Friday, June 26, 2009

Speaking of silliness

Trixie has entered the social networking sphere. I think she's sneaking out of her bag at night to get on my laptop. She's not yet Twittering, thank goodness, but she now has her own Facebook fan page (and it turns out you don't even have to sign up for Facebook to see it). Where will this end?!

Selling out?

At first I was disgusted. Not another public-private partnership, with the Johnson County Library shilling for some big company, selling out to The Man. I took a picture to document my outrage. Then I saw another truck and the penny dropped.

Ohhh, it's a joke, and a clever one at that. You can read more about it on the JCL website.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Good week

This has been a good week. I'll work backwards to tell you what I've been doing. Today is an office and errand day, along with some story research.

Yesterday I was at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center in Iola, KS, doing storytelling workshops with kids. Leslie and Jay Cady of Laughing Matters were also there, teaching juggling and mime. It's always fun to work/play with the Cadys. Because we've all been performers for many years in the same area, our paths cross fairly often. Here they are packing up at the end:

We split the small group by age (6-8, 9-11), and did workshops for about an hour with each. In mine, we played story games, tailored to the age of the kids. Then we came back together for a snack and more playing together. Everybody, including the performers, seemed to have a good time.

On Wednesday I was also in Iola, giving a writing workshop for three nice--and chatty--kids. The Iola Register had an article on the workshop, with plenty of quotes from the participants. There might have been higher enrollment for both days in Iola if the new swimming pool hadn't just opened on Memorial day--Iola had two years with no pool.

On Tuesday I stayed home and caught up on office work. There's always office work to be done. Oh, I also caught up on NY Times crossword puzzles...

Monday was a busy day. First I carried two loads of puppets and puppet-making materials to the car in a wicked rainstorm. Everything not in the plastic box got a bit damp. By the time I got to the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, the sky was a clear blue. In the morning, I gave a puppet-making workshop. Normally I teach how to use puppets, not how to make them, but it worked well. Twenty-two kids made two different kinds of puppets, used an improvised stage (book cart covered with a cloth) and tried out some of my puppets.

Then I drove up Highway 75 to Holton, where I gave a performance at the library. I've been to the Beck-Bookman Library (great name!) several times and it has always been a fabulous crowd of enthusiastic listeners. I even got them to do the Twinkle, Twinkle/ABC/Baa Baa Black Sheep round before the show began.

I drove the 50 or so miles home for a nap, then got in the car and drove back to Topeka to give a workshop for adults on how to use puppets. It was scheduled as an hour-long workshop but could easily have been two. Wonderful group!

So that's my work week. I do love summer!

Friday, June 12, 2009

On charging fees

Before Monday, I'll pull out my checkbook and write a couple of hefty checks for quarterly taxes. Those of you who work for others most likely have money taken out of your paycheck for taxes, but the self-employed have to shell out a percentage of our income four times a year. I'm not complaining: I know that my taxes pay for schools, arts organizations and libraries, where I do lots of work, and taxes pay for roads so I can get to those venues. I remind myself that if I'm paying taxes, it means that I made money. Still, in lean times, writing the checks can make me pause.

Often when I tell people what I do, they ask if I get paid for it. Yes, I do. I've been making my living as a storyteller since 1993, with a few temp jobs here and there in the early years. In those early years, I had trouble stating my fees. I'd stammer and stutter, and offer to work for less than what I needed.

In about 1995, I found a very helpful book, Earn what you deserve: how to stop underearning and start thriving, by Jerrold Mundis.

At that point, I still thought artists had to be starving and possibly living in a garret (I was in a one-bedroom apartment in a building that looked like a motel). I came to realize that this isn't true. The book helped me be a thriving artist, not a starving artist (I now own a house that suits me perfectly).

In reading Earn what you deserve, I came to understand why I had a poverty mindset and how to change it. One great benefit was that I learned to state my fees more confidently. I remembered, though I didn't say it out loud, that I pay my own health insurance, taxes, and overhead, that I've been a storyteller for many years and have a wealth of experience, and that my fees are reasonable. Okay, sometimes I said those things out loud, but I learned not to whine as I did so.

Does this mean I always charge for storytelling? No. I do pro bono or reduced-fee work if I have the time, believe in the cause and haven't hit my quarterly quota of this kind of gig. Sometimes I volunteer my services without being asked. I find that if I do this with a willing heart, the gig tends to go well. If I do it with any resentment, it often happens that I feel underappreciated and drained at the end. One of the biggest lessons I learned from the book is "resentment blocks flow." That's a useful lesson in any arena.