I promised I would make it a regular thing to blog about how much, or more accurately, how little we’re making from our creative endeavors. To that end, I present the report on our January earnings.
The numbers reflect our net earnings. In the case of Etsy sales that means less shipping and various selling fees. With regards to Midwinter, the net takes into account expenses for the booth, for getting to the convention, hotel costs, etc. On the plus side, we made almost three times what we did in December. On the down side, no one is getting rich off of this. I’d say we shouldn’t quit our day jobs, but …
We are closer to our goal of getting a new fan for the Jeep, though, almost halfway there. And we have a convention coming up in March that promises to be more lucrative. We’re only a month into this whole grand scheme, so I can’t really say if sticking to one or two large conventions a year is feasible. We may have to add in more events, or I might have to open up to commissions again. Or, we might have to put in a better effort to market our books, and finish the one that is in the works.
I’ve made so many moves over the years it’s hard to keep track of them all. Besides the physical moves I’ve made—from Wyoming to Chicago and various suburbs thereof—I’ve made personal, emotional and relationship changes. It is surprising how much distance one can cover without ever having to take a step.
Through all these moves I’ve carried a trunk with me. It was a high school graduation present from my grandparents. The trunk has been a bench, a footstool, and a table, as well as being the holder of those things I couldn’t bear to toss, but had no need to be out in the open. Journals, letters, cards, old ids, and other ephemera. For the past couple of years it has sat under my desk, home to the garbage can and a laptop that I don’t use any more. I haven’t opened it, partly because I haven’t had anything to squirrel away (e-mail, Facebook and WordPress has digitized much of my correspondence and thoughts); but also because it is full.
In mid-December I dragged the trunk out. I was looking for a notebook, and was certain it had to be there. This happens on occasion. I’ll be seized by a need to find something and I tear apart the house in search of it. Usually, I fail to find whatever Lost Ark I’m chasing; if it were still around I would have found it easily. I’m then stuck with a mess and a heavy weight of frustration that my quarry managed to escape the nets of my organization zeal.
This time was no different. The notebook, and the information therein, was nowhere to be seen. In my digging through the trunk, I flipped through the dozen-plus journals there. They were varied: cloth covered ones bought in a three pack from Sam’s Club in the early 90s, spiral bound ones from Borders, “leather” covered ones, five subject Mead notebooks, even a manila envelope stuffed full of loose-leaf paper. This represented more than a decade of my life: from about 1995 to 2005. There were some random pages from earlier and later, but the bulk of my regular journaling ended shortly after Charlotte was born.
As I flipped through the pages all I read was misery. Every randomly picked page was a chronicle of how desperately unhappy I was. Did I write only when I was upset? Or did I only write of my unhappiness because that’s all there was? I think a little more of the former than the latter, but there was no denying that what I had committed to the pages was unpleasant. I wanted to reach out to my past self and tell her that it was going to get better … in a way. I can’t reach her, though. She is in the past and trying to cast back would only slow down the momentum I have gained.
But I didn’t have to keep carrying the millstone of unhappiness. What did I gain by keeping these journals around? Evidence of my unhappiness during that time? Did I really need it? I had my memories, if ever I wanted to revisit them. Which, again, wasn’t going to help me move forward. I had learned all I could from that time. There was nothing more these journals could tell me about myself.
I grabbed two cardboard boxes and filled them. The letters, cards, notes, pictures and miscellaneous bits and bobs stayed. The journals went. For the first time in years there was room in the trunk. Room for more pleasant keepsakes: love notes from Stephan, birthday cards from my children, perhaps even a letter to my future self, telling her that I am okay. She can let me go and move on.
The first of January I took the journals out to the fire pit and burned them. The day was sunny, if cold, and windy. Despite the helpful nature of the weather, burning a decade’s worth of misery isn’t easy, even when it is bound in paper. You can’t just set fire to your past and walk away. You have to tend to it, or else it won’t be fully destroyed. Blackened bits of paper constantly tried to escape, flying high and forcing me to run around the yard to catch them. Some were still burning and had to be stomped out. I had to open up the journals with a poker to make sure all the pages burned. I got a surprising, and disturbing, insight into just what goes into a book burning.
The whole process took three or four hours. As I worked I kept thinking, “This is who I was, but it is not who I am now.” As the paper turned to ash, I felt the truth of it more and more. I returned to the house cold, smelling of smoke, my hair peppered with ashes. I can’t say if I have completely divorced myself from the misery of those past years. However, I won’t have those words sitting at my feet, their ambient unpleasantness influencing me. And if that isn’t a solution, it’s at least a start.
Last week we headed up to Milwaukee for the Midwinter Gaming Convention. We had a booth there, and had plans to get some gaming in. This is Midwinter’s fifteenth year, and our third, and it has grown larger and better every year we’ve been. This was the first year both Stephan and I had wares to peddle, and the first year I had so many booth helpers. It all added up to a lot of fun.
What made the biggest difference, I think, is that I had two booth helpers throughout the convention. Our friends Denis and Chrissy came along, and with them on hand, we had four adults to cover the booth the entire weekend. That meant Stephan wasn’t stuck on Ben patrol the entire time. It meant we both got to go to lunch together one day. It meant I got to spend time with my son outside of the vendor’s hall for the first time ever. I can’t thank the two of them enough for their help the entire weekend.
