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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Post

I, Curmudgeoness Koss, am glad we got all that thankfulness out of our systems, as there is no math more cloying than the counting of blessings. It is not that I don’t see how amazingly lucky we are. I do. 
  • We’re lucky to be ALIVE and healthy and more or less conscious and intact and housebroken. 
  • We’re lucky to be alive NOW after the good folks before us took care of the messier aspects of inventing pie, and e-mail and deodorant and elevators. 
  • We’re lucky to be alive HERE where we are free to believe, write about, wear, eat, and say pretty much whatever asinine thing pops into our addled little minds, as evidenced by this blog.
  • All that is a great start, but it always seems like underneath all this warm fuzzy thankfulosity is an under-tone of bargaining; The assumption that if we act really grateful it’ll stall worse crap from descending. See Fate? How fun it is to do good things for us? See how grateful we are? (and worthy) 
  • But the real issue about all this thanks-giving is its implication that the job is done, mission accomplished with no room for improvement. 
  • Call it greedy, but I want more. Just because I’ve got a house doesn’t mean the world can check housing off its list of problems. Just because I have medical coverage doesn’t mean the nation is cool on health care. And just because I can eat like a pig doesn’t mean we don’t have a ways to go before hunger is no longer an issue. 
Let's just hope more of us have more to be thankful for by next Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Unpaid Gig

We know that society has decreed that we writers are our most authentically deep when kept poor and garroted. And that love of our craft, plus the joy of working loose hours in the ratty bathrobe are a fair trade for our poverty and lack of dental benefits.  
But guess what? Not unlike other humans the writer does like to be treated well from time to time. And, more specifically, for the purposes of this rant, we like to be treated well by the people or organizations for whom we are doing a favor.
As a fellow chump mentioned the other day, 2011 has been the year of the free gig. The economy is trash, our business in particular is circling the drain, and we feel extra sorry in a panicky way for schools and libraries and anyone else out there with an historic sympathy for the written word. So, when they call and say “Please,” we cave and say, “Sure.” 

And for that we are often (although not always) punished. 

I am not talking about the gigs that put their money in play to have authors hold forth from a podium, or lead their fellows in writing workshops, or hand out awards and eat the book club / school /  library lunch and gab amiably with banquet-esqe cheer. But the ones who ask the author to don hard shoes and show up for free. 

We're often willing to show for charities & good causes, believing that this is how community is built, or karma is balanced, or otherwise un-reached kids are reached, or in hopes that unpaid gigs lead to paid gigs, and perhaps circuitously, to increased book sales. 
Some freebie events go nicely, but a horrifying number of them do not. 
Nicely equals your arrival is anticipated and prepared for, appreciated and even sometimes celebrated. 
The not nice are the ones where you are not greeted or introduced and must gamely ignore the toilet paper stuck to your shoe, show your Happy-Harmless-Kid’s-Book Smile and introduce yourself -- feeling like you’re burping Tupperware to the leery or opening your grimy trench coat to reveal your collection of stolen watches going cheap.
Sometimes the guests did not know you were coming or why you are there... and they see your presence in their midst as an affront -- the pushy book peddler, fingers in the greasy til.
And you endure until allowed to scuddle away, feeling raw and sheepish at the end wondering how much lower you could possibly sink without going subterranean.  
And so, I learn again (and again and again) that too often, we are valued by how much we cost. Sadly, the moral of the story seems to be -- If you give it away for free, it must be worthless. 
Please remind me next time.