Meanwhile on a Horror Writing Discussion Forum
Date/Time: 3/12/2001 8:23 pm
Subject: RE: The Course
Give Up Your Day Job and Stick To Writing. It’s not often I tell someone this; after all, most non-published writers (and especially those who’ve invested with PODs for the privilege of belching out “my novel” to anyone who will listen) suck at story-telling.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: When you find something at which you are talented, you do it until your fingers bleed or your eyes pop out of your head. I suggest starting out by submitting to small town magazines. Get a few under your belt, then find yourself a reputable agent. You have talent. Enough said.
Date/Time: 3/13/2001 1:40 pm
Subject: Do it ’till your fingers bleed . . . eyes . . . pop out . . .
. . . Hmmm . . .
I’ve heard that before . . . somewhere . . . or read it . . . just recently . . .
. . .Hmmm . . .
Could be just my imagination.
Anyway, gosh and golly. Thanks for the encouragement! I printed that one out and will tape it up when those doubts start start to crawl back in from their dusty corners, like they so often do. You speak with so much authority. So much confidence. . .
. . . Hmmm . . . Could it really be?
Would someone go to such lengths to imitate? Guess it wouldn’t be that difficult to use the lame language–give the same advise . . . in the same way.
But . . . what if.
Date/Time: 3/13/2001 5:48 pm
Subject: RE Men do what men do . . . and usually it’s for a woman
Life is full of many questions. They’ll edge at your mind until it explodes. If you read it in some book, then good for you. Sales are up. Good for me. I suggest you browse through it once and then throw it away, burn it in the fireplace, give it to your neighbor, or use it to wipe your whatever clean. It’s not a bible; it was never intended for that purpose. You either have what it takes or you don’t have it at all. No book will ever change this fact.
TO: Sandy Gruber, Human Resource Manager
FROM: Stan Francis, Vice President—Division Operations
RE: Performance Review for Daniel Peters, Plant Manager—Socket Assembly
I am writing to explain to you the performance review packet I have sent for Mr. Daniel Peters, the plant manager of our socket assembly facility. I have just completed his annual review. Please see the accompanying graphs and charts for more detailed information. What the packet will demonstrate is that Mr. Peters is failing woefully in his position. His responsibilities are to ensure the efficient operation of that manufacturing plant, and to satisfy customer expectations related to quality and service.
It has been one full year since his promotion into this position. As time has passed, I am disappointed to see that the reports have gotten increasingly worse. I sat down with Mr. Peters yesterday and explained my disappointment, and my reasons for withholding any compensation increases until we see improvement. Since he took over operations last January, work center efficiencies are down a staggering 50%. Quality complaints are up 25%. On time deliveries have dropped to 30%. Cost to produce has increased 25%.
I informed Mr. Peters that this type of trend is unacceptable. I believe he understands. My problem is this — despite the plant’s numbers, I believe Mr. Peters is trying very hard to do this job. I don’t believe his performance stems from a lack of effort—rather a lack of good time management and leadership skills.
Are there any courses available right now that might assist Mr. Peters in his efforts to improve his performance, and the performance of his plant?
TO: Stan Francis, Vice President—Division Operations
FROM: Sandy Gruber, Human Resource Manager
RE: Course to improve managerial performance and leadership skills
Thank you for taking the time to look into this matter. It is my opinion that too many supervisors are quick to terminate employees for lack of performance. The result is a turnstile effect. Employees are shuffled in and out of positions that they never get a chance to grow into. The cost of this type of turnover is staggering. It is refreshing to see a supervisor that is willing to “invest” in an employee’s education before turning to termination.
I believe I have just what you are looking for in terms of a course that will help Mr. Peters. It is called, “Managing for Success,” and is facilitated by a Dr. Franklin Stevens at the University. A new session of this class begins in two weeks. I have included the necessary enrollment forms. If you want him to attend, please fill them out and return them to me. I will take care of the rest.
I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of this course. We have had several employees complete work with Dr. Stevens. Every one of them has experienced dramatic results. One excellent example is Wendy Cooper, an administrative assistant in the accounting office. Her supervisor has reported an outstanding increase in Wendy’s performance—despite the very recent and tragic loss of her husband.
