Honored to Be Listed in NewCity’s Lit50

Honored to be listed in NewCity’s Lit50 for Chicago. I think this was one of the photos where the photographer wanted me to try to look serious. Not so easy! 🙂

I do like the colors in this outfit — purple in the hair (color by Splat!), bright blue blouse, dark blue jacket. (Props to Old Navy for having a well-fitting and flattering basic dark blue jacket at a very affordable price that I could grab on short notice.) Might need to do some serious lipstick research at some point — this one is okay, but something a little more wine-colored might be even better. I am such a make-up novice!

See more photos and read the blurbs about all of us here:

Lit 50: Who Really Books In Chicago 2020

Chicago provides a home to a wide range of writers from different aesthetics, interests, cultures and different neighborhoods within a city known for its neighborhoods. This year, we wanted to focus on writers who contribute to the growing body of American letters and critical thought across genres.

Coming Along, Bit-by-bit

Recorded a great episode of the podcast with Benjamin Rosenbaum this morning, think we’re really getting into some nitty-gritty stuff that will be hopefully useful and of interest to writers. . Hoping to start releasing those soon, at least teasers.

I think my framing of all this has also finally crystallized. When I started the summer, there was sort of a murky sea of work and projects and I didn’t really know what was where. Sometimes you only learn by doing, you know? And it’s become clear that the podcast with Ben is really very distinct from the podcast with Kel Bachus, so okay, here we go, I’m apparently planning to launch two (2!) podcasts this fall.

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This is what I’m envisioning right now for organizational structure for two podcasts, a magazine, and a teaching org:

• The SLF (non-profit supporting speculative arts and literature) –> Portolan Project (free creative writing and lit education) –> “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum are Humans”: (podcast about SF/F writing, arts, culture and community)

• The SLF –> Maram Makerspace (local community makerspace that may someday be a physical entity, but is already offering classes, both in-person and virtual) –> “Show with Kel” (which needs a title, we should work on that, where we talk about making, crafting, creating businesses, gendered modes of production, trans concerns, and art)

• Serendib (my own brand, I guess, though it sounds goofy to say that) –> co-sponsors “Show with Kel”

• Serendib –> Maram Magazine, also co-sponsored by the SLF as part of Maram Makerspace (Rosa María Quiñones, Erica Jenks Henry, Alli Bax, Julie Chyna, Nivedita G Ramgopal, fyi — and please get on the Slack today, if you can, if you haven’t already — hoping to start the brainstorming conversation there tomorrow, defining the shape of this magazine. Kel Bachus, I’d love to have you join us on this, if you’re willing. Low time-commitment, I promise!)

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It’s all quite complicated, in part because some of my staff are getting paid part-time, and so we need to think carefully about what organization has ‘ownership’ of various projects, and especially where it’s appropriate to have them paid out of the nonprofit SLF account versus my personal small business account.

One of my big goals for this year is to get all the accounting into tip-top shape, transitioning from it being a host of scattered notes in my office to having an actual bookkeeper tracking it all month-to-month and an accountant to make sure I do all the tax stuff correctly. (I have a bookkeeper now, need a preferably local accountant at some point, if people have recommendations.)

It’s a lot! And much of it is still in really inchoate early stages. But it’s coming along, bit-by-bit, and I’m trying not to be overwhelmed by the size and scope of the dreaming. Still kind of think I could use a small business partner of some kind, someone with some real concrete business background, ability to draw up business plans, etc. But Kel promised to hook me up with an incubator group for advice; maybe that will be enough.

Maintaining Community and Managing Work

I’m thinking a lot about maintaining community and managing work this morning, in various ways. For one, it’s been really hard keeping up with communication even with SLF folks and Serendib folks through normal channels — and I’m not sure it really worked all that well before either.

We were doing a mix of in-person meetings, e-mail, FB messaging, which sort of worked, but not as reliably as I’d like. And without the in-person meetings and with everyone hit with executive functioning challenges due to coronavirus, we mostly kind of went silent for six weeks or so.

But my semester is essentially over now — I have final papers coming in tomorrow, so there’s grading, and then I’m done. So I want to ramp up both the SLF and Serendib Press more actively again, which I think means figuring out how to help keep everyone active and engaged without in-person to help.

I know managers get a bad rep in labor conversations, and I do think managers often get paid more than is reasonable, but good management really is important. Part of what Stephanie does is assist me, but part of it is manage me, and also manage the rest of the Serendib staff (Heather and Darius and Emmanuel). We get a lot more done that way, but coordinating has gotten more challenging in pandemic times.

I think we may have to schedule more meetings, honestly. A weekly Zoom meeting + a time when we’re all working and all on Slack, maybe? Tips welcome; I’m a little lost here. Assume 4 people, each putting in about 10 hours / week.

As Benjamin Rosenbaum and I make plans to try launching our podcast (and oh, it was GREAT doing a 1.5 hr Zoom call with him yesterday, I miss that convention energy buzz, must find ways to bring it back into a socially-distanced life), the first thing I did was secure my just-graduated student Darius Vinesar to be our manager for that project. Because Ben and I will happily natter on in somewhat random fashion, but if we want this to be done professionally (or really, done at all), we need someone else to help the trains run on time.

I still think I could use someone for the SLF to do similar work, but I don’t have any budget to pay them for it right now. Karen is able to do tasks as I assign them, but she’s not actually a SF/F person; she doesn’t know the field or the people. She’s also not on Facebook, which is turning out to be kind of essential for communicating with me, at least right now. Back to the communication problem, sigh.

I should be able to find that kind of person to volunteer at the SLF for now (probably an early-or-mid-career writer, someone with experience going to conventions, who knows people and is personable would be ideal), who will get paid when we can, but it takes a level of management from me to find that person, and I haven’t had the capacity.

I have a large list of potential volunteers, actually, but I have to activate and train them first, and then also figure out who among them (or from elsewhere) might be able to take on more of a management role. (If that’s you, do talk to me.) The SLF should be able to offer a summer internship, which I imagine would be of interest to a lot of young people, even if it has to be unpaid for the moment — but someone has to organize and manage that too.

Cee Gee, thankfully, has taken ownership of the fundraising & development aspects and is doing a great job, so once she’s fully recovered from Covid-19, I’m hoping we’ll be able to start doing more to bring in money, which will make it possible to hire more people, which will make it possible to create more content, which will make people want to join us as members, and it should all be a beautiful growing cycle…

But right now, we’re just trying to get through, and figure out how to stay connected and start working again. Not easy. In theory, I think Slack would help with this, but I just haven’t been able to get myself to remember to even check it regularly. Maybe I just need to be more hard-core about that. An hour on Slack every morning for the various projects.

Okay, off to a Zoom meeting with Karen and Cee Gee. Maybe we can figure some of this stuff out.