Sunday, 30 October 2016

That time I delivered pizza to make a buck.

When I was 22 I decided I would apply to work in a pizza store. The manager phoned to invited me to interview. Apparently the only openings were for delivery drivers.

"Thanks, but I don't think that will work for me," I said and hung up the phone.

A few days later, my brother and I were talking and I told him I'd been offered the interview as a delivery driver. "That's an awesome job, you should do it!" So, I called the manager, very apologetically and said I would give it a go.

There wasn't an interview, just a trial shift. I drove the manager around in my car while she did deliveries, and I watched. Then we got back to the store, I was given a shirt and told to turn up for my next shift in a few days time. My first shift was very uneventful. I went to three houses, and did kitchen hand work in between deliveries. My manager then decided to tell me she was finishing up in a week, leaving the assistant managers to run the store between them.

I really liked working there for the first month or so. All the staff were young, either in school, or under 25, and despite the lack of free pizza, I have always loved working in kitchens and doing prep. Deliveries I wasn't so sure about.

Most deliveries were uneventful. Sometimes people would give me an actual tip ($5 was the going rate), even though we don't tip in Australia. Some people would tell me to keep the change, but on a Saturday night I could leave with about $15 in tips. Petrol prices were really expensive at this time, so every little bit helped. I also had to get a cheap for tax purposes mobile phone as I called a lot of the customers if they didn't have a light on, weren't home, gave weird directions, or told the store to have me call when I arrived.

Who gets pizza delivered? Pretty much everyone. I delivered pizza to plenty of teenagers who had me park outside their house, and they would come and meet me. I have pizza every Friday to a family who watched Better Homes and Gardens, which was always playing when I arrived (they never tipped). I have delivered pizza for parties, to ritzy houses and ones that aren't so flash.

Being a girl, my manager told me, brought in good tips. She told me once she got $50 from a drunk guy telling her she was hot (yes, I believe this). I was growing out a really short hair cut, so I always wore pigtails (because, cute), and altered my shirt so it wasn't the bulk Mens XL I was given. Once though, I knocked at a door, and I heard a woman say "The pizza man is here." She had a young daughter, paid me, and I left, realising she never corrected herself.

I once had a really irate customer who lectured me for a long time, and then decided to be nasty, paying only in 50 and 20 cent pieces - his order  was $24.95. He gave it to me on a plastic dish, and then said 'hey, you can't keep it', even though I had no where to put his ridiculous amount of coins. He wasn't the only one, people would wait while I would dig around for their five or ten cents change in my little money pouch, sometimes forgetting to use manners at all.

There was a customer black list next to the phone. One man, Leroy, featured four times. He used different numbers, or a slightly different address. When an order came through for Leroy's real address I was adamant I wouldn't take it. "It's Leroy's pizza mule," I whinged, but to no avail. Leroy or Leroy's friend took the pizza and gave me money, and there was no problem.

My store was open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and we got an order really late, maybe 11:55pm. The person who ordered had said to park on the street, the light wasn't working and they would meet me. I didn't want to do the delivery, but there was only me, so I went, praying the whole time that the customer would have a small amount of money. No such luck. I arrived at the house, where about six men came to meet my car. They gave me $100, and I just managed to make enough change for me. I refused to get out the car and had my doors locked, and in the end it was okay.

Eventually though, well into my second month, delivering pizza late at night wasn't fun anymore. We had a few older guys start delivery, and one took all of the peak shifts, as he could only work two hours because of a bad back.

The shift that ended my love of delivery was supposed to be a simple one. It was only for a couple of pizzas and some sides, and when I arrived the husband and wife seemed nice, and asked me to bring the pizza inside. This is one of the things you're not really meant to do, but lots of people like you to put the pizza on a side table while they get the money (fair enough really). The man asked why it was so expensive, and where was the pensioner discount. We only gave seniors discount, so twenty-something men really didn't qualify. He started ranting and raving, with some appropriate f-bombs thrown in. His wife gave me the money in the end, but she was laughing at him too. As I walked out the door, he yelled "Go home and have ten orgasms!"

Ten orgasms? What the?

I was pretty shaken up after this, so went back to tell my manager. "Don't even worry about it, people are weird," he said.

