A project that crystallized last week

So, I think I’m ready to talk a little about this new project that crystallized last week. (Photo of dragonfruit chocolate bars ‘crystallized’ for inspiration.)

 

There are multiple elements coming together in this, things I’ve been working on and thinking about for a long time. I’m still not positive of what the final shape will be.

• the memoir: I’ve been working for a while on a project titled _Domestic Resistance_, a meditation on how we stay sane while under siege in the Trump presidency, how handwork and reclamation of heritage skills, appreciation of culture and diversity, celebration of community and the joys of making all came together to sustain me (as I worked on my Sri Lankan cookbook in the last few years) through intense work, deep political frustration, and occasional flailings of despair. Asking how we can work for change without exhausting ourselves.

• the makerspace: we may have found a place in Forest Park for the first stage of the writing / textile arts / tech makerspace that we started planning two years ago. Our hope is that it allows the community to share their knowledge, help each other over the initial humps of uncertainty and anxiety, finding our way to new skills and approaches that make our lives better in a host of ways. I have some legal and financial details to work out still, and then there’ll be a Kickstarter to help get us off the ground (looking for around $25K in initial funding, I think), but I hope we’ll be up and running soon, possibly by May.

(NOTE: the space won’t be wheelchair accessible, unfortunately; you’ll need to be able to navigate a flight of stairs to access it. My plan is that if people who can’t access it want to sign up for a class, we’ll find an alternate accessible location for that class. And then long-term, we’ll continue looking for accessible spaces in the area. Ideally, I’d eventually like to grow into a constellation of spaces in Forest Park, Oak Park, Austin, etc.)

• the magazine: this is the newest bit, and still a bit inchoate. For my memoir, I was already thinking that I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a traditional book — I was wondering what it might look like as a quarterly magazine, sort of a cross between Martha Stewart Living and Granta. Glossy, beautiful photos, a year in the life, combining running for office, the tail end of cancer treatment, the house and garden and parenting and engaging in local politics, and of course, cooking.

Last week, I realized that it would be SO GREAT to extend that into a broader publication. I’ve been increasingly frustrated by how balkanized communications media are becoming, and at least locally, we’re really splitting demographically, with some people reading the print Wednesday Journal, some people mostly on FB groups (often very private ones), some people mostly auditory listeners, and the kids are on TikTok and SnapChat doing god knows what…

If we had a publication that showcased progressive voices and conversations, in a variety of areas (garden, food, schools, etc.) and if we could push it out in multiple media (a print version, an online version, a podcast, TikToks, etc.), maybe we’d have a chance at actually talking to each other, actually listening.

So often when I was running for office, I found that with something as simple as getting rid of fines at the library, people I talked to were initially resistant, but all they needed was for someone to actually present the argument to them, and then they realized that yes, doing this would actually align with their values. And we could afford it too.

*****

That’s where my head is right now. I have a lot more specifics, but I think the next stage is a whole host of conversations. I’m going to want to shape this very carefully, if it’s to do what I hope it’ll do, and I’m going to need a lot of community input.

But I think my own memoir would be interesting in conversation with a broader community magazine, and the magazine would be in conversation with what we do at the makerspace, and as Serendib Press develops, Stephanie and Heather and Darius and Emmanuel and Julia are learning more and more about the publication process, so we’re getting into a better position to do this well.

So that’s where I am right now. I’m about to go out of town, and much of March is super-absorbed with travel and Feast launch events. But I’m going to be talking to people, local and otherwise, about all of this. We’ll see where it takes us.

(We’re going to need a name.)

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Hey, folks — here’s my schedule for FogCon next week in Walnut Creek!

Hey, folks — here’s my schedule for FogCon next week in Walnut Creek! I hope to see some of you there: https://fogcon.org

Friday:
3:00 PM – 4:15 PM, Salon A/B “Food in Genre Fiction”
Inspired by Mary Anne Mohanraj’s latest publication being a cookbook, let’s think about food and its place in genre fiction! In stories where a stranger visits a new culture, we often hear about their food choices (Becky Chambers’s “Record of a Spaceborn Few” comes to mind). Food can be a marker of similarity or difference between people, and ultimately, it is a necessity. When our worlds change, what happens to the food in them?

