Expo-ing in a time of a pandemic

We live in a rapidly evolving time.

A couple of weeks ago, it felt as if we lived in a world of abundance. If you had the money, you could buy the things you wanted because you wanted them, and you didn’t have to worry too much if that left much in your savings account. Sure, saving is always a good idea, but didn’t it feel, not that long ago, as if the world would provide? I don’t know about the rest of the world, I admit, but Aotearoa had been ticking along quite nicely with relatively low unemployment. True, we’ve also been struggling with poverty, as that seems to have been growing despite all our advances as a species… but that is another topic.

Fact is, from where I sit now, things are still kind of the same, and yet… different.

I’m lucky enough myself and my family are healthy (well, we’ve all got a minor cold, which is a bigger deal these days, but nothing drastic). So far, community transmission of Covid-19 seems to be non-existent, despite a bit of a scare at a local High School. (Note: I wrote that yesterday, and today there does seem to be possible community transmission in New Zealand… How things change).

Like many people, I have had moments of anxiety over the previous week, especially when it officially landed in our city. And then the panic buying really ramped up. I guess I’m lucky I bake bread anyway (sourdough), so it’s normal to have some flour in the house. And I do have baker’s yeast for standard loaves… that expired in July & October last year… Eh. They’re still good. Baked a loaf yesterday afternoon, in fact. Thought I better extend the flour a bit, just in case, and substituted some for whizzed up oats. Came out yum. Today: a sourdough loaf.

So, yes, our supermarkets are struggling to keep toilet paper, flour, yeast, hand sanitizer, and various cold and flu remedies stocked, just like much of the rest of the world.

Anyway… stockpiling and mass fear is not what I wish to cover with this blog post. It’s all too big of a topic for me to write without preferring to blur it with a veneer of fantasy, anyway. My empathy meter is swinging pretty erratically these days. I’ll wear myself down if I dig too honestly into how I feel about it all.

I wanted to talk about last weekend. Right before it all got too close to home.

The Edge of the World Expo went ahead because we had nothing to fear down here in Ōtepoti, Aotearoa (aka: Dunedin, New Zealand). So long as everyone respected personal space and washed their hands well, all would remain well.

One of the very cool costumes on display at the Edge of the World Expo

I was excited. I had stocks of Healer’s Touch and Warrior’s Touch I’d ordered last year just waiting to be sold. And I’d ordered in 10 copies (1 to keep, 9 to sell, with plans to order more) of the anthology two of my short stories feature in. And, after a year of planning and discussing with a printer getting t-shirts made with the gryphon tattoo Jonas wears, and almost getting it done in the wrap-around style that would have been amazing, but finally having to admit defeat and just go with the front print (which still looks cool!), I finally had 21 t-shirts printed: 2 pre-sold, 4 for the family) and 15 ready to sell at the Expo! Woo, yeah… I was ready to sell! I even hired an Eftpos machine for the privilege.

One of my Gryphon print t-shirts

I wasn’t there just representing myself. I was there to push the Dunedin Speculative Fiction Group (dSF), which is a kind of virtual group of published authors of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc) from our fair city who know there is strength in numbers. As a part of that group, I have now done two Expos and three public speaking/reading events. These are not opportunities easily won in a relatively small city, so they have been gratefully accepted, even if I am a nervous public speaker. I suppose one good thing about the Edge of the World Expo is their crowd isn’t really there to hear writers speak, so we clear out the audience pretty quickly! And then it’s no longer public speaking… except for the microphone. This year, though, I was especially grateful to my friend Lolene (who wrote the song in Warrior’s Touch) for asking a couple of questions that I would have answers to (she’s read my books). She also took copies of the dSF pamphlets I had designed and printed around the venue to hand out to people; much better than my passively waiting for people to come to our booth (I am not a natural salesperson; she is!). Her efforts resulted in one sale of the anthology.

I was also supported at the booth by fellow dSF writer Daniel Stride who had his novel Wise Phuul available for sale as well. And we had books by Sean P. Martin to see, but he was unable to attend that weekend, which, unfortunately, made them that much harder to sell this time (he did quite well last year).

So, how did we go?

Well, gross sales across myself and Daniel covered the cost of the Eftpos machine… just (like, by $7.50). That’s ignoring that we have to purchase the books in order to sell them. So, as much as we may have lost a few sales had we not had the Eftpos machine, my conclusion is that I will not hire one again in future. Not unless I have confidence that interest in my products, or the products of those I have teamed up with will attract enough sales to cover that additional cost of selling. This is basic business sense, and I knew I was throwing caution to the wind for the weekend, but I went in hyped up on optimism. And, yes, with 4 sales of the anthology and 4 sales of Wise Phuul, and me heading home at the end of the weekend with all the Touch series books and t-shirts I’d arrived with… well, I would have cried if I hadn’t been going home to be with my children rather than spending a little time alone. It’s not so much that I wanted to go home rich (I didn’t have enough stock to achieve that, anyway), it’s just that I am passionate about what I create, and there are a lot of knock backs on this journey. And it’s really hard to know if it’s a journey worth throwing a large chunk of one’s energy into when one has a household to keep, bills to pay, children to raise, and all of that. I see other people doing it, and doing it well, and sometimes I see a glimmer of hope that I might be “deserving” of the same reward… and when I see hope I have a tendency to cling to it pretty tenaciously.

I suppose the lesson from all this is that I just need to put my head down and finish Magician’s Touch, see how that goes and make a decision about my future from there. Actually, I’m not so sure I’ll do anything quite so logical. I know I’m going to dive into developing Anais and Ekon’s story… (they’re the characters you meet in my short stories in the Beyond the City Limits anthology… I already kind of love them. No, not kind of. I’m looking forward to diving into that one. But, first, Magician’s Touch. I will finish it. And, one way or another, it will get out there into the world.

Yes, things feel very fluid at the moment. I expect my children to return to their respective school and kindergarten this coming week. My part-time admin job should be reducing in hours (I’m working on passing it onto another lady, but as we’re in this time of flux and the job deals with After School Care and Holiday Programs that could all end up being cancelled very soon… well, who knows what is to come of that?). When I finally pass on the admin hours, I will need to put energy into keeping mine and my husband’s business afloat in the coming months/year. But, I will continue to prioritize at least a few hours a week for writing.

I will sign off with kind thoughts for everyone out there. These are tough times. And I know a lot of beautiful and amazing people are going to be lost in this fight. With that in mind, nothing feels like the “right” thing to say. So I won’t.

Wishing you good health.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.