SLF email to staffers

This is the e-mail I just sent my non-profit & small press teams, sharing in case it’s helpful as a model (and as always, if you’d like to come volunteer with the SLF, we’d love to have you — we’re trying to get organized to better put people on projects now):

*****

Hey, everyone. Sorry I didn’t write more coherently sooner — I really was very exhausted coming back from travel this weekend, short on sleep, and I think the ambient stress is getting to me a bit too. I’m going to try to be in better communication going forward, and I’m going to ask you to do the same. I know e-mail isn’t necessarily the best mode for everyone; we’re going to try a few different remote tools (see below), and see what works.

Thank you for being flexible — hopefully at the end of this process, we’re all going to be a lot more comfortable on remote tools! (Some of you may already be very adept at them, which is great — we’ll rely on you for help and advice!)

*****

Serendib Press: Stephanie, you’ll be in charge of getting Heather, Darius, Emmanuel, Julia, and Mizan up to speed on the tech. I’ll help. 

SLF Management Team: Karen and Carly, I’ll need you to get up to speed, and get the interns (Julia, Emmanuel, and Darius) and ideally Mizan too, if he has time, up to speed this week. (Stephanie will be working with some of the same people, but a little duplication and practice won’t hurt.)

SLF Chicago Chapter: Chris, if you can work on this with Dain and Jeremy, that’d be great. Even if you’re comfortable with the three of you working elsewhere, I’d like to make sure you can join the rest of us on these tools.

SLF Maram: Carollina, Pamela, Pam, Kurt, Amanda, if Maram starts actually doing stuff, which it may soon, with UPG at least, then this will be relevant to y’all soon. So if you can join us and try out the tech this week, that’d be great, though not as urgent. I plan to write to you all in more detail shortly.

SLF Portolan: Niall, Gary, Farah, Dale — we’re just starting this, of course, but if you can take some time to try out the tech, it’ll only help. I plan to write to you all in more detail shortly. (Matthew, this is mostly FYI; we’re not planning to keep bugging you on this going forward.)

SLF Bookkeeeping, Tech and Publicity: Kirsten, Gregory, Kaolin, Jed, Ellen, and Irene — I’m not expecting much of the rest to be relevant to you, but wanted you to be informed, and if you do want to join us on the remote systems, you’d be very welcome.

*****

GOING REMOTE: While we can all just work on our own in theory, in practice, in-person work tends to be much more effective for getting things actually done — it helps keep everyone on track and accountable. But it seems irresponsible to gather people together without real need right now, so I’m going to ask that we start to avoid larger gatherings for the SLF or Serendib Press until you hear otherwise.

The last actual event the SLF is hosting is this Saturday’s Deep Dish; we’re going to go on hiatus for the reading series for a few months after that (we may try to organize a virtual reading of some kind for those spring dates? Chris, I’ll look to you to take the lead on that, maybe with the rest of the Chicago chapter team — brainstorm and see what you come up with. At the same time everywhere in the world, SF/F writers post little videos of themselves reading? Is that goofy? Might be kind of fun if we set up a place for people to post that they’re doing it, with the links so everyone can check each other out).

For Serendib Press, I’ll still be doing a few book events locally this week, but am mostly thinking that I’m going to postpone scheduling much more until later in the year, when the situation should be clearer.

For our planning meetings, if a few of you want to gather in person to meet, I think that’s up to you. But I’m going to ask Karen, Carly, and Stephanie to try supervising the SLF interns / Serendib Press staff remotely this week and see how it goes. I spent several months working on a video game project with a game studio in Vermont, and although at times we had frustrating technical difficulties on occasion, for the most part, Discord (a system like Slack, more common in the game world) worked pretty well for that.