"Can we black list them?"


It seemed a good reason to leave, so I found a new fast food job, one that wouldn't require me to leave the store at irregular intervals, or introduce me to people who had nothing better to do than yell at the face of the pizza company.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Embracing being a romance writer (ummm.... I think).

When I was 11 I wrote something rather profound in my diary. It was something along the lines of 'I don't like reading books without romance in them!' My access to 'books with romance in' was quite limited. Some of the Baby Sitters Club books had some good love story lines, like Stacey and Sam in many of the Super Specials. I remember enjoying reading Anne Frank's Diary with Peter as a romantic character, and also Laura and Almanzo's courtship.

That Christmas my Nan, who loved reading too, gave me my first Sweet Dreams novel. The blurb started with 'Love can be rough...' and it was about a girl on an Outward Bound course who fell in love, but had to compete with a rival, named Lisa, for her boyfriend's affections. This is where my Sweet Dreams and Sweet valley High addiction started. I consumed them quickly, usually in under three hours. I bought two huge cartons from a book fair once, and had enough reading material for the summer holidays.

There was one thing I was excited about when high school began - reading the Freshman Dorm series, which I had spotted during my orientation visit, weeks earlier. I loved the stories of Winnie and Josh, and also Dash and Lauren. I was enthralled by Faith and Christopher, and KC's brief fling with Steven. These books kept me up late, and got me out of bed early.

Soon though, I depleted the collection of Freshman Dorm, and discovered SVH Senior Year, with Elizabeth and the super sexy Conner and I was soon trying to track these down too. In fact, I am still working on this collection. As school went on, my interest in reading never waned, but I fell out of love with my school library reasonably quickly, and had to find my books from op shops and the public libraries.

For six months I read as many Virginia Andrews books as I could find. I sold this collection, but I loved the story of Heaven and Troy, and was sad when I grew out of gothic horror which seemed to be exactly the same.

At fourteen I read Paullina Simon's epic novel, Tully, and fell wildly in love with the men in that book, and Tully's semi-charmed life. I wanted to own the book so much that I put it on laybuy at Target, and paid a few dollars off it each week.

I became obsessed by Bridget Jones and her endless mishaps, tantalised by Jane Green's Pygmalion effect bumper book 'Jemima J' and shipped Harry and Hermione before it was cool.  

My fate had been set.

Soon, though, the cracks started to show.

People would make fun of my reading habits. Or try and talk me out of them, or tell me I could read something much more worthwhile. I became embarrassed and started only reading romance novels in my room. When I started university, I found myself scouring libraries in the city for books I always wanted to read, but never managed to find in my home town.

During my writing courses, there was some scoffing by students about romance writing. Or the characters would have a sad ending. I wrote several sad endings to my stories because it didn't quite seem literary enough.

Whenever I would write something, I would say it was 'realism', and believe it.

I had a few Mills and Moon books, and was given one as a joke at a Claire Hooper show. I kept them in my bathroom and read them while I dried my hair.

And finally, years later, I heard a segment on RN that talked about the craft of romance writing.

It wasn't until a few months ago that I realised that the novel I have started is a romance. I submitted the first chapter, plus a pitch letter for an assignment, and my lecturer corrected a sentence I used to describe my book. She had included the word 'romance'. Forget realism. I had written a romance. And, yeah, I would probably continue to finish my novel, which is a romance, and then start my next novel which is also a romance....


That's okay. I won't ever turn up my nose at the notion of being published by Mills and Boon. It's now my dream.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Should you take a creative writing class?

I thought I'd write, with a little authority, on deciding about taking a class in creative writing. I've been studying writing and literature since 2006 with a couple of years off, and have learnt a lot about both creative writing and about the work of others. I don't think a course in creative writing suits everyone, but I also believe that everyone can learn a lot from it.

Do you like reading?
As someone who reads every day, but really doesn't love "literature", sometimes doing a creative writing course can be frustrating. You have to read authors you wouldn't usually pick up, discuss themes you don't care for and see symbolism in places where some common sense should be. Plenty of stories I had to read in creative writing left me asking 'what the?', a-la-90s-Rove.
If you like reading, generally speaking, you'll probably like doing a writing course. Not because you read some whacked out stories, but because you understand how stories work.

