nearly finished talking about all the people I’d met and liked.  And giving their back stories and details.

“There’s Randy who’s hilarious and sweet, and Kat who’s into board games, and Amanda who had me as her roommate until you got here and manages to be adorable about missing her kid, and Tim who’s the published finalist and I think he doesn’t think he belongs here but he’s great and needs to figure that out, and Megan who’s accepted my challenge to a cage match to defend the honor of our respective artists…”

“So, you’ve basically adopted everybody?” Uni asked.  “I should have guessed you were going to adopt everybody.”  I may have used a rude gesture when I replied.


I compulsively read reviews of my stuff.  Bad reviews don’t hurt my feelings – I sorta like them – but I’m desperate to find out whether the people who read it got what I was trying to do, they understood what was happening, whether the story worked.  My 24-hour story was one of the three that got critiqued by the group.  Tim Powers called out absolutely everything I’d put into it, and pointed at exactly the things I’d done in order to put them there.  That was my personal win for the week.

Ass-making of self

After the gala, when everybody was punch-drunk and hanging out in the lobby, I was talking to Randy, Megan, and Leena, three of the four first place winners.  Randy had just won the grand prize.  Megan got teary.  Then Leena.  Shortly, Randy joined in. I pointed and giggled.  Then offered hugs.  Then giggled at them some more. Though I wonder whether one can actually make an ass of one’s self if one is always an ass.


While I was thinking very seriously about not going to the workshop, I decided that, you know what, I can’t possibly be the only person getting patronized and insulted by ASI, and while I can certainly walk away without feeling like I’ve done myself any significant harm or losing something I need, I am, as noted at the beginning, very lucky.  Not everyone is, and maybe I have a responsibility to see things through and not be quiet, because I have very little to lose.  That made it better, gave me a way to go without being a willing victim marching into a bad situation.

I was sharing the emails I got from the hair and makeup person as they were coming, and getting feedback on my replies since I was, by then, so emotionally bankrupt I didn’t trust my instincts.  What was Uni’s suggested reply when, in order to rescue me from my error in dress size selection, ASI asked me for my dress size?

“My size is fire and death!”

I made a T-shirt.  I offered to make one for anybody else who needed to turn the nonsense into a joke, rather than a threat.  There were some takers. FireandDeathEditedThere were private emails from past winners offering consolation and support and suggestions for where I could run for rescue if things got bad while I was there.  Because, apparently, winners needing rescue is a thing.

There were also less private emails from past winners telling me I ought to feel more grateful, and that unnecessary drama is just that.

And the general sense that this contest wasn’t so much a validating, awesome prize I’ve won, as a force of nature to be navigated and endured.


I went expecting to come back with a clear answer about whether or not I’d have preferred to just spend the week in Seattle. I don’t have it. The good parts were awesome.  The bad parts were devastating.  There was a range in the middle that was more or less obliterated by the extremes.  I certainly could have done without the stress and nastiness in the weeks leading up to the workshop, when I had to orchestrate leaving my life for a week to walk into a situation where I more or less expected to be treated like garbage, and had my expectations met several times.

But once I got there, there was entirely too much good to elide or gloss over.  I’m going to be ambivalent about this experience, qualified in my recommendations around the contest, for a long, long time.  That’s absurd.  There’s no reason for any of the downsides, no justification.  There are too many people who care too much; too many things that are too good.  I went to the workshop expecting to end it in a rage and advise everybody to run screaming.  I walked out wanting to be able to recommend the contest without caveat.

I can’t.  But I want to.

*This is a pseudonym, obviously.  The pertinent individual requested that I use one. They didn’t get a choice about what it was.

Updated Spamtastic Promotion Fail

You guys remember this, right?

There are updates to that story.  Oh my, are there updates.  It’s possible I’m the only person in the world who finds this hilarious, but it’s my blog so you’re going to hear about it anyway.

