A Weird Work Day

Having a weird work day so far — I stayed up working ’til close to 2 a.m. last night, and then couldn’t sleep for some time thereafter, so I ended up oversleeping and missing my 10 a.m. budget meeting, gah. Having a hard time focusing on getting back to work now too — the Inauguration is just sort of hanging there, mid-week, lurking at me.

Okay, there are few thing I really do need to do. Maybe a shower will help wake me up. Plan:

– apologize and reschedule budget meeting for next week (DONE)
– shower and dress
– record and upload teaching videos for ENG 240 for this week
– send assignments for ENG 491 for this week, including sign-up form for critiques
– record and upload teaching videos for ENG 491 for this week
– go to bank to deposit check
– wire transfer funds to SLF grant recipient
– read and critique story for Emmanuel

– start filling out campaign website

That’s all the MUST DO stuff for today, I think. I’m going to refrain for putting anything else on the list for now, and try to power through these.

In Theory, but in Practice

In theory, I’m co-writing right now, but in practice, I’m dealing with e-mails, and that’s fine, that needs to be done too. I’m still hoping to get to some writing today — I’d ideally like to knock off the revisions on “Hush” and send it off to Jed for the Jump Space anthology.

*****

Other things I’ve worked on so far:

• packed up some mango-passionfruit curd and mango-ginger cream scones for a friend (recipes later today, probably)

• sorted out some more financial stuff for the SLF (we’re trying to send grant money to a writer in Nigeria, and it’s more complicated than you would think because of various legal aspects, but I think Western Union is going to take care of it

• started thinking about what should go on my D200 school board candidate website

• written to a bookkeeper and a graphics person to see if they’re available to do some work for the campaign

• checked on when you’ll be able to pre-order the anthology my BLM / pandemic story will be in (soon!)

*****

Not a bad start for a Saturday morning. Plans for the rest of the day after co-writing:

• spend one hour with the family on straightening up the second floor

• see if I can talk anyone into playing a new board game with me

• write to people to see if any of them are willing to be Zoom-recorded doing a “Jump Space: Event Planners!” RPG play through, so we can show people what this kind of thing looks like (if this might be you, let me know! I’d be happy to run a few games of this — no RPG experienced needed, but it’s a 3 hr commitment)

• do my laundry

• post recipes

• try making a new recipe for Vegan Serendib (yes, we’re finally back to recipe-testing, woot!)

• work on some art with Kavi

• keep reading a Courtney Milan romance

Nice Saturday!

Writer Life Finance Thoughts

Would love your input on some questions at the end of this.

My Patreon is almost at $500 / month right now, which is great, because it’s a very steady source of income. My secret goal in the next year (I guess not so secret) is to get it to $1500 / month, at which point, it’ll be enough to replace one of my classes.

My department chair is looking into whether in 2022-2023, I can drop down to 3 classes / year instead of 4, which would open up a lot more time for writing books; I would really love that. Teaching is great, but it’s also endless — there are always more students you could be teaching. There are only so many books you’ll get a chance to write. But we really do need my income to pay the bills. So all of this is in aid of making that happen.

I’ve had a lot of fun making items for Patreon this year, but I do think I need to think a little more carefully about how I do it in 2021. Production capacity is a real issue — they just take a lot of time, making everything by hand, and while I want to do that while I’m developing items, it doesn’t scale well for just me when I’m shipping them to a lot of people (and even 25-50 is a lot, in this case).

I start losing too much time from writing, is the big problem — even this week, I’ve had to take a few extensions on George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards story (which pays quite well), in order to get the boxes put together and shipped. When I’m writing on a contract these days, I’m usually making something between $50 – $100 / hr (mostly depending on how much rewriting the thing needs). So it makes sense to hire out as much work as I can at $25 / hr.

Part of the issue right now is the pandemic — I couldn’t have Emmanuel Henderson and Stephanie Bailey over here helping with packing and shipping, which would have saved some significant time. I don’t *think* it would’ve made sense to have them swing by, pick things up, take them home, and wrap / ship from there — although I’m not quite positive of that.

But I do think that the bath products at least, we’re going to try having Stephanie help with production. She likes making them, she’s good at it, and I can still have the fun of coming up with scent / color / mold combos. (I’m planning to experiment next week during holiday down time on the unicorn garden theme, and that part will be much fun.) I’m also loving the pattern design, so more of that, which I think is going to find its way onto stationery more as well as fabric. Little notebooks for writers, perhaps? Stay tuned.

We’re also going to start thinking about sweets production, although that’s a little more complicated, as it requires getting appropriate licenses / training for everyone who’ll have their hands on the food, and possibly renting space in a commercial kitchen — that may have to wait until summer to sort out. The summer box is also kind of light on food stuff anyway, since a lot of food treats don’t ship well in heat. So really, maybe we aim for September or even December on that?

