So, this past weekend was the Circlet Writers Retreat, aka #porncamp, as I have mentioned once or twice or five million times. It's fun, but it always makes me feel like I'm terrible at my job, and often also at life. This is a known side effect of spending most of three days closed up in a house full of all kinds of nifty people who are doing all kinds of nifty things that I am not. I figure it's up there with Douglas Adams' "perfectly normal paranoia", and I'm probably actually fine. In the event that I'm not, I assume the universe will eventually set itself to rights and get me fired.

It also means that I've spent most of three days closed up in a house full of people. I like these people, but #porncamp comes but once a year, which means it's a mob of excited geeks who need to let out all of their technical braining about smut in one big enthusiastic burst. The retreat is "introvert-friendly" and the rules specifically state that we are allowed to crawl off and hide in a corner whenever we need to, but the house only has so many corners, and they are only so far away, plus some of them are already occupied by terrified cats. I gird my loins and show up all geschmenkt and dressed fancy, because that's how I cope with that best, but I still never stay for the Saturday night party. It doesn't matter how much I enjoy your company, after nine hours in an enclosed space with that many people, I have to go home or my head will kerplode. Sorry, guys.

[If it makes you feel any better, my record for length of time spent with another human being before wanting to lock one of us in the bathroom to get some space is about three days. That was with Moggie, who has the magical ability to become furniture. She's perfectly happy sitting on the other side of the room under a wad of blankets pulled over her head -- this is adorably forbidding, as if Sanrio were allowed to redesign Emperor Palpatine -- and not talking to me for six hours at a stretch. And then when she finally does say something, it's a YouTube link in the chat window. The record was also set at Disneyland, which helped. We did a week in Vegas several years after that, and I had to crawl off and hide in a corner a few times.]

It's one of those things where everyone seems to think I ought to be there, but I am unclear as to why. They seem to consider me a part of the gestalt. This is always a surprise. While I will happily work with any number of groups, I generally do not join them. I recently had a nasty reminder of how I came up with this guideline in the first place, where I was caught on the wrong side of a zero-tolerance rule that was stupid to begin with, and then enforced even more stupidly. I was expected to shut up and go along with it for the good of the team, or at least what the upper echelons saw as the team ideals. (It was enacted in response to a complaint that had nothing at all to do with me. The original plaintiff is now quite angry, because it "solves" an issue that is not the one they initially complained about, in a way that has spawned the maximum possible number of new problems for everyone.) I had steam coming out of my ears in tea-kettle fashion until I remembered that I could be friends with anyone I wanted without having to pay that particular price for membership, and effected a Snagglepuss exit, stage right.

Boss Lady would probably rage-quit her own company before it ever got that idiotic, but a group is a group, and the idea that I am not merely a favored guest always comes as news to me. I try not to say this to people's faces. They usually take it as a communication failure on their part, which it isn't, or that they've failed to make friends with me one-on-one, which they haven't. I just drift along sociologist-wise better than I deal with internal politics.

Don't get me wrong, I like getting the invitation, but the other people at the retreat are actual published writers and editors, doing published-writing and editing things. My responsibilities at Circlet mainly include getting things delivered to events we're sponsoring, and figuring out how to make book covers into internet ads. The main skills involved are making sure that the banners are no larger than 150kb and don't include too much sideboob. I'm also on the catsitting rota, because two of the three Tea Cats do not flee from me in terror.

I work in non-fiction here, which means that a lot of the #porncamp workshops are of limited use to me. Annabeth Leong gave a talk on how to plot stories, which was fascinatingly mathy, but which doesn't apply to my personal writing process.  My workflow mainly involves letting things circle in my head incessantly until I sit down and type them out. I keep hoping that once I've let them loose I can quit talking to myself quite so much. This doesn't work at all in re: not muttering to myself on the bus, but it does result in blog entries, so it's not entirely a failure.

[This is also what results in the rather idiosyncratic voice I use here. I talk exactly like I write -- or, more accurately, I write exactly like I talk. When I first got to Boston, I phoned up one of the locals who had previously known me only via text, and that observation was the first thing out of his mouth, right after 'hello'. This stuff is literally just a transcription of my internal monologue, spaced and punctuated for timing, and lightly-edited for flow.]

It has become painfully clear that I am not going to stop writing in this turkey even if I starve, which I might do. Many of the Circlet people seem to think this is a good idea -- the writing, not the starving -- and several of them admit to reading it, which just flummoxes me. Boss Lady says that we are going to brainstorm about making me more obvious on social media when she gets back from her latest convention, which flummoxes me more. When people think you're mediocre at something, or just don't know enough to know how good you are or aren't, they give you advice by telling you about what others do in your situation, and maybe handing you books. When they pin you like a specimen and try to fix your career, that usually means they think you should be succeeding, right now, personally.

I don't know where Boss Lady got that idea, but she's written something like two dozen books and is published with houses like Hachette. I have the sneaking suspicion that she knows better than I do.

I don't know where I've gotten the idea that I can't get people to give me money for this, for that matter. I do know people who've managed it. I met Cecilia because of her publishing company, obviously, but SciBabe was a friend of mine from several years before she accidentally became internet famous. (We met when we were both walking the runway in an art show. The designer, coincidentally, is part of the lesbian throuple that made the news so hard a few years ago that they ended up on The Colbert Report. I have two of the three on my Facebook friends feed. No, I don't have any normal friends.) I just keep feeling like Zoidberg in that Futurama episode where Fry and the gang discover that hippies will pay good money for the "love beads" Zoidberg coughs up whenever he has indigestion. "I've been making fine jewelry for years, apparently!"


  1. Dude (and I mean that in the gentlest, most non-gender-specific way possible) I have a rather large inkling about how you feel. Generally, anyway. I've been following you for years now and I totally SEE why all these awesome things are happening (or should happen, or will happen thanks to Boss Lady) to you/for you/with you - but I also see how YOU might not see it.
    I had similar moments/times in my life. Still do.
    I'm also intensely introverted - thankfully my husband gets this. There are times he wails about not being able to do "normal things" but they are few and far between. He loves that I like to Be Home, and not out partying or "making friends". I don't make friends... I seem to acquire them, somehow. And my friends range from internet moguls to famous journalists, to war heroes, to veterinarians, to actors and writers, and all up and down the eclectic list of people. Sometimes we'll see someone in the news and I'll think, "Hey, I know them..." and I'll tell my husband and he'll shake his head in disbelief as this person explains about rocket science or the cure they've discovered for some diabolical disease in Africa. And then I'll be just as shocked/wary when these very same people message ME for advice about Things. Boggles my mind sometimes.
    I'm not... like them. I'm just me.

    We just have to roll with it, eh?

  2. I saw (and continue to see) value in you. I figured Cecilia would see it too. She's wicked smart. And she needed help from someone with your skill set and attitude, so that was a win. You are articulate and smart. You deserve to make a living at something you enjoy or at least doesn't make your head kerplode. You seem to enjoy writing & supporting writing, so that seems like a good plan.

    As for including you... Writers are like cats who understand they need herding and sometimes realize that they are being taken care of quite well. They appreciate a good shepherd.


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