Do you like writing?
I love writing. I kept journals throughout primary and high school, and wrote short stories, blogs and all sorts of weird and out there things.

I think that school was my biggest downfall. I remember in Year Six I was so excited about doing some creative writing - until the teacher said we had to plan it before we could write it. The only thing I had going for my story idea was that the girl in the story would put some salt in the bath, and her mum would say 'Sea water, not salt water!' What a riot.

Unfortunately, my story turned into an unintentional retelling of the movie Andre, about a girl who adopts a seal.

Sammy the Seal by Lisa - based on a based on true story.

And, the next time we were allowed to write stories, which was a whole year later, I timidly asked my teacher if I could write a recount of school camp instead, which I did get a B+ for.

Despite this, I kept up my soap opera stories of kids in boarding school. Until Year Eight. In Year Eight a visiting author told us to write what we know. And then said something like 'you know, if you don't go to boarding school, don't set your novel in one'. A few weeks later I killed off the romantic interludes of Mel, Dave, Sally, Jon and Sassie, breaking them all up in a dramatic ending. I didn't write short stories, unless it was for an assignment, until uni.

I kept a very melancholy blog though, and my journalling remained up to speed, unless I was dating a boy, then I didn't bother recording flirtations at Maccas.

If you don't enjoy writing, on any level, I think doing a class which involves writing during class time, submitting work for critique by other students, and having the bulk of your grade made up of creative work might not be overly thrilling for you.

Is it on offer, and easy to access?
When the chance to do Introduction to Creative Writing came up, I took it. At that time it was a very new course, and it was great fun. We met in a tiny hidey-hole room under the stairs and read and wrote a lot.

I have studied online, offline and on campus. I found offline study the best, the course materials were posted, and I had three huge realms of paper - a course guide, two readers and a couple of sheets explaining assignments. On campus, which I have enjoyed in some settings, there is a lot more collaboration and reading aloud than I would like. I much prefer to be able to reread a story and give feed back in my own good time.

Studying online is good, if your uni is up with technology. The current interface my uni uses is great, other study options have left me perplexed. The bigger the class, the easier it is to interact and gain feedback. Doing my first Masters topic, I was given some pretty harsh criticism about whether I was writing at 'Masters level', but I got a Distinction for that assignment, and never bothered defending myself.

Do you have a story you want to write?
I have sometimes entered courses without ideas, but more often than not, I have an phrase or idea I want to convey, and can chuck it in a story somewhere.

When I tell people I study creative writing, occasionally they tell me they plan to write a book one day. Great, you want to write a book, go for it. Or, they'll tell me they have a story for me, which is usually interesting, but it isn't mine to tell.

A friend of mine is writing a book. She's always been a good writer and a deep thinker, and doesn't need to do a course to help her go ahead and pursue that dream. A course in writing can help inspire and motivate you, but plenty of people have been wonderful writers without doing a course.

So, why take a course at all?
Okay, so I just said you don't need to take any kind of formal training to be a writer. It has helped me develop interest in an area I was scared away from during my schooling. More than that though, some practicalities of studying creative writing:

- you get a lot of feedback from people who have a broad range of knowledge in their area - some feedback can be ignored, but how often do people get the chance to have their work critiqued by established authors, or experts in the field? Not very, if any, and usually you have to pay for such consultancy.

-you unlearn a lot of mistakes schooling chucked at you. Remember the teacher that said 'never use 'said', or 'good'? Forget them. Is it its or it's? What the hell is 'tense', and why hasn't anyone ever explained this before? How do you use quotation marks? The list goes on!

-you meet some great people, but it that isn't your thing, you can talk to them online.

-you can develop discipline. Being creative can be time consuming, or all consuming, and it's easy to avoid any consumption. If you are one of those people who has always wanted to write a book, doing a course in creative writing might prompt you to get on with it.

-you can develop networks and knowledge. I learnt a lot about the writing scene in my city through two courses at uni, and at the time thought 'wow, why do to so much effort?' Now though, I want to make writing a career, so that basic understanding has been quite handy.

