Monday, July 21, 2008

A Preconference Day in the Life...

I leave for RWA's national conference in seven days and seven hours. Not that I'm counting or panicking or anything. I know, I know. Everyone feels a crunch right before conference. I thought it might give you a little glimpse into what crunch time looks like on my side of the desk. Here is how my day went today.

8:30 a.m.
Sit down at desk. Refuse to look at task list. Instead, cast one ferocious scowl in its general direction, and briefly mull over the fact that not one item got crossed off yesterday. And yes, yesterday was Sunday. And yes, I worked all day. And all evening.

8:31 a.m.
Open E-mail. Begin answering messages that came in overnight. Normal, routine, everyday stuff. One editor sent me a manuscript she wants to buy. One author wants to know when her cover will be ready. Art director needs some information for two other covers. This one has a question about a release date; that one is doublechecking the time for our author dinner. A few reviews came in -- good ones, but they usually are. Multiple e-mails from boss, and those always get answered first. Most of these are questions about our schedule for the conference. Check status sheets on all upcoming releases. Several are ready for the next phase in the process. Send them off. Ha! Off my desk, and onto someone else's!

9:45 a.m.
Sit back and sigh. E-mail is done. For now. Reach for coffee cup and realize it's not there. Get up and make coffee. Ponder the mathematical improbability of making it this far on a Monday morning before drinking any coffee.

10 a.m.
Renew a solemn vow to clear out entire submissions list before leaving for conference. Evaluate submissions list. At the moment, I have one manuscript from a current author and about another dozen manuscripts to evaluate. One is old enough to be making me feel guilty. Decide I shouldn't feel guilty because I cut my submissions pile in half last week in a massive pre-conference desk-cleaning marathon. Normally I would start with the manuscript the editor wants to acquire, but today is an exception because she is out and doesn't need a fast response. Open the one from the current author. I would really like to get her working on this before I leave.

11 a.m.
Making good headway on the manuscript. Just realized that there is a conference document that I need to proofread this morning. The second page needs an entirely new layout. Save work frequently. This is the same document that disappeared from my hard drive yesterday. That little glitch cost me two hours.

11:45 a.m.
Save document. Print a hard copy, and download it to disk, and e-mail it to self, because paranoia runs rampant today. It's ready for the printer.

11:46 a.m.
Check e-mail. Find revision suggestions for the document. Cry a little. (Okay, not really.) Re-open document and begin making revisions.

High noon.
Finally work up the courage to check the task list. Seven priority items, 24 additional items, 31 total. Open e-mail to deal with a fairly quick priority item -- it's always good to get at least one done before lunch. Inbox has exploded in the last 45 minutes. How does that happen? Do you all get together and decide a time at which you will all e-mail me? A coordinated e-mail blitz? Okay, probably not. Briefly ponder mathematical improbability of everyone I know emailing me in the same 30-minute window. Spend 15 minutes dealing with as many messages as possible, as quickly as possible. Several are FYI messages that don't require a response. Yay.

12:15 p.m.
Lunch. I promised myself a little lunchtime shopping today. I want some new clothes for the conference. Isn't this part of the ritual? Drive to favorite store. Make one lap through favorite department, gathering everything that looks worth trying on. Try it all on. Quickly. Feeling harassed by my task list, and want to get back to work. Buy one pair of pants and one blouse.

1:15 p.m.
At the post office. The clerk mentions that a package came in for me from overseas, and someone needs to sign for it, and it's on my mail carrier's truck. I know what this is. I've been waiting for it. One of my authors is sending me something really special, and I've been stalking the mailman waiting for it. Rush home.

1:30 p.m.
Mailman was already here. Did not leave package. Damn. Briefly contemplate driving neighborhood streets until mail truck is spotted. Decide that might be crossing the line. Instead, call mom and ask her to pick it up later on her way over here.

1:35 p.m.
Email Alicia to discuss Batman and Don Draper and her son's recent silent film project. Important stuff. Problems with an event for conference. Might need a change of venue. Begin investigating alternate venues. Frequent e-mail and phone call with boss. Problem is not so much a problem as a preference, and we debate whether we should just live with it. Update conference schedule spreadsheet. Cross-check my schedule and boss's schedule against master schedule. This is a pain in the ass. More e-mail regarding the same. The e-mail never ends.

3 p.m.
Check clock. Freak out. Reread task list. Nothing is quick and easy. Make tea -- caffeine is clearly necessary. Glower at tea kettle while debating what to do next. Wonder if I have any choice in the matter, the way this day is going.

3:10 p.m.
Have re-evaluated priorities for the rest of the day. Close e-mail browser window. Must disengage from e-mail in order to accomplish actual work. Open manuscript from this morning, and resume actual work.

