Friday, June 23, 2006

Two-Year Anniversary!

Wow! How could I forget that this blog has been around for more than two years - and been visited by more than 3000 people!

Thanks for sticking around and reading all about my doubts and bitching and personal problems, guys! That means a lot! ^_~

Okay, um, REHIRED!

Well, not exactly.

At my previous manager's suggestion, I sent in my resume to the large-format bookstore that is one floor below us in the same mall. To my luck, the two months I spent at the small-format bookstore counted as experience to the large-format, which motivated one very, very nice employee to boot it to front of the line and right under the LF manager's nose.

I was contacted very promptly, and I just had the interview today. The first question the manager asked was about what had happened that had made me leave the SF bookstore upstairs. I'd had to rehearse that line in my head, because there were several reasons I and my family members had concocted, out of spite, self-loathing, or too many idle hours watching House M.D., which, primarily, were:

-The SF manager hired me to take the place of an employee who went on an extended vacation, and just found an excuse to fire me once the employee returned: I definitely couldn't use this one - there was really no proof other than the fact that I was hired on the employee's first day off and fired on his first day back. Besides, both the LF store and the SF store were managed under the same umbrella company, and presumably their staff communicated with each other from time to time, so badmouthing the SF Manager would hardly go well with the LF one.

-I'm a social retard who lacked the necessary communication skills to get along with the rest of the team, and the attention span to multitask with my work: This was out as well - not only was it (mostly) the result of the dip in my self-esteemed caused by being let go from a job I genuinely thought I was good at, but it would hardly pursuade the LF manager to hire me on.

-The SF Store was very high pressure, and had extremely high standards that I couldn't match up to: While at first this seems like the best response, upon closer analysis it possessed the worst traits of the first two excuses - it portrayed my former manager as a hard-ass taskmaster, and me as a hapless underachiever.

The response I ended up settling on was this: the SF bookstore was a very high-pressure workplace, as it had to compete with the LF store with a staff of only eight or nine people. Thus, those eight or nine people had to be able to learn very quickly how to do all the tasks in the store, and learn how to do several of them at once. While I was passionate about my work, and learned how to do individual tasks without too much trouble, I was, in the end, too inexperienced with retail to learn quickly enough to be a contributing member of what had to be a very close-knit and communicative team, and led to my trouble with multitasking.

I also mentioned in the interview that I had trouble with my social skills. The manager's next question was for me to explain that. I replied very honestly - the SF store job had been my first job in retail, the first job I'd ever had where people came in not knowing exactly what they'd want (fries with your burger? Butter on your popcorn?), the first job where I had the chance to suggest and persuade people to buy something from the store. At McDonald's, and the Movie Theatre, very few people came up to the counter without being sure they were going to buy some food. People coming into bookstores, however, could go either way - they were just as likely to browse and leave empty-handed as they were to find a book they liked.

Well, that was where I aced my interview. The LF Manager revealed right then that she had had a talk with my SF manager beforehand, and that she had said pretty much the exact same thing. The LF Manager praised me for my honesty and my openness, which made me feel pretty damn good. A lot of times in interviews, I (and, I presume, lots of other people) have been tempted to fudge a few facts and accomplishments (especially if the interview questions are "situation" questions, i.e. - 'name a time when you had a problem with a customer and you went beyond the call of duty to solve it'. In those cases I twist up a real-life situation, if I don't outright make up an entire interaction, in the fear that if I confessed to not being able to remember such a situation, or worse - had never experienced such a situation, I was in some way losing points with the potential employer). I didn't during this interview - and that's a lucky thing. If I tried to smarm or gloss over or explain away the fact that I didn't leave my SF job voluntarily, the LF Manager would have called me on my bullshit and that would have been that.

But I didn't. Essentially, I was hired - or, to be more precise - "transferred". Considering that I'd only been off the SF job for about a week, the LF checked the paperwork to see if I couldn't just be seen as transferred from one job to another - essentially eliminated my termination from my record, and leaving me with the same seniority and position. So, I'm being "transferred", although I do have to come in next week to redo the paperwork for my file and get my new schedule.

But still - I'm employed! Back to the 30% discount! Back to "Free Books on Loan" - and in a store with infinitely better selection!

But I can't mess this up.

Not this time.

I really, really really am going to try to get along with everyone and to do the best job I can. No dawdling while shelving books - I don't have the luxury of stopping all the time to check the cash register, because now there are specific people assigned to the cash register. No more having to deal with only one or two staff members at a time - no, now I have to tone down my seemingly uncontrollable gift of inadvertantly annoying everyone in my presence, and try to make real friends.

Because I got lucky. I might not get another chance as good as this one.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Wow - I have to say this has been one emotional rollercoaster of a week. I made my first professional sale for an absurdly high amount of money considering it's my first professional sale and it's the first story I ever wrote with the idea to publish it. The guy I'm currently dating (yes, dating), showed up with a mind-boggling amount of romantic spontaneity to drop off flowers (yay!), and the next day, I'm fired from the only paying job (save writing, of course ^_^) that I've ever truly enjoyed.

