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Here's the scoop: I'm a post office snob. Why? Because I'm there all the time for any number of reasons: mailing someone books, sending reams of paperwork to my agency, shipping birthday presents, paying the IRS, checking my p.o. box, etc. etc. When you go to a place a lot, you get to know all its services and systems pretty well. You know exactly what to do and have everything ready to go when you step through the door. And that means you get impatient with people who don't know these things--which isn't fair. But, sadly, it's true.

My life got a lot easier with the invention of auto postage machines. Suddenly, I no longer had to wait in (long) lines or even show up during business hours. I could come by at 11pm, mail off my goods, and lo! Done. Everyone else seems to be afraid of the machine, so there's hardly ever a line. And it can do almost anything I need--almost.

There's one essential service you still have to see a person for: media mail. If you aren't familiar with it, then you've probably never had to ship large amounts of books. Media mail is an extremely cheap way to send books, dvds, or anything else that qualifies as "media." But you can only ship those items. The packages are subject to search, and if they find anything not meeting the criteria, it'll get sent back to you. Media mail is also extremely slow, hence its compelling price point. My theory is that it's either transported by pony and wagon or is put on a barge in the Pacific, sailed around for a while, and then delivered.

I will go to great lengths to avoid media mail and its requirement to see a human. If you're shipping one book, the price difference is irrelevant. If you're shipping two, you'll save a couple dollars--which I'll forego in order to stick with the machine. But three or more books? That's when the media mail savings kick in. I put those trips off as long as I can, but eventually, they're inevitable.

Today was one such day because I sent my parents ten pounds of books for the low, low price of $6 (vs. $15-$25 if I hadn't used media mail). Here's where the snob part comes in. I had to wait in line for about 15 minutes, which isn't a terribly long time, unless you're watching every person in front of you say/do something ridiculous. One guy, when asked if he wanted to use overnight mail, went off on this long discourse about how he'd theoretically like to do it and that his sister would like it, but considering the price, she was probably fine waiting, and it wasn't urgent anyway. Meanwhile, the tormented clerk's face was just begging an answer: Yes or No? So were those of us in line. Later, there was a woman who was surprised you needed to fill out a customs form for international shipping, even if a package was "only going to Canada."

When I finally got up to my clerk, an upset gentleman down the counter asked to see a supervisor because he hadn't been able to figure out how to fill out his change of address card. The supervisor explained that you just write in your old address and then the new one. Then drop it off. And the guy was like, "Well, that's all I wanted to do." I'm not sure why he couldn't do it then, but somehow, the discussion inexplicably kept repeating itself, with the customer growing more and more frustrated. It was really weird. My clerk, who'd been listening, looked up at me with this world-weary expression and said sadly, "There's no way that'll end in a way that makes him happy."

I suddenly had great sympathy for our nation's postal workers and realized what I witnessed for 15 minutes is what they see for 8 hours every day. Or, well, maybe like 4 hours since only half of the staff ever seems to be at the counter--which doesn't help move the line, but presumably is because the other half is doing Something Important in the back. And again, maybe it's wrong of me to judge people who haven't used every single service the post office offers like I have. But you guys, seriously. Canada is a foreign country. It's not a state. Not yet. So fill out the customs form, ok? And ship it at the auto postage machine on days I have to use media mail.


Someone has to say this

And it might as well be me.

The internet has completely revolutionized the writing world. 20 years ago, you didn't see a lot of interaction between authors. You know those Stephen King portrayals? Of solitary authors who mostly communicate with their agents and editors? That's what it was like. Except, they were a little less crazy. A little.

Nowadays? Not so. The internet has connected writers around the world. We all know each other in some capacity, at least in my genre. We read each other's blogs, share forums and mailing lists, etc. We talk agents, advances, foreign rights, reviewers, promotion, and everything else in between. It's great. But when you get this many people--this many creative people who live inside their own heads most of the time--the inevitable has to happen.

It becomes like high school.

I have a feeling I'll get in trouble for this, but it's true. Now, the majority of writers connect with each other in sincerely friendly ways. I'm continually amazed at the number of times I've approached an author I barely know and gotten help. But, oh friends, cliques and cattiness abound. Sometimes these cliques are based on random internet connections, people who've chatted and found a connection. Some cliques are based on having the same publisher. Some on having the same agent. Some on geography. I think anyone who reads my blog for a week can figure out my posse.

Usually, everyone's nice to each other. And most of the time, you treat writers like kids you pass in the hall. You kind of know them and have no real problems. Then there are the ones that drive you crazy, like the beautiful popular girls who put on a fake face for the world and then likely sleep with your boyfriend. There are the ones you want to punch because you know they cheated on that exam. There are the cheerleaders who get mad that you aren't showing more school spirit. There are the quarterbacks whose attention you'd do anything to get. There are the ones who cut class to go smoke. And of course, there are the band students.

It's a crazy world, I tell you, and sometimes it's wearying. I thought I'd have a solitary job when I got into this business, and I'm glad I don't. I adore my friends and am so glad they have my back. But man, the politics and drama rival that in our books somedays.

Gotta run. Caitlin and I are so going off campus for lunch today.


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I have red hair and subsist entirely on Kona coffee.

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