Category Archives: Exit Strategies

What’s Different About this Year

Last year, for my birthday, I did the comedy open mic at Fran’s. Some will argue that it wasn’t my best set, and to them I say, screw off.

It’s not to say that I don’t want feedback, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t really doing this for a living anyway. It would have been nice if it had turned out that way, but in the end, I just don’t think I’m cut out to get the big laughs.

If I do an open mic, it’s for me to have fun doing, and if I post it on Youtube, it is only within the spirit of sharing something that matters to me. People are free to like it or dislike it, but I truly don’t care one way or the other.

This year, however, with the exception of two books published, I just feel like I don’t have much to show for 2015. It feels like my birthday is the time to turn in the book report that I was assigned way back in January, and now I’m only barely finishing the first draft.

As to how this year has went, it’s been a mixed bag. All of my love goes out to my family and my friends, especially my parents, my siblings, the nephews and nieces, and John. I don’t want them to think I don’t appreciate them and what they bring into my life, but I want them to know that they are in my thoughts always and not just on this day of the year.

If I had one really solid wish, it would be an increase in book sales. Failing that, I think if I had one good opportunity to get my name out there and have it work out in my favor, that would be even better.

A Pleasant Reminder

As I was walking along side Collin’s Cove the other day, I was wearing this familiar shirt and I encountered another woman who was wearing the same thing.

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It reminded me of yet another thing I enjoyed doing since coming to Salem. Something that had nothing to do with tarot cards, or psychic fairs, and it made me look forward to March once more.

For The Last Time, that Boat has Sailed

In the five years since I moved to Salem, I realized that the biggest moments when I truly felt like a part of the community had nothing to do with what I originally came here for. In fact, the only tarot readings I have ever done were for friends or roommates, and the only time I have been in with the psychic community was more about socializing with actual people than any remaining interest in pursuing tarot as a career.

That ship had a limited amount of time in the harbor. If I really wanted to continue making money from tarot, I could have remained on Church Street in Burlington, sitting at my little table and enjoying the waxing and waning success I was slowly accumulating. But unfortunately, I came to Salem thinking it would be easy to dip my ladle in the cauldron and get my bowl of soup. The people who have been at this for far longer and got here before me made that impossible.

What’s amazing is that I came to that conclusion ages ago. Almost literally at the end of my first year, I realized that tarot reading was likely not going to be in the cards. But recently I made the mistake of being friendly and sociable with a well known psychic in the Salem area, who is a friend of John’s, and even has a photo in one of his books.

She was nice enough. But when I mentioned the reason I came to Salem, I was saying it by way of conversation, because she asked. I didn’t seek her out. She was a guest in our home, so Hindsight Detectives may keep that in mind when they ask me why I would even bring it up if I didn’t expect her to start making suggestions.

I can’t blame her for “trying to help”. I can blame her for not listening.

So maybe now, a visual aid will help to spell it out. In the words of Joss Whedon, there comes a time in the course of trying to revive your dream when you have to ask yourself, “Is it CPR or necrophilia?”

So here’s my dream of reading tarot cards in Salem.

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Here’s that dream finally setting sail for bigger pastures. And I’m waving goodbye to that boat.

Cruise Ship (4)

All Hail the Over Thinkers

Here is the first crossover post between Confessions and the Author’s Blog.

People accuse me of overthinking. I say accuse, because it never comes in the form of a compliment. Usually, it’s followed by a litany of the things I did, presented to me in a way that I assume is meant to shame me back into my corner to think about what I have done. Unfortunately, because I’m no longer ten years old, I am immune to such shunning, and instead it provides me some small amusement to listen to the preaching of the ignorant.

Here’s an example of such shaming from an earlier post:

FWIW I don’t see your coworker as giving “opposite” directions, just an alternate path. Maybe she perceives it as shorter or for some reason has a preference. Did you ask her why she would go around the back of the store instead of the front?

You *are* over thinking things, and to go to the extent of masking a video to “prove” you are right…
Save yourself some stress and learn to filter out the small stuff.

You could easily argue that this commenter had the best of intentions. But that intention goes right out the window when she/he/it feels the need tell me how to think. As if an anonymous poster has some mystical homespun set of wisdom that is far more powerful than the coworker I had made the subject of my commentary.

Yet, my blog for all of it’s faults, both real and imagined, has readers. It’s got to be doing something right to have a fairly consistent stream of traffic regardless of how infrequent my posts. I have to believe that some of my readers, most of my readers, recognize that there are some situations where my observations were not only dead on, but informative and educational.

