UPDATE (March 13th, 2011): Due to circumstances beyond my control, I'm not accepting any new speaking invitations until after mid-April. After that point I hope to be able to resume accepting invitations, but please note that I require three months' notice (for anything that isn't in Edinburgh or Glasgow) due to the need to book flights and accommodation for, well, just about anywhere.
This is an informational posting, prompted by my having to turn down two speaking invitations this week ...
If you're thinking of inviting me to talk at an event, please be aware that
I'm booked up for the remainder of 2009, most of 2010, and already have bookings for 2011. as of March 2010, I am booked up until September 2011 and already have one bookings in 2012.
If you still want to invite me to your event, read on.
I live in Edinburgh, Scotland. This imposes certain logistical constraints on me. For example, if you want me to give an evening talk in London, it will chew three days out of my schedule — one day to prepare the talk, then a day to fly down to London (flying is the easiest/fastest/cheapest way to get there), deliver the talk, spend a night in a hotel, and then a day on which I fly home and deal with whatever correspondence has been piling up while I took time out.
The picture for speaking anywhere in North America is even harder. For example, to give a 30 minute presentation in Palo Alto takes me an absolute minimum of 3 days, even if I'm just repeating a talk I've already prepared — it takes me an entire day for travel (e.g.: up at 6am, fly from Edinburgh to Newark, fly from Newark to SFO, find my way to a hotel, and crash out so I'm on Pacific time the next morning), a day to deliver the talk, and then I have to catch a red-eye flight from SFO to a major European hub. Arriving on day #3, I transfer to a local shuttle and arrive home in a zombie like haze from which I will take 48 hours to recover sufficiently to be productive again. (In fact, due to my local airport not being a major hub, there's only one city in North America that I can effectively visit and return from in 48 hours — New York.)
That 30 minute talk bites nearly as much time out of my schedule as attending a weekend science fiction convention, because of the travel overheads. In fact, every time I accept a speaking or convention invitation outside of Edinburgh, it approximates to five working days out of my writing schedule. I'm not productive while I'm traveling; I work best in my own office/spare bedroom at home.
Experience has taught me that doing back-to-back events in consecutive weeks was a Bad Idea — I lose at least another week to exhaustion. Experience also tells me that making two trans-Atlantic flights in the same month is a Bad Idea (unless somebody is paying to fly me business class, which reduces the pain associated with travel considerably). Too much travel is in any event very bad for my productivity, and has knock-on effects even after I get home; jet lag, exhaustion, general lassitude, and so on.
I now get so many invitations that I have to perform triage ruthlessly. I am a novelist. When evaluating an invitation to go speak somewhere, the first thing I ask myself is: "can I justify this trip as a promotional exercise?" If the answer is "no", the second thing I ask myself is: "can I justify this trip for research purposes?" If the answer to that question is also "no", the third question I ask myself is: "do I want to go there and take a vacation afterwards?" Finally, if the answer to all of the above is "no", I have to ask, "who's going to pay for that working week?"
SF conventions tend to take priority: they pass at the first question (above), their organizers usually book guests a year or more in advance, and they're fun. Between now (July 23rd) and the end of 2009, I have four overseas SF conventions to go to. During 2010, I have six events already booked that involve international travel. I'm even booked for two events in early 2011. And this ignores domestic travel, including visiting my parents (who live, in terms of travel time, as far away as London, and who I like to see from time to time).
Anyway: despite all of the above moaning, you should by all means invite me to your event! To contact me, click here. However, please bear in mind the following ...
- I like as much notice as possible (and please be specific about your dates). Unless you're in Edinburgh, three months is the absolute minimum, imposed by my need to organize long-distance travel; twelve months is much better.
- If giving less than 18 months notice, don't be surprised if I'm already booked or otherwise unavailable. (In fact, 2009 and 2010 are already full.)
- Bear in mind that unless you're in Edinburgh or Glasgow, the hour or day you're asking for equates to a whole working week once I add in the travel overheads.
- I am a forty-something human, not in the prime of athletic health. I may turn you down if I think your event and the associated travel will be too exhausting.
- I reserve the right to cancel due to illness.
- Once I say "yes" to your invitation, I won't dump you if something shinier comes along later.
All of the above points are general guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. For example, I'll go out of my way to do stuff for friends, family, and causes I approve of. But I've learned the hard way that these guidelines are necessary.
To put it in perspective, this year I've turned down invites that would add up to three months on the road to my schedule. As it is, what I've said "yes" to in 2009 already amounts to three months away from home in each of 2009 and 2010. In short, when I say "I'd love to come, but ..." I am not bullshitting you — I really am overloaded!