-it is one of the few things you can study that is very creative. Some lecturers require that your creative writing is 'influenced' by other authors, others are happy to let your creative juices flow and keep the references for essays. Markers tend to be quite objective which is very helpful.

Over the next few weeks I'll continue my little series of Creative Writing 101. Any questions or comments, please feel free post below.


Monday, 26 September 2016

My far too honest retail resume

Career Goals: Earn enough money to buy several pairs of Dr Marten boots, taste test the entire KFC menu for marketing purposes, work in hospitality until I have aching feet like most poor-but-cute looking waitresses do in chick lit and know enough PLU codes to not have to look under the ‘search by appearance’ tab on the Bi-Lo POS system.

2001 KFC (12 months) – Hostie
There were many perks to working at KFC. One was my inability to do work their ridiculous cash registers and pack food at the same time, which luckily landed me many close shifts. At $5.20 an hour, coming home with copious amounts of chicken made up for the working hours, the coldness of the coolrooms, being integrated about this girl who randomly hated me for no particular reason (who didn’t work at KFC) and general inadequacy. I also had a red shirt which was way too long for me, and was once described as ‘Lisa is wearing the Old People’s Army uniform.

2002 Hungry Jacks (2 months every weekend, and then every few weekends until I became too old.)
Things I knew about HJs when I started – nothing. Their uniform is ridiculous and they once awarded the Uniform Award to someone who wore blue sparkly eyeshadow because she wore blue sparkly eyeshadow. KFC loved training people. HJs loved making you watch a video then being expected to know everything. Fortunately I turned sixteen and a half, and was mysteriously no longer rostered again. Also, during a late night break I read a story about 3 women who were tourists from the UK and were murdered. I have never forgotten that and it still scares the living daylights out of me. The walk from the HJs back door to my Mum’s car was terrifying that night.

2002-2006 Bi-Lo (and Coles for a little bit)
Working at Bi-Lo was my favourite job. We had great staff and a lot of laughs. More than that, I felt that I really didn’t belong at school, but at work I felt really comfortable, and I loved pretty much everything about working there. Some perks included Christmas Eve lunch followed by Christmas Eve supper. Totally worth doing both front end and night fill that day. In late 2003 we had late night trading began and Tanya and I got up to much mayhem, including the time she made a security guard a helmet out of a box, with decorations, and she kept telling people ‘we’re eating Smarties coz we’re smart!’

2005-2006 McDonald’s (Aug 05-Dec 05, then Feb 06)
Pretty much the worst job I ever had. The perks: 50% staff meals. I ate a Fillet o Fish most close shifts. I haven’t touched them since, and it took me a long time to start enjoying their fries again. I also became addicted to Hot Apple Pie Runs. This ritual stopped soon after my last shift. Also I had Steve working there with me and I had a horrible shift once, so he wrote me a note of encouragement which I still have and look at every now and then.

Everything else: I wasn’t paid for the first month I worked there, valuables had to be stored away in a locked cabinet, which was weirdly unlocked after about 1am. I hated having to get changed at work, it took so long, and also I had many spot checks on whether I was wearing black socks. Yes, I was because I mostly only owned black socks then (ha!), but I was also wearing ten hole Doct Martens, no one could see them, so most of the time I had to stretch my socks out of my boot, or take the whole thing off, because ‘we have to check anyway’. Most people yelled, I may have cried on at least three shifts, and I was called into work almost every second day.

Best story: Once a lady came through the drive thru at 2am. She had a lengthy conversation with me at the speaker, reminiscing about how soft serve cones used to cost thirty cents. She ordered four soft serves. She came through, there was only her in the car. Who was going to those half melted ice creams?!

Story for Mt Gambier People: Right on close we had a car load of people come through but the manager was in an awful mood and refused to serve them. They had came all the way from Mount Gambier, so I pleaded with her, but no avail. Anyway, I apologised profusely, and they screamed ‘fuck you’ at me. Ahh, so typical.

2006 Salmat – That time I delivered catalogues for two weeks.
I don’t know why I thought this would ever be a good idea, but it really wasn’t. I know people who do this, and like it, someone like me shouldn’t and didn’t. However, I know have excellent geography skills in a very small area of Brooklyn Park, there had to be a perk somewhere. Total payment was something like $60, probably less. I am now blacklisted from Salmat and its affiliates.