TO: Daniel Peters, Plant Manager—Socket Assembly
FROM: Stan Francis, Vice President—Division Operations
RE: Required course work
In response to your recent performance review, I am requiring you to attend the attached course. Hopefully this will help you to solve some of the problems you are having in your plant. The course hours will be counted toward your continuing education credits. Please document them well. I hope very much that this will help you. As a company we can not continue to support the Socket Assembly plant as we have over the past year. If we do not see marked improvement in the next two fiscal quarters, I will be forced to make a leadership change.
MANAGING FOR SUCCESS
COURSE OUTLINE AND SYLLABUS
INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Franklin Stevens
What to expect from this course:
I am glad that you have decided to enroll in this dramatic, results oriented class. The information presented here is based on my groundbreaking research linking the unconscious mind to human behavior patterns. Please keep in mind that this is a truly revolutionary way of thinking about your personal success. You will most likely be exposed to thought patterns that are very different from the ones you use now. All I ask is that you withhold judgment about this material until you have put the concepts into practice. If you follow my instruction, I personally guarantee that this course WILL change your outlook on life. You WILL become a more efficient and effective person. This won’t be as hard as you may think. The daily stress you experience now WILL greatly diminish, and you WILL become a much more confident manager and leader. All this is possible, and more—if you have the WILL to make it so.
What is required of you:
If you have signed up for this course, it means that you are seeking to improve some area of your life. If you are serious about taking the steps necessary to transform yourself, you must agree to the following:
Attend every classroom session—6 in all.
Assimilate the following concepts and behaviors into your daily life (the course shows you how to do this).
VISUALIZE YOUR GOALS
BELIEVE IN YOUR DREAMS
CONTROL YOUR SELF TALK—SANCTION YOUR VICTORIES
EXPECT ONLY EXCELLENCE
IDENTIFY AND ELIMINATE OBSTACLES
FALL INTO SUCCESS
You will document your transformational journey in a weekly journal.
Journal Entry #1
Why I am here:
You have asked us to write why we are taking this course. The reason for me is simple—I don’t want to lose my job. About one year ago I was promoted from Manufacturing Manager of the Freeburg plant, to Plant Manager of the Millburg Plant. It was a great career move, and the right thing for my family, so we packed everything into a U-Haul and set up shop. Since then I’ve worked very hard, but I just can’t seem to make this plant go. I don’t understand it.
Kathy, my wife, is beginning to lose patience. I spend a lot of hours at work (between 70 and 80 a week). She says enough is enough, and that I need to pay more attention to my family. We have a two-year-old son, Kyle. She says Kyle needs his father. But I leave early in the morning before Kyle wakes up, and I often get home long after his bedtime. I miss him. And I miss Kathy too. I love them so much. But I’ve been working my whole life for this opportunity. I can’t just let it slide! If this plant tanks, then so do I . . .so do we.
The money is great—but it’s all we’ve got. Kathy can stay home with Kyle because of this job. That’s what we wanted—her to be a stay-at-home-mom. At least Kyle can be with one of his parents. Then, once I get over this hump, we can be a real family again. I tell her to be patient. She says I’m running out of time.
It’s all very stressful.
Journal Entry #2
I am so frustrated! I mean, I hear what you are saying, but to be honest, I have a hard time buying in to all this positive thinking mumbo jumbo. I mean, I live in the real world! I’m not some ivory tower writer or teacher. I have to make things happen NOW! And I can’t because my vendors don’t deliver on time, or my people don’t show up for work, or my machines break down. I mean, how is shit like “VISUALIZE MY GOALS” and “BELIEVE IN MY DREAMS” suppose to help me get 5,000 units out the door in one week, when I only have the capacity for 3,500?
So on one end I’ve got Customer X screaming on the phone because I can’t get him the sockets he needs, then I come home and Kathy yells at me because she needs more attention, or the sink needs fixing, or the roof is leaking, or the grass is getting too long and the lawnmower won’t start. Meanwhile Kyle fusses in his high chair with mashed peas and carrots in his hair.
And I’m just supposed to “BELIEVE IN MY DREAMS?” HA!
