Planning 2020 with a big wall calendar

Jed was visiting this weekend, just a quick few days. Not long enough, but we’ll take what we can get. The scheduling gets a little complex, and we rarely can manage as much time as we’d like.

We’re trying something new which may help — I just got this big wall calendar, so that we can see all of 2020 at a glance. In the past, we’ve tried to do it all with shared Google calendars, which are helpful, but I can’t seem to see the whole board that way. So up on the wall it goes. And then we spent at least an hour, the three of us, sitting and trying to figure out how we can:

a) do a reasonable amount of book tour for Feast (me)

b) go to various SF cons for the SLF and for our own writing / editing (me and Jed, mostly, though I may bring the kids and possibly Kevin to WisCon this year)

c) see each other at least once a month, ideally (me and Jed)

d) go to math conferences and have research time (Kevin)

e) do a writing retreat for at least a week (me, tentatively going to a friend’s place in Hawaii in June, and hopefully severely limiting internet / socializing / etc., so I can make serious progress on a book draft — if it goes well, I’m hoping to do two weeks in 2021, either in Hawaii or Sri Lanka)

f) get the kids to / from their weekend soccer games all through the spring (me and Kev)

g) teach two weeks of writing summer camp for kids AND sign the kids up for the same place (but likely different actual camp) (me and kids)

h) not leave Kev parenting solo for more than one weekend a month (me)

i) visit relatives (me and Kev and kids)

j) allow enough travel time for international trips that we’re not a disaster doing the work we’re going to do, and also able to recover before we need to be working at home (me: Amsterdam / New Zealand, Jed: New Zealand, Kevin: Paris)

k) work all this around our teaching schedules (me and Kevin)

And there are probably some other elements I’m not thinking of! We managed to calendar through to August, and then gave up, as there are too many unknowns after that.

I have to do some more work to fit in some book tour cities that aren’t tied to specific dates yet (Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, D.C., Toronto) — it’ll require looking to see when people are available, what conventions I might want to try to match up with. But there was definite progress made!

The calendar portion was followed by the budgeting portion, to make sure we can actually afford all this travel. Probably, barely. Amsterdam depends on getting some extra funding, so I’m going to hustle on that next, try to set up some funded appearances, etc.

One sad consequence — it was clear that the spring was a little too packed, so I’m not going to make it to the Nebulas in Los Angeles in May. Sorry, LisetteIngridMargaret! I’m still hoping to make it to LA at another time this year for book tour, so I’ll contact you separately soon, to see when might work.

I think I love the big calendar. I also love my guys. 

(Please ignore the chaos behind Jed; I’m in the midst of an office reorg, and all the not-yet-organized stuff is piled up there…)

 

#serendibwriting
#serendibhome
#serendibtravel
#thisispoly

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Feast: officially supporting SAMBAL Sri Lanka

As we’re getting ready to more formally launch Feast, I’m trying to think through what I want the cookbook to do in the world.

One thing I’d like to do is give back concretely in some way. I thought about directing a percentage of profits to Ajit George‘s wonderful Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project, but I think that’s primarily based in India, and I really do think it’s more appropriate that it be a Sri Lankan nonprofit this particular book supports.

My cousin Genisha Saverimuthu and my aunt Marietta Saverimuthu support SAMBAL, which does education work with disadvantaged children in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. (That’s my aunt in red at the head of the class in the second photo.)

SAMBAL seems like a really great fit with Feast — even the name is appropriate! And I know that I can trust them to do good work with any funds raised.

My aunt travels to Sri Lanka regularly to work with the children in these village schools. After all the heartache our country has been through, it’s good to see some smiles on these sweet faces.

***

“OUR MISSION
Sponsor A Mind Build A Life (SAMBAL) was established to provide charitable assistance to children who are disadvantaged due to war, poverty, natural disasters and other calamities primarily in Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

We partner with organizations around the globe to identify children in need and develop coordinated efforts to nurture their physical, intellectual, emotional and social growth. Through sponsorships and program donations from individuals like you, SAMBAL builds lives and empowers underprivileged children to reach their full potential.

WHY SAMBAL?
In many parts of South Asia, rice and sambal is a staple food–the Eastern equivalent of bread and butter. A spicy side dish made with chilli peppers, sambal is eaten from Sri Lanka to Malaysia by young and old and considered the bare minimum for a regular meal.

