January 15   Serendipity

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I had a really good week. One of those rare great weeks that I can’t even remember the last time I had one. And I don’t mean a week in which something awesome and unexpected happens. I mean, that the whole week rocked.

Monday I had to tell the boss I had given notice and that Friday would be my last day. I’d been kinda dreading it because I wanted to avoid discussing it. He’d been away since about 8th of Dec so… yeah it went how I thought it would go.

Tuesday though was the team’s farewell lunch for me and M, who was also leaving. It was really lovely and my face hurt from smiling for the rest of the day. A couple of past team members came along which was so lovely for the opportunity to catch up with them. And we both were given a voucher for a manicure/facial and I got this frog, which is a bit of a work in-joke. I think it’s hilarious and I’m going to take it to work and put it on my new desk.

And then when I got back to the office, reception called to tell me I had a delivery and when I wandered down to collect it, I discovered that C had sent me flowers and chocolates to wish me good luck on my change of job. And everyone agreed that he is a great guy and a keeper. But I already knew that.

Wednesday and Thursday I spent tying up loose ends, writing handover notes and filing and trying to mentally and emotionally move on. I’m kinda sad about leaving this team and the work. I’ve been there 4 years and I feel like I accomplished a few biggish kind of achievements and worked towards progressing some weaker areas. I networked a lot and met a lot of really great people, both in my agency and outside it. And I’m going to miss my team. Though M is also leaving so the team is kind of splitting up in any case.

Friday was my last day and I spent it really manically trying to finish up memos and letters to pass on to the others to just wrap up and send out. And I packed up my office and we had afternoon tea and then … then I left. And I couldn’t really believe that I had given them my keys to the building and was actually leaving. There were lots of hugs and that was the moment that I finally realised it was real and that I was sad. And J gave me the gorgeous card up in the top photo which says “Well-behaved women rarely make history”. I’d gotten a really lovely group card and so many people said so many beautiful and well meant things and then I got this follow up one from a teammate who I have I guess gotten really close to only in the last year or so. We’ve had so many heart to hearts and she held my hand at work through Swancon. So sad to leave her but also so touched that she really “got” me. Isn’t that what we all want in life, to be understood?

C had dropped me to work and so had picked me up, and attended the small farewell afternoon tea so I had him to leave with and not feel really down about having left my team. And we headed off to do more shopping and then to have an early dinner at the Daily Planet before meeting Marianne and Jonathan to see Ira Glass! I had been so looking forward to this. We headed up to the bar to hang out, wondering if they might come up there but they didn’t and then I couldn’t remember if we’d booked our tickets to be seated together. We hadn’t, as I recall now, we’d just talked about it online and both bought tickets at the same time. It was only then that I realised that we would just be at the same event together but not actually *with* each other. So we went in and were looking for where our seats, they were 3 rows from the front and C turned to me and said, “really?” and all I could do was shrug and say, “I’m a REALLY big fan”. And then … and then you won’t believe it. Our seats were right next to Marianne and Jonathan. Unplanned, pure coincidence, utter serendipity. And in that exact moment, as we sat down next to our friends and C settled in for 2 hours of watching someone he’d never heard of speak, I knew that the universe was smiling down at me, and that everything will be be ok. That I am in the right place, at the right time. Finally.

And I just loved Ira Glass. It was a fantastic performance. Really interesting and engaging and so very very enlightening, not just on how they  put the show (This American Life) together but on what they intend for the show to be and a lot on good storytelling. I got a lot out of it – first the buzz of inspiration to want to go home immediately and throw myself back into TPP but second, he had a lot of interesting things to say about storytelling and on building momentum and how to seduce your reader/listener to not put the work down/turn off the radio. Since I’m currently reading novel manuscript submissions and thinking about that a lot, it couldn’t have been a better time to immerse myself in the careful musings of such a great storyteller/editor. And it made me realise how the asking for only 3 chapters is really a great submission process because, I should NEED to ask for the rest of the manuscript because I NEED to know where the story goes. And if I don’t, then that’s not a project for me. I also really got a lot out of how he spoke about the show and how he thinks about what it is and so on. I think you do need to know what your intent is from the outset. If not what it will end up being, at least what it is that you set out to do. Because that should underpin every decision you make after that and should allow you to constantly check back in with whether what you are doing now is consistent with what your project model or philosophy is.  At the end of the day, when I’m stuck on rejections, I do this, I look back at what TPP is and what I see that it should be, and if something doesn’t fit with that, then it’s not a project for me.

After the show, we headed off for coffee, the four of us and just hung out and caught up. And it was the perfect end to a damn fine week.

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Yesterday I got a phonecall from reception informing me that I had “received an urgent parcel” and could I please come down and collect it right away? Reception is a fair walk across the campus here and I spent the time wondering what in the hell I’d received that could possibly be urgent? I hadn’t any proofs from printers coming, I couldn’t possibly be being served for anything, could I? Maybe, just maybe, somebody sent me flowers? Though really? Why would they do that to work? I freaked out, just a little, cause I’m a bit sensitive at the moment. But I headed down and behind the reception desk, I did spy some flowers. And then I told them who I was and the flowers were indeed for me! And the “urgency” was that they would otherwise have snaffled them home for themselves! I think they loved being in on the conspiracy. And to add to it I said, “I have no idea who they could be from!”