4 p.m.
Mom arrives with package. Open package and squeal. Dare I tell you what was in it? Hint: not a manuscript. (Okay, it was yarn. Awesome handmade yarn from Finland, a gift-souvenir from a vacationing author. Nathalie Gray, you rock!)

4:30 p.m.
E-mail is piling up. Time is running short. Send many emails. Remember that I promised to help a friend with her pitch before conference, and email her some pointers. Realize I have blog post from author sitting in my inbox and post it to company blog. Briefly note that my email inbox has swelled by half today. Briefly contemplate the mathematical probability of getting entirely caught up on email and staying that way. Realize that I have already defied the math gods twice today, and give up the dream.

5:15 p.m.
Must. Eat. Dinner. Leftover stir-fried vegetables and rice. How exciting. Work out. Shower. Fold laundry. The excitement never ends.

6:45 p.m.
Return to manuscript. Open file, stare out window while contemplating possible solutions to a plot problem. Make notes. Read some more pages in the hope that plot problem will resolve itself. (It won't. They never do. Lucky for me, or I'd be out of a job.)

8:00 p.m.
Dear heaven, how did it get to be this late? Oh. Right. I killed a couple of hours on scheduling and other conference matters. Browse interwebz in lazy slacker fashion. Realize we have the number one book in our category on Fictionwise. Email authors to celebrate. We also have two other titles in the top ten, and three more performing very well over there. Six of our books are kicking butt and taking names. I couldn't be prouder.

8:30 p.m.
Okay, enough slackering. Add four items to task list as a result of pre-slackering email blitz. Cry a little. (Okay, not really.) Scour memory, inbox, task lists, and wall of sticky note reminders next to desk in effort to remember detail I was supposed to remember today. Finally remember. It's a two-minute task related to -- you guessed it -- the conference schedule. Email someone to confirm schedule detail. Spend a few quick minutes rearranging wall of sticky note reminders because some items have been finished today. Feel gloaty for finishing any real work at all.

9:15 p.m.
Email from boss. She says we've spend enough time debating issue with venue. I agree. She has made a decision. Whew! That's a big one off the old task list.

9:20 p.m.
Remember that I wanted to blog about Mad Men and character foils today. Episode notes for Mad Men are not on my desk. Where are they? Um. Hunt for notes leads to general desk-clearing. We take 90% or more of our submissions electronically, so my desk never gets too dreadful. Which makes it all the more puzzling when I can't find something. Give up hunting for notes and return to manuscript, pausing briefly to admire descluttered desk surface.

10:00 p.m.
But I want to blog something, even if not about Mad Men. Throw in the towel on the manuscript. Brain is slush anyway. Contemplate day.

Manuscripts completed: 0
Manuscripts evaluated: one-half
Revision letters written: one-half
Manuscripts pushed to next stage of production: 6
Trips to post office: 2 (one mine, one mom's)
Email inbox count at beginnning of day: 33
Email inbox count at end of day: 45 (Boo! Net gain!)
Number of emails written: 46
Number of phone calls regarding conference: 4
Priority tasks at beginning of day: 7
Priority tasks at end of day: 9 (Boo! Hiss! Net gain!)
Revisions to document for conference: 9,437 (or so it seems)
Revisions to conference schedules: 44,695 (or so it seems)
Blog posts: 3
Number of sticky notes removed from wall: 5
Number of sticky notes added to wall: 2 (Hooray! That's a net loss!)

It is now midnight. I'm set to hit the ground running in the morning, but tomorrow has to be more productive. I think I'm almost done with the conference scheduling and planning, and I really, really want to leave with a clean desk. Or as clean as I can get it, anyway. What's the probability of that?


Anonymous said...

Oh dear, that is not a good day. Not a fun day, not even a mediocre day. On the bright side, what does come through is your very evident passion for what you do. So I very much hope that these really ordinary days are only the few minor notes in a symphony set in a major key.

Jody W. and Meankitty said...

I love whinelines! Thanks for sharing your editor's day with us so we know other people in publishing have trouble getting traction sometimes, too :).

Jody W.

Cathy in AK said...

A number of those emails you received by the end of the day were probably responses to your 46 sent. Does responding to emails negate or partially negate the amount you gained? There's a fancy math formula in there somewhere.

I enjoy the blog. Thanks!

Rachel said...

wow, for some strange reason, that makes me want to be an editor. I wonder if its too late for a career change. Ha! How could I get started on that--impossible probably.

great, great post.

Edittorrent said...

Ha. You think YOU have problems. I spilled Diet Coke on my laptop, and it won't turn on or anything. :(

This sort of thing keeps happening to me.

Kristin Daniels said...

Oh, man, I have to go take a nap after reading that... :) Awesome post!