We believe that every child should be afforded a daily bit of rice and sambal but also the sustenance to develop socially, intellectually and emotionally despite their hardships. By feeding a mouth and feeding a mind, SAMBAL builds a child’s path to a better life.”

More about SAMBAL: http://www.sambalnow.com/page-about1.php

#serendibkitchen

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Seattle: Dinner at Wild Ginger

Dinner at Wild Ginger in Seattle with the Sri Lankan panelists for MLA. Funniest part — none of us thought the food was spicy enough, so we asked for some hot sauce.

 

They brought us a bowl of delicious house-made sambal. Perfect. Then we finished the bowl. So we asked for another one. Then we finished that bowl. We contemplated asking for a third one…but we were pretty stuffed by that point, so decided the leftovers would be okay without.

But as the person who ate the leftovers the next morning, we should’ve gotten the third bowl too. 

Good food (particularly liked the sea bass appetizer), best company. Could’ve talked with them for hours and hours and hours more. Thanks, Dinidu Karunanayake for organizing us.

Much love, Dinidu, Maryse Jayasuriya, husband Brian Yothers (who was the first to ask for more sambal), Sugi Ganeshananthan, and SJ Sindu. Come to Chicago ANYTIME. I will host you and feed you and try to set up something at my university so people can see how awesome you all are.

(My mango-lemonade soda with chili *was* appropriately spicy and also delicious, btw.)

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Seattle Bookstore: Book Larder

The other store I stopped in at in Seattle was Book Larder: A Community Cookbook Store, which I’d also love to do an event at for Feast. Look at this awesome space! I could teach a real Sri Lankan cooking class here. It’s so charming. I wanted to buy ALL the books, but restrained myself. Also ALL the dishtowels. Kevin asked me recently if I really needed so many dishtowels. Yes. Yes I do. Hush, love.

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Seattle, Elliott Bay Book Company

Seattle, Elliott Bay Book Company. I went by to drop off a copy of A Feast of Serendib, to ask whether they might want to do an event there if I came back. First of all, their cookbook section is very impressive — Seattle people must like to cook! (Long, dark winters…) And check out the big dedicated section on SE Asian cooking; that tells you where you should try eating out when you’re in town. 

But the funniest bit was that way back in 1997, twenty-two years ago, I did a reading here when I was a student at Clarion West. And amazingly, the programming guy, Rick, actually remembered me from back then! How cool is that? (What I would give for a memory that worked that well…)

Rick’s even going to Sri Lanka in a few weeks, and we had a great conversation about his travels there, and about other Sri Lankan American authors he likes, and it was just very cool. I hope I can manage to fit in a Seattle trip for the book launch this year!

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I fell in love with this fantasy-themed coat

Seattle got much colder than I expected, and by the end of the first day, the light raincoat I’d brought was just not cutting it. I went out to look for a heavier sweater, at least. I didn’t plan to buy a coat, I swear! I’m trying to do something of a buy-nothing January, to recover a little from all the holiday gifting, etc.

I mean, buy groceries and other essentials, yes. (Although I’m also trying to eat down the pantry and the frozen foods, with some success. I just had some frozen curry chicken bao for lunch, that I bought three months ago, and they were delicious.) But mostly, when I feel the urge to buy a book or a game or clothes or whatever non-essential item, I put it in the shopping cart and save it for later. If I still want it in February, I’ll see if we can afford it then.

But sometimes the fates just step in. The Free People store that was literally across the street from my hotel happened to have ONE of these jackets left, in EXACTLY my size, AND it was on clearance, so still pricey, but not quite as outrageous as their normal pricing. I thought, “Well, I’ll just try it on.” Mostly, I admit, sort of thinking that Ellen Kushner would appreciate this coat, which seems sort of Tremontaine-ish, and I should at least try it on and take a photo for her.

Then I fell in love. It’s a great color for me, and I don’t actually own a dashing velvet jacket, and it was actually reasonably warm, and it had good pockets.

Plus, I do budget separately for convention / performance clothes vs. regular clothes, and think of those as part of my professional expenses, even though they’re not actually tax-deductible, which seems a shame and also sexist, given how much more pressure there is on women to spend a lot of money on work clothes / make-up / etc., often with professional consequences if they don’t.

AND, while I have a goodly number of starry dresses and the like at this point, so the SF side is well represented, I am still somewhat lacking on the fantasy side. When I host a SLF Deep Dish reading, I like to look the part, and SF has been much more represented than fantasy so far. So I kind of HAD to buy this jacket, right? (I would also like a dragon dress or several. Must work on that.)

