Saturday, August 12, 2006

What My Assistant Does

Over the years quite a few of you have written in and asked what Lorraine, my assistant, actually does. (Whatever it is, she does she's been doing it now for about 14 years.) Today she swung by on her way to go off and do her other job (er, playing violin and singing). "Hey," she said. "Check your email. I wrote about what it's like to be a personal assistant."

I checked my email. I read it. I laughed. I nodded with a certain amount of recognition. (Though I've only sprung a visit to to Tasmania that she had to organise on her once, in about 1998, and I didn't bring back any animals at all.)

"Shall I put it up on my blog?" she said.

"Sure," I said. Then, "Would you like me to put it up on mine?"

She said yes, she would actually, so here it is. A Lorraine's-eye view of the world...

A Day in the Life of a Personal Assistant

Wake up. Drive to Boss's House. Think to myself "way way too
early". Make tea. Get ready to wake Boss for an early morning conference call
with foreign editor. Attempt to wake Boss. Find what looks like a corpse. Remember Boss
promised to have an "Early Night" and wake upon the dawn like a lark, refreshed
and ready for the day. Realize Boss has only been asleep for an hour or so.

Shake corpse. Corpse attempts speech. Corpse fails. Tea, I say,
over and over, in conversational tones. Boss makes it to tea, which is beside
the bed, not a far leap for many, but a large one for Boss. Asks me to find the
Last Big Contract for the Last Big Project but I am too smart for that trick.
Wait until Boss is actually working thru morning e-mail until I leave the room.

Make more tea. Start to go thru the mail, which comes in a bucket sort
of thing every morning. Throw away the junk. Bucket thing still full. Start to
open the Mail and sort into piles. Important, Black and Whites of Comics in
Progress, Galleys of Books in Progress, Case of Mangos (look, if you want
something from me, case of mangos gets that request right to the top)
contracts, requests for quotes, fan mail, gifts from fans and friends,
Things From Editors, Publishers, and Studios, CDs people have sent, and really
odd things. (see essay on Top 10 Things
Never To Send Your Favorite Writer
) Notice one of the CDs. Stop. Impressed.
Love her work. Pop cd into the player. Ah, yes....

Time for more tea for
Boss. Remind him about the conference call in ten minutes. He asks, any chance
of breakfast? Make breakfast. Fast. Get Boss on call, with more tea and go
downstairs with tiara for the portion of the day known as "Princess of No"

E-mail. Lots of E-mail. I promise myself I will, today, get it down
under 500 today. I will be patient. I will be kind, as I dash people's hopes and
dreams. You have 130 new e-mails, my computer helpfully tells me. Well, it's
early I think, not to worry, can't really sink my teeth into it until I get at
least 200.

Dear Assistant, we would like to invite your Boss to our
Con next month, next year, in ten years time,
many of them start out. Can't
be done, sorry, he is booked thru the year 2060. When he will be 100. Sorry,
says the Princess of No.

Dear Assistant, can we interview your Boss
for our web-page, fanzine, newspaper, major paper, television show,
"Maybe," I tell the Washington Post, David Letterman and the
guy doing a documentary on .Seriously Weird Un-dead Things who Like Mangos (hey,
I like Seriously Weird Un-dead Things and Mangos, rule number one, get the
Assistant behind you ).......

The ones that come thru foreign publishers, I say,
"you get one major interview, pick it wisely, that's it for you". Boss is
published in over 40 different countries. I wonder how we are going to do 40
interviews for his current bestselling book, the one coming out in a month, and
the two movies he is working on. Everyone else gets to meet the Princess of No.
(No one likes her. UN-popular )

Dear Assistant, I wrote you almost
a week ago and have received no reply to my questions, what's the problem?

I have my first good laugh of the day.

Dear Assistant, I am an
aspiring writer-publisher-editor-illustrator and desire greatly to get into the
field and am inquiring about an internship with Mr Gaiman, I don't need to be
paid, just a couch to sleep on and I feel I could be of great help working with
him and his publishers and could learn a lot from an internship.
(hmmm...we DO need someone for the garden. But no.)

