So what does the Speculative Literature Foundation actually do? I’m often talking to writers who want to know what exactly it offers them. I have to clarify that the SLF isn’t just for writers — it’s for anyone who loves SF/F — writers, readers, teachers, librarians, etc.
Think of us as an arts organization a little like the NEA, but with a focus on speculative literature: science fiction, fantasy, folk and fairy tales, magical realism, supernatural lit. — any stories that aren’t strictly realistic.
Our mission is to promote literary quality in speculative fiction — but how do we do that, exactly? Well, right now, we primarily do four things:
1) GRANTS: We raise funds from the community for quality work that enriches the field — we currently offer five $500 – $1000 grants:
– Travel (so writers can research their work)
– Working Class Writers (financial barriers can be a major obstacle if you can’t afford a computer, or to travel to a convention)
– Older Writers (50+, just starting to publish professionally)
– general Diversity (to widen the field and encourage ALL voices)
– the A.C. Bose (a memorial grant for South Asian spec fic)
They’re all free and easy to apply for!
2) READING SERIES: We started Deep Dish, a reading series in Chicago, now in its third year, partnering with other orgs to showcase local and visiting writers, with videography to help extend their reach to the entire world
3) RESOURCE WEBSITE: We created a comprehensive website, which was state-of-the-art back in 2005, and is now in desperate need of updating — our volunteers are just starting the process of gathering vast amounts of information of use to speculative fiction readers, writers, editors and publishers. Booklists, syllabi, and other materials for outreach to schools and libraries, publishing resources, and much more.
4) WRITING WORKSHOPS: We teach writing and creativity workshops in Chicagoland (where I work as an English professor at the University of Illinois) — we’ve done a weekend retreat, flying in an agent and NY book editor, and also shorter workshops. I’m also planning to develop a 10-day Chicagoland retreat, hopefully summer 2020. Eventually, perhaps a Clarion-style workshop in the Midwest? We’ll see.
That’s what we’re doing right now. We have big plans for expansion in the next few years, but I’ll save that for another post…
I’ll leave you here with an interview I did with Girls in Capes, that might give you an even better idea of what we’re all about:
“Mohanraj founded the Speculative Literature Foundation in 2004 while she was a graduate student at the University of Utah, studying for her Ph.D. in Creative Writing while also applying for grants. Although she’d been working on mainstream fiction, she always had a fondness for science fiction and founded Strange Horizons, an online speculative fiction magazine. From her network of SF/F writers, Mohanraj observed that many did not apply for grants, awards, or residencies for two reasons: (1) perceived prejudice against SFF discouraged them from applying and (2) SFF’s historical reputation as a commercial field meant that popular writing was to be expected and publication would be enough to support that writing.
“There wasn’t an understanding for the need for grants to support writers,” Mohanraj explained. “Essentially, we wanted to create a space to do what the NEA does for literary arts but focus it on SF/F, create gateway grants that would be easy for general writers to apply for, and have a low bar for the application process with the hope of facilitating the creation of really great work.”….