M: Sasha Pixlee. Rebecca Gomez Farrell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Tina LeCount Myers, Deborah J. Ross, Juliette Wade

4:30 PM – 5:45 PM, Salon C, POC Meetup
Social gathering for members who identify as people of color (only, please). We’ll share questions, experiences, and solidarity. Coffee and tea will be provided. Anyone who wants can also bring their own snacks, from the Consuite or elsewhere.
M: Abie Ekenezar

7:45 PM – 8:00 PM, Salon A/B, “Opening Ceremonies”
We’ll start the convention off with a brief gathering to meet the Honored Guests and hear some words from the Honored Ghost.

8:00 PM – 9:15 PM, Salon A/B “Societal Defaults That Carry Into Genre”
Genre fiction allows us to imagine worlds and cultures completely different from ours, yet sometimes some cultural assumptions are so ingrained that we don’t consider them changeable. For example, Mary Anne Mohanraj’s “The Stars Change” is a book that challenges the assumption of monogamy. What other assumptions do we see carrying into the new spaces and cultures we create? How can we break out of those?
M: Lisa Eckstein. Karen Brenchley, Garrett Croker, Alyc Helms, Mary Anne Mohanraj

Saturday:
9:00 AM – 10:15 AM, Salon A/B “Archives and Genre”
Archives are science fictional: archivists have to anticipate climate change, the evolution of technology, and how historians will view the present day. Archives are fantastical: they involve a deep encounter with the past, redolent of parchment, leather, and the dust of vanished information. This panel will explore archives as an SFF-nal phenomenon, as well as portrayals of archives and archivists in science fiction and fantasy.
M: Michele Cox. Marion Deeds, Bradford Lyau, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Norm Sperling

1:30 PM – 2:45 PM, Salon A/B “Genre Nonprofits With Mary Anne Mohanraj”
Mary Anne will share what she’s learned about nonprofits and the field, discussing con-running and organizations such as Con or Bust, Strange Horizons, and her own Speculative Literature Foundation. Topics may include succession planning, professionalization (and its hazards), organizational growth, fundraising, inclusiveness / exclusion, and realistic enforcement of convention codes of conduct.
Mary Anne Mohanraj (This description and title got fixed and updated in the app but not the printed version of the program; my apologies, but we didn’t catch it in time.)

3:00 PM – 4:15 PM, Santa Rosa “Honored Guest Reading”
Mary Anne Mohanraj, Nisi Shawl

Saturday evening: No schedule — maybe run RPG of “Jump Space”?

Sunday morning: No schedule — maybe run RPG of “Jump Space”?

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Testing the first RPG I’ve ever designed

All set up for testing the first RPG I’ve ever designed. FUN.

I have an hour ’til my playtesters arrive, and must work on the grant application that’s due today, but all I really want to do is make them more snacks.

Handmade artisanal chocolates, ready. Chips and locally-made salsa, go. Oven for samosas, pre-heating. 🙂

If there’s one thing I believe in, it’s feeding your people well.

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Happy Saturday: games and publicity

Happy Saturday. 🙂 I started the day with exercise, after a good night’s sleep, and it really is amazing how much more able to cope I feel! 30 minutes on the treadmill, just walking at 3.0, and then I had my weekly appt. (started up again last week after a six-month hiatus) with trainer Liz at the Y. Feel good! Feel strong!

Heading into a weekend of intense work, as we are now only six days out from Feast launch, and there is SO MUCH TO DO. But I’m trying to stay balanced with the rest of my life too, which is, um, interesting.

I’m constantly trying to remind myself that publicity is like parenting and teaching — there’s always more you *could* do, but if you try to do it all, you’ll only exhaust yourself and make everyone around you miserable.

The trickiest part for me with publicity are the little repeated things, like posting a reminder about the giveaway every day — that’s surprisingly hard for my ADD brain. Much like exercise. Part of why I ADORE my current trainer is that she never has me do sets of reps — we do 8 of an exercise, then 8 of a different exercise, etc., and I almost never repeat an exercise session to session either. She has me work the same muscles, but in new ways all the time, which is SO much easier for me to cope with. I’d love to see her writing a column about that approach to exercise; going to try to talk her into it.

My daily publicity goal is generally either a) do one impactful thing, or b) do one hour of little things. I think that’s reasonable, and over time, it should add up in good ways. (Much like parenting. And teaching. 🙂 )

A Google Alert just popped up that NewCity listed our upcoming Deep Dish (with a book launch for Feast) in their Lit Top 5 (link in comments), which is very lovely, and a sign that yes, if you tell people about your thing, they may think it’s worth spreading the word.

Angelique Manchanda-Peres has also had a FB thread going on her wall, where she’s so kindly gushing about the copy of Feast that she ordered and which has just arrived, and has gotten a whole host of her (mostly Toronto, I think) friends super-excited about the book.