Receive a letter
from my best friend asking what I am up to today. Ruining people's hopes and
dreams I say. Oh, she writes back, the usual. Another letter friend asks can we
go out sometime. I wonder idly what that means.

(During the E-mail phase
I should point out the phone has not once stopped ringing. )

Boss is off
the conference call and I give him a list of calls to return. He lets me know
the cats have been peeing in inappropriate places. I apologize and take
responsibility for the cats' bladders, and go have a talk with the cats. Look
says I, you gots these nice litter boxes, whyfor you peeing around all the
Cats say because you close the doors. I say, Because if we don't you pee
in the rooms
. Stand off. Never argue with a cat.

Arrange with Movie People for Boss to go out for Meetings the following week. Arrange car to
airport, air, car to hotel, hotel car service to meetings and airport again.
Arrange Meetings: Breakfast, Coffee, Lunch, Coffee, Drinks, Dinner, Drinks for
people in order of importance. Wonder that Boss isn't fat and floating

In one of the ebs and flows we find ourselves, Boss and I, able to
flee the house and have a walk round the garden. Nice garden, nice walk.Take
notebook, always. Now I have things to do if I get bored. Not to complain, I
like the garden. Threaten plants with pruning shears if they don't start growing
better and making me look bad.

I go to the grocery store, the post office, the bank, the garden center and out for some really weird electronics whose purpose I will never understand.

Back home again I hear Boss on
the phone with Friend with Family in Town. I overhear Boss say Sure, come on
out tonight for dinner and spend the night, I have to leave for the UK in the
morning, but that's ok.
Wait, I say, leaving out the fact I am completely
unaware of this UK trip, first things first, How Many and What do they Eat? Go
back to grocery store, find beds and bedding.. NOW....

What do you mean, Boss you leave tomorrow? Oh. Right. Says he.
Director needs me on the set.. Just found out. Oh, I need to go via Tasmania. Right.

Set up airfare from Midwest to Tasmania, find
hotel with shuttle, and arrange flights to UK and hotel and back home four days later.

Have short talk with Boss about tomorrow's flight. I tell him
again that flights will not wait upon him, they are fixed and firm and WILL
leave without him. Boss finds this funny. Again. Remind Boss that he is leaving
for LA the day after he gets back from the UK.

Boss brings home
Tasmanian Devil. Research Tasmanian Devil care. Boss tells me Tas has shredded
the couch. Take responsibility for Tas's claws. Shoot Tas. Know that if Boss
asks where's Tas, the phone will ring, and he might forget for days.

Phone rings. Oh, says I, he's here. Oh, uh, loved your last movie.
Lovely about the Oscar.

Check e-mail. Ah, that's more like it. Numbers I
can really sink my teeth into. Letter from Godlike Writer asking is Boss free to
be Grand Master of Everything on April 30th he says he will if he's free. Sure,
says I, he has nothing except Easter Weekend when he is Godlike Master of
Everything at the Most important Thing in the World. Easter Weekend, I recall
from last year, is in early April. Copy Boss. Get mail back from Boss. Find out
Easter Weekend Moves Each Year and is now on April 30th. Damm. Write letters throwing myself on my sword.

Being a Personal Assistant is like shooting from the hip. You have to be
fast, you have to be ready. If it goes wrong, oh, and it will, you will take the
blame. If it goes right, that's good because that's how it should be. I,
however, know that I am appreciated. My Boss has the sweetest temper going, and
is one of the kindest people I have ever met. I know everything I do is really
really important. He has told me so, many times.

I lay in my bed,
wishing I had got everything I wanted to done, and run over my various
affirmations for the day tomorrow. I will get my e-mail under 500. I will get tomatoes staked. I will be friendly, funny, and try and get to the gym.

Then two very very truthful, simple and
profound things occur to me and I smile.

I so love my job. And....

Thank the Gods that I am not as busy as my Boss.