Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

It’s My Blog, and I’ll Whine If I Want To

with 5 comments

Okay, I have a terrible feeling that’s not the first time I’ve used this title, but it’s really early in the morning and I don’t want to go back and look at the  moment.

Besides, I’ve only just started my tea.

And I don’t want to imply that life has been total crap, either.  Greg had his first surgery Thursday, and everything went well.   It will be a couple of weeks before he’s safe from developing an infection or any of the other scary stuff they warn you about, but he’s hopping around the house happy to play video games again.

Which I suppose is good.

Well, the happy is good.  I’ll deal with the video games later.

And, of course, a week from this coming Thursday, there’s the next surgery.

But no, my whining concerns my Saturday, which was one of the odder incidents in my professional life.

To give you a back story here:  I was asked, several months ago, to attend a local two-day mystery writer’s conference, to be on panels and that kind of thing.

And that was nice, and I was glad to be asked. 

Then, between the invitation and the last week or so, there was my mother, and there was Greg’s problem.

And I’ll be the first to admit, here, that I was late answering some of the e-mails, because I’ve been late answering everybody’s e-mails lately.  I did, however, answer them, including providing a rather lengthy bio and getting my publisher to send free copies of Wanting Sheila Dead to the moderator of the panel who asked for one.

And about a week before the event, I got in touch with the organizer and laid out my problem.  I checked the schedule, thought I saw that I was only slated to be on a single panel, and  that for today (Sunday), and told her that what I might do was to come for the panel and skip the rest. 

She answered me with a wail that they’d been so excited to get me to come, they’d put me on three panels, including two on Saturday. 

So I got back again and said, okay, I’d work that out, but I’d have to do some complicated things with transportation, and bring a friend with me to drive.

Now, note what’s going on here:  I did not want to be at a conference/convention yesterday.  I had a child who’d been out of surgery less than 48 hours, and I wanted to be home with him. 

The ONLY reason I was going on out there was because I was worried that if I dropped out at the last minute, I’d screw up their program.

And I made that fact completely clear.

So, yesterday, I get up at four, my friend gets up at some other ridiculous hour, and we haul on out for a full hour’s drive to this thing, leaving my house at seven thirty in the morning to do it.

We arrive, and I go to check in. 

The woman at the check in looked like a young, blonde Maria Schriver, and she did eventually figure out that I was an author and that she had my name somewhere. 

My friend and I picked up the program and wandered in to the breakfast, and that’s when things started to get…well, I don’t know how to put it.

Let’s start with this:  I was the only author at this thing who was not on the program, and whose web site was not linked to on the event web site.

When they did the introductions to the crowd, I was not introduced with the other authors, because, not being on the program, the woman doing the introductions didn’t know to say anything about me.  She discovered her mistake later, and then had me stand up at an awkward place after other things had been said.

Well, okay, whatever.  Things get disorganized sometimes.  I’m not a fussy kind of person with this sort of thing.

I went off looking for someplace to phone home and make sure Greg was all right, only to discover that there’s no cell service to this venue at all.   I went running around standing outside and on curbs and nothing. 

Finally, one of the event people let me have access to a land line, and I called home that way, and when I was on my way out of that room I asked her where exactly I was going to have to be after the first panel.

She looked flustered, blushed profusely and said, “Oh, um, I didn’t order any of your books.  I didn’t know if you were coming.”


So there I was, with no phone contact with home, with a kid still wearing an eye patch, not on the program, and with no books to sign.

And I didn’t want to be there.  And the only reason I had come was to make sure I didn’t screw anybody up. 

And they knew that.

But I wasn’t going to screw anybody up.  I could have cancelled without a guilty conscience.  They wouldn’t have missed me. 

So…why was I there, exactly?

Let me be clear here.  I’m not upset that I wasn’t on the program or that they didn’t order books for me to sign.

I’m upset because, when I told them that I had a problem, they urged me to come and told me how excited they were to have me and made me feel that I had to come, when in fact they didn’t need me at all.

And if they’d said so, I could have spent my Saturday at home with Greg, where I wanted to be, and been fine with it.