*****

SYNCHRONOUS VS ASYNCHRONOUS: The first is when we’re all on at the same time, the second, we’re not. Both can be effective. I like to do asynchronous chatter in the background over the course of the day, as I move through domestic chores and work projects. It’s nice company, and helps keep me on track. I like quick synchronous ‘stand-up’ meetings for talking something over between a few people. “Hey, everyone, let’s gather on Slack from 9 – 9:15 tomorrow to run over a few things.”

In terms of specific tools:

PHONE: Sometimes the easiest thing will be to call me — please do. I’m at [————-]. I can be phone avoidant sometimes when I’m really stressed and feeling bombarded with inputs, but I’m going to try to be better with that now, and this slowdown should counter that effect to some extent, I think. Please do leave a message if I miss you and you’d like me to call back.

FB MESSAGING: Since I kind of live on Facebook, this is often the fastest way to catch me if you have a quick question. Stephanie and Heather and I use it pretty constantly right now, and it works well, esp. when we’re synchronous (all on at the same time).

SLACK: This is a very nice system (both desktop and mobile) where we can have different channels for different projects, we can see what we’ve said previously (up to a point — it doesn’t hold onto it forever, I think), etc. It offers voice chat as well, though I think mostly we’ll use it for messaging, either in groups or individually. I’d like us to shift over to using it more intentionally.

We have Slack set up for the SLF already; we should set it up for Serendib Press too, and I’ll be talking to Stephanie about that separately. Karen, can you please get all the SLF folks on this thread onto Slack this week, and set up times to practice with them? (I don’t remember if we have a channel set up yet for the Chicago chapter, but if not, set that up, and Chris, please bring your team on board there.) Stephanie, ditto for Serendib Press, once we set it up? We should talk through how best to organize that.

My challenge with Slack has always been remembering to check it and see what’s going on there — you can set it up to send you notifications, but that can be annoying if there’s a lot of chatter going on. I’m planning to just plan to be online there at certain times daily, so that people can easily come find me and check in with me. 8-10 a.m. CST for now, and then again in the afternoon, 3-4 p.m.

Karen and Carly, I’d love to work with you two at least on Slack at 3-4 today, if that works for you — let me know? Stephanie and Heather, shall we try 9-10 on Thursday?

ZOOM: This free video conferencing system should also be helpful. I’d like us to try a Zoom call in the next few days, make sure everyone can get on smoothly. Given schedules, not everyone may be available at the same time, so we should probably do a few. I’ve used it before, but only as a participant, for an international call with several folks, and it worked pretty well. (I expect Zoom stock is booming right now.)

Karen, can you pick 3 times for Zoom calls in the next few days (today @ 4 p.m. plus one in the evening and one in the morning), and send Zoom invites to ALL the SLF folks? (I think that’s everyone on the e-mail thread above except for Stephanie and Matthew.) Let’s see how it goes — if you can’t make any of the times Karen sends, let her know, and we can set up another time. Aside from my teaching, I’m pretty available. (If you don’t know how to do any of this, Karen, just get in touch, and I’ll talk you through it. If you want to come by and work with just me in the dining room, that’s fine with me.)

FINAL NOTES: There are other possible tech options, but let’s start with Slack and Zoom for now. I expect that there’ll be some tech hiccups and frustrations initially, and that this will slow us down for a bit, but that’s fine — nothing we’re doing is super-urgent and needs to race along.

Any questions? (If I had more energy, I’d have done this with a lot of cute graphics so it wasn’t a big block of text. Sorry! Maybe next time! Thanks for reading!)

– Mary Anne

P.S. It makes me sad that I can’t feed y’all as much as I often do for our in-person meetings. Maybe, local folks, I can leave you boxes of cookies on the porch for pick-up, at least…stay tuned. 

#serendibpress
#slf

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SLF continuing conversation

I hosted a panel on SF/F nonprofit administration; a lot of people took a lot of notes, which makes me think that it would be good to continue that conversation. I’d like to see it becoming more of a staple at other conventions, but in the meantime, esp. with many people pausing travel, I wonder whether a forum of some kind might make sense for the SLF to host. And if so, what method would work best for people?

