Showing posts from May, 2009

The Bathroom Remodel: Part One

We began talking about the bathroom remodel last winter. After attending home shows and interrogating plumbers, we purchased a new toilet and a new bathtub. Both remain in their packaging. I’d almost forgotten about the project.

Until Saturday.

I was preparing to leave to take Mom grocery shopping and asked Hubby what he was going to do with his day. I expected to hear some grumbling about mowing lawns. Instead, he informed me he was going to start ripping out the bathroom wall.

Okay. It shouldn’t have taken me by surprise. He’s mentioned this time and time again. Soon, he would say. He was going to start on the remodel SOON. And yet, I embraced denial. The sun will come out tomorrow. The bathroom will get torn to shreds tomorrow. Never today.

Until Saturday.

This is what my bathroom looked like before I left to go shopping.

The bath surround is cracked and chipped.

Icky mold lurks in the corners. It definitely NEEDS to be remodeled.

And this is what I came home to.

Next, the old tub has to co…

Does this picture make me look fat?

Yesterday, my friend Doris Dumrauf pointed out to me that I really need to replace my author photo. She wasn’t telling me anything I don’t already know. Yes, it’s not the sharpest image in the world. The original was a full-body shot that, quite frankly made me look FAT. But last year, I taught that workshop in Twinsburg, Ohio and discovered they had lifted a picture of me from my website for their promotional materials. A picture that showed me at Mountaineer, wearing my barn coat and ball cap, but NOT wearing a stitch of makeup.

At that point, I KNEW I needed an author photo sooner rather than later. Cropping the fat picture into a headshot was the best solution I could come up with. Okay, one side of it’s a little burnt out from the sun. It was never intended to be permanent. I’ve always planned to replace it with something better.


According to Doris, eventually should mean now.

She’s right, of course. But I really hate the whole process of getting my picture taken. I’ve al…

Working Stiffs Wednesday

Today at Working Stiffs, I'm blogging about obstacles to writing and my plan for getting around them.

Our New Home Away From Home

Back in March, we moved our camper onto a seasonal site in Confluence, PA. We spent one night there in early April to get a few things set up. Hubby used it during early trout season, but I hadn’t been back until this weekend.

Confluence is a small town nestled in the Laurel Highlands the Casselman River and Laurel Hill Creek merge with the Youghiogheny River. There is no cell service, although several people told me you can pick up a signal while standing on the dam. I had no such luck. Can you hear me now? NO.

There are no wi-fi hot spots either, although the Turkeyfoot Lending Library offers high speed Internet on their computers.

Can you say “quaint?” I love it! This is the perfect escape for a world-weary former conference coordinator.

We took Skye the Camping Kitty who spent most of her vacation sleeping or watching the kids on the playground across the lane from our camp spot.

Hubby did a lot of fishing, which left me alone with my manuscript. I confess, I never even broke out the l…

Diary of a Conference Coordinator: Conclusion

Sunday is always low key at the Pennwriters Conference. Dress slacks and sports coats give way to blue jeans and t-shirts as everyone prepares for the trip home.

Silly me, I thought I might get to take in a workshop or maybe two on this last day. However, I didn’t take into consideration the hotel bill which needed reconciled.

I did get to sit down and chat a bit with agent Lucienne Diver over breakfast. And agent Uwe Stender and I had a nice talk in the Hospitality Suite during a lull in the action.

One of my perennial favorites is the basket raffle. With Barb Lockwood and Don Jodon as my assistants, I called out the winning numbers and gave away three tables of gorgeous baskets and goodies. I even won three of them myself, including the chocolate lovers basket. No, I didn’t rig it.

When the last basket was awarded and I’d thanked everyone for coming, the place emptied out, leaving Lisa Kastner, Jackie Shaffmaster, and I to make a final study of the bill.

The 2009 Pennwriters Conference i…

Diary of a Conference Coordinator: Photographs

Today is my day at Working Stiffs so, I've posted my photo album of the conference over there. Thanks to Doris Dumrauf, Lorraine Henderson, and Colette Garmer for contributing pictures.

Tomorrow, I'll be back here with the conclusion of this Diary series.

Diary of a Conference Coordinator: Almost Done

By Saturday morning, I was breathing a lot easier. The agents and editors had all arrived. Lisa Scottoline was the talk of the conference. All good. I was basking in the glow. To quote Hannibal Smith from the A-Team (yes, I watch way too much Retro TV Network) “I love it when a plan comes together.”

The Pennwriters general meeting was held during breakfast and thankfully I had very little to do during it, except load up on caffeine. During one of the votes when everyone else voted AYE, Tim Esaias voted NAY and our president, Lisa Kastner, promptly removed him from the membership. All in good fun, of course.

