Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. After all, I’m only human, and as such, I am not a perpetual motion machine. Neither do I have a clone, a wife, nor a personal assistant, although I’d settle for any of the above.

I juggle three separate careers. Along with writing, I continue to design for the few companies and magazines still buying needlework designs, and I handle some clients for the agency that represents me. All three are full-time jobs that I squeeze into a far more than 40 hour work week. If only I were receiving three full-time salaries…but that’s another story for another day. Today I want to tell you about the day I dropped one of my juggling balls.

Last month I attended a 1-day conference that concluded with a book fair. At the end of the fair, as I was getting ready to leave, one of the other authors said, “See you next week!”

I gave her one of those blank stares that goes hand-in-hand with long days, lack of sleep, and AWOL brain cells. “Huh? What’s next week?”

“You’re scheduled to speak at the Sisters in Crime meeting.”

“I am?” I had absolutely no memory of having scheduled the talk. Sure enough, though, I had it marked on my office wall calendar and on my phone and computer calendars. Might have helped if I’d actually looked ahead to upcoming dates at some point.

My next big problem was that I couldn’t find any email correspondence outlining the topic of my talk. I checked the SinC chapter’s website, only to find it was sorely in need of updating. Luckily, the person who reminded me of the engagement was able to email me the chapter newsletter which gave a blurb of my scheduled talk.

I spent the entire next day preparing for that talk, made the meeting the following Saturday, and no one was the wiser, other than me and that one other author who will forever now be known as my lifesaver. If not for her, a dozen mystery authors would have been cooling their heels, awaiting a no-show speaker.

I dropped a ball, but luckily it bounced back up, and I caught it. I’m still juggling, but I’m checking the calendar more often. What about you? Ever drop one of your balls?

Lois Winston writes the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries for Midnight Ink. Read more at her website and Anastasia's blog.


Jess Lourey said...

I completely sympathize, Lois. When I'm on book tour (which I'm starting next week), I will actually wake up from a dead sleep some nights to go check on my kids and make sure I didn't leave them somewhere.

Lois Winston said...

LOL, Jess! We live such exciting lives, don't we?

G.M. Malliet said...

If I don't answer an email the minute I find it, it may take weeks for me to remember to answer it. This is so aggravating, because I used to be very much on top of things like that.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Oh my, yes. Glad your dropped ball bounced right into your hands!

Darrell James said...

I keep my calendar in my head. I don't know how. (Or why.) Even in my years of making and keeping sales appointments, I never used a physical calenda. And I virtually never forgot where I needed to be and when. But, alas, as things are heating up toward launch time for my book I'm afraid I may neeed to start keeping one.

Lois Winston said...

Gin, I used to think email was great because it was quicker to send or respond to an email than make a phone call. Now I'm not so sure, given the volume of email I receive.

Kathleen, someone was watching out for me that day. That's all I can say!

Darrell, I can hardly keep things straight with a calendar. Without one? Forget it!

Shannon said...

Years ago I faithfully kept a Franklin Day Planner and it was instrumental in me starting and completing my first novel. But I gave it up when I simplified my life. I'm wondering if I need to start it up again... middle aged Swiss cheese brain being what it is.

Camille Minichino said...

Last fall I showed up at a book fair at 10:30 am thinking I was early for an 11 am appearance. Turned out I should have been there at 10! When I checked, the correct time was everywhere, on all my calendars and sticky notes -- just not in my brain.

Maybe we depend too much on these no-fail aids!

Lois Winston said...

Shannon, I used to lug a day planner around with me, and it worked better than iPhone at keeping my life in order. Of course, back then, I only had one career, but I did have kids' schedules to juggle.

Camille, the problem with those no-fail aids is that they do fail because they're only as good as the person programming them or writing stuff down. I think we need reminders for our reminders!

Misty said...

Lois, thank you for writing this post! I needed to know I'm not the only one trying to keep all the balls in the air and flying high to boot!