• FB group
• Slack
• some system hosted on the SLF site that we’d have to figure out
• something else

I’m veto-ing e-mail list, as my e-mail is a trash fire.

#slf

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Tiny beautiful video clip

Question — you know that gorgeous animation at the start of Game of Thrones? I adore that. I’m sure it took oodles of people working on it and masses of HBO money to put it together.

Now imagine an animation with that kind of feel, but much much simpler — a tall ship, setting off across a old-school portolan map, turning into a rocket ship and blasting off into space, maybe 1-3 seconds total. The elements could be done out of paper-cutting, or origami perhaps?

How hard is it going to be for me to find someone to make a tiny beautiful video clip in that line for the SLF’s Portolan Project (we’re building out free creative writing instruction online, like the Khan Academy, but for writing), something we can put at the head of all of our video interviews?

Keep in mind that I’ll have to fundraise to pay for it, so am hoping to find someone willing to work at a reduced rate (maybe a student, a piece for their portfolio?) for a non-profit? I’m not actually even sure where to start looking for the people who can do this kind of work, or what the ballpark would be for cost.

Help?

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So many time sensitive tasks!

Gah! I woke up at 3:15 a.m., mind racing with time-sensitive things I had to do:

SLF:

• tell Akbar to go ahead and book his plane ticket for the SLF (counting on the community to donate the remainder of the funds to reimburse us for it, which is a little nerve-wracking, but time is tight enough that I think it’s the best option. And we’re not so far off — $800 raised out of an estimated $1500 for the flight, and I just checked, and it looks like he should be able to find a flight for closer to $1300, so just another $500 to go). — DONE

• confirm Akbar’s hotel (CONFIRMED NOW) and book it (HANDED OFF TO KAREN TO BOOK NOW)

• confirm registration with ICFA (SENT E-MAIL)

• post again about the international initiative fundraiser (DONE)

• talk to Matt about the Portolan Project videos (DONE)

• I think I may want to actually find an animator who can do the opening to the videos; he threw something together for us, but it’s not working for me; it’s another expense I’d have to raise money for, though, so it may have to wait, unless I can find someone to donate the time / skill — should do a separate post about that at some point, but not urgent — (POST DONE)

FEAST:

• remind people about the 15-book Feast giveaway running now (worldwide, please do enter, link in comments!) — we are officially one week from launch, AIGH. (DONE)

• wash the guest room bedding and make the bed, since Heather will be arriving today from Ann Arbor (probably while I’m still on campus, since I get home @ 2:30), to work the weekend on Serendib Press stuff (IN WASH)

• remind folks that they have two more days to sign up for the subscription package of edible treats going out in April (US-only)

• finish decorating and wrap the four Dragonfruit Nebulae bars (dragonfruit, citrus, and a hint of white pepper)

• pour two more in the mold (I can only do two at a time, so it’s low effort, but takes a few days to get through several done)

• post the recipe for the Dragonfruit Nebulae chocolates AND the one for the jackfruit & chickpea curry from a month ago that is still waiting for posting!

ACADEMIC:

• read and grade student reading journals; I’d like to get those back before teaching today (next in queue)

WRITING:

• do Sustainable Arts Foundation grant due today @ 5 (I leave for teaching at 10:30, and do have to shower and dress, so can I squeeze that in before then? we’ll see; if not, this afternoon, down to the wire, sigh.)

• finish prepping materials for RPG I’m running tomorrow for my Jump Space universe — I was tempted to cancel, but I cancelled the first one, and I think I could probably use a little downshifting in my brain — I was a little frantic yesterday morning too, and Kevin and I lay down for an hour midday for date lunch and watched Picard, and then spent an hour talking about the project idea (for the Creative Capital grant), and the latter was very helpful and the former got me breathing a little easier. So hanging out with friends for a few hours tomorrow and playing a SF RPG will, I hope, be fun and not stressful.