I had hopes of maybe sitting in on a couple of workshops. My friend John Lamb did his Homicide 101 presentation first thing in the morning and I did pop in to listen for about two minutes. But there were a few more requests for additional meals that had to be dealt with along with one agent appointment “crisis” which Vickie Fisher handled with her usual aplomb and grace.

Someone had m…

Diary of a Conference Coordinator: FRIDAY

I apologize for not posting my daily accounts of the conference. I’ve been a little busy.

Friday morning, the Pennwriters Conference officially got under way. This was the day I’d been waiting for and dreading at the same time. I knew that all the bugs in the system would rear their ugly heads as we got under way. The biggest bug was self-inflicted. With a long line of attendees waiting for registration to open, I made the mistake of trying to help by stepping in and signing in a few people early…before Sandi Hahn arrived. Sandi was the one in charge of registration and was the one who had a perfect system prepared. One I completely muffed up. Poor Sandi had to straighten out the mess I’d made of things as well as face the eager hordes.


Most of the morning was spent adding a few walk-ins, which meant adding meals to the hotel orders. This was also when I learned what all I hadn’t thought to bring. Like membersh…

Diary of a Conference Coordinator: And So It Begins

It’s about to begin. The day has arrived.

Yesterday, I started out with a serious case of nerves. But once I was moving instead of just thinking, I calmed down.

The Fiction Intensive with Marty Johnson AKA Marta Perry went extremely well.

I managed to be there to introduce Marty and then went into moving man mode. Or moving woman. It only took two trips to get everything to the hotel. After stashing all those boxes in one of the board rooms, I was able to check in early and gather my wits.

This is our room before we trashed it with all of our stuff.

The afternoon was fairly quiet and I managed to pull off a power nap.

Pennwriters Board of Directors gathered for dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Then they moved upstairs for a board meeting from which I was excused so I could rally the troops in the Hospitality Suite to set up for today.

Let me just say, I have a GREAT team. They make me look really good.

I’m sharing my room with my friend Nancy Schiller. We stayed up way too late gabbing.

Now it’s…

Diary of a Conference Coordinator: Shopping Therapy

Wednesday started out quiet. No new registrations or problems of any kind in my inbox. I responded to a couple of questions and spent the rest of the morning decompressing. I was supposed to teach a private yoga class at noon, but even that got cancelled.

I did, however, need to pick up the conference programs at the printer. While I was there, I decided a little therapy was in order.

Shopping therapy.

After an early lunch, I headed to town with a short list of errands. First stop: the post office. Second stop: the bank. Third stop: Staples where I collected my print order and bought a box of paper. On sale!

Next stop: J.C. Penney’s. I’ve been threatening to buy some new clothes for the weekend, but didn’t think I’d have the time. Since everything appeared to be under control, this was the perfect opportunity. Besides, everything I wanted was half off!

My cell phone rang when I was in the dressing room. Katie at the Marriott needed to go over some paperwork with me. Nothing like being half…

Diary of a Conference Coordinator: Meltdown

Yesterday, the lack of sleep and the overload of caffeine finally hit home. The result was a meltdown. Not the screaming, hysterical type. The put-the-head-down-on-the-keyboard-and-pass-out type.

Since I'm determined to take it a little easier today and it's my turn to blog at Working Stiffs, I've moved my daily diary post over there.

Diary of a Conference Coordinator: Shakeup

You know how sometimes you feel like someone is watching you? Or you feel certain you’ve forgotten something? Even if the result is bad, there is a sense of relief in finding out you WERE being watched or you DID forget something.

Well, I’ve had a kind of premonition…and I’m not psychic in any sense of the word…that something was going to happen at the last minute. The sensation grew stronger after I turned in the draft of the program to the printer. Putting something in ink on paper is guaranteed to cause a shakeup.

And like any good self-fulfilling prophecy, yesterday morning, it happened. One of my speakers had to cancel due to a family emergency.

I launched into damage control. I’m still working out the details, but I have options, thank goodness. I’m just waiting to receive replies to a couple of emails.

Plus I was still trying to get responses from a tiny handful of registrants to confirm their meal choices.

In the middle of all the emails flying through cyberspace, I managed to pack…

Diary of a Conference Coordinator: Monday

Moving day cometh

A year ago, as the 2008 Pennwriters Conference came to a close in Lancaster, PA, I loaded my car with boxes and boxes of stuff. A friend traveling alone loaded her car, as well. The contents of those two cars has resided in my tiny office ever since.

What kind of stuff?

Well, there’s a cash register, all sorts of office supplies, and several large boxes of Pennwriters merchandise (ball caps, t-shirts, tote bags, ceramic coffee mugs, etc.). A couple of the boxes appeared to have been around the state a few too many times, so I unloaded them into my office cabinet and tossed them into the trash.

