Friday, 31 May 2013

Little updates

So today I got an email from The Northern Writers' Award people to say I aint getting an award. (I blogged about the application process back in January.)

So that's a shame. It would have been a great thing to be involved with and a great organisation to be supported by. The good thing is I've been working on the project I proposed to them (a novel based on my Guardian published story) since January, and it's not something I'll abandon just because I didn't get the funding. The funding was for time away from day job type work to concentrate on writing for a bit, and though that would be brilliant and exciting in many ways, it just means I'll be going on as I have - and that's fine.

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Lots of hits to this blog the past few weeks have come via people Googling Bridport related stuff - so good luck anyone reading who is entering. Today's the closing date so I'm sure you've all got your stories polished and sent by now. Yes?

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I did something totally different - well, I wrote something totally different - and sent an entry to this competition to write a story for children age 2-5 years. I really enjoyed writing it. The shortlist will be online by July 1st then it's a public vote to determine the winner.

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That's pretty much it, writing-wise. My work at the university dries up over the summer so my other job, the customer service-y one, gets most of my attention. So I might just have to expand my Tips For Customer Service Workers style postings. That last one went down really well - I got tweets from folks I don't know who work in cafes, bars, coffee shops etc - pretty much saying 'We hear ya!' which was nice.

Plans for the next few months - don't plan much. Just write what I feel drawn to, and be present in each task. I am well into being present at the moment. Or trying to be. And yet not trying... Tis the key.

Friday, 10 May 2013

He or she is just not that into you: the disengaged customer - rude on purpose or by accident?

In one of my day jobs, I work in customer service. Sometimes I write about it. 

From The Customer Service Worker’s Handbook
Tips for customer service workers Part 23

You’re half way through a shift, you’re in full flow, firing on all cylinders. Full of good energy, you greet your customer with a cheery ‘Hello, what can I get you?’ They do not respond with anywhere near the same goodness of heart that you gave them. In fact, they don’t even look at you. It’s as if their eyes are happy to land on everything else around you, just not you. The bar, the drinks, the menu, the ceiling. You give them the benefit of the doubt, believing they are just orienting themselves. Perhaps they haven’t been in this bar before. Perhaps they don’t know the etiquette of returning greetings.

They state their order out loud, it is something like: ‘Cappucino’ and they project this word upwards and over your head. Still they will not look at you. You need to know which size they’d like, though for some reason you feel like you don’t want to bother them. Luckily, you recognise this as madness and disregard it.

‘Small or large?’ you ask.
‘Medium’, they answer.
‘We don’t do medium, it’s small or large,’ you say.

They wave their hand, much like The Queen might, but one from the olden days who is dismissing your existence.

Then they say they’ll have a ‘normal’ one.

How can you best deal with this customer?

Replying, ‘But what is “normal”?’ : Should you or shouldn’t you?
Embarking on a debate like this is risky. Whether or not you go down this route will depend on how much energy you have left and also how cheeky you’re feeling.

If you do decide to follow this up, you might try one of the suggestions here to start a debate:

But what is ‘normal’?
Does ‘normality’ even exist?
Who decides what ‘normal’ is? (In this case it’s whoever ordered the cups but try to think big)

If your energy and cheekiness levels are high, by all means enter into that potential debate about societal norms, but do be prepared to be looked at blankly. See this as a success – your customer is looking at you!

So you’ve made the cappuccino
And you’ve put it on the counter, in front of the customer, but they didn’t say anything. It’s natural to feel a little deflated here, especially if you took some effort with the presentation. But do remember that you are a professional cappuccino maker and you take pride in your work regardless of your personal feelings about a customer not treating you as a human being. Feel strong.

You tell them the price of the price of the drink, most likely like this: ‘That’s [current price of a cappuccino], please,’ in a sing-songy voice because despite everything, you still feel manners are important. The sing-song is also tinged with intense irritation but no one can prove it so it’s okay.

Something harmonious happens next. It actually occurs in most customer/server transactions. It is part of the customer/server dance. You were never trained in this particular manoeuvre, it just ‘happens’. The customer sources their money, and you – you hold out your hand. 

To summarise - Them: money taken out of pocket/purse/wallet; You: hand held out. Writing the cold hard facts down in this way makes it sound like a cold, callous moment. It is not. It is a smooth and easy moment of connection.

However. The customer does not accept your offer of hand. They do not want this, this direct transferal of money from one human to another. They disregard your hand. 

They put their coins on the counter.

What do you do next?
There is only one thing you can do in this situation. And, despite the fact that you are a good person, you will do it because it has been done to you. And you will do it because there is logic in it. If the customer put the payment on the counter, they surely, surely, must want their change on the counter too. You are tending to their individual preference. This is a good quality.

And so, without great pleasure, for you are not petty – you put their money into the till and you take out their change, and – here again comes the dance of synchronicity – they know it too – they hold out their hand, and you – you place those coins on the counter.

And there is harmony again.


Friday, 3 May 2013

Since my last post I...

- had a birthday! I am 32. Feelin fine about this.

- didn't get longlisted for the Bath Short Story Award, but this gal did (down to the final 46 from 1127 entries - what an achievement - well done to all writers on that there list)

- have probably not been placed in the Mslexia Short Story Prize either - though their official line is 'all winners and shortlisters will be informed by the end of May'. But, seeing as the magazine is out a few days after that, I'm sure they will have informed those winners by now, to check they haven't been published elsewhere etc and to to get the issue ready for press. With this in mind... and it's not just Mslexia who do this - but I really really wish places would be more transparent about this kind of thing - to be really up front about when they've told winners. Bath have been amazing in the way they've communicated this and the respect they've shown writers.

- am experimenting with re-writing my novel-in-progress in first person instead of third. I've dabbled with this idea before but am now embracing it. Just to see where it goes. I think I held back from doing it before now for the wrong reasons. First person feels right for this story. At the moment.

- noticed how much I let my thoughts go mental when I'm writing. This happens in various unhelpful ways, for example if I have an idea I will, in the following 0-8 seconds, play out the entire life-span of the idea, seeing it grow into a story or even a book and (if it survives that far - usually I've decided around the 3 second mark that there's NO WAY I can or should write this stupid idea) then imagining all the negative reviews it'd get (if it gets that far - usually I've decided around the 6 second mark all agents and publishers will reject it) and then imagining how it'll be the end of my career and no one will respect me or think I'm any good ever so what's the stupid point doing this stupid writing thing anyway.

YES. All in 8 seconds.

But I noticed it and I'm doing less of it.

Do you have any mental thoughts you'd like to share?
(Please don't comment something like "Aren't all thoughts mental? roflol" or I won't be responsible for my actions.)