Just over a month ago, I’m working at Jade Mountain, placating the fiend that is my relentless tapioca pearl addiction, when I get an notice that Grammarly has sent me a $25 gift card from Amazon.  “Uhm, what the hell?” says I.  And then I start telling the story of the marketing fail I’d mocked six months before and forgotten about.  (Well, I hadn’t forgotten, I get a lot of traffic off that post)

I’m not quite half way through the story when I get an email welcoming to Grammarly and letting me know my account is waiting.  To which my immediate response is, “What the fuck?  Oh, I am so not okay with that.”  As soon as I finished my story, I was going to blog a truly scathing update on the Grammarly thing.  I’d been quite clear before that Grammarly was not going to get my interest, and auto-signing me up for an account, even after a $25 bribe (I’m still not that cheap), is massively uncool.

But wait, we’re not done yet!  A minute later I get a third email.  This one from Nick himself, apologizing for the prior contact, checking to make sure I got the gift card, letting me know that I’ve been set up with a free Grammarly account, and oh, he’s interested in my consulting services, I should call him any time, here’s his phone number.


You’d better believe I called him.  Not until after I took a lovely long weekend in Seattle and then caught up with the day job disaster that caused, by which point we were far enough into the holiday season that non-response was pretty reasonable.

Of course, in the mean time I got an email from Grammarly since Nick has been reading my book reviews on my blog and thinks we’d be a great match.  I’m now worth $125.  Dude, if you’d started there, I might have just taken your money and there’d never have been an issue, nevermind that you’re still suffering some serious bot fail in your prospect targeting.

One of my super powers is my ability to crack joke about how a plot arc is going to end, laugh at what a hilariously bad idea it is, then cry a lot when it turns out I was right, that’s exactly how everything goes.  (Sorry about River Song, guys.  That one was my fault.)  Until now, this super power had not demonstrated any real life applications.

Monday before last I sent Nick a quick email.  I’ve got these Grammarly emails hanging out in my inbox reminding me that I need to blog an update on their outreach.  I’m not the only blogger they followed up with to try making amends.  I think I am the only one to get a phone number and invitation to charge for marketing consultation.  You hereby have permission to LAUGH REALLY LOUD at the next person who says being snarky on the internet never accomplishes anything.

This past Monday Nick and I finally got together for a phone chat.  There was much discussion on the degrees, varieties, and scope of Grammarly’s marketing fail.  They definitely mean well.  They’re definitely enthusiastic about what they have to offer with their product and their marketing campaign.  They also definitely have some learning to do.  But they’ve gotten 44 minutes of my wisdom for free, with an invitation to contact me again any time so long as they also give me an address for where to send my invoice after.

I don’t take back anything I’ve said about Grammarly because it was all true.  That said, the comment that came through on the last entry from somebody who didn’t get paid was updated with a notice that she did, eventually, get paid, so if you saw the first comment and not the second, now you know.

For the record, I wouldn’t normally do Anaea’s school of marketing 101 for free for a stranger, but I felt a little bad for poor Nick since if he’d had his original fumble any other week, I probably would have just ignored him.  Besides, I spent that $25 gift card he sent me on Christmas presents.

Meet Foy

My paternal grandmother has thumbs so green mad scientists once cultured a new species of mutant mold off them.*  Plants that are supposed to be annuals are so happy just to hang out in her basement that they’ll come back in the spring.  The magnolia tree she planted in her yard in the late ’50’s promptly sprouted up into one of the largest specimens of that (gorgeous, fantatic) tree you’ll ever encounter.  Any time you point out to her that something improbable and astonishing has happened with flora under her care she has a very simple, straightforward explantion for why it happened and has nothing at all to do with her.  If you’d just seen one or two examples you might be fooled by this humble deniability.  I’m nearly thirty and listen to family anecdata about times before my ken; I know better.  Grannie’s got super powers.

I, the oldest of her grand-offspring, have tried to honor the family line in my own way.  I despise sunlight and hot weather, and I’m not a big fan of dirt, but I have massive appreciation for pretty gardens.  Thrice now I’ve tried to get an herb garden growing in my office.  I’ve blogged about this before.  And thrice now I’ve gotten off to a good start only to have all the plants inexplicably keel over and die within a two-week window.  This has happened whether I had them in the window or under a plant light, whether I watered them according to the indications on the packaging and described in gardening books and the internet or ignored them or over watered them on purpose, just in case.  They die.  Dead, deady ded.   It’s…honestly, it’s a little embarrasing.