In recent weeks, I’ve added to the box count. Ten boxes of Lisa Scottoline’s LOOK AGAIN are stacked in my living room...

...along with the two boxes of stainless steel-lined travel mugs I ordered as new merchandise.

Claustrophobia began to set in, so last week I moved some of the boxes from my office into the living room as well.

I either need a bigger house or I need to quit taking o…

Diary of a Conference Coordinator: Part Three

Saturday was a quiet day. Being borderline paranoid, I wonder if this means everything is in order OR if it’s simply the lull before the storm.

A few more registrations came in. I had one phone call from someone who was having problems with the online registration. Situation: normal.

I exchanged emails with Mike Crawmer who is hosting the Author’s Tea and Booksigning event. Everything looks good there.

Sheryl Nantus, who will given the duty of keeping track of those digital recorders contacted me to let me know she’d found the directions for the new gadgets online. So that item of concern can be crossed off my list, too.

I put together the packets for those participating in Thursday’s Fiction Intensive. Name badges printed: CHECK. Notebooks and pens packed: CHECK. Everything neatly in alphabetical order: CHECK.

Every morning, I log into my email, wondering what list of work I’m going to have for the day as a result of what’s there. This morning (Sunday) I allowed myself the luxury of sleep…

Diary of a Conference Coordinator: Part Two

Friday was a bit less stressful than Thursday. I awoke to a couple of new registrations in my inbox, which I quickly recorded and added to the tally. Since this was errand day, I had to make sure I had everything I needed before I left the house: paperwork to pick up the digital recorders, a disc containing the file for our conference program, and a shopping list of everything else I needed to buy for the conference and for Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.

My cell phone rang less than three miles from home. I don’t drive and talk on the phone, so I pulled over to take the call. I think the guy had me on speaker phone because I could hear my words echoing back in my ears. Very distracting. I don’t think I made him happy either. He wanted to know how to talk to the agents while they were in town without him paying to come to the conference. Sorry, guy. I’m not giving away our bread and butter.

First stop: Staples. I had to feign a coughing fit to get the salesperson’s attention, but he proceede…

Diary of a Conference Coordinator: Part One

Here I am, in the homestretch, well into the final week of preparing for the Pennwriters Conference. I’m going to attempt to document my experience as the conference coordinator each day now leading up to and through the BIG EVENT.

Yesterday was one of the headache days. They aren’t all that way. Really. But I started early (6AM) and finished late (8PM…and only then because my Internet was acting squirrelly) and most of the time was spent crunching numbers. I need to have a tally of all the meal choices for the hotel this weekend.

I’ve been keeping two sets of records to track different aspects of the conference. Unfortunately, the numbers, when totaled. did not match. I spent hours and hours going through each name trying to find out who I’d missed. It was as much fun as trying to balance my checkbook. And it provided that same sinking feeling of wondering if my screw-up was going to be in my favor or not.

Finally, I found the problem. And the result didn’t change anything as far as the…

What if...

Ten days until freedom. The countdown is getting serious!

I’ve been alternating between moments of euphoria (registration is going well, problems are small, we’re almost there, I’ve built it and it looks like they’re coming) to moments of blind panic (I’ll never get everything done in time, too many last minute details to wrap up, what if, what if, what if…).

Face it—writers make a career of imagining the worst possibilities. WHAT IF is the seed for all we do.

With this last week of conference prep looming over me, I’ve come up with material for several epic novels. It doesn’t help that some of my friends on the Pennwriters e-loop seem to be plotting murder and are discussing places to hide bodies at the hotel. All in good fun, of course.

I hope.

Put a bunch of writers together, especially mystery, suspense, or horror writers, and you’re going to get some scary-sounding conversations. Just yesterday I caught myself laughing about how I was going to snuff someone who’s been giving me grief.…

Working Stiffs Wednesday

Eleven days to freedom. I did, however, take time to come up for air and attend the Festival of Mystery. I'm over at Working Stiffs today blogging about it.

The Big Picture

My brain is stuck.

I thought I was getting good at multitasking. Now, I think the opposite is true. I’ve been totally absorbed in planning the Pennwriters Conference. True, I jump from recording registrations to responding to questions emailed to me from attendees and speakers. But I’m immersed in the conference.

Friday, I was standing in the middle of Wal-Mart, when I suddenly realized I had no idea what I was doing. My mind was running through my conference check list instead of mapping a path around the superstore to make most efficient use of my time and energy. (Loop around to pick up Coffee Mate, then hit the orange juice case, eggs, and then cheese before moving on to the cereal row.)

Yesterday, I realized I hadn’t given a bit of thought about what I need to pack in the way of clothes for the conference. Yes, I’ve packed all the conference stuff that’s been stored in my office for the last year. But what about ME? The human being. I need to have sufficient outfits to accommodate a…