The manager told me that she usually "let people go" (she actually used that namby-pamby term) at the start of their shift, but instead, due to time constraints, she let me work for two hours in blissful ignorance before giving me "the talk" after my break. She gave me rather vague reasons, and I was too much in shock to actually ask her to give me something specific.

Basically, she let me know that in a small bookstore, the employees had to be part of a small, close-knit team, and they also had to handle all the different jobs at once. From what I gathered, I didn't fit into the team, and I was easily flustered. She suggested I work at a larger bookstore, i.e. Chapters, where one was hired to do a certain task and only a certain task. She then went on to describe how over the last few weeks the store had become a "disaster area" during closing, how not everything was being done. I found that hard to comprehend, seeing as I always made sure I did rounds and checked things, and I never closed alone - I always did so with a more experienced coworker.

I realize part of the firing had to have been my fault, but I can't help but harbour a few suspicions. I'd only been working there for about a month - what happened to my supposed three month probationary period? The reasons I was given seemed to be the mistakes of someone who is inexperienced, not stupid or deliberately destructive - they hardly seemed drastic enough for her to let me go this soon. I also happened to notice that the senior employee who went on the long vacation that required the manager to hire new people started work the day I was fired. Of course, the worst scenario I can come up with is that the manager was always planning on only hiring me for the short term but didn't have the decency to say it up front. The best scenario is simply this: she runs an extremely, extremely, EXTREMELY tight ship, and my square peg corners chafed in the round hole she needed filled.

To be honest, this "letting go" was the employment equivalent of the "just didn't do it for us" rejection letter - it lets me know I'm not good enough, but can't give me constructive reasons as to why I can't measure up, and it's very disheartening. At least I worked there long enough to get some free and discounted books out of it.

Monday, June 12, 2006


I've been accepted.

Go on, check my sidebar. Yeah, there it is: "My Brother's Own Words", accepted, as in "not rejected". As in - I didn't get sent a mysterious and unsettling envelope addressed to me, in my own writing, with nothing inside and no return address.


Someone liked my story. Someone wants to publish my story. It's not published yet - it has to go through an editing process and contract stuff, but I've still been accepted! By a magazine! A big, paying magazine that people actually subscribe to, voluntarily, and not because they'll get a free coupon book if they do!


I have no idea how this will turn out, but it's certainly much more exciting then another rejection letter and another "it just didn't do it for me". I'm very excited and nervous and enthusiastic.

I've been jumping up and down. My mother's making calls to everybody. I have a chance to be a real, published author! An AUTHOR!

I wrote that story over three days while I was recovering from wisdom tooth removal, and I sent it in, in September. In January, I received a yellow postcard back, saying that they were looking at it. And now, I've received a letter that says they thought my story was "fresh, poignant, and endearing" and that they're willing to publish and pay for it. "My Brother's Own Words" has been on a nine-month journey, but by God, it was worth the wait!

Because I want to be a writer for a living, and this acceptance means that I am one step closer to getting my absolute dream job!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

New books, and I'm finally writing!

I finished the first segment of Daniel Leon's storyline for the "Virtual Season of Heroes", and the creators really liked it. I'm still thinking about the next segment, and I hope it's just as good.

Also, I'm done with Theodore Judson's Fitzpatrick's War. I found myself really enjoying it. It has a fairly depressing premise (the book itself is said to be the "unabridged version" of the memoirs of Sir Robert Bruce, a former friend of Fitzpatrick, who is, in the time that this version of the memoir is published, a glorious war hero of times past), but it is stuffed with little bits of humour, most of it coming from the footnotes of the fictional "editor" of these memoirs, who occasionally fleshes out a point that Robert mentions, or discredits Robert's accounts of Fitzpatrick's mass-murdering deeds as wholely uncredited and spiteful lies.

The depressing aspect is that Robert writes his memoirs in order to show the world the truth about Fitzpatrick's rule, but in the future, he is still unbelieved.

The world itself is post-apocalyptic. All electricity is lost or banned by the usage of Storm Machines, weapons created during the Electronic Age (that is, our present age) that caused loads of suffering and death and allowed all of Canada and the United States to merge into a Christian fundamentalist confederacy known as the Yukon. So while medicine and weaponry have advanced, the social climate is very much like that of imperialist Britain.

The unique setting, a mixture of old-fashioned social beliefs and futuristic steam technology and feudal politics, creates a very interesting world that was intriguing enough to forgive the occasional info dump. On occasion, the author spends pages and pages on detailed descriptions of weapons and military manoeuvres, none of which is any interest to me, but if you can slog through that, the rest of the narrative is highly entertaining.