Re-org

A *lot* of what I’m doing this past week has been organizing and reorganizing my life. I realized that I needed staff a year or so ago, and it’s trying to figure out how to get staff when I don’t have money for staff that’s been part of the problem. Luckily, there are a lot of tasks that are volunteer do-able, and there is some money for staff, so I think it’s sorting itself out? Maybe? Slowly.
 
Part of it is also figuring out Trello boards and Discord and Google Drive, so that all these far-flung groups can share content effectively. We’re getting there. Some of what I’ve sorted out more clearly this week:
 
– household management is a separate thing that can be handed off pretty easily, and Christopher Pence has been doing that wonderfully for a while. Everything from laundry to dishes to outdoor chores to taking down the holiday decorations to running errands, all freeing up time for me to think / write. He’d also be great at physically managing the Maram arts center if we get into a space, so we’re hoping that will work out, at least part-time. And maybe he’d have a little time for his own writing there too, in a creative space? I hope so!
 
– social media / PR is a separate thing that can be handed off pretty easily and done remotely, and we’re delighted that Irene Victoria has been helping with that. We can even pay her, which is great.
 
– SLF: Colleen Waldie is project manager there, and the main point of contact — I talk to her, and she talks to everyone else. Well, not really, but it means that I don’t have to try to keep track of every little detail. That’s her (volunteer) job. 🙂 She’s been a con chair for SF, so she knows the field intimately, and knows how to wrangle a passel of volunteers, which is what this job needs.
 
– Maram: Meghan O’Shea is project manager there. Ditto much of the previous!
 
– DesiLit: I don’t have anyone project managing this, but it’s mostly on hiatus right now, with very little active happening beyond the lit mag, Jaggery, which Anu Mahadev has taken over almost completely, and the Chicago monthly book club, which Sital Shah and crew run completely without me.
 
The main thing I could still use on this is someone else to cut checks for Jaggery, so I don’t have to think about it — if I had an office manager here in Chicago, I’d pass that off to them. If we wanted DesiLit to start doing more again (we used to have local chapters in various cities, the Kriti Festival, etc.), then I’d need a volunteer project manager to oversee that. (If that’s you, let me know!) I just don’t have the bandwidth right now. (Look at me, acknowledging the obvious that everyone has been telling me for years! Personal growth, people, that’s what you’re seeing here.)
 
There’s some possibility that the Sri Lanka retreat might get run out of DesiLit, so that’s a thing to think about. Well, we’ll see.
 
– Serendib Press / Serendib Kitchen: These are still just me, which is why they get done in a haphazard manner. An office manager would help with this.
 
– Mary Anne Mohanraj. I could use someone to project manage me, primarily re: the writing career, but also to facilitate all the arts organization work above. Executive assistant would work too? Office manager? Heather has been trying to do it, but it’s really hard to do remotely, because at least the first stage is sitting down with me, understanding everything I do, and gently taking things off my plate, one by one. I can hand her concrete tasks remotely, like booking my travel, but some of the rest is much more amorphous and hard to pin down. We’re going to try it a little longer, see if we can make it work, but I may need someone here in Oak Park who can actually swing by daily and work with me for an hour or two. If so, then Heather will move to more task-oriented discrete projects. Or maybe if Heather and I have a daily conversation, we can do it remotely? I’m honestly not sure. We’ll see.
 
*****
 
Oof. It’s a lot, but honestly, it really helps laying it all out. I’ve been saying for a little while that I’m trying to do five peoples’ jobs, but I think I didn’t really believe it? I was doing those jobs very badly, and very minimally, in a rather scrambly, desperate sort of way. They could be done so much better, and then I might even have time to finish writing some books?
 
Let’s see how it goes.
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Headspace

Self-care note: Signed up for Headspace meditation app again. I stopped last spring when my free trial ran out, but I think the lack of meditation became clear in my stressed-out fall, and apparently I need the structure of an app at least for now, so have shelled out $100 for the year to use it. I am trying to prioritize budgeting for things that qualify as health-related, and putting them ahead of material purchases like books and clothes and such.
 
Health comes first (I can hear my doctor dad saying, “if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything”), which at least this year, is going to include meditation as well as doctors and meds and exercise and all that. Yoga too, because gods, I need to stretch. Every damn day. Dana Steinhoff had us doing meditation and stretching during our game design retreat, and it was SO HELPFUL and SO NEEDED and yet I wouldn’t have done it on my own. I ought to start every day with meditation and stretches, instead of lying in bed doing e-mail (or Facebook-ing).
 