So what does this have to do with getting to meet Dacre Stoker? Well, here is a guy who is not only the living descendant of Bram Stoker, but has spent much of his life tracking down chronicling the life story of one of the literary giants of the 19th century. He is a school teacher and a self-proclaimed academic, and a lot of the theories he presented to us at the Ames Theater in Salem, Massachusetts had no basis more reliable than the actual research that was available.

In other words, some might accuse Dacre of overthinking things. But really, he’s just taking what’s there, applying his knowledge and experience, and presenting a plausible scenario. And sure as the sun will set, I bet there are people who have listened to or read his theories, and have also accused him of overthinking details which the accuser would have no reason to find significant.

Bram Stoker himself was an “over thinker” who applied so much of his research and experience to his own writing career. He was so good at doing his bread-and-butter job that he actually wrote and published the manual that remained in use until the 1960’s. The men and women he rubbed shoulders with were also “over thinkers”. Sir Henry Irving, “over thought” the way actors should behave, Mark Twain “over thought” human decency, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle over thought the hell out of a lot of things.

So accuse me of over thinking things if it pleases you to do so. Just know that all you will succeed in doing is securing my membership into an already pretty popular club of over thinkers.

Less Than 5,000

Sunday was as good a day as any to put the frustration of the previous week behind me. John needed help setting up his table at an antiques show in New Hampshire, so my plan was to put my own struggles on hold and focus on doing whatever I could to make the day easier for John.

There was a minor problem that you could accurately describe as a small brushfire, but I stood my ground and doused it with my resolution not to let anything distract me from the fact that I was here to help John.

The antiques show was held in one of the gymnasiums of the Hampshire Hills health club and although it was still warm inside, the open doors and the wide space made for a better airflow. I spent all of my time on my feet because I had not gotten much sleep the night before and I knew that if I sat down, I’d be fast asleep. A quick walk around took care of any lethargy and it gave me a chance to see what the other vendors brought.

One of the things that stands out to me is the abundance of stereoscopes present at the show. I remember thinking that the stereoscope was a rare item and it was an item on my wish list to get to use what was basically the Gameboy of the 19th century. Now I can’t seem to go two steps without tripping on them. Although I did run into one woman who had a number of the slides and among them was a series of photos that I can only describe as “adult” in nature. It made sense to me since there are certainly video games and movies now a days that aren’t meant for children and it stands to reason that the companies that manufactured stereoscope slides would print similar materials.

At the table next to me was a gentleman who actually serviced and sold early phonographs. He even had a couple of the Cylinders that he was kind enough to play for potential customers and since I was sitting beside him, I was beside myself with the idea that some of that music, some of which contained genuine vocal artists, could very well have been recorded by Edison himself.

We sold a few things. One of the other vendors had told the organizer that he made “less than 5,000” at his table and I thought, technically we all did. So if anyone asks me how much money we made at the antiques show, or indeed any future sales related venture that I participate in, my answer is always going to be less than 5,000.

Hulk Smashwords!

My novella is finished. I have been through a first proofread myself. And my good friend Bonnie Hurd Smith has been kind enough to offer me a professional proofread and the best way I can thank her is to include the link for her latest book and hope that you will be kind enough to take a look at her site as well.

In the meantime, I have been going through the arduous process of trying to make my manuscript compatible to upload as an E-book by following the guide provided at the Smashwords Website. Smashwords offers a free service that allows you to convert your documents to an E-book format and then distributes the product through all of the major online retailers.

If I’ve made any of that sound easy, then I’m telling it wrong.

I’ve hit a snag that I hope won’t be too hard to fix. The guide so far has been full of neat graphic images to correlate with the words on the paper, making it easier for me to see what the writer intends for me to do. This works for me because I am visual learner. Unfortunately, I am at the part that tells me how to properly center the title page and other information that you usually find in the beginning of the book and while I am following the instructions as carefully as I can, there is no additional graphic to show me what I am doing wrong.

It’s not the author’s fault. Obviously, he’s doing something right if Smashwords has been around this long. I didn’t just stumble onto the site and think, “oh, that’s the Magic Path to success”. No, I heard it through a very reliable grapevine that another author whom I am just two degrees of separation away from has self-published through Smashwords. Then I researched the site and I decided I would be better off working with them than through Amazon or Lulu.

The problem is that being a visual learner, I have this extra step to work out and that is going to be notably frustrating to me. It’s even worse when you realize that every time I run into a snag like this, people become dismissive and act as if I have no right to even pursue something if I have to learn it in a way that is different from the other 99%. This is the problem I had in college when I was forced to take a self guided math course.

The problem is that yes, I can follow the instructions on the page reasonably well. I can even, with some basic guidance and instruction, work out a difficult math problem. But if you ask me to do that same math problem the next day, I find it difficult. Not because I have a “math disability” but because I’m just not good at certain math related functions that I don’t have any practical use for. Obviously I can use and manage money and do the four basic functions, but those are all things that I use every single day and so in that way my brain retains that information.