• do Creative Capital grant application due tomorrow (probably will have to work on that Sat morning, after giving Heather some things to work on)

HOME:

• call to set up annual vet appointments for cats, they’re due for rabies vaccines

• call to get car repair from last week’s accident scheduled

COMMUNITY:

• write a long post (or several) about the economics of being a writer, relevant both to the indie publishing thing I’m doing with Feast, and the SLF’s grant efforts

• write a long post (or several) about running for office and governing — something like “Ten Things I’ve Learned While…” Maybe host AMA’s on them, if I have the energy.

*****

Whew. I’m sure there’s more too, but that was all bubbling at the top of my brain. I was seriously tempted to get up at 3:15 and just work on it all, but the bed was cozy, so I tried to sleep instead. Finally fell asleep around 5-ish, I think, got up at normal 7 a.m. Still not sure if that was the right decision — I could be 4 hours ahead on all this right now. But also probably much more tired…

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SLF fundraiser for Akbar Shahzad, whose funding fell through

Folks, the SLF is starting a new project, which hopes to foster more international speculative literature, because we are in desperate need of diverse futurist visions — you’re going to hear a lot more about it a bit down the line, but right now, we’re kickstarting it a bit for a specific recipient, bringing a young award-winning SF writer from Pakistan to the U.S., to a futurist eco-focused SF convention.

Global exchange rates (in large part a legacy of colonial exploitation) make it prohibitive for many in the developing world to participate in American professional events.

Akbar Shahzad’s funding fell through, and we’re helping him raise the rest of what he needs to attend (and present on his panel) — yesterday, a generous donor covered the cost of his hotel, and small donations have added up to $300; we need about $800 more to finish purchasing his plane tickets. If you can chip in a few dollars (every bit helps), more details are here:

https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10160567136979616

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Time sensitive fundraising: Akbar Shahzad

Folks, I have a time-sensitive fundraising request (looking for miles and/or cash).

WHAT’S THE NEED?

Last year at ICFA, I got to meet a bright young man from Pakistan, Akbar Shahzad, the winner of the Salam Prize for short speculative fiction. We had great conversations, and I’m personally excited to have him working in the field; I hope to keep working with Akbar to help build bridges between Pakistani SF writers and the rest of the world.

I served as a judge for the Salam Prize this past year, and I think it’s so important that we actively work to invite writers from all over the world into the futurist conversation; that will be critical to really thinking through and creating brighter futures for us all.

This year’s theme for ICFA is Climate Change and the Anthropocene. In Pakistan, Akbar’s been working on a novel growing out of his award-winning story, _Influence_, and on a set of stories from animal perspectives — eco-fiction that explores nonhuman consciousness. He tells me, “The best (or at least most important) story I am working on is about whale theologians grappling with climate change and the rising toxicity of the oceans. This year’s Guest Author is Jeff VanderMeer, who is arguably the leading voice in eco-fiction and nonhuman perspectives today, which is even more exciting, because I am working on a short history of dogs as the manifest destiny of wolves.” Clearly this year’s conference is particularly relevant to his work, and Akbar’s even already scheduled to present on a panel.

*****

HERE’S THE ASK:

But he needs additional funding. (His original funding fell through.) ICFA can contribute $400 (from a donation), and his registration is covered as well. A plane ticket is around $1500, and then there’s a room for 5 nights. It’d be great to provide at least a few meals too, given the global exchange rate between Pakistan and the U.S. (legacy of colonialism). I’m hoping folks can help me pull this together. Here are a few possible asks:

a) if someone has sufficient miles to donate to the SLF for the flight (from Karachi to Orlando, March 17-22), that would be wonderful — we’ve never accepted a miles donation before, so I’d have to look up how the tax-deductible part of that would work, but in practical terms, you’d work with me and Akbar to book the ticket directly.

