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.

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.

*****

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!)

*****

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.