11 March 2008

EPICon 2008...days 5-6


The muscle relaxant forced my body into a normal sleep cycle of almost eight hours, so I woke at 6:45 and started getting ready for the 7:15 breakfast. All told, the working convention sleep schedule was up to 24.75 over the first four days. The work hours clocked in at about 76 hours. Keeping track of this reminds me why I'm tired, believe me.

It was the usual fielding questions over breakfast and then off to my second solo class: POV adventures. I got through everything I'd planned for the class in less time than I thought I would and, with the blessing of the students, went on to my other two POV classes...from memory. They seemed to get a lot out of it, and it was a decent class size, so I would call it a raring success.

My game plan for the day was to enjoy a few classes other people were giving, since I had a built-in breather of two class periods in my schedule. It was not to be. This was, after all, a working convention.

Halfway through Liz Burton's delightful and informative Show vs. Tell class, which actually overlapped a bit with the POV class I'd just given, Carol pulled me out of the classroom to deal with last-minute New Voices concerns. I bought and printed out the Fictionwise gift certificates for the winners who were present, while Carol tried to download the news report she'd wanted to show me the night before.

We discovered we couldn't download it, but we wanted to show it at the New Voices luncheon, so our first attempt at resolving the problem was seeing if Carol's computer could pick up a wireless signal in the lunch room. No such luck when you need it. So, I took my company credit card down and requested the broadband be turned on in that room. Even though my name was on the contract and I had the company credit card in hand to pay for it, the hotel refused to move without Jude's say so. Now, on some level, I understand that they want to deal with their contact, but on another, my name was on the contract.

Note for the policies and procedures committee... EPPIE chair, New Voices chair and board members must be added to the list of people who are allowed to request changes to the rooms we'll be using for specific events.

I found Jude and got her to grant her permission for the desk staff, which took all of a few minutes and the rather rambling (lifting her convention badge to eye level) "I'm me. Yes, she has permission. Go ahead and do it." Then she was free to return to the class I'd dragged her out of, ironically the same one I'd wanted to attend, but New Voices had to come first.

I let Carol and Debi know broadband was on its way and ran upstairs to get the binders for the New Voices winners coming to lunch (6 and not the 15 we'd originally expected). Picture, if you dare, me coming down to the lunch room with a pilot case, a backpack and a box stuffed with 15 convention binders perched rather precariously on my shoulder. Let's just say that I was overjoyed to see Debi with the rolling cart and added the binders to that to save my aching shoulder. Note... When possible, carry some sort of wheeled cart that can carry most of your work along with you at a working convention.

I'll note here that the price to get broadband in the lunch room was outrageous, but we were committed to presenting the news coverage of the New Voices and EPIC to the membership present. The refrains of the day were, "It's easier to beg forgiveness...." (not quite true, since everyone involved gave their blessing, whether it was given before or after the fact), "We have the money to do it." and "This is a celebration, and the membership needs to feel this sense of accomplishment, as a group."

And feel it, they did. It was stunning...the entire audience rapt on a laptop screen, nearly silent to catch every word. They laughed at the same time. They clapped at the same time, and they gave a standing ovation to our honored guests (the kids who won the contest) at the same time.

Debi and Carol gave out the awards and binders to the winners, and about half the convention attendees lined up to get signed copies of the CD-version of the New Voices book. Note for the future... We forgot to have gel-ink or marker-style pens on hand for the kids' signing, so authors donated whatever they had on hand. I donated 3 of the 6 alone, since I love gel ink pens.

The leftover binders were offered to the teachers present for their writing classes back home...and then to the Ooligan program. One thing you can count on with EPIC... When we do use paper, we don't waste it, if at all possible. The ads, convention pages and adult classes removed from the kids' binders were recycled, and we found homes for the binders that were leftovers from last year. I was happy to see that two of them made it into the hands of attendees that had to miss last year.

About that time, I realized that we were snapping pictures of the Saturday events. Debi had provided a camera to Stephen Womack of WCP, and Jude (I assume, though I'm not certain) provided a camera to another attendee. We got a ton of pictures of the kids to use on the site and the new brochures. Jude even planned for the stuffed frog centerpieces to be given to the New Voices winners present. We got pictures of them with their frogs, as well.

We launched pretty much directly from the New Voices luncheon into the publishers' forum. On the way from one venue to another, I handed the EPPIE for the category Carol was a finalist in to Debi, so it would get stacked with the other trophies. I kept the Friend and Pat White in my room, since I wanted to carry those up with me. It didn't take long for Debi to figure out that I'd forgotten to give her the envelope for the EPPIE, so I promised it right after the publishers' forum.

The forum itself went smoothly. We joked about some of the things we all have to deal with, and a lot of good information passed to the authors in attendance.