[EDIT: room costs are covered! b) if someone is attending ICFA and has an extra bed in their room and is willing to host a visiting Pakistani writer, that would also be tremendously helpful; we might be able to help with room costs, depending on how else this works out.]

c) if you can donate $5 or $10 or more to this effort, I think we could quickly put together enough to cover his travel costs. If no one comes up with miles, then we need about $1100 to cover the remaining plane ticket cost. (UPDATE: $356 raised! About $750 to go!)

Anything that the SLF raises in the next few days, we’ll put towards this — you can donate directly through Facebook, or on the SLF website. (You can also contact me directly for a private donation — PM me on FB or write to me, director@speculativeliterature.org.)

It’d help my tracking if you comment here with your pledges, esp. since FB doesn’t generate a donor report, so it’s VERY hard to tell who has pledged what — that’ll also make the post more visible. (If you donate $25 or more, you’ll also automatically become a member of the SLF for the year — thanks!)

http://speculativeliterature.org/donate/

I’m thinking we’ll set this up as the SLF’s International Writer Travel Fund. Should there be any extra funds left over, we’ll put it towards bringing out another author, from a different part of the world, next year. This is a project I’ve been wanting the SLF to start working on regardless, so consider this a bit of a kickstart.

I’ll close this with some words from Akbar — please drop a note in the comments if you can help! Thanks!

*****

“I am, belatedly, asking if you have any leads of this sort, anything or anywhere I can apply to that might get me to Florida to meet Jeff Vandermeer and talk about nonhuman perspectives in eco-fiction. I want to talk about writing from inside a whale’s head at my panel, read from the dog history at the reading, and just to be in a space where writers are, you know, living and working, something that comes to seem remote and damn near impossible when you get back to Pakistan and return to being a struggling Karachiite artist, where the only way out is out, and you can’t even build enough momentum (so congested is the life) to achieve escape velocity.

The best thing of all about ICFA was the welcome I received and the wonderful community I got to be a part of. The value of such an ecosystem is impossible to overstate, and can only be measured against the absence of one. That is what I want to get back to, and what artists in far-flung places really need. Going to ICFA this year would be an opportunity to reengage with that community, and bring some of that energy back to Pakistan.”

*****

Let me know if you can help. Thanks!

#slf

(Cee Gee, fyi.)

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At the Oak Park Community Foundation

After the SLF meeting (where Karen, Julia, and I got a surprising amount done — ALL the interviews are now off my computer and on the Google Drive, ready to be edited, so they should start showing up here soon, for one, AND we got started on the illustrator database, AND I publicized the first chapter meeting happening this weekend, etc.), I walked up to the Carleton for a reception for the Oak Park Community Foundation.

It was interesting — they were mostly talking about the fund performance, which is of only academic interest to me at the moment, since we opened a SLF fund with them only so we could take stock gifts — the stocks were donated to the fund, translated into cash for us, and we immediately took them out and moved them to our bank account for use in paying out grants and paying our new part-time staff. (Our Working Class Writers’ Grant is closing at the end of the month, reminder. Get those (free to apply) grant applications in!)

So when they were talking about having had a very good year growing everyone’s investments, I could only sigh wistfully and imagine what it would be like to have a $100k endowment for the SLF, that might grow from year to year. At some point, perhaps we will run a capital campaign, but we’re pretty far from that point right now.

I’m starting to gear up for our spring membership drive, and our goals are much more modest there — if we can collect 125 new members this spring, each paying $2 / month, that translates to $24 / year each, or $3000 / year total. That’ll give us enough money to ensure that I can keep paying the part-time staff for a few more months, and afford the editing services for the interviews we plan to put online for the Portolan Project (our attempt at crowdfunding free creative writing instruction).

So we’re a long way from an endowment! But I’m glad I went, even if I didn’t get a 19% return on an investment like everyone else in the room. (Sigh.) If we do get to a point where we can try to grow the SLF in that direction, it’s good to know that the OPRF Community Foundation seems quite capable in this regard. (Alex Gurevich, I saved their financial materials to show you when I get a chance; would be interested to hear your take.)