As it is, I’m supposed to be back there this morning for another panel, but I’m not going.  It would entail driving an hour to do forty-five minutes on a panel with six other authors, then driving another hour back home–because I still wouldn’t be signing books, since there still wouldn’t be books for me to sign.

And the next time I have a family crisis, I’m going to cancel and not worry about it.

Written by janeh

April 10th, 2011 at 7:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses to 'It’s My Blog, and I’ll Whine If I Want To'

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  1. “Things get disorganized sometimes” doesn’t BEGIN to cut it. “Disorganized sometimes” is they ordered five of your titles, and in one case they got another book with the same title, or someone copied a link poorly and the link on the convention web site doesn’t work. This is well beyond that.

    There was no mention of fee, so I take it no money changed hands. But they took a weekend out of your life because you’re a professional writer. You might have spent the weekend writing something for which you would have been paid. Your payment for this weekend was–or ought to have been–favorable publicity and book sales, both of which they denied you. This level of careless amounts to purse-snatching–petty theft, but theft nonetheless.

    First, they basically “guilted” you into attendance, which should only be done if the alternative is the conference crashing and burning. Then, persistently, no one checked. No one ran the list of invitees against names in the brochure and on the web site. No one ran the list of invitees against the books secured for the event. No one was there to meet the authors on arival, thank them for attending and check for special needs–like, for example, access to a land line. Or to make sure, given you’re not on the program, that the person making the introductions is properly briefed.

    My people do conferences all the time, and a conference coordinator who treated a panelist like that would NOT like her next performance evaluation. You’re a professional. People who ask for your professional services owe it to you to know what they’re doing–or pay cash.

    Maybe both.


    10 Apr 11 at 3:47 pm

  2. My guess would be either too many chiefs, who aren’t talking to each other, or only one chief who is refusing to delegate but unable to keep track of everything him/herself.

    Alas, I have encountered similar screw-ups, although not quite on that scale (leaving one of the invited guests OFF THE LIST of people to be introduced??), and those are usually the reasons.

    My least favorite type is when someone fairly senior is ‘organizing’ something, and ‘delegates’ various bits and pieces, but no authority, to various peons and colleagues, so no one know what’s been done and what hasn’t and everyone goes their own merry way making different financial arrangements and sometimes duplicating other efforts, or else leaving important bits out because of the impression that someone else will be doing it instead.

    There are times when an out-and-out dictatorship sounds good, so long as there are clear lines of authority and demarcation of responsibilities.


    10 Apr 11 at 4:48 pm

  3. “There are times when an out-and-out dictatorship sounds good, so long as there are clear lines of authority and demarcation of responsibilities.”

    Second the motion. The problem with political dictatorships is the immunity from consequences, but often it’s the best way to run a voluntary association. You have to keep authority and responsibility lined up in any organization, or you can wind up with something worse than a Hobbesian state of nature. (Example: if our education system fails to teach children to read, whose pay do I dock? Fragmented authority, and consequently no responsibility.)


    10 Apr 11 at 5:14 pm

  4. “(Example: if our education system fails to teach children to read, whose pay do I dock? Fragmented authority, and consequently no responsibility.)”

    Shoot a few “admirals” “pour encourager les autres”.


    10 Apr 11 at 8:08 pm

  5. That’s my point. Byng was in charge, and an order to close with the French would have been obeyed–so shooting him on his own quarterdeck was likely to make other admirals more aggressive.

    In education, who do I shoot? The teacher can’t choose her textbooks, and sometimes not even her method of instruction. Some commitee likely chose the texts, but ehey’re not in the classroom. The principal has some say over time allocation and discipline, but not texts, and often not teaching methods–and can’t dismiss non-performing teachers. The school board…

    There is no one who has been given authority over the system, and so no one who can credibly be held accountable for the results–or the absence of results. Given how hard everyone involved has worked to disperse authority, I’m inclined to think that’s the primary objective.

    The first step to real reform is to put enough authority and responsibility in one place to have someone you can hold accountable.


    11 Apr 11 at 5:21 am

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