Journal Entry #3
Well I just went over the information about taking responsibility, and it kind of rang a bell with me. I liked the phrase; “There are no excuses, only choices.” I thought I WAS being responsible. I guess not. The more I look at it, the more I realize that I tend to make excuses about why I can’t do something (vendors, absenteeism, machine breakdowns) before I look for other ways to skin the cat. I guess I’ve got options I’m not seeing because I’m looking at the excuse. If I only BELIEVE and EXPECT, my subconscious will find away around the excuse and make it happen. Fascinating!
Journal Entry #4
It works! We needed to ship 2,000 socket assemblies today that we didn’t even have the raw material for. But I did not give up. I put the theory to the test. Not shipping the 2,000 was not an option, and guess what! We found a substitute material sitting around in inventory that worked perfectly!
Today we shipped an order on time! We also managed to reduce our inventory by using up some old scrap material! A victory! A victory! A small one, but now that I see how this works . . .look out. There is no stopping me now!
Problem is, I was so excited that I forgot that Kathy had arranged for a sitter for Kyle for the evening. I was supposed to meet her at the Olive Garden for dinner. Guess I really screwed that up . . .I feel terrible about it. I tried to tell her about my success today but it fell on deaf ears. Can’t really blame her.
Journal Entry #5
We are really on a roll now! Failure is no longer accepted around here! I can’t say that we are always 100% successful, but maybe 90%. And we never give up till the very last second. Shipments from this plant are going through the roof! And the employees are really fired up! They see the success we are having and are coming up with more and more ideas about how to make things better, faster, cheaper. I’m riding high! I can do this! I can do this!
Journal Entry #6
Well, all reports show that this plant is running at peak efficiencies. I looked back over history and not only have we broken every production record since I’ve been here, but also every production record for this plant, ever–under any leadership.
Got to stay aggressive though. Can’t rest on our laurels. Like the course says, “Grow you must!” If I don’t keep seeking out obstacles, we’ll start to slip back. We’ve made incredible progress, but I can see how that can be just the tip of the iceberg! I also understand now that, “If it is to be, it’s up to me!” Look out world!
TO: Daniel Peters, Plant Manager—Socket Assembly
FROM: Stan Francis, Vice President—Division Operations
I have been watching your recent success with keen interest and you are to be congratulated. In an unprecedented time frame, you have transformed your plant into the best performing facility in our company. Keep it up and someday you might have my job!
911 CALL TRANSCRIPT
Time: 5:37 p.m.
Dispatcher: This is 911 emergency dispatch.
Caller: Yeah, you’d better get some help here, please. My neighbor’s in trouble. I think, um . . .oh God. Please hurry!
Dispatcher: What’s your name? Where do you live ma’am?
Caller: Name’s Carla Kappler, 1529 South Parkway. The neighbor’s across the street. Someone’s in there with her. He’s shouting. There’s crashing . . .(pause) . . .Oh, God! Hurry! It’s bad! I just heard him . . .
Dispatcher: Okay, Okay. Just stay calm. We’ve got a unit en route. Who is in the house?
Caller: The woman . . .um . . .Kathy. And a man. I don’t know. He is screaming at her. I hear thumping . . . pounding from inside. God! I can’t see. Oh! Oh God! Hurry! Please! Wait . . .
Dispatcher: Have you seen a weapon ma’am?
Caller: Wait! (pause) Oh my God . . .hurry please! Oh please. I’m going to be sick. Oh! Now she’s screaming . . .(pause)
Dispatcher: Where are you? Can you see anything?
Caller: I’m on my porch. She’s crying now. She’s screaming bad. Can’t hear what she’s saying. They’re inside. I hear pounding and crying. Wait . . . (pause) “You killed him!” That’s what she said! I can’t see anything. Oh God! They have a baby! Please hurry! Listen (faint screams heard in the background) Hear that? She’s hysterical! Oh my God! What’s going on?
Dispatcher: Okay, police and paramedics are on the way. Can you stay on the line ma’am? The officers can hear you on their radio.
Caller: Yes. I am so . . .(pause)
Caller: She’s stopped.
Caller: She was screaming. Then she just stopped.
Dispatcher: Can you see anyone?
Caller: Nothing’s going on. I can’t see. It’s quite now.
Dispatcher: Is there anyone in the house?