I forgot a guest blog once...I did the same as you, scanning hundreds of emails, trying to find what the subject was supposed to be about, and finally had to admit to the lovely blog host I'd screwed up. She laughed, told me to write about whatever I wanted, and I made the deadline with a few hours to spare. :)

Good luck with all three of your jobs. I hope you get those extra salaries!

Fran Stewart said...

Yeah, we've all done it. My most recent ball was saved when a librarian emailed me. "We're looking forward to you appearance next Saturday. Is there anything you need from me?"

Well, what I'd needed was that reminder, since I hadn't written the commitment down anywhere. I had no even idea when I'd scheduled the appearance. I'm not usually that dense. I dread to think of what would have happened if she hadn't sent that email.

Lois Winston said...

Misty and Fran, it's comforting to know that I'm not alone!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I once blew through a book club meeting I was scheduled to appear at. It was years ago, before I was with Midnight Ink. Where was I? At home working on another book. When I discovered my error the next day, I drove to the hostess' home, handed her a couple of free books and asked if I could rebook. She coldly said "we'll call you." It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize they never did.

jeff7salter said...

I used to have a very sharp mind and memory. Scarcely needed a calendar.
Sitting at my desk (in Shreveport)one day when the phone rang and a colleague asked me if I was coming to the committee meeting (which had just started) ... in Lafayette.
At that time, it was nearly a 5 hour drive.
What had happened? How on earth could I have forgotten this meeting which had been discussed ... in my presence only a few weeks previously?
Slipped my mind completely.
I was quite embarrassed: suddenly my super-human memory seemed so down-to-earth human and flawed.
It taught me a lesson about keeping a calendar of important events --- including out-of-town meetings.

Coco said...

Lois, what a horrible feeling it is when one remembers something someone was not supposed to forget and did! From the comments here, you are not alone. We've all had that gut-wrenching feeling on remembering an obligation or task undone. We can't beat ourselves up too much. We try the best we can, right?

Lois Winston said...

Sue Ann, all I can say is OUCH!

Jeff, only Superman would have been able to save you in that situation, but besides keeping a calendar, you have to remember to jot down engagements and look at the calendar everyday!

Coco, misery does love company. Keeps us from feeling totally foolish and irresponsible!

Anne Kemp said...

It's a delicate balance, isn't it? I love the moments when we are able to catch the ball as it bounces :)

Great blog - I completely understand and can sympathize with you!

Cindy Sample said...

HI Lois. Thanks for sharing. I have calendars and lists but as you mentioned, we actually need to look at them in a timely manner. I remember one time when my kids were in day care, my husband and I each thought we were supposed to pick up dinner.

We ended up with two buckets of chicken. But no kids.

I can't believe I'm sharing this. They survived our parenting, thank goodness!

jennymilch said...

I definitely do, and moreover I live in horror that I *might* drop a ball. I co-op at my son's preschool and if we're late, twenty kids and their rushing-to-work-or-workout moms can't be let into the classroom. What if I forgot? I teach on a very erratic schedule, what if I forgot a workshop, or worse where one was supposed to be held? And the list goes on. Very glad you have your lifesaver! Hey, and um, don't forget about the panel on May 20th ;)

Deborah Sharp said...

Lois, you've described my life ... down to that blank stare while the brain cells remain AWOL. I can't claim to do half the stuff you do, but I'm still feeling over-scheduled and over-stressed many days. It's modern life, I guess ... and my rapidly advancing age!

Kathleen Kaska said...

This is so true, Lois. After reading your post, I went out and brought a brand new, BIGGER calendar so I don't have to put on my reading glasses to see what I've written.

Kate Gallison said...

I have a vague feeling of having forgotten something most of the time. Once I dreamt I misplaced my baby. Usually it's something like dinner engagements, art openings or symphony tickets. I don't think I've forgotten anything career-related lately. Have I? Do you guys know of someplace I'm supposed to be? *dithers helplessly*