I can’t sing to save my life.  If I work really hard at it my drawing skills approach an incompetent middle schooler’s.  I don’t even walk into a room with a sewing machine that’s going to do anything more complicated than a straight seam because it’ll seize up and break out of sheer paranoid fear at my presence.  I’m no stranger to skill sets that I just won’t ever master, and I’m okay with that.  Much as I’d love to be an awesome artistic rock star who designs her own fabulous costumes, I also don’t really have time for it, either.

But the gardening?  Am I really so bad at this that I can’t even keep mint alive?  Mint, a plant considered a weed in many circles; I’ve killed it four times.  (There was an outdoor herb garden attempt that went badly, as well)  Is it possible that the secret to Grannie’s super power is that she sapped the skill from future generations and kept it all to herself?

This brings us to last week, the Wednesday before Christmas.  Packages have been arriving with some regularity, for it is the season of getting to know your mail man.  (I actually know my mail man anyway – he’s a nice guy and finds my tendency to be building bookshelves or taking apart snowblower engines in the middle of the day bizarre and amusing)  On that particular, special day, a package arrives for me and it’s not from Amazon, which more or less obscures what the contents are.  No, this box is direct from the vender, and it’s an item I suggested to my grandparents with an intense hope that they’d run with it.IMG_6804

I was a bad person and put it together IMMEDIATELY.  I did confess to them that I opened my preset early when I talked to them on Sunday.  I don’t think they quite understand my giddy enthusiasm for an idiot-proof indoor garden, but they’re supportive.  (These are my maternal grandparents – I don’t think they’re aware of the shame and embarrassment I carry over my black thumbs)

Love at first sight doesn’t exist, but unbridled enthusiasm at first de-crating is very real.  I immediately named the Aerogarden Foy, after Grannie.  And then, because I will never survive the shame involved in killing the plants in an Aerogarden, I read ALL of the instructions.

“Don’t worry,” the Aerogarden instructions said to me as I read them, “We are completely, utterly, 100% idiot proof.  There are things you can do to make your garden grow better, but short of being a deliberately destructive imbecile, your plants will grow and your shame will be redeemed.”  I may be paraphrasing.  “When your plants need to be watered, a helpful light will flash and say, ‘Please water me, for lo, I am thirsty.’  When your plants need food, another light will flash and do an Oliver impression.”

This is about the time I started squeeing with enthusiasm about Foy on Twitter.  And then patting myself on the back for getting my enthusiasm to fit into 140 characters.

“Oh, and also, distilled or reverse osmosis water is great for your plants, but tap water works just fine,” the instructions continued.  “Just, you know, don’t use softened water.  Softened water has a salinity level high enough to be bad for your plants.”

<Insert record scratching noises here>

<Insert Anaea, sitting in her hallway, surrounded by the guts of cardboard shipping containers, jaw hanging open>

<Insert Anaea hitting her forehead with her palm and going, “Oh christ, I am such a moron!”>

Thrice have I planted an herb garden in my office.  Thrice have I watched it shrivel and die.  Because I’m salting my own soil.

We’re ten days in and things are sprouting faster than indicated on their labels.  All the tiny little plants are super cute and happy looking.  I think the fourth time just might be the charm.  And I’m going to try a new pot with rosemary set up next to Foy to see if maybe, now that I won’t be salting it, it’ll take off and be happy.  I am so excited.  Methinks I’ll be thanking Nannie and Pappa for this for weeks, and possibly gloating triumphantly to Grannie a bit, too.  I mean, sure, this is nothing compared to ressurecting orchids by being near them, but I caused tasty, edible life by pressing buttons and obeying blinking lights.  I am like unto God!

Or, you know, a minimally competent American adult.

*It’s possible I’m making up the part about the scientist


This is a Very Silly Post

You might all recall that last March, I cut my hair.  It was waist length and straight.  It had gotten thin and ratty looking, so I hacked it off to just above my shoulders.