Caller: I think . . . I think I hear sirens.
Millburg Gazette, 3/30/00
Husband suspected in brutal murder
In what authorities are calling a disturbing case of domestic abuse, Dan Peters, of Millburg Falls, WI, has been arrested and charged with the murders of his wife Kathy, and their two year old son, Kyle.
Responding to a 911 call, local police found Peters standing above his dead wife—a bloody, aluminum, softball bat in a nearby corner. Peters has denied the charges, saying that he had recently arrived home from work, and was “just standing in shock” when police arrived.
Peters has been released on bail.
Thank You Letter
Dear Dr. Stevens:
I just wanted to write you personally—to thank you. Your curriculum has truly changed my life. No longer are my days filled with stress. My work is now satisfying and fulfilling. My home life is calm and peaceful. Your research and approach is indeed revolutionary. I am a better man for it.
They key for me was when I realized that I had choices—that I don’t have to accept my life as we know it. I have the power to effectively change my reality. Your course has taught me how to overcome the obstacles in my life—the demons holding me back. All I needed was the courage to act.
I have some tough challenges ahead, but all in all, everything is going very well for me now. I do not feel the stress or the fear that I used to feel. It is much easier for me to focus and solve problems. I find it easy for me to ignore distractions, then get to the bottom of things. I feel almost invincible.
Thanks again for everything you’ve taught me. I am a changed man. I feel almost born again. I believe you are a true genius, and I am thankful that you have shared your knowledge with me.
Your most appreciative student,
TO: Daniel Peters, Plant Manager—Socket Assembly
FROM: David Wilson—President and CEO
RE: Congratulations on your promotion to Vice President—Division Operations!
Congratulations, Dan, on your promotion next month to Vice President of Divisional Operations. I truly believe that you will follow nicely in Stan’s footsteps. We are, of course, all saddened by his sudden death. I know that you and he had grown close over the past year. He spoke very highly of you.
Dan, you have overcome much in the past year. And as President and CEO, I want to tell you personally how proud I am of you. Your ability to overcome adversity is astounding. You are truly the most resilient and resourceful person I have ever known. We are lucky to have you here at Custom Tool Manufacturing. My best wishes as you grieve for your mentor and friend. And good luck to you in your new position. Your future looks very bright.
. . .and a draft escapes, rank and stale: the breath of a dead man. Sunlight slips in like a bright knife through a dead fish. Then, a gaunt figure. A pale grimace. A wet rattle as his purple lips, cracked and bleeding, slip into a snarl. Yellow teeth fill outlines of black rot. A pair of beads, set deep, shine and squint and dart.
“Eh, Christ,” foam collects at the corners. “You’re still standinare , eh?”
You don’t answer.
A heavy sigh. A nervous fidget. An impatient squint–first at you, then back into the darkness.
“How long ya figure hangin’ ’round, then?”
Inside: a heavy thump. A shuffle . . . then–somewhere deep in the bowels of it–a muffled curse, drags its muck up dank stairways, slithers though moldy corridors, crosses still thresholds. Damp paper peels from the walls as it sulks by. Closer, closer. It’s inside. Deep at first. But it’s coming.
The old man turns, but the door won’t shut.
Then it’s there, and it slips by him and through the crack in the door. Angry from years underneath, the curse slaps you with a wet paw as it wafts, putrid, into your face– marking you like a dog does a tree. Without reason, a kernel of rage spins in your chest.
A knowing look. Unspoken, the words “What I tell you,” mingle with the dust escaping on the slice of sunlight holding the crack open, burning into the darkness behind him.
A grunt. “Hangin’ ’bout for this, eh? Gonna get weird. Little gross prolly. A lot maybe. Imagine. What I’m sayin’ . . . you prolly should leave now.”
His head tips back into the darkness–away from you.
“I’m not sure all what’s in there.”
Author’s note: To all those still subscribed to this blog, leave while you still can.
I’m always hesitant, as a blogger, to write too much about myself—or this blog. Maybe I shouldn’t be, but there it is. Tonight, I’m going to break from that a bit because, well . . . what the hell.
This blog, boy I tell ya.