I had forgotten how much I enjoyed gaming cons. Midwinter’s focus is on LARP, but it has programming dedicated to board and video games, as well as a strong reenactment presence thanks to the SCA. So while there is a costuming contingent, it isn’t a costume heavy convention. And the convention has a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. I found myself joking and laughing, things I hadn’t done in a long time. I managed to deal with the little anxiety that cropped up throughout the weekend, which means that medication and therapy is working for my mental health issues.
The Milwaukee Hilton is a beautiful hotel, with lots of ornate staircases and decor, as well as hallways and seating areas for hangouts. I spent most of my time in the vendor hall, which was placed in a baroque fantasy of a ballroom with chandeliers and gold molding on the ceiling. The hotel staff was super friendly and helpful, a big plus when you are attending a convention where there can be tension between fans and non-fans.
That same weekend there was a girl’s volleyball conference in the hotel. This led to lots of interactions with non-gaming people. I witnessed an abundance of stares and whispered comments, but I was never the target of them. In fact I had several women approach me to ask about what was going on. I think the pink hair establishes me as part of the “weird people” but that my size and gender makes me non-threatening enough to be approachable. This isn’t the first time I’ve played ambassador for the geek community. Back in 2002 at ConJose in San Jose, I fielded questions from people on the street who saw me wearing a badge, but not a costume (no pink hair back in those days). And the fan side of things gave as good as they got on the passive aggressive front. I overheard one LARPer bragging about having invented “Trolling: the LARP” where he and his friends paraded past groups of volleyball players and parents in their costumes and played their characters to an exaggerated degree.
I only ran into one instance of bad customer behavior: a woman incredulously demanding to know if “that ruffle thing” truly was $75. When I confirmed that, yes, I do charge $75 for my bustles, she huffed off. I know that prior to her asking she had snapped a shot of the bustle (the flash is a dead giveaway) and suspect she’ll show the picture to a sewing friend and ask if said friend will make one for her. I wish her good luck with that.
I did overhear another customer ask the vendor next to me if they would get a discount on a $20 item if they carried it around the convention and told people where they would get it from. There seems to be this belief among a certain set of attendees that vendors are starving for marketing and will give away their wares for word of mouth advertising. I have never once met a vendor who has done such. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is one or two who have, I just have never encountered them.
The only other annoyance was the number of times people congregated in front of my booth and blocked access to it. That is easily dealt with. I whip out my phone and ask the people if they could move because I want to get a shot of my set up. Nine times out of ten the people realize they were blocking the way and move on apologetically. The tenth time, the people move, but with resentment at having been asked to move. Either way, it’s not skin off my nose, I got them to clear the way.
The final attendance count was just shy of 1100 members. Not a bad showing. I made just over 50 cents per attendee (which is about what I plan on making at any convention). It was less than I had hoped, but I didn’t have any big items with me this time around. There’s time before the next convention to get plenty of coats made up for off the rack purchases.
According to those we talked to, Midwinter has seen an average of 10 percent growth in attendance each year. It’s clear that they do a lot of work not only in planning great programming, but also in advertising their presence. They do a lot of social media work, have a strong Facebook page, and got the convention covered by local TV press. It is a lot of work, but it is paying off for them.
I mention this because over the course of the weekend I was approached by two different conventions about vending. Both are brand new, both are asking for $200 for booth space. One mentioned on its website that they expect anywhere between 350 to 2,400 attendees at their first con. Think about that for a moment. Presuming that they reach their minimum number, and that I make 50 cents per attendee, I will lose money attending that convention. The other is one could see slightly better numbers, but it is still the first year, still untested, and still not worth paying that much for a space. When conventions charge that much for a space, with such low numbers, it is clear they are looking to cover their costs on the backs of their vendors rather than through ticket sales.
Examine your patterns. Consider first if the pace and the pattern of your life are of your own choosing. Take the measure of your life, honestly and logically. Determine which patterns are imposed upon you from external sources and which are self-imposed (or self-inflicted).
Make an honest assessment of what you have to do, what you don’t have to do, and of what you have consciously chosen to do, regardless of whether it is required or not.
Now reach a little further within to take a deeper measure of your personal life patterns. In doing so, realistically determine what it is you are striving for. Reexamine your life patterns in the clear light of personal truth and choice. Ask yourself what it is that you truly want from your life, from yourself.
If you are fairly clear on what you really want, then you can effectively determine whether or not your life patterns are structuring your success. If you are uncertain about what you ultimately want, then you must ask yourself who or what is actually determining and managing thee patterns of your life for you and why.
These are hard questions, but necessary ones if you want to take more power over the patterns in your life. Know that you do have the ability to choose far more in the matters of your life patterns. The first step—and the last—is taking your personal measure.
The idea started off simply enough: to turn the backyard into a garden. The indecision, however, is in the details. While we could, theoretically, pull up all the lawn and plant right into the ground, we have two dogs who have no regard for boundaries. Enya, a German short-haired pointer, will trample over plants, push over fences and chicken wire, and steal cucumbers right off the vine. We also have our share of rabbits who trek through the yard, despite the wooden fence and the presence of the dogs. I’ve lost more pea shoots than I can count to bunny thieves. Taking all of those factors into account, we decided raised beds throughout the backyard would be our best bet. Continue reading Backyard Garden Project: Raised Beds
While I was learning to work with clay, I made a lot of pots and had to believe that even if they were less than perfect the making of them was worthwhile and important. To continue, I needed to find faith that the expression of my inner forms would become easier and that it had intrinsic value to me as a process of growth. I had to believe that my vision and its pursuit were valuable to me and to those around me even though the world didn’t necessarily need more mediocre pottery.
—Rheya Polo, “Spinning from the Center—Creation & Transformation”