Four-year-old Anaea knew she wanted super long Princess Leia hair, but she also wanted hair that wasn’t flat, limp, and lifeless.  She had the latter, and set to acquiring the former.  It was still flat, limp, and lifeless two years later, and she still really wanted curly hair.  So her grandmother, always indulgent when it comes to personal vanity, took her to get a perm.  The next two years feature six perms, each with a more aggressive hair cut/layering.  The perms just wouldn’t stay.  Then came the point where the shortest layers were so short they were functionally bangs, and fell into eight-year-old Anaea’s eyes.  Child Anaea wasn’t having it (she’d taken over decisions about her hair precisely to exorcise the tyrrany of bangs from her life) and vowed she’d rather have straight hair, if it could be long and compliant, than curly hair if it meant all this constant work and annoyance.  And that was the end of the perming.

Not, however, of the curls.  That last perm fell almost immediately into a relaxed wave.  A relaxed wave that never went away.  Even when the whole head of hair went properly waist length again, it wasn’t quite perfectly straight.  And the short pieces, oh dear.  Yup.  Two years of perming had somehow granted Anaea’s childhood wish – she had curly hair.

Which brings us to March, when I’ve got to face the fact of curly hair as it applies to me for the very first time.  Twenty-four years after taking charge of my hair, and I haven’t got the first clue how to deal with it.  It’s short.  If I brush it, I look like the “Before” image from an early nineties hair gel commercial.  If I don’t brush it, or comb it, or do something, I look like got out of bed, shrugged, and gave up.  (Because I did)  I’ve had more bad hair days since March than I had in my entire life up to that point.  I used to love my hair.  Now?  We hates it, precious.

It’s very weird for me to hate my hair.  Not just because it’s a change of state, but because it’s weird for me to think about my hair more than “Oh look, the hallway is covered in my shedding again.”  My hair has gone from a thing I spent maybe two minutes of total thought on in a given day to something constantly coming to my attention.  Which days are the ones I need it to look best, and how can I time washing it to make those days line up with it?  If it’ll be too soon to wash it, do I need to get up early enough that fumbling my way into learning a French Twist or other short-hair-up-do is going to be beyond me?  Why does that guy have long, gorgeous hair like mine was when I can’t is there no justice in the world I hate everything and am going to stare like a creep now!

Something else I’ve learned?  I’m not the only person to feel persecuted by their curly hair.  In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s normal for curly-haired people to struggle this way. At WisCon I was doing the, “I’m obsessively in hate with my hair, and disturbed that I’m hung up on something as shallow as my hair to be in obsessive hate with,” and people were coming out of the woodwork to be supportive, give advice, teach me how to navigate the world as a curly-headed individual.

I own product, now.  Six years ago I didn’t even condition my hair.  I now own three kinds of conditioner.  And a special towel. And have been told that if I want my hair to look good, I need to not let people touch it anymore, ever, no matter how much I like getting head scritches.  My future life is going to be a constant balancing act between my desire to look like a put-together grown up, and to let people I like touch my head.  A constant worry that riding in the car with the windows down means I’ll have unmanageable frizz, that if the weather turns I’ll need to do my hair again part way through the day, and that people now ask me stupid, inane questions about my hair all the fricken time because they don’t have better topics for small talk and now it’s attention-grabby and prominent.

I’ve had a revelation, people.  A revelation that I, through all my years of long straight hair, have been appropriating straight privilege, closeting my true curly self, and blindly ignoring the struggles of people from other hair types.  Me, the hater of closets, a closet case so deep she didn’t even realize closeting was occurring. And, like all great, classic hypocrites, I would crawl right back into my closet in a second if it were feasible.

I’m learning some lessons here.

Like I said, this is a silly post.

It’s still true.

This is What Love Looks Like

Something like thirteen years ago, my baby sister gave me a hoodie for Christmas.  I started hand washing it six years ago because it was clearly not going to survive another trip through a washing machine.  Shortly thereafter, people started commenting on the hobo look I seemed to be going for when wearing the hoodie.  I thought about replacing it.  I really, really did.  But I never did.  Even when it had clearly ceased to be a hoodie and had instead become proof that while I’m not frequently prone to sentiment, when I get sentimental, I don’t believe in half-measures.