But in general, I’d like to come up with something for Patreon that’s more scalable, which means digital rather than physical rewards. I had planned to write stories for it, or release RPGs, and somehow neither of those quite happened this year. Need to reprioritize a little bit around that, because while the treat boxes are great, I think I need to add a digital-only subscription option too. (Stephanie, maybe we should sit down in January and make a bit of a plan on this?)

All of which raises the question of what to put in the digital tiers, so this is where I could use some advice / thoughts / requests? If I were sending you something digital monthly (say, $5 / month) or quarterly ($12 / quarter), what would you like to see from me? Here are some possibilities:

– poetry
– short stories in progress
– novels in progress
– RPGs (probably my Jump Space universe; I’m thinking of writing up various modules for the game I drafted this year)
– food essay drafts
– garden essay drafts
– Serendib House magazine pieces?
– SF writing / teaching modules — craft exercises, links to interviews, etc.

– garden photos (which also opens up the possibility of themed tiers, like a garden tier, which had garden photos, essays, poetry)

These are all things I’m planning on working on anyway in 2021, but if there’s something that people would particularly like to see, now is your chance to holler for it to jump to the head of the queue. 🙂

The big plus side for me in sending out drafts this way, of course, is that it also motivates me to actually, you know, draft things. And once drafted, it’s usually not that far to a finished project, ready to send out to editors (or release myself). Efficient!

Thoughts welcome!

(Photo is of my jasmine, which has decided to bloom like crazy right now. I can never predict when it’s going to bloom, but I’m always delighted when it does. The living room smells incredible.)

Ice Dragon

Jed bought me a beautiful Melissa Binde Motley Woods pen for our anniversary. I picked the “Ice Dragon” pattern, and it is SO BEAUTIFUL.

I’m putting it with the travel stuff, in the little kit of supplies I take to conventions and events, so I’ll have it on hand for signing books. I’ve never brought my own pen to that kind of thing before, but this is so lovely, and writes so comfortably, I’m really looking forward.

Plan for the Day

Morning, peeps. My plan for the day is:

HOME:
– post about the mask fabrics I have for autumn / Halloween (woot!)
– sew more mask orders (going to try to whip through backlog in the next few days)

– maybe try a new mask pattern?

KITCHEN:
– make a fresh batch of curry powder

– ship out a book and curry powders

FAMILY:
– supervise Anand’s e-learning (Kevin teaches MWF, so I mostly do the days — at this point, it’s usually just one question or so / hour, and often the question is, “where is my math notebook” and the answer is “in the same basket all the other school stuff is”)

– schedule Kavi’s orthodontist

WRITING:
– do a quick revision pass on “Hush” (thanks for feedback, Jed, very helpful!)
– send it to my workshop
– revise a food essay

– meet with Margaret Treanor Frey for an hour at noon to work on our comic, “Assuming You Survive”

TEACHING:
– record more of my students’ reading journal assignments

– send notes to any that are behind and ask them what’s up?

SLF:
– work on the “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans” SLF podcast Kickstarter (currently planning to launch 10/15)
– contact the SLF individual grant donors and remind them to send checks for next year’s grants

– start setting up a SLF Patreon

GARDEN:
– keep bringing up more tombstones from the basement (I like the heavy ones that don’t blow over, so it’s slow — I’m wondering if I can store them under the porch instead) — goal of getting exterior Halloween up by 10/1
– plant some irises

– if feeling ambitious, divide some irises!

Nice day, I think. I’m not heavily scheduled this week, for the first time in a long time, and it’s really a relief.

A Cautionary Tale

This morning, I was listening to The Sporkful while weeding and planting autumn crocus bulbs. I really like the combo that I’ve discovered this year, of podcast + garden. It gets me exercising lightly, it makes otherwise tedious weeding tasks fly by, often I learn something. It’s funny, though — in this episode, I’m listening to David Chang being interviewed about his memoir, _Eat a Peach_, and a piece of it is about being a workaholic, and yes, I recognize some of myself in there.

Recently I’ve discovered that Spoonflower’s weekly contests get me making art more regularly, and that is great, because I’ve always vaguely wished I could draw, and never managed to sit down and practice enough to actually get better at it. Now I’m practicing, and it’s turning into products (with Kavi’s help) that are actually things I might even want to use myself or sell (pictured, some fabric that we drew together, I think I’m turning it into napkins, and yes, of course I will blog that process), and that is great.

It’s relaxing, half-watching TV and drawing, and it’s satisfying, finding something productive that I can do while watching TV, because obviously, writing and watching TV don’t actually go together, a great flaw in my chosen primary career. So that’s another productivity win. (Three movies I really liked that I watched on TV in the last few days: Tortilla Soup, East Side Sushi, Enola Holmes. All on Netflix, I think.)

I love efficiencies. Podcast + gardening. Drawing + TV. Life is short, and getting to do more of what you love is good. Efficiencies are satisfying.

But there’s a dark side.

