Meet the Sirens Finance & Legal Team

Presenting Sirens each year is a big job, one that some days is a joy and other days seems like an impossibly long to-do list. While dozens of folks contribute to Sirens in a number of ways—presenting programming, reviewing inventory, sorting supplies—it takes nearly 20 staff working year-round to produce Sirens itself. From budgeting to registration assistance, managing our programming proposal process to developing our systems, these folks contribute thousands of volunteer hours each year, not to mention their energy and expertise, to making sure that Sirens not only happens, but happens in a way that makes us proud.

In most years, you would have the opportunity to meet our team during Sirens itself. Some are visible, like the information desk team that checks you into the conference or the bookstore team that helps you find your next One True Book. Some are less visible, like the audio-visual team moving equipment in the middle of the night or the logistics team working with the hotel catering staff to make sure that everyone can eat safely. But 2020 is certainly not most years and we’ll miss introducing you to our team at Sirens—so we thought we’d introduce you to them online!

Way behind the scenes—and we do mean waaaaaaay behind the scenes—the Sirens Finance & Legal team is delightedly running at least a thousand spreadsheets. That may be an ever-so-slight exaggeration, but truly, this team lives and dies by its spreadsheets. Half are computational, used for budgets, finances, and the annual reports underlying the tax filings. But others are databases, such as our annual auction and our 40-column, 3,000-row bookstore database. And what feeds all these amazing spreadsheets: a thousand hours of research, a lot of creativity, and some truly enormous brains. Let’s meet Team Money!

What Team Money does may seem quite basic, but things around here get very complicated very quickly. Let’s start at the very beginning: Sirens runs a four-times-a-year budgeting process for each conference currently in development. Given the overlap in conferences, that’s roughly six budget reviews a year. Team Money does that. Add to that producing monthly financials, closing financials for finished conferences, and annual financial reporting to support the taxes. Team Money does that, too. And don’t forget that someone has to do the taxes! Team Money also designs and manages the twice-annual Sirens fundraising campaigns, including all of our scholarship messaging and fundraising. All those scholarships for BIPOC, programming presenters, those with financial hardships, and book professionals are made possible by this team—and the amazing generosity of the Sirens community!

But there’s a whole different side to Team Money as well: research, procurement, and sales. Every item that you can purchase at Sirens—villainous makeup, a Sirens water bottle, a Captain America shield, a giant stack of books, your new favorite T-shirt—are meticulously researched, sourced, or just magically made possible by the remarkable members of this team. Each year, this team invests thousands of hours finding unique auction items (Etsy!); researching low, low prices on merchandise; reminding the art team how much a three-color T-shirt print costs; and compiling data on the 500 new speculative works released by women, nonbinary, and trans authors since the last Sirens. Then these researching geniuses sit down with those budgeting geniuses and figure out how to make it all work. So when you walk into the Sirens community room each year, there are so many things to discover—and because this team also handles uploading all that data to our online inventory system, you can buy all of it without anyone needing to carry around a calculator. Thanks, Team Money!

Finally, we should really call this team Team Money, Esquire, because with finance and procurement comes lawyers. Every year, our lawyers handle everything from negotiating our annual contracts, obtaining our insurance coverage, updating our policies (anyone remember GDPR?), and generally being all around awesome people. We would tell you more about what they do, but they probably know a Confidentiality Curse or two.

But before Team Money, Esquire dives back into its spreadsheets, let’s meet them:

Zack Bernheimer: Zack is the sort of amazing guy who hears that his co-worker is working on this conference, and even though he’s never, not once been to this conference (Sirens at Home is a great time to start, Zack!), he wants to help out. So we handed this financial whiz our budgets and our financials and suggested that he go to town. And he did! Zack hails from Miami, Florida, where he produces financial and data analysis way more complicated than ours for a major media company. (We should note that his top-notch analyst skills at work were what got him recruited to apply those same top-notch analyst skills at Sirens!) When he’s not running our spreadsheets or his other spreadsheets, Zack is, literally, running. He also works out in a number of different ways—even his hobbies are often workouts—and he’ll happily compare his Fitbit data to yours. Zack also loves cruises quite a lot more than we’re sure is healthy and will be the first person to sign up for a trip to Universal Studios.

Casey Blair: Hailing from Redmond, Washington, Casey is a woman of many hats: writer, former bookseller, current entrepreneur, and oh, yes, the Sirens Sales and Auction Coordinator. We don’t quite know how she does it, though knowing Casey, we’re reasonably certain that there’s magic involved. Casey attended the very first Sirens and has been coming back regularly ever since—but if you’ve been to a Sirens with Casey and a Sirens without Casey, you’ll know that both our programming schedule and the dancing at the Sirens Ball are much superior at Sirens with Casey! When we asked Casey what surprised her about her Sirens job, here’s what she said: “Considering that Sirens fills a ballroom full of books to sell every year, people might not realize how much curation happens before that. Spoilers: It’s A Lot.” Thinking of vacations in the middle of quarantine, when we asked Casey what fantasy world she’d most like to visit, she said the Hidden Realm in Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits.

Kallyn Hunter: We asked professional researcher Kallyn what the most challenging aspect of being the Sirens Research Coordinator was, and she says, with a certain amount of despair, “The spreadsheets. Oh goodness, so many spreadsheets.” (You will come around on the joy of the spreadsheets, Kallyn, we promise! Maybe next year!) As if the spreadsheets of the actual bookstore inventory weren’t enough, Kallyn is also surprised by the number of books that don’t make it into the Sirens bookstore each year—“We curate such an amazing selection, and you can bet that the books that are on the shelves have been selected with care”—and you can bet that, whether a book makes it into the bookstore or not, we have a spreadsheet for it. But we’ll also tell you, for all the despair over the spreadsheets, the Sirens research has never been more thorough or more exciting. So Kallyn, please don’t run away to Tortall, even though we know you want to!

Amy Tenbrink: Most of you know Amy as co-founder and co-chair of Sirens, or perhaps as a programming presenter or Sirens blog book reviewer or the person who gives the welcome speech at Sirens. But what you probably don’t know is that Amy’s heart belongs to Team Money, Esquire, where she happily serves as chief data nerd. During the day (and often at night), she’s an executive vice president for a major media company, where she’s both an attorney and business strategist (which means she gets to spend a lot of time with data there, too). She lives in Denver, but until COVID-19 arrived, she was frequently on the road, spending a lot of time on planes with, as you might expect, a fantasy book and a carpal tunnel brace. Amy reads 150 books a year (she’s dangerous in a bookstore), bakes increasingly complicated pastries (kouign amann, anyone?), and is going to run a marathon again someday. The three books of her heart are Code Name: Verity, Conservation of Shadows, and Who Fears Death, and she says we can’t make her pick just one.

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