It’s been an interesting ride. Without getting into too many boring details, let’s take a quick look back:
Started: September, 2006
Total unique page views all time: 2,203,401
Highest traffic day: 13,483
Started earning money: April, 2007
Total earnings all time: $14,394
Highest earning month: $867
Total posts: 256
September 2011: Recieved my first “serious” offer to buy chriswondra.com. (a 4-figure offer)
October 2011: Got hacked and overcame my first serious cyber security attack
Okay. For the record, I’ve never done that before. As ridiculous as it sounds, I’ve never looked those numbers together in quite that way. Here’s what jumps out at me:
Holy shit! That’s over seven years ago!! Where did the time go? Additionally, I think: Sheesh did I waste it.
Only 256 individual posts. In over seven years?!? Well Christ, that’s only (tappity tap tap, grumble months, tap click, times 12 plus 4 click 76 buzz whir) . . . that’s only a little over three posts a month!! And since I have a good idea about the quality of most of those posts, again, clearly wasteful.
Wasteful because the past two years, especially—I’ve done next to nothing to the blog. Next to nothing. The traffic, an average of a little under 1000 unique visits a day would come without me doing anything, really. I worked at it the first few years, had success and just rode it. Rested on laurels.
Wasteful perhaps when I also consider the number of interesting things I could have been writing about. Things I’ve done. Things I’ve experienced. Running my first marathon. Running my second marathon in the barefoot style wearing a pair of Vibram Five fingers. The challenges of raising a family and caring for aging parents. All the do-it-yourself projects we do around here like, building a deck, installing cement board siding on the house, fixing a well. The garden. All the parenting stuff. And then there’s the significant emotional and spiritual work I’ve done. Whew. . . .
Lots of really interesting stuff. Valuable stuff.
I take solace, however in the words of Frank McCourt. You remember Frank McCourt, right? Angela’s Ashes? The Pulitzer Prize winning author? He didn’t publish his first book until he was sixty-six! His next one when he was sixty-nine! Da-Fuq?
What took him so long? This was his reply, which I read in the prologue of this book, Teacher Man.
“I was teaching, that’s what took me so long. Not in college or university, where you have all the time in the world for writing and other diversions, but in four different New York City public high schools. When you teach five high school classes a day, five days a week, you’re not inclined to go home to clear your head and fashion deathless prose. After a day of five classes your head is filled with the clamor of the classroom.”
I teach middle school. 12, 13, 14 year olds. Seven classes a day. And with the continued budget cuts to education (that nobody gives a fuck about in Wisconsin), I’m teaching more and more students more and more classes every year—for less and less compensation every year. The time I have after teaching has been devoted to figuring out things like how to fix my breaks without bringing it to the shop so I don’t have to pay someone else to do it or fixing my ageing in-laws snow blower, or freezing carrots from the garden, or watching my daughter play volleyball. That’s my life. That’s been my life.
I’m not complaining. I’m just being honest. It is what it is. And only the wealthy get any special treatment. Teachers? Fuck ‘em. And hard. Don’t get me started. Oh, and you, yeah you reading this and feeling like taking another shot at me in the comment section because you think we greedy teachers have it so cushy—you might as well just piss off now because I’ll delete your comment faster than you can type it up.
Open and honest debate time is over. Teachers lost. Schools lost. Students and families lost.
Time to move on.
Of course—those that know me better understand that I have been doing some writing. Whether it’s correspondence with a good friend (hi Bobbie S.), or writing for my side project, taking a shot at NaNoWriMo this past November, or working on that top secret project with my sister (hi Jess)—yeah, I’ve been sputtering along.
But this year I’d like to see if I can take a little poke at the universe. With wage and benefit cuts coupled with new laws guaranteeing that teachers never get another raise above the CPI, it’s pretty clear that teaching is no longer a real career option in Wisconsin. I could bitch and moan about it, and watch my family’s standard of living continue to drop, or I could, again, take a little poke. See if I can’t make a dent.
I’d already started a bit last spring by committing to writing one 500-700 word column/post that I’m publishing not only in local papers, but also syndicating out in blog format to media web sites across Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. Of course the columns also show up on WeTeachWeLearn.org – a platform I’m building around the art and science of teaching and learning.
