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Castiel is Shocked

Dog knows, I’m not the world’s greatest with self-marketing.  Like any self-disrespecting creative, it makes me deeply uneasy to toot my own horn, preferring other people to do it for me, while I stay in my workspace and create.

But being uneasy with the act does not mean I am not savvy about the means. 

Last night, this hit my work email:

“My name is [redacted], and I’m a Customer Manager here at [redacted]. Our goal is to empower small to medium event organizers by helping them implement specific online promotions to increase their attendees. I personally do the strategic planning with our clients, which is something I love.
I found your event [redacted with [redacted] online. It’s clear that you’ve put a lot of passion into making it a wonderful experience for all.
In honor of this, I’d like to offer you our Premium Services. These are constructed in a way to help you build online visibility, stimulate interest, and get more attendees to show to your event excited. If you’re curious to learn more, check out the link below:”
And just…oy.  Yeah, you used all the good tagwords: “implement” and “strategic planning,” “empower” and “build.”  But that’s all you used.

Look, if you’re going to try and advertise legit services, you need to be persuasive, and part of being persuasive is making your target feel like you’ve actually done some work to learn about THEM, their projects, and how you can actually help them. Sending vaguely-worded form letters may seem cost-effective, but it’s not going to be revenue-producing. Because why the hell should I outsource promotion to a company that can’t even successfully promote itself/talk specifics?

And if you’re a scammer, you’re a disgrace to the breed. Because I had no interest whatsoever in clicking the link provided.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go build some online visibility and stimulate interest in my projects, by doing the one thing you failed to do: be interesting to your potential audience.

the meerkat at work

Off to the Rainforest Retreat tomorrow – I’ve been signed up the past two years, but other stuff caused me to cancel out.  Knock wood and no phone calls come, I’ll be on the road in the AM, and come back from the five days with All The Words Written.  Or at least, enough to get me back on schedule.

And, despite a lingering weight of ‘why bother, you’re not doing anything special’ that’s been dogging me for the past few weeks (ok, months), I WILL be writing All The Words.  Because on a day that was pretty bad, I got an email.

I won’t tell you what it said – that’s their call to make, not mine, but when somebody  read something that you wrote and was changed by it or inspired by it enough that they felt the need to tell you….?

 It’s a reminder that what we do matters, and that you don’t know who it’s going to matter to or when it’s going to matter to them. You’ve just put the words out on the paper boat and sent it out to the world and you don’t know and you may never know – and sometimes then just sometimes you get to know.
And I’m not ashamed to admit that those moments make me cry.  And pick up the pen, no matter how heavy it may feel just then, and get back to it.

Weekend Highlights and Lowlights....

Highlight of this weekend was talking with a guest at the tasting room who, it turned out, is also a writer.  I asked about the work she’s doing (mostly tech writing, but with an eye towards fiction).  She asked in return what I write, and I allow as how I’m a novelist with a sideline in marketing copy.  As often happens, she asks if she might have read anything I’ve written.

Then her eyes got Very Wide and it turns out she’s a fan, and apparently cited me as one of her influences in her grad school application.

That will never not be surreal.  For both of us, probably.

(it’s happened three times in three years, three different tasting rooms, and I always have the feeling that I’m being punked, because seriously, what are the odds?  Except maybe fantasy readers also like really good wine.  Hrm.)

That was the highlight of what was, really, overall, a very good, if exhausting weekend at the Tasting Room.

The lowlight… I’m still processing everything (nothing to do directly with me, I’m fine), but it was, you should pardon the expression, a sobering experience.

The thing is, I’m pretty casual when talking about my winery job – “yeah, I pour wine and nerd out a lot with other nerds and don’t-know-they’re-nerds-yet.” (leaving aside the non-public-view aspects of management, etc).  But for all the joking and enjoyment, there’s a serious side to the gig.

We are liable.

That’s hammered into you when you get your permit to pour (via the Alcohol Board).  You have to learn not only the signs of alcohol impairment, but what the legal repercussions are if you overserve.  If they’re in an accident, if god forbid someone dies, and you were the one to pour their last drink?

  Liable.  Legally, and financially.  You and your employer both.

(and that’s not taking into consideration the moral obligations, which hell yes are always in the back of my mind).

So when I cut someone off, I’m not doing it on a whim.  I’ve determined that that person is in danger of being, or already is, intoxicated, and following legal guidelines as to how to deal with that.