2008 Domino’s (July-September)
I delivered pizzas (a bit scary) and did customer service. Now, I thought I’d be getting free pizza. No, hardly ever. Just twice when we had made mistakes. Pay was $13.50 an hour, plus $3 delivery, plus tips, but this was also when petrol was $1.60+ a litre, so tips was probably all I made out of this job. Also, the franchisee was super dodgy. He was nice enough and always called out ‘it’s Little Lisa!’ when I came back from a delivery, but he never gave anyone payslips and no one was surprised when the place went under and the brokers couldn’t even get in touch with him.

Reason I quit: way too many shifts and not enough pay. Also, I put in a complaint against a customer who had been really inappropriate and it wasn’t upheld.

Some cool things: seeing how the other half live – I once delivered a pizza to a very cashed up teen with strict instructions to stay in the car and they would come to me. I once received a tip for being a girl. I also stood on someone’s doorstep and overheard the mum say ‘here comes the pizza man’, but never corrected this when opening the door. I hope that little girl realises I was a girl too. There was also a customer who was on the banned list, but he kept getting pizza mules to do his bidding.

2008 Subway three weeks, if you include training.
I passed the first screening interview, the second was an induction day. I had an event at my day job and was five minutes late. I was then dubbed by the HR staff as ‘Late Lisa’ for the next three hours. Fire and First Aid Training were fun, and I enjoyed being trained at the Newton store, the manager there was awesome and liked Fresh FM. When I was transferred to my new store, I was less than impressed. I was brand new, had one shift with someone, and then mostly left to my own devices, except when there was a change over of staff for lunch or drag shift. I haven’t checked, but if OTR still runs on that 80s POS program, that is bloody ridiculous. I am also blacklisted from OTR. It was the only job where they wouldn’t let me keep my name tag.

2010 Pizza Hut (Feb-July)
Pizza Hut is the reason I have carpal tunnel, though, this as been disproved by WorkCover, I know the truth. Looking back, my job at PH, who is no longer owned by the incorporation who were the franchisees in this state, was pretty risky. I spent most shifts by alone for five hour stretches, making dough, making pizzas, serving customers, doing banking, phones… everything. I was told there was only one store that had more than one staff member on for lunch, which was the only store who had a big lunch rush. During a lunch shift I would sell 30-40 pizzas I had made and sold all by my lonesome.

Why I quit: the pay rate was salary, so I worked all Easter, and ANZAC Day for $15 an hour. One of these shifts I had to ask my brother to bring me Nurofen because I had so much pain in my hands. I was on Work Cover for awhile, I was at the point where it was too hard carrying groceries, I couldn’t manipulate things easily – for example, it was super painful to hold my phone and press buttons to send text messages, my hands could barely stretch around the can of canola spray, let alone use my index finger to press the button. I spent three weeks doing next to nothing, except tutoring, coaching and watching the OC on DVD.

Skills and knowledge I earned during these ten years:
  • When to have empathy with customer service staff members, and when to kick up a massive stink
  • The Scanning Code of Practice
  • Weights and Measures – yes, this is a regulated practice!
  • Food safety
  • Christmas is fun but also super busy
  • Some people will have random vendettas againist other people for no good reason. An example – someone skipped out on a shift, and the person they stuffed around never got over it
  • Not everything is about you
  • If a person who hates you, or her sister dates your ex boyfriend, or someone from high school thought you were pathetic, they will always come through your check out. Not because of karma or logic, but because they try to lord their power over you. Go figure. You’re the one with the cash register.
  • Don’t eat chicken teriyaki.
  • Sometimes the person who gets the promotion gets it because because they can work 24/7. Sometimes it’s because of talent, other times because you are good at being bossy. But mostly, availability.
  • Meatball is the most popular sub, but also usually the worst for you
  • Coles shot themselves in the foot by re-branding the BiLo stories as Coles.
  • There is milk in soft serves and thick shakes. I know because I used to pour plastic bags of them above my head, into the ice cream/shake machine.
  • Work friends are awesome. And some of them buy you chocolate.


I really like rubber ducks.

Also, I tend to rave on a bit during blog sessions. So I started a new blog for funsies.