Drip!

And that’s it for the SLF’s Founding Sponsor Kickstarter, the clock has run out! Thanks so much to everyone who contributed — we now have 71 sponsors generating $236 / month for the SLF, which guarantees our Diversity Grants indefinitely, and gets us started on a few hours a month of paid staffing. (I will be a volunteer for the indefinite future, but it will be SO NICE to be able to pay Chris to deal with some of the paperwork.)

Going forward, the plan is to get all the sponsors thanked (Chris, you’ll do this today), send them their sponsor gifts by the end of the year and list their names on our website (also Chris), and then gear up for 2018. Looking forward!

Thanks and congratulations! to everyone who helped promote the sponsor period fundraiser, and remember, you can join us at any time, for as little as $1 / month. And if anyone would like to make a tax-deductible one-time gift to the SLF at any point, we can accept those through PayPal.

I’m also happy to talk with you about larger gifts, such as those sponsoring a new grant, perhaps in memory of someone, or for a cause you believe in — just drop me a line at mohanraj@mamohanraj.com. The SLF is a 501(c)3 non-profit.

Desi Crepe

We had crepes for dinner last night, and I started with my favorite, lemon + sugar. Delicious as always, but then I thought, what if I desi-fy’d (desified?) it? So I tried lime + jaggery, and reader, it was good.

We also had some ripe persimmon, which I love, so I tried that — interestingly, the version I did with nutmeg / cinnamon / allspice, which I thought would work well, didn’t excite me. But the version with persimmon / salt / pepper was surprisingly delicious. I think it’s because the persimmons were so sweet?

Force

Watched The Force Awakens in bed with the kids and Kev, preparatory to taking them to go see The Last Jedi tomorrow. This is the first time one of the kids (Kavya) has actually made it all the way through a Star Wars movie, and I think she liked Rey (she cheered “Girl Power!” at one point). Maybe we’re finally getting to the age when they start appreciating the pop culture things we keep trying to shove at them? We’ll see. I can’t stand to watch most of the YouTube things they’re obsessed by, so perhaps it is an impassable gulf…

Last Hours of the Drip

 I’m so pleased with the fundraising so far, for the SLF’s founding sponsor Kickstarter on Drip. Tomorrow we’ll be closing the founding sponsor part down, making a list of rewards to be sent out, etc. So I wanted to take a little time today to talk about where we are, where we’re going.

In this month of fundraising, we’ve raised about $1200 in annual pledges (mostly in the form of $1/month donations). That is tremendous. That means that the Diversity Grants ($500 to the best work by a diverse author, $500 to the best work portraying a diverse universe) are now funded indefinitely going forward.

That is such a huge weight off my mind, I can’t tell you. It means I can stop thinking about how I need to do a big ask every year, which is very time-consuming for me, to make sure that we get the thousand dollars we need. It’s like a rock has rolled off my back, and it’s thanks to our donors.

THANK YOU. And congratulations on making SF just a little better, more diverse, more welcoming to writers from all backgrounds, including the most marginalized and disenfranchised among us.

That’s the first $1000. But in a lot of ways, I’m even more excited about the other $200 / year, which I’m hoping will continue to grow. That money is going to go to pay for a little staff work. At this time of year, I’m getting lots of annual reports from organizations Kevin and I support financially, and one of the things they highlight is what percentage of their fundraising goes to programming, and that’s a good thing. It *should* mostly go to programming.

But you will forgive me reaching back to the Bible teaching of my childhood, I hope, because I have always appreciated these verses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and, “The worker is worthy of his wages.”

There is only so long that an organization can run on volunteer labor (the SLF has been running on entirely volunteer labor since 2004 — thirteen years), and there is SO MUCH MORE that we could do, if we had a little dedicated and paid staff. I think it’s reasonable to have administrative costs at around 10% for a non-profit organization, and while we’re very far from that right now (more like .01%), aiming to get the SLF on a stable administrative footing, with some part-time staff, being paid a fair living wage, is a dream that I think will serve us all in the long run.

So moving forward, the Drip will continue to drip (although just 21 more hours to join us as a founding sponsor! your name forever in starry lights on our website!), and for the next little while, we’re going to focus on capacity-building and sustainability. And then in 2018, hopefully, we can start building some new programming too.

We ran a pilot mentorship program a few years back that went really well, pairing established writers with newbies; I’d love to see that return, personally. I want to reprise the SLF summer workshop in Chicago, possibly offering a few different sessions of it. I want to continue the new Deep Dish SF/F reading series here, hopefully expanding it from quarterly to bimonthly, and maybe monthly down the road. We want to keep creating local chapters — we have a St. Louis one now! — so writers can find each other for that essential face-to-face contact that leads to reading series and writing workshops. There’s so much that could be done, if we all came together in support.

Let’s dream, together, of a brighter future.

 

Cancer log 299: Two Years

In the course of writing something else, I had reason to count up how long I’ve been cancer-free — more than three years now. Everything I’ve done since September 2015 has either been to ward off recurrence or cosmetic. At some point, I need to start thinking of myself as someone who has recovered from cancer, rather than someone in treatment.
 
Probably not until this last set of reconstructive incisions stops hurting, though. Ouch. Give me a few weeks.

Serendib

I have to thank Pem Hessing for organizing A Colorful Holiday fair for this weekend, because I really need to sit still and heal, and crafting-with-a-purpose is exactly what I needed to get me to sit still. (Some people seemed to think this was for charity — it’s not; it’s to feature local businesses by people of color, like me! Mine is sort of a micro-business, though…)

I was originally just going to do Serendib Press and sell my books, but then I decided to add the curry powder, so that’s Serendib Kitchen too, and then I remembered that I still had some photo prints, botanical collages, and bookmarks on hand from the garden club fundraiser, and that I’d been wanting to try making magnets, so now Serendib Garden was in the mix too.