This weekend, a woman came into the tasting room toward the end of the day.  She was clearly intoxicated – she was swaying, her limbs were uncontrolled, her words were severely slurred, and she seemed disoriented, announcing that she was going to hang out with two of our guests, although they had never seen her before.

(obviously, I was not about to serve her; this was not an “ooops, maybe a few sips too many” grey area, and whoever served her previously has some ‘splaining to do.)

Thankfully, our guests rolled with the disruption, and we banded together to make sure she felt safe and stayed put.  

She had no pocketbook, no phone, and all she could tell us was her first name.  I didn’t think calling a cab would help, because we had no way of knowing her address, and I really didn’t want to call the cops (so long as she was annoying but not aggressive).

Someone mentioned hearing people calling the woman’s name, and I was able to track the other woman down, letting her know that her friend was in my tasting room.  But when her friend finally arrived (taking her own sweet time, after I alerted her), there was some uncertainty on the part of our drunk lamb as to if she was allowed to leave the tasting room (we had told her to sit down and stay there, and that was what she’d fastened onto).

So that was…entertaining.  In a fraught, “oh god why me?” kind of way.

I spoke at length with the friend, trying to make sure that she would be able to care for our no-longer-lost drunk lamb.  I was already not thrilled with her judgement, but she was showing no signs of impairment, and the woman did seem to calm down once she’d arrived, so… yeah.  Despite my continued unease with the her condition, I’d done everything I could.

So I thanked everyone else for their patience, finished out the shift, and went home and worried about our drunk lamb for the rest of the evening because hi, have you met me?

I have no personal Life Lesson takeaway from all this.  I did my job as best I could, and we kept a situation from getting worse. That’s all we could do.  Which, yeah, I guess is a Life Lesson in and of itself.

But, look: do me a personal favor and don’t be either of those two people, okay?  Alcohol is fun, but impaired judgement gets people into real trouble.  And there’s not always a tasting room full of people to look out for you (or your wandering friend).


I have been remiss....

I was gently reminded this weekend that I have not been updating the blog this year.  My bad, mea culpa.

I will do better.  :-)



The apartment smells like delicious baking things, the cats are snoozing, and although I still have many things to do both at home and at work, I am very much aware of the fact that the year has wound down. Goodbye 2017, hello 2018.

In many ways, the past year has been just as bad as feared, particularly in the USA.  The grandiose (and impossible) “MAGA” promises made by Trump have not come to pass, while he has instead and with the complicity of the GOP begun dismantling every gain – social, environmental, and diplomatic – we’ve made in the past four decades, for greed and for sheer pettiness.

For myself, and many other writers and artists, it’s been one of the worst years we can remember in terms of creation.  Even when we were inspired, or driven, it still felt like a hard slog up a muddy hill.  Creativity does not thrive under repressive regimes.  It perseveres, but it does not thrive.

But in some very significant ways, December 31, 2017 finds us better than we were 364 days ago.  Because many of us stood up, set aside our complacency, our apathy, our ‘the professionals will deal with it’ non-concern, and fought for what we believe in: a world where we are judged not by skin or gender or attire, but by our acts.  By our humanity.

In 2017, I saw people who had never heard of the term Tikkun Olam embracing the concept, and putting it into action.  Some in massive, world-changing ways, some in small, day-shifting ways.  All valid.  All wonderful.

And all exhausting.  We’re exhausted, and the fact that it’s exhaustion in the cause of righteousness isn’t much help when you think of having to do it again, and again.  I wish I could wave a wand and make it not-so.

But there’s one thing 2017 has shown us, also.  We’re not alone.  We have a magic wand of another sort.  Even when we run into someone who is apathetic, or outright mean (or deplorable), there is someone beside us who is calm and caring, and there for us to lean on until we get our second (third, fourth)  wind.  We just need to look for them, listen for them.  Be them.

My usual wish for everyone, at this point, is that the best of the previous year be the worst you face in the coming.  And I still wish us all this.  But I will add a rallying call, too.

2018 may not be a magical year.  The world may not right itself just yet.  But the worst beings possible in power cannot take away one thing, and that thing is how we choose to behave.

And so I say, may 2018 be the year we become the people Carrie Fisher wanted us to be.  Fierce.  Kind.  Strong for ourselves, as well as others.  And able to give the middle finger when and as needed, not to be cruel but to state loudly and proudly that we’re not putting up with hateful, demeaning bullshit any more.  Not against ourselves, and not against anyone else, either.

Tikkun olam.  Repairing the world.  Filling it back up with shared joy and creation and empathy.


Be safe in your celebrations, and I’ll see you in 2018.