That’s that fabulous word-of-mouth that we all long for when we’re trying to get the word out, and if you see an indie project you like, please know that that spread the word like that is INVALUABLE. We can’t afford the publicity budgets of big publishers, so we really rely on hoping people like what we do, and that they tell other people about it.

Heather Rainwater Campbell arrived from Ann Arbor yesterday; she’s my remote staffer whom we decided to have come in one weekend a month, which I think is really helpful in various ways for both of us.

Yesterday afternoon, I got back from teaching, said hi to her, and then we settled in to a work session in the dining room. I wrote up (very quickly) the grant application for the Sustainable Arts Foundation and sent it off. I always waffle about which project to say I’m going to work on, but I went with the nonfiction work this time around, as that’s what I’ve been spending more time on. After that I….I’m not sure what I worked on. More time-sensitive e-mails, I think? There are a lot of them right now, trying to crank them out.

We ordered masses of Thai & Japanese food for dinner, really, for the weekend, so we can concentrate on getting a lot of work done and I don’t have to worry about feeding her or the family. We’ll also lay in some chips and make a big bowl of pasta for board games later tonight — a few friends are stopping by. (If you’d like to be on the board game party list, but aren’t, drop me a line.)

There are some things before that though! Heather and Kavi and I spent about an hour and a half on the basement storage space re-org project last night, and we made very good progress — I’ll give you a tour when it’s all done. But now the serveware for events is in one place, for example, and the disposables (compostable!) and the books, etc.

It should make it much easier for me to say, come home from teaching, take 30 minutes to pack up some bins and bags, and go do a Feast event in the evening. Esp. if I put everything BACK in the right places the next day. (The night of, I will probably be too tired. That’s okay.)

We were all really tired by 8:30, so gave up on work for the day and crashed. Today, I’m taking a break from Feast to work on other projects (though I may answer a Feast e-mail here and there). Right now, I have Heather familiarizing herself with Benjamin Rosenbaum’s Dream Apart RPG system; she’s going to do a play-through of a Jump Space RPG with me and some hardy volunteers @ 2 p.m. today.

I’m envisioning it as a 3-6 person game that will take 3-4 hours to play through, so the sort of thing you can walk into at a convention, with no prior knowledge. I’m not sure what the process will be for bringing it out eventually — do we do it ourselves through Serendib Press? Do we partner with an established game company? But we’re a very long way from that now — right now, what I need to do is write up the actual rules so we can do our play-through. Planning to work on that from 9:30 – 10:30 or so today, using Ben’s game as a model.

Then I switch to the Creative Capital grant, which is also due today. I haven’t written anything yet, but I’ve been talking it through with Kevin and Stephanie and Heather, thinking about what this project will look like. Well, I’m not actually quite positive WHICH project I’ll be applying for — but I think it’s the hybrid one where I am doing more editing than writing. Well, we’ll think about that in a few hours and make a decision.

And then 2-5, RPG-ing, which will probably be a mess this first time through, but I will learn a lot from the workshopping process, and hopefully the players will manage to have fun. I will feed them well, which should help. And then 5-midnight, break and board game.

Sunday morning, Stephanie is going to come over, and we’re going to go back to Feast work with Heather, specifically putting together an updated press kit, and starting to send it out to the PR list we purchased from a publicist. At 1, I go over to Forest Park to show some of the local makerspace team a possibility for a makerspace location. And then 2-5, relax. Anand wants to go swimming, so perhaps the YMCA again. Then Sunday dinner, and snuggles with the kids.

A busy weekend, fairly intense, but hopefully a good one. 🙂

#serendibkitchen
#serendibpress
#serendibgames

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Cup Game

Kevin and Kavi came by L!VE Café and Creative Space at the end of my Serendib House sale session yesterday, to help me pack up and load the car. Once we’d put everything in bins and suitcases, I went to grab the car and pull it around to the front — and came back to find them in the window, with Kavi teaching Kevin the cup game.

TOO CUTE. 

#blog

Kevin and Kavi came by L!VE Café and Creative Space at the end of my Serendib House sale session yesterday, to help me pack up and load the car. Once we'd put everything in bins and suitcases, I went to grab the car and pull it around to the front — and came back to find them in the window, with Kavi teaching Kevin the cup game. TOO CUTE. :-)#blog

Posted by Mary Anne Mohanraj on Monday, December 23, 2019

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