The positive side to turning domestic work into part of my career — cooking, then writing about cooking, for example — is that a good part of the domestic stuff I need to do, like help feed my family, ends up also doing double duty, as productive career-work. That’s a HUGE positive — it helps make this impossible capitalistic system manageable for me, even in the midst of a pandemic. I can take care of my family and still be working at something that will produce income.

That is honestly so valuable, and makes me wish that everyone who is struggling to manage household labor and a day job and supporting their kids’ e-learning and all the stresses of a pandemic had this option.

If we had basic income, maybe many more people could make that shift, take 5-10 years while their kids are small, or while they have eldercare responsibilities, or while they’re dealing with their own health issues, and let the domestic sphere be their primary one without money worries. Then come back to the secretarial work or the lawyering or whatever later, when they’re not so intensely working at other things too, and thereby not drive themselves into an early grave. That part, obviously, is super valuable to me.

(I’m a little worried that writing this out, it ends up sounds like ‘poor little rich girl,’ but oh well, here it is.)

The negative part is that I’ve gotten SO GOOD at working all the time, that it’s incredibly difficult for me to find anything to do that’s purely relaxing, that isn’t work. I said this to Kevin a week or so ago, that I’m kind of working ALL THE TIME, morning to night.

– if I’m making myself a snack, I usually photograph it and post it to Facebook, and my social media team propagate it outward to Instagram, Twitter, my cooking blog

– if I’m puttering in the garden, I’m pausing to take photos, and then ditto on the posting; I’ll often write up notes along with them, and there’s a tentative garden book in the works that these all go towards (I think about creating a garden from scratch, and all the decisions and missteps that go into that)

– if I’m reading a book or magazine, well, reading is basically always research for me; ditto watching TV or movies. I mean, if I read something that’s WAY outside my subject matter, then maybe it doesn’t feel like work, but I almost can’t do it, because I feel so guilty about the huge stack of relevant books that I should be reading, that I do actually enjoy, like Benjamin Rosenbaum’s about-to-come-out novel, _The Unravelling_, that I’m supposed to blurb, or David Chang’s memoir, which will help me with food writing and memoir writing, etc.

I’m not complaining, exactly? I have a great, great life, and have managed to get paid for doing what I love, we should all be so lucky. But at the same time, I HAVE to do what I love A LOT, in order to get paid and support my family, and there’s a weird tension there. We could cut back and slow down in various ways — Kevin would support me in that. Stop buying stuff, stop getting takeout at all — we might even, just barely, be able to afford to let me stop teaching.

But I don’t really want to stop teaching. I love teaching. I love my students. I love taking photos and posting them here, I love doing sketches and writing little notes about the plants and flowers, I love developing and sharing recipes, etc.

I think I just need to figure out some more ways to do things without immediately turning to ‘how can I make this productive?’ Maybe I need to sing more. I’m not a good singer, I’m never going to be a great singer, a professional singer, but I do love singing, and I don’t see any way I can professionalize it, so maybe I can keep that for relaxation? Playing the piano, ditto.

In pre-pandemic times, I might’ve gone for a massage, but we’re still sheltering-in-place pretty strictly here, so that’s not happening. Massages do let me shut off my brain for an hour, because all I’m supposed to do is lie there and let them work.

Heh. Maybe this long ramble is really just the product of not having taken any vacation this summer, due to pandemic. Usually we spend a few weeks in California, visiting Kevin’s family (plus Jed and Alex and other old friends), and there’s a lot of sitting around, chatting, eating, playing board games.

I was working on my novel revision right up to the last minute before the semester ended, and even though we’d talked about taking a few days in the woods in late August, the novel just ate up all that time, and then it was diving into the semester and e-learning so there wasn’t much of a chance to catch a breath.

We did say we might take a vacation a little later in the semester, once things calmed down. The kids can do e-learning mid-week from a cabin in the woods, and maybe I can actually take a few days off. (Do you have a cabin in the woods you want to rent me? Must be dog-friendly, ideally within 3 hours drive of Oak Park, with a lake we can kayak on, and good WiFi.)

Honestly, I’m not sure what ‘off’ really looks like. If I’m reading, or drawing, or cooking, I’m still working. I dunno. I had stopped seeing my therapist that I was talking to over the summer, because it seemed like I was doing okay. But maybe workaholic is something I should be talking to her about?

It’s weird. If I am a workaholic, the main consequence of that is doing well at my career, which is, you know, a good thing? I don’t want to stop. If I can just figure out how to ramp down a LITTLE.

I’ll be announcing the Kickstarter for the new podcast with Ben in a few days, and a Patreon for a comic I’m doing with Margaret Treanor Frey, and then there’s the magazine I’m supposed to start with Rosa María Quiñones, and there are various other things in the works. Ramping down doesn’t seem to be on the agenda…

I leave you with no conclusions. That memoir sounds pretty good, though. I probably should read it. A cautionary tale, perhaps.

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.