Handing over the EPPIE envelope didn't go as well. My bid to go up and grab it was wishful thinking. It wasn't where I remembered leaving it, and the president's room is usually staging center, almost as much as the EPPIE and New Voices chairs' rooms and the EPICon chair's are, especially when the president is also the PR head and a publisher...and an author, for that matter.

After one toss of the entire room--during which I assured myself that we'd ordered housekeeping not to come in, so the trash and paper trash were still there to be searched--I called Carol and Debi in a panic and left a message on their hotel room phone, telling them that I was afraid I'd lost it somehow and asking if they had a blank envelope, like they usually do, that I could print a new one on. Amusingly, that message didn't even get to them, until the entire issue was resolved.

It turned out that I'd placed my spiral notebook on the desk next to the envelope, and someone shifted the envelope over and into the notebook. A second toss of the room revealed it, and I called their room again to tell them to disregard that earlier message...the message they'd never gotten from me. Note... Don't trust the hotel message system, unless you have no other choice but to.

Debi thought my upset was hysterical. She didn't find my joke of "Thank GOD I remember who the winner was." funny in the least.

I headed down again and found that Jeff wanted to include me in an EPPIE joke. It sounded like fun, so we set it all up, and I was off to my room again--having missed the second panel I'd wanted to sit in on. All told, I didn't get to attend a single panel or class I'd wanted to (the ones for myself and not that I was participating in), but that goes along with the job description.

Getting ready for the EPPIE banquet wasn't as simple as it might seem. Our toilet had stopped flushing earlier in the day. Lisa had already called the customer service folks and asked for someone to fix it. No one showed, and it was a full two hours later when I was using the bathroom sink...and it started pouring water all over the floor. After a squawk of surprise, I tossed towels over it, made sure the water was off and called down again, letting them know that we'd end up flooding the room below, if it wasn't taken care of. There was a guy at our room within 15 minutes.

Note to self... Murphy's rule does indeed apply, and he has a vicious sense of humor. The determination was that, in the renovations they were doing, the toilet had been given the wrong set point...and the sink had been put together with a cheese PVC cap on a metal pipe that was sure to blow again "but hopefully not before you leave. I'll be fixing this again."

I managed to get cleaned up and dressed and got Lisa to the zipping-up point of her dressing before I escaped to the ARe Champagne Reception, where the dresses were even more decadent than usual. Will Belegon was even in a mourning coat and tails...and oh that man is eye candy, I don't mind saying. I'm sure he wouldn't mind me saying it either.

Dinner went great: salad, rolls, red-skinned potatoes, crisp green beans, steak and salmon. The only thing I turned down was the incredibly-rich chocolate coffee fudge cake. Makes my teeth hurt just to think about it.

The EPPIE awards program was to die for. Jeff was in rare form, including his "my wife isn't here, and I need Ginny to Mommy me and get me dressed in my tux opener." For the first time ever, we taped the awards, and I can't wait to get that CD. The two college students taping the event were laughing so hard they could barely do their jobs.

Our skit went off with almost no hitch. The setup was sublime. Before the show began, Jeff and I both reminded people to shut off their cell phones or set them to vibrate. That, in itself, became an impromptu joke, since I picked mine up to take a picture, and someone else's chirped, because it was being turned off. I made a show of the fact that it wasn't mine, which people assumed was the joke.

But, we got to the correct place in the show (the beginning of Romantic Suspense, which Lisa was presenting), and I dialed Jeff's cell phone from mine...under the table. His rang, and he answered it. Once we had a connection, I closed mine and he had a BS conversation with thin air on his cell phone, pretended to lose it then called me back, making mine ring. I picked it up, and Jeff and I had several minutes of conversation, during which people were dying, since he was standing ten feet away from me. He asked if Lisa wanted to present a category, and I said I thought she did, but I'd ask her. Jeff suggested I call her, and I started dialing. Now, mind you Lisa was in the next chair, and the audience was screaming that fact at me, but this was all part of the show. To add a twist of unexpected to the whole thing, Lisa's phone didn't ring. It told me hers was unavailable. Uh...no. It was right next to me, and she wasn't texting or talking. So, amid laughter, I called it again. Lisa was halfway up on stage when it finally rang, so we cut it short with a quick flip of her phone open and shut. Not quite on plan, but it went fairly well.

Unexpected events only add to the show. Jeff was so tired he couldn't pronounce Carol's name right, for instance. And, Catherine Snodgrass produced our "wardrobe malfunction" of the evening. No bodice problems, of course.

As usual, the EPPIE awards passed so quickly that it was almost a heartbreak when they ended. A quick stop at the business center to e-mail a winner who wasn't present later, we were on our way back to the room to pack the rest of our gear (save what we'd need in the morning).

Now, we were faced with two choices. One was to stay up all night. It was already 11:30 pm PST. We had to be up at 3:00, and it was time change day. At best, we were going to get 2.5 hours of sleep. The other option was to try and get the full 2.5 hours. We went for plan C and tried to stay up, but both Lisa and I lost the battle at about 12:30.