My birthday was yesterday.  This is what my sister gave me.IMG_6242


In Lieu of a WisCon Con Report

WisCon was great, as usual, but also rather exhausting since I failed to take the weekend off – I just got my work done super early, before con things.  Rather than write up a vague and incoherent retelling of things you either were there for and probably remember better, or weren’t there for and probably don’t really care about, I’ll share an anecdote to illustrate how awesome, yet exhausting, WisCon was.

My first post-con client appointment was at 4pm Monday, so I pretty much went straight from post-con lunch to the appointment.  I was even marginally prepared for it, with almost fully half of the printed material I would normally have brought!  Fortunately, these clients have reached the, “Oh god, our car is filling up with our Realtor’s over-preparedness,” stage, so they took this as a blessing rather than a sign that I hadn’t organized my day well enough to drop into the office before meeting them.

And it was a great showing.  They like the neighborhood.  They like the yard.  They like the house.  They’re in a part of town I know as well as if I lived there.  This is because I live there.  I’m positively overflowing with tips about easiest bike routes to the library, or the Southwest commuter trail, or out to Verona.  And restaurant recommendations.  And directions to the parks with the best swing sets.  I am made of Realtor competence and know how, and it’s awesome because these clients want to buy this house, and oh god we’ve been here forever and they’re looking at bedrooms just one more time.

Interesting fact about houses built in the sixties in my part of town: they have laundry shoots.  Not the big drop your toddler down them laundry shoots you’d think of, but narrow ones that are great for not letting dirty dish rags drip their way down the steps to the washing machine, and which your cat, no matter how hard she tries, cannot fit into.  When I have clients shopping this neighborhood, the laundry shoot becomes a running gag after about the second house.

“Where,” one half of my very thorough clients asks, “Does it come out?”

I’m in hyper-competent Realtor mode, so even though I have a sense of, given where we are in the house, where the outlet ought to be in the basement, I decide to go confirm it and have the answer for super certain.  I go to the basement.  I stare at the ceiling.  I look all over the basement.  The whole basement.  Even the parts that don’t possibly line up even a little bit with the laundry shoot.  The outlet ought to be somewhere more or less near the furnace, but I don’t see anything.  I bet the piping to the furnace is obscuring it.  So I decide to do the obvious, logical thing.

I go upstairs.  I open the laundry shoot.  I consider my resources.  Cell phone, sunglasses, Magic Key* (my nickname for the thingie that lets me into houses), wallet.  The only thing on that list unlikely to be broken by a drop that far is my wallet which I am sensibly reluctant to risk losing.  So I expand my search parameters.  Shirt.  Pants. Shoes.  Bingo, shoes!  Shoes are sturdy, and I can go barefoot without offending social mores or professional standards.  I drop a shoe down the laundry shoot.

The shoe does not hit the basement floor.

The laundry shoot does not have an outlet.

“Oh, that was a bad idea,” I say.

“What?” asks the observant half of my thorough clients.

So now I have to explain that in my quest to ensure I have full and complete, accurate information about everything they want to know, I have performed science, badly, and now my shoe is trapped somewhere in the null space between the upstairs entrance to the laundry shoot and the ceiling of the basement.  And now that I’m thinking a little more intelligently, I’m using the flashlight built into my magic key to look in the laundry shoot and see how far out of reach my shoe is.  Had I done this earlier, I’d have still learned that the laundry shoot has no outlet, and I’d still have both my shoes.  I took this opportunity to remind my clients that we’re only a week into the 30 days before they can unilaterally cancel our agency relationship.

There was a lot of giggling.  There was a deployment of smart phones with flashlight apps peering into ceiling rafters answered by plaintive cries of, “I can see light coming in from somewhere, but where?”  There was an sad little voice composing an awkward email in the back of my head. “Dear Listing agent: I am a moron and have left my shoe trapped in your clients’ lovely home.  It’s a nice shoe, but will bear up under its isolation from its companion well.  My buyers would like to buy this house.  Please don’t hold my unabashed idiocy against them.  They’re very nice people, really.”

In the end, I removed a ceiling tile from the (very nice) half bath and was met with a shoe crashing into my face.  Never has a Realtor been happier to have a shoe smash her face.  Truly.

That is how tired I was after WisCon.  And WisCon was worth it.   That is all you need to know.