So, anyway, most of the time, the column runs just over 700 words. My point is, I’ve been writing 700 words a week now for just over nine months. I never miss a week. I’m proud of that.
I’m also proud that in addition, I’ve also been able to crank out the 50,000 words of fiction required to win NaNoWriMo. I didn’t say it was good. What I’m saying is that in November I averaged about 1,600 words a day. A day! So I can do this. I know I can.
Do what, you ask?
Well, I’ve got a couple of goals this year. It’s that time, you know, for everyone to have goals, resolutions – – call them what you will.
Last year, it was forgiveness. I realized that in order to survive the attacks that I and my profession were taking from the people in Madison and my own State representatives, I had to forgive them. I’ve put about as much as a person can into this (what do I call it now)
profession, career, job as a person can only to have it pissed on by not only my governor, but my own friends, neighbors and relatives–it was clear that the anger and bitter resentment had to go.
It might not sound like it by the tone of this post—but one of the things you have to do in order to forgive is accept the facts. If the facts above make you uncomfortable, tough shit. It’s my blog and I’m not pulling any punches in order to be politically correct. It is what it is. I’ve accepted and, in fact, done a pretty good job of forgiving those who have trespassed against us.
Forgiveness is deep. We’ve been over this before. I’ll just remind you (if you’re new here) that if you do it right, forgiveness never ends, but is is something you live with—like alcoholism. The facts and circumstances around them remain. And so does the edge. It’s just that you’ve run your delicate fingers along it enough to build callouses and the edge becomes less painful when you touch it. Also (and this is the part that you never hear anybody talking about because hardly anybody does forgiveness right), done correctly, you become more powerful for having gone through it.
The power comes from the fact that you can now take the circumstances and facts and all the tumult and pain of the story at issue entirely within you. It never goes away, like an old barb wire fence that now runs through a tree, you simply grow to surround it. Assimilate it. Accept it ALL for what it really is and was and means—leaving out nothing. Avoiding nothing. And finally be thankful for the experience—because of what it has made you: more bad ass than you could have ever been without it.
To be clear, this forgiveness I speak of is not forgetfulness, it’s not nice, it’s not pretty, it’s not selfless, and though you may call on spiritual resources to help you get through it—it’s absolutely not God’s doing. Not the real now-the-ground-is-solid-under my-feat-forgiveness. Not the Hero’s return from his journey kind of forgiveness. Not the death and rebirth type. And that’s what we’re talking about here. The tree encasing rusty barbs. Because, really and truly—I’m not fucking around. If you stick with me here, I promise you one thing—heretofore, reading chriswondra.com ain’t gonna be no tip-toe through the tulips.
But I digress.
Where was I? Oh, yes. This year’s focal point.
Last year, I set one overarching focus: forgiveness. This year, it’s confidence. More on that later, but one sort of offshoot of that is to write more. How much more? I set a modest but I believe very achievable goal of 500 words a day. This post alone is going to end up being three days worth. Which, actually is fine—because it took me about three days to write my last 700 word column.
I’ve been at this now for only five days. 360 left. You can do the math on word counts if you like. But the thing I’m really after is the practice. Yes there are a few things I’d like to accomplish. Finish that NaNo Novel, the project with my sister, keep up the columns, and maybe even this idea that’s germinating for a non-fiction book as well.
And then there’s this blog. I figure it’s time. And I figure, it doesn’t have to be pretty. There are a lot of things that have held me back from writing for a long time–even before the invent of this (or any other) blog. One of the first things my focus on confidence is inspiring me to eliminate is the fear and self-doubt that has slowed down my writing for so long. It’s already taking root and changing other things too, but the writing thing; that was the first.
Which takes us back to the blog. Last month was the lowest traffic month in this blog’s history. This month is shaping up (so far) to be even lower. While the increased writing may affect that, I’m not focusing on it. Notice, my goal is not to revive the traffic, status, rank or earnings of the blog. No. This is about the writing. Pure and simple. Down and dirty. I’m going to scrape the scum from the sides of the tank here and the only way to do that is with words. The way I see it, blogs are made of words. The more, better, and interesting the words, the more current, relevant and valuable the blog.
And of course, you’re welcome on this year’s journey—if you can stomach it. All I promise is honesty and bloody fingers though.