That comes out to a 17.75 hour day.


We'd left a wake-up call for 3 am. The cell phone rang, and I got to it, rather bleary-eyed and checking the table clock...which read 2:20 am. The cell phone was my husband, making sure I didn't oversleep. I was probably pretty cranky when I told him we had 45 minutes left to sleep and asked him to call me back. I flipped the phone shut, prepared to crawl back into bed...and locked on the cell phone time of 3:20 am. It clicked that Lisa hadn't reset the table clock as I'd suggested, and the desk had missed our wake-up call. Note to self...never trust that a hotel can get the time change right, when you need them to.

Still keeping track? Day six starts with 93.75 hours on the go and 27 hours of sleep.

Flight of the bumble bee ensued. Lisa called the desk for a bellman and ordered them to make the cab wait, even if they had to pay for it, since it was their fault we would likely be late for the 3:30 cab we'd ordered. We both brushed teeth and hair and dressed, since there was no time for showers. We literally threw the clothing from the night before and toiletries into our bags and did a final room scan for things we might have missed. The desk called up to say we could come get a cart...but they couldn't possibly send someone up with it, though this was their screw-up. Note to self... Complain to the manager of the hotel, when I get home and have time to.

A few harried minutes later, Lisa was back with the cart, and a second cab was ordered. It wasn't that the cab left. Oh no! It was that the cab company was no better with the time change than the hotel desk had been. Note to self... Service industries are incredibly lax about service when the clocks change.

Add in a problem with the ATM and we were finally in the cab and headed for the airport. Check-in went fine, though I had to shift two pounds of weight from my large suitcase to the pilot case (which I checked this time) to avoid an over-weight fee, and TSA confiscated both of our tubes of toothpaste. Strangely enough, in the flight of the bumblebee, neither of us remembered that the TSA considered toothpaste a liquid over 3 oz. Go figure.

Since our gates were only 5 gates apart, Lisa hung out with me until boarding. The first leg of the flight was full (nearly to the last seat), and much as I was exhausted, I couldn't get more than a few minutes shut-eye, as usual.

My layover in Chicago didn't materialize. I literally got to the second gate 15 minutes before boarding, with no stops except a quick bathroom stop. Luckily, I came in and went out on the same concourse. If I would have had to change concourses, I might have been late for boarding.

Saying that the second plane was full would be an understatement. It was so full that they filled the last six seats with stand-bys, when original passengers didn't show on time...and there were no less than three babes on laps. We had a total of five children under the age of 5 on the plane, and three of them were unhappy about the situation. Surprisingly...not all three the babes on laps.

The gate area itself was a mess, because two planefuls of passengers were stranded in Chicago, thanks to the snow in Ohio. It wasn't that we didn't have snow in Chicago; in fact, we spent more than 30 minutes being de-iced, and a plane on the runway before us slid off and had to have rescue crews sent out.

For some reason, people on that second flight were completely unable to watch where they were going. If I had a dollar for every passenger (or gods forbid steward/ess) who hit my left arm during that flight, I'd be able to purchase my entire family dinner out...and I don't mean fast food.

To top it, the woman in front of me wanted to put her seat back. Picture me trying to type this blog with the laptop half-folded and cocked up at an angle. Thankfully, she put her seat back up 30 minutes later. I was seriously considering bodily harm. On a full plane like that, there's really no room to kick back. Manchester couldn't come fast enough for my tastes.

In Manchester, we still weren't home free, unfortunately. My youngest was sick with a high fever, and one of the luggage carrousels was down for the count.

Now, common sense tells me to pull the luggage from carrousel A and toss it onto B, since they are all of twelve feet apart. No. Airlines don't think that way. Instead, the passengers from our flight had to wait another 45 minutes, while they fixed the carrousel we were using. Never mind that our flight had been originally announced to be on the working carrousel, which means they could use it. Never mind that there was a full 10 minutes of down time on the working carrousel, before a flight that came in after us sent its luggage up the ramp. Never mind that they could have, in that time period, brought our luggage up on carts instead of putting it on any carrousel...and, in fact, did that with the skis on the plane but nothing else.

There's a new thing at Manchester, I want to note. It's called a cell phone lot. If you and your ride both have cell phones, this is a godsend. You don't have to pay for parking, as long as you stay in your car. The point is that the person getting off the plane phones out to you and either finds out where you are or goes outside and waits for you to pull the car around on the circle. It's great. No wasted gas, and no wasted time finding each other.

The rest of the day was a blur...home, presents for the family from my trip (including new books from Powell's), dinner, some new Avatar...and dead asleep by 8:30 pm EST. All told, 3:20 am PST/6:20 am EST to 8:30 pm EST was my shortest day yet, thanks to the lack of sleep the night before...a full 14+ hours on my feet and moving, bringing the total to 107.75 hours up and 27 hours down in the six days of the convention.

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