Which in fairness, was kinda true in the moment. I’ve been sent flowers before – lovely friends and aunts who knew I was feeling down, or when I was sick in hospital, and wanted to show me how much they love me. And receiving flowers is always a special treat! But I’ve never been with anyone who sent me flowers before. And as I was walking away with my beautiful bunch of flowers, I opened the card and found the most romantic and meaningful words inside. Of course C sent me flowers! He knew how sad I’d been the night before and how I’ve been feeling. Of course he was thinking about me and wanted to tell me how much he loves me. (That I actually get to have love in my life still surprises me) And his card made me melt. We’d had a meaningful conversation the night before and the four words he wrote spoke back to that. And reminded me that I am loved, by a great man who sees me, really sees me, and loves me still.

I’ve had a really rough month. And months before that I spose. Speaking to a lot of people who have gone before me, I understand that it takes months to recover from running a convention. I’m at least glad that the nightmares have finally ended. I’m very slowly recovering back to something resembling who I was two years ago before I started out on this particular journey. Though I have learned a lot along the way – most of it not pleasant, or if not that, then hard lessons learned the hard way. Those of course are the ones that stick the best but still, why do I always have to choose the hard way? But now as I start to get some distance, and hopefully some perspective, I’m thinking a lot about all that happened, wanting to glean what I can, learn from it and make the pain worthwhile. Because it was painful. And a lot of hard work. And it can’t be for nothing.

I think possibly the single most important thing I’ve learned is that the only thing you can control is your reaction. And this alone is a very very powerful tool. When you’re the public face of an entity, be that a convention or a publishing house, then how you behave represents that entity. That means that no matter how much you want to shout and scream or argue, those may not be the most productive ways to resolve or fix a situation.

I learned a very important skill these last two years, and I owe this one to my friend Amanda, that the best way to respond is to not respond in the moment. To go away and cool off and think about it and to come back and always always be polite and diplomatic. No matter how you were addressed or what was said about or to you. (I think I drove her a bit over the edge for a good six months before I got the hang of this.) I can’t count the number of times that my initial response would have been one out of defense or justification or matching in rude/terse/blaming/inflammatory/critical tone but a cooling off day later became a polite response and or offer to help or fix, which _then_ moved the whole issue positively further along.

I learned that much more can be achieved by giving the other person the benefit of the doubt, by trying to resolve an issue in a generous way and by choosing not to respond in kind even if the “in kind” was not itself so. I learned that I need to have the final word on everything and that actually lots of things don’t need or deserve a response. That in the past I have done so _in order_ to have the last word. And doing so achieves very little. Most people can see the elephant in the room. I don’t need to point to it and call it so aloud. And not needing to have the last word helps reduce the email inbox _a lot_ (who knew?). Wins for the sake of winning aren’t really worth the energy of the fight. And I also learned that not everything can be resolved. Sometimes there are no solutions, there is no compromise and some things are irredeemable.

And I learned who my friends are. These are the people who I want to be like when I grow up. That they weren’t always who I thought was a very painful and hurtful process. Of course. But that’s life. But the flipside to that is that I discovered who my friends are and how truly awesome a group of people they are. These are the people who push me, inspire me, energise me, celebrate and cry with me and fuel my creativity. They are why I do what I do and are the how I do what I do too. Because no one could do all the things I’m involved with alone! And every day I am blown away by the amount of support I receive – the people why buy and read the work I publish, the people who lend a hand or offer advice and the people who just are there, smiling at me in the rain.

This month has been truly mentally grueling. There have been days of great struggle for me. There have been days when I truly questioned why I was here, why I do what I do, why it was ok to be attacked like an intangible idea rather than a person with feelings and why, after all was said and done, no apology seemed necessary for my hurt, distress and harm. This month has had me thinking a lot about bullying and victimisation. And where the line lies between these two. That if the only thing I can control is my reaction, then … how do I learn to control my reaction?

Because the truth is, with all this grappling with why do I do this anyway?, I realized/remembered why I do. I love science fiction. I love reading it, I love finding new talent, I love being confronted by new or uncomfortable ideas, I love being stimulated to think about things deeply, I love working with writers on new projects, I love the synergy and creation and the coming together of a vision. I LOVE publishing. And I love the privilege of talking about it and working on it with the brilliant, talented and inspiring people I get to work with and hang out with every single day. I love every part of publishing from the conception of the idea, to the development of the project, to the production of the work and the marketing and promotion of the finished product. I love keeping up with what everyone else is producing and from that being inspired to work on my own next project. The answer to where do I find the time to do all this is simply that – I love it. My soul feeds off it. And I grow every single day by being a part of it and by contributing. I love getting to be involved. And the more I am, the more I want to be. And the more I learn, the more I take with me to everything I do, not just science fiction but my life at large.

This month I had to dig deep and backpedal hard against the pull of the abyss. There were moments where I wasn’t sure who was going to win. Really really rock bottom moments. But in that struggle I forced myself to look for the light, and I found a lot of it, shining all around me. Thank you to those of you who turned on a light. It’s meant a lot to me.

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