It’s just like how Julia Child wrote a book, but she also had a TV show. I can read a recipe and follow the instructions reasonably well. But I bet you that for every ten readers of her book, there were ten more that preferred to watch her show and were better able to learn how to follow a recipe by watching what she was doing and following her verbal instructions accordingly. No one was ever accused of having a “cooking disability” because they couldn’t read the recipe and apply what they learned without a visual aid.

Now I have to work extra hard to figure out how to format the title page and the Chapter headings according to the Smashword Guidelines. And I bet there’s no shortage of people who will read this and say, “Just find an easier way to do it. Or pay someone. If you can’t do those things, you have no business self publishing.”

Sometimes You Have to Put All Your Eggs in The Basket

When I look back at certain events in my life, I can accept the fact that there were things I could have done differently. There is nothing wrong with owning your decisions, whatever the outcome, but that doesn’t get everyone else off the hook. There will always be times in your life when you need to rely on someone and if they don’t come through, then you only have three choices:

Permanently remove them from your life, forgive them and move on, or keep them in your life but never trust them again. Doesn’t seem like a lot of variety in those choices does there?

The year is 2000-2001, my senior year of high school. By this time I had been in Upward Bound for almost three years, which is where I learned about the Summer Youth Employment Program. It was through SYEP that I got my very first job as a teacher’s assistant for a daycare, although officially it was SYEP signing the paychecks and the daycare considered me more of a volunteer than an employee.

The actual year of SYEP was during the summer between my sophomore and junior years, but the very next summer I could not participate in SYEP because they had changed their demographic to focus only on the 14-16 age range. But that didn’t bother me so much because at the time, I knew in my heart that I wanted to work with children, preferably in a daycare setting. (Incidentally, Early Childhood Education was the original reason I had tried to apply for Salem State University)

During my senior year, I filled out many applications for daycare related positions. At this time, the daycare I had worked for in the summer was bought by the hospital and their requirements were stricter. Even volunteers had to be in college and working towards some kind of education related degree, but there were still plenty of options in Bennington. After much pounding of pavement, the daycare for the Bennington Health and Rehab responded to my application and called me in for an interview.

Aside from the standard question and answer part of the interview, I was obviously introduced to a lot of the children, who were primarily between the ages of one and 4. One such boy, who was about two, was afraid of men. I had such visions of working here and with time and patience, slowly earning the trust of this boy and having a positive influence on him.

The interview went well. I only needed three references and the director of the daycare, a woman whose own son was also among the children I interacted with, made it clear to me that she had to follow up and speak with each reference I put down.

Anyone looking for a job knows the basic rules of references. They should not be people who are related to you or people who are close friends. Generally they need to be people who can attest to your work history and reliability, among other things. But at that time I only had two solid work related references and one of them was the Bennington Potters, which had just undergone a massive management change. At this time, I only had the contact information of three people who would be appropriate as references for any job, but more specifically, any job in a daycare setting. Among them was a teacher from Upward Bound, who was also the mother of my best friend at the time.

Why was she different? Because obviously she’s not my best friend, but my best friend’s mother. As a teacher of a handful of students in Upward Bound, she was more qualified to speak on my behalf to a potential employer. She also knew of my job at the daycare, which I worked at during my second year of Upward Bound and she also had knowledge of my volunteer work (also done through Upward Bound) with a school aged group at a local housing project in Bennington.

Like my other two references, I asked her several times if she would be willing to give me a reference. I asked her many times because I was serious about getting this job. The best thing she could have done for me then, if there was even the slightest chance that she would not get in touch with the director, was to say no. At that point, I would have tried a scatter bomb approach, calling teachers who knew me well, any one that could give me a reference. But because she told me had no problem giving me a reference, I was counting on her and the two other people I put down on the application.

When the director called me to tell me that one of my references did not call her back, you can probably guess who failed to come through for me.

Even then, I knew I should have been looking for backup references, just in case one of my first choices didn’t follow through. The trouble is that since the job was for a daycare, there really weren’t too many people I could count on.

It’s true that you shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket. But that only applies when you have a significant amount of eggs, or a significant amount of time. Sometimes all you have is three eggs and if you only put two of them in the basket, you’re left with one rotting egg and you wouldn’t have been any better than if you had just thrown it in with the other two.

In this case I had three eggs. One of them definitely turned out to be rotten and because it had nothing to do with my friendship with her son, I didn’t break things off with him until much, much later. But even when I applied to The Bennington School after turning 21, I didn’t ask her for a job related reference ever again.