I had best just call it all Serendib and be done with it, I think. Pem, if it’s not too late to adjust that in your listings or whatever materials you’re printing going forward, that would be great. If it is too late, no worries!

(We call our house Serendib House. )

Also knocked out a few more botanical bookmarks while I was at it. There is something so pleasing about making these.

Brandon Johnson

Tonight’s meet-and-greet with Brandon Johnson, running for Cook County Commissioner for the 1st district. I was impressed, and will be volunteering for him. Please feel free to come to me with any questions you have, and I’ll try my best to answer them. I’ll also have yard signs! The election is March 20th.

Doug Jones

I am only just starting to understand what it takes to create an upset like Doug Jones’s — but it often starts with meet-and-greets like the one I just hosted, ten people in someone’s living room, learning about a new candidate. Jones must have had a tremendous cadre of volunteers and staffers helping him get the word out to accomplish this.

If I have an ask for you tonight, it’s this — get involved in 2018. Go to a meet-and-greet, or a Democratic party meeting, or the League of Women Voters (non-partisan), or volunteer with voter registration efforts in your community (especially if your community is a historically marginalized one — we need your voices!).

We’re fighting for the soul of America. Join us.

Students

AW. You know how I was having a little academic freakout yesterday, yes? One of the commenters said I should re-focus on my teaching, and ask myself whether my students were getting what they needed out of it. Good advice, and two of my students wrote me the sweetest notes, which I think they will forgive me sharing with you.

“It has been pleasure being in your class this semester, I feel like I’ve been opened up to a whole new world of literature [this is the feminist / queer SF class] that I never previously would have explored. I’m glad I got to experience one of your classes before I left UIC. Thank you and have wonderful Winter break!”

“As always, I have really enjoyed this semester in your class! You always lead the best, most enlightening discussions, and all of the classes I have taken with you have motivated me to be skeptical of any and all societal norms or expectations and consider who may be benefitting or hurting by them. Additionally, I really enjoyed the attention we paid to current events (the rise of the alt-right, Trump, sexual assault scandals, etc.) and the effort made to connect class materials to them.”

I can’t be the best teacher for every student — their needs are so varied. But at least I seem to have served some of them reasonably well.

Martha Stewart and the Academy

I am having a minor identity crisis, I think — for the last month or two, I’ve been feeling fairly intense academic anxiety (even waking me up once or twice) because it seems like my food interests and other domestic interests have become a big part of my literary production, and once again (I remember this from when I primarily wrote erotica, and again when started working on a SF novel), I am stressing the heck out that my academic colleagues won’t think I’m ‘serious’ or ‘professional’ enough.

For what, I can’t tell you — I’m not tenure-track, so it’s not as if I’m on a tenure clock, and they’ve promoted me once already, so they must like my work reasonably well, but I start to fret that they hired me on the basis of Bodies in Motion and a Ph.D. that specialized in post-colonial lit., and over the last twelve years, my interests have shifted to science fiction (still with a post-colonial lens, but nonetheless) and domesticity, and neither of those are topics the academy has traditionally found worthy of serious work. Or if serious, only in the sense of doing criticism of it, not of producing it.

If I’m writing an article for a women’s magazine, is that anything my department would appreciate? And again, I don’t think it really matters, because unless the university really crashes its funding, they are very likely to keep renewing my contract indefinitely. Kevin says I shouldn’t worry about posting so much about food and yarn and such on FB, even if I have colleagues here (hi, colleagues!), because everyone has hobbies, including ones they obsess over. He says no one will care, and that is almost certainly true.

But these aren’t exactly hobbies, I think. They may be my work, or at least part of it. (Like, if I’m spending 85% of my time on trying to write the Great American Novel, then it’s fine to spend 15% of it on gardening. But if the split is reversed, that might be a problem?)

I am pretty sure a good part of this is a feminist issue. What kind of work do we value? What kind of writing do we value? If I turn into a Sri Lankan American Martha Stewart, what will the academy make of it? I still love teaching lit., even though I am sometimes (such as now, at the end of the semester) a little tired and ready to take a break from it. I could really use a sabbatical, if non-tenure-track people got such a thing. I wouldn’t want to give teaching up entirely, though.

In grad school, we laughed sometimes, and mocked the aspiration towards ‘finely crafted sentences’ — but the truth was, we were mostly desperate to write those finely crafted sentences, and those pieces of literature with deep themes. I still am, but sometimes I am at least as engaged in the specifics of what kind of oil is best for frying a chicken patty. (See next post.)

Part of the problem is that there are currently two…respectable? paths I could be following as an English professor. One is to write criticism — and criticism of women’s work, food, etc. would be totally fine in the academy these days. But I don’t write criticism basically at all. I could try, but that’s not at all where my interests lie, clearly, since I haven’t done it in years, beyond the occasional book review. (I did one academic bio-bibliography of Tananarive Due, lo these many years ago. I have dabbled with the idea of doing some Delany critical work, putting together a teaching volume. But that’s it, and I clearly haven’t focused on actually doing it.)

Another option is to write literary fiction, for which a space has been carved out in English departments over the last few decades — and if I’m writing literary science fiction, that’s probably okay in the academy these days too. Le Guin / Delany -type work.

But if what I’m writing is neither criticism nor ‘literary’, but rather, ‘popular’ writing — whether it’s essays or science fiction or recipes or what, I’m not sure if there’s a place for that in academia. And it feels sort of treacherous, if my job is essentially standing on the ground of work I did several years ago, rather than what I’m doing now.

No answers here, but in the terrifying spirit of at least exposing the problem, here you go.