Another Learning Experience….

Well, that could have gone better….

Leona here. I’m going to break out of the “we” format for this post and talk about this weekend from an individual point of view. This weekend being, of course, BaltiCon. And I’m posting this here rather than on my author blog because the biggest part of this disaster involved a sharp lesson for The Scribbling Lion as a whole.

Oh, it was in no way Balticon’s fault. Let me hasten to assure you that as far as I know, Balticon did everything right. No. This was more … errrr, internal. Internal going external, if you get my drift. No? OK, then: I got sick. Really, really effing sick. Go-to-emergency-room sick.

Only I didn’t go to the ER. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

Friday was wonderful fun; I was on a couple of panels, attended a couple of others, wandered around seeing friends. It was a great start to the weekend. I had everything in place for Saturday and Sunday and Monday, I had everything I was going to ask and say and do all mapped out on paper and in my head–

–what, you’re laughing? OK. Clearly you know me too well for me to pass that off. How about: I had a reasonable grasp of an improvisational-friendly outline. Would you buy that? Yeah, that’s better. All right, moving on….

I woke up at six a.m. Saturday morning and began vomiting.

Oh no, I remember thinking. Oh no oh no oh no. Maybe it will work itself out in a couple of hours. Maybe it’s just a fluke thing. Maybe I can still make my 3 pm panel.

No such luck. Every twenty to forty minutes, I was back in the tiny room of increasing nastiness, the contents of my center journeying north and south, if you get the idea. (I am not getting more explicit this time.) Anyone who’s gone through this sort of thing knows the shaky weakness, the shutdown of rational thought (or any thought besides oh no not again), the helpless rage at not being able to make this stop.

Around eleven, I asked my friend to tell Con Ops I wasn’t going to make today’s panel and I wasn’t sure about tomorrow. I was desperately praying that I’d be functional Sunday, because that was the day I had the most panels scheduled–and the ones I’d most dearly been looking forward to, as well!

Around noon, I asked my friend to take to the nearest urgent care center.

Let me pause for a moment and ask you to reread that last sentence. Then read the following ones:

NEVER go to an urgent care center in a strange city. Never go to an urgent care center when the most critical thing you need is an IV for rehydration. And never, never, NEVER go to an urgent care center when you’re so bleary and out of your mind disoriented that you can barely stand up. That is the time to head straight for the ER, my friends.

The next two hours were epic in their awfulosity. I won’t go into details. I should have gone straight to the hospital. I might have been staggering around on Sunday, if I had. As it was, I had to rehydrate the hard way–with many careful sips of water and prayers to every god that might exist that the anti nausea meds would keep the liquid down. My brain function was nil. My only coherent thought was drink more. More fluid. More water. I have rarely been so catastrophically tunnel-visioned. When my friend asked me what he could get me, I managed to say more water. By the time the next thought stirred in my mind–like, apple juice, maybe, this time? he’d been gone for five minutes. It was like my brain had gone into glacial slow-motion. Even speaking a single sentence seemed to take years sometimes, and it was all I could do to focus on stringing those words together.

When I woke up Sunday, I felt as though I’d been a crash test dummy for six different terrible car wrecks, and I had the strength of a squished slug. Well, maybe Monday? I thought, still hopeful. Nope: Monday morning, the aches had all coalesced in my lower back, and it took me until late afternoon to stretch that out enough to allow me a certain amount of shuffling mobility.

So I missed pretty much the entire. freaking. convention. And boy, am I pissed off about it. Not just because it’s over $800 down the drain–although, seriously, that’s a big arrrrrggggghhh right there–but because I missed the biggest and most important convention I had on my schedule this year. I missed the networking chances. I missed the opportunity to hand out business cards and flyers and tell people about The Scribbling Lion. I missed finding new and exciting authors to add to my “watch list”–and I always find at least two or three every Balticon. I wasn’t able to boost Retro Daddios of Williamsburg, VA, the way I’d planned. (They donated a bunch of really cool prizes to the Bad Ass Faeries launch, along with some great internet-shopping coupons for Balticon-goers.)

There were no less than five other members of TSL present at Balticon this time around–Tom Doyle, Danny Birt, Devo Spice, Gail Z. Martin, and Jonah Knight. But because I hadn’t even considered that I might get horribly sick and drop out of very nearly the entire damn weekend…

…and by the time I was in the midst of being ill, it was far too late…

…nobody picked up the slack in my plans and goals for the weekend, because I’d never asked anyone to back me up. I didn’t think I’d need anyone to pinch hit for me. I felt great on Friday.

So this great convention, with two thousand-odd people attending…this convention I’d been hoping would boost TSL one more notch into public view… went by with barely a word said about The Scribbling Lion and our goals. Even less about Retro Daddios, who’d gone so far out of their way to be wonderful. Danielle Ackley-McPhail, bless her beautiful soul, gave a shout out on Twitter and Facebook. A few other people favorited or reposted the scarce few Tweets I was able to crank out. But, mostly….. *crickets*

I don’t even think most folks on my scheduled panels knew I was ill as opposed to simply not there on time.

Let me beat my head against the wall for a moment. Talk about opportunities lost. Talk about lessons learned. Talk about risking my reputation as reliable. All because I assumed I wouldn’t get sick without warning. And then when I did get sick, I wasn’t able to react fast enough to redistribute the load onto the team–which is what a team is supposed to be for, yanno? Not their fault, in any way. Mine.

It’s a bitter, important lesson to learn. You can get sick at any moment. Or encounter some other catastrophic derailing situation.  So for those of you out there with small businesses–or who are getting ready to start a small business–here’s your takeaway for the day:

If you’re going it alone, find someone to be your emergency backup. Right now. If you have a team behind you, make sure they know what you want to accomplish with each event/ promotion/ etc, and assign someone to take over for you if things go all wonkywalooza.

None of us are invulnerable. Every opportunity is precious. We’re going to make mistakes–that’s inevitable. But you don’t have to make this one, ’cause I’ve already gone and made it for you. 😀

What mistakes have you made lately, and what lessons have you learned from them? Let’s help one another avoid the potholes in the road ahead….