I feel like my decision was validated by the fact that a) I was much less cold when I walked out of the store, and b) no fewer than FOUR South Asian writers in the next two days complimented me on this jacket.  No regrets!

(I did sort of fail to take a selfie that captured the full glory of the jacket, but hopefully you get the idea.)

#serendibwriting
#serendibtravel
#sala2020

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Tentatively planning a Toronto visit with SJ Sindu

[Note: Toronto visit question following at the end of this.] A highlight of the con was getting to spend a little more time with SJ Sindu, brilliant young Sri Lankan novelist, now a professor at University of Toronto, and they are lucky to have her. I loved her _Marriage of a Thousand Lies_, and you will too — just look at all the accolades it’s gotten!

• Publishing Triangle Award Winner
• Golden Crown Literary Society Award Winner
• American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book
• Lambda Literary Award Finalist
• Independent Publisher Award Silver Medal
• VCU First Novelist Award Finalist
• Longlist for DSC South Asian Literature Prize

I mean wow! And she’s so young too!  V. impressive, thangachi! Exciting to hear that University of Toronto is starting a Tamil Studies program too; looking forward to learning more about that. (Navaratnasingam, you may be interested!)

I’m really hoping we can get together in Toronto sometime in the next year — I was planning to go there at some point for book tour (esp. since I have fabulous cousins in Canada, Loudes Tania and Michele Jayakumar and Rozanne Arulanandam), so it’s mostly a matter of picking dates.

One complicating factor — I’d planned to go out this year, since the book launches in March 2020. But MLA is actually going to be in Toronto next year, so there’s an argument to be made for trying to do something in conjunction with MLA, which wouldn’t be until January 2021?

It’s tempting to say ‘do both!’ of course, but Kevin and I just had the first of a series of serious conversations of how we’re going to manage all our work travel and still be present for each other and for the kids this coming year, so just flitting off constantly on international trips, even if we can find the funds, probably isn’t the wisest move.

So here’s the question — when should I go to Toronto? Which is mostly about what other South Asian / Sri Lankan / science fiction events are happening there in the next year?

It’ll generally work much better if I can pair it with that kind of thing, so I can do joint events with other writers, helping to draw bigger crowds for all of us, and also making it more interesting and fun overall. I don’t just want to be talking about me and the cookbook all the time! 

Also, are there literary venues I should be reaching out to, who might want me to do a reading there? Professors teaching classes who might want me to come as a guest? Etc. and so on. And if any of these opportunities come with a little funding help, even better, though that’s not necessarily a requirement.

Help me brainstorm, Toronto peoples? (Or those knowledgeable in the ways of literary Toronto…)

#serendibkitchen
#serendibwriting
#serendibtravel

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I have a cold now

I am feeling really dense because I offered someone a taste of my fancy drink and she warned me she had a cold and I said oh, I’m not worried, and honestly, I usually DON’T catch colds from that kind of thing, but this time, maybe I did, because I have a cold now and I am super-cranky with myself for not being more careful. GAH.

An hour ago, Kevin came down and kindly brought some DayQuil to my sickbed on the living room couch. He made the mistake of then trying to ask me about groceries for the week, and I said something not helpful, so then he asked me again and I burst into tears. Poor boy. He said he’d take care of the groceries.

The DayQuil has now kicked in sufficiently that I can think again (and in fact, I feel fine now, meds are AMAZING), so I’m going to try to get through the rest of my SALA posting, at least, and then I really do have to do either the Wild Cards revision or my syllabi, because both HAVE to be done for Monday. I have procrastinated them too long. (I kept opening the files all this past week, I swear, but just failed to make myself actually start working. Sigh.)

But I’m afraid all of that will likely have to be interspersed with resting. Sigh. Feel really dumb, since I know travel makes me so much more likely to get sick. Though it easily might not have been the shared drink, of course. Eight hrs in the airplane environment, plus all the airporting, can easily get me sick all on its own.

Maybe I should start wearing a mask if I’m going to fly more often, at least in winter…I wore one a little when I was immunosuppressed during chemo, and felt so self-conscious, but it’s much more prevalent in Japan, I know, so perhaps this is just a matter of cultural norms, and I should get over it. A mask + thin scarf for semi-camouflage? Hm. And if I do it, I help make it easier for other people who need it more to do it…

#serendibwriting
#serendibtravel

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