(As a side note, they also hold a fund for the library, so in my capacity as library trustee, it was interesting to think about that, and how if the library chooses to pursue more donations along those lines, what it might look like, in terms of cultivating donor relationships, etc. FYI, David J. Seleb, Matt Fruth.)

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First official meeting of the Speculative Literature Foundation

Hey, folks. So we’re having our first official meeting of the Speculative Literature Foundation’s first official chapter this Sunday. (At my house.) Woot!

In 2020, Chicago chapter membership will be free; we’d love to get together with other folks (readers, writers, parents, teens, teachers, and more) who love science fiction, fantasy, superheroes, fairy tales, folklore — anything with a fantastical or speculative element.

We’ve been running a reading series (Deep Dish) in Chicago at Volumes Cafe for the past three years, but we want to do more. What exactly? It depends on what chapter members are excited to have happen — SF/F book club? Writing workshop? Lit festival? Something else we haven’t thought of?

We’re excited to bring even more events and programs to the Chicagoland area but need your help and ideas to grow even bigger.

Food, friends, drinks and games. (I’ll be cooking.  )

*****

3 – 5PM: Open Meeting to discuss plans for the 2020 season. Refreshments will be served.

5 – 8PM: Potluck dinner, games and break outs to discuss the craft of writing, networking and all around hanging out.

*****

Please RSVP here: https://www.facebook.com/events/913060129112864/

• If you can’t make it this Sunday, but want to be sure to stay informed about the Chicago chapter activities, join our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/slfchicagochapter/

• You can also sign up for the SLF newsletter here: http://speculativeliterature.org/newsletter/

• Or follow us on Twitter! https://twitter.com/speclit

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Upcoming at the SLF!

I’m super-excited about what’s happening at the Speculative Literature Foundation in 2020; for one, we have two new interns who’ve joined us this semester from UIC, Darius and Emmanuel, both aspiring SF writers and avid SF/F fans. It’s going to be terrific to have them on board.

We had a great long meeting on Friday, orienting them to the SLF and what we’re hoping to do with:

• the Portolan Project (free online creative writing instruction for all!)

• local chapters (first SLF Chicagoland chapter meeting at my house, Sun 2/16, woot!) — book club? critique group? board game nights? movie outings? bringing in agents and editors to speak? Come join us and help shape the chapter!

• the Deep Dish reading series (next reading Sat 3/14, and if Volumes Bookcafe is up for it, it’s also going to be a launch party for Feast, woohoo, so mark your calendars, locals, as I will have tasty, tasty treats for you there)

• writing workshops in Oak Park, in partnership with Maram Makerspace, including one upcoming Saturday July 25th, again, mark your calendars — we’re hoping to expand those to a 10-day workshop in 2021, and quite possibly a 6-week workshop down the road. (Clarion Midwest? We’ll see.)

• and more! (But wait, there’s more…)

Tomorrow, Darius and Emmanuel are going to come join me and Managing Director Karen for our Monday afternoon SLF work meeting, and we’ll figure out exactly what they’ll be working on first. Over the weekend, I’ve asked them to learn more about the other writing workshops in the field — I told them about Clarion, Odyssey, and Viable Paradise. Which other workshops should I set them to researching, do you think?

And hey — after about a month mostly off, I’m back in fundraising mode for the SLF, so you’re going to start hearing more about that. Most of why we’re able to actually do all this is that we raised enough funds to hire some part-time staff to help us out, and that’s all coming from memberships — we’re up to $510 / month!

(We have a real bookkeeper now. It’s very exciting.)

Can you help us get to liftoff? Our winter fund drive goal is $625 / month — we’re almost there! We’d love to have you join us as a member, for just $2 / month. We’re planning to give back some great resources to the community as we grow! It’s going to be fun. 

Join the SLF here! http://speculativeliterature.org/membership/

(please like / comment / share for visibility!)

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