The physical therapist who looked at the knee I injured said that the main problem was that my leg muscles were so tight that I was putting extra strain on them. This is not surprising. I went for a massage about two weeks ago, the first in three months or so, and the poor masseuse said that she was going to have to convert it to a deep tissue massage, because the knots in my back were so tight that a regular Swedish massage wouldn’t cut it.
 
If I can figure out a way to budget for regular massages, that will be in there too. I suspect ‘make more money’ is the only way that will happen, though. At least my YMCA gym membership is free these days, thanks to the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s program for cancer survivors. It helps.
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Help

I got some great news this morning that I can’t talk about yet, burble burble. Soon.

In unrelated but also good news, I have hired a very part-time, very underpaid social media person for all my orgs. We will try to get her better paid as quickly as possible. Yay, Irene Victoria.

I am also in the midst of hiring a very part-time person, ditto wildly underpaid, to help me keep track of my schedule, essentially, and make sure that important things get done on time. Yay, Heather Rainwater Campbell.

I continue to find Christopher Pence essential for 16 hrs / week of household management and other locally-based assistant work. AND we have a cleaner who comes twice a month. Isa comes and for a few brief hours, peace and gorgeous cleanliness descends on the household. Thankfully, we can pay them both appropriately.

Apparently I would lose my head if it weren’t attached. I suppose doing five different jobs does take some extra coordination. Is it 5? I don’t even know. Let’s count:

– mom
– professor
– writer
– director, SLF (reading series coordinator, Deep Dish)
– director, DesiLit (publisher, Jaggery)
– director, Maram Makerspace
– library trustee

I think I can legitimately count that as 7, actually. Some of these are more part-time than others, but STILL.

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Sigiriya Retreat Day One

Arrived last night in Vermont for the Sigiriya game-building retreat with Rad Magpie. We’re in a gorgeous old farmhouse, and lucky enough to have Kel‘s wife, Becca, cooking for us all weekend. I enjoyed a little local cider (Tits Up!) last night, and started the morning with Dana, our project lead, also leading us in a little stretching and a guided meditation. After the hurried rush of the last few months, this is bliss.
 
Sometimes this life of mine, it is very good.

It feels a little ironic to be creating a Sri Lankan jungle game in the midst of New England hills and trees and snow, but also oddly good. A little attention to environment, please; it determines so much.

Breakfast of “Mike’s Mess” with artist Kat Weaver.

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ADD and agents

Here’ s another ADD-thing maybe, this one writing / agent-related. I work in a lot of different areas, and it turns out that the literary agenting world is REALLY not set up for this. When I was last agent-hunting, Benjamin Rosenbaum was strongly advocating that I find an agent who could represent all the varied things I do. That sounds great, but the thing is, what I do is REALLY varied.

My attention scatters hither and yon, and as a result, I am working in the following fields: science fiction, fantasy, mainstream lit, memoir (two different ones), cookbooks, and kids’ lit (picture books, middle grade, YA). I also write poetry, but it is perhaps my salvation that I don’t even try to publish it properly, but just post it here. I dabbled in playwriting for a year, but thankfully managed to set it aside. Mostly. I keep fighting the urge to write a graphic novel; it’s a good thing I can’t draw.

I don’t know of ANY agents who actually represent all of that. I’ve asked around, a lot! Agents tend to specialize, which makes sense, because they need to know their sub-field really well in order to keep up with what’s happening there. So in the end, I decided to pick SF as my major focus right now, and choose an agent who was good at it.

Russ Galen is, in fact, GREAT at SF/F, and I feel very lucky to have him as my agent. He’s helped me see where my first attempt at a SF novel went wrong, and the version I’m working on now is, I think, much better. On my good days, I’m quite hopeful that I can write a good SF novel and he can sell it. (Last night I was being very mopey about that whole endeavor, but Kevin talked me down from the ledge.)

Russ has given me permission to go find other agents to represent anything else I do, but unfortunately, that’s turning out to be really difficult. Most agents would prefer to represent an author entirely, so a lot of people will just say no straight off, when they hear that Russ is representing my SF/F.

After talking to some more agent friends, it seems like I MIGHT be able to find someone to do just my kid lit, so I’m agent-hunting for that now. But agents are really quite resistant, even in the initial inquiry phase, which is disheartening.

Agent-hunting is maybe not quite as terrible as job-hunting, but it’s close. I think I’ve been spoiled because I’ve never really had to do it before — I got my first agent through editing a book with Bob when he was still an editor, and I got Russ through an introduction from a fellow writer. I’ve never done a real agent search before. It sucks.

Anyway, to come back to the writing-in-many-genres thing — a lot of people would say to just pick one and stick to it, that it’s almost impossible for someone to do well in multiple genres.

But almost impossible isn’t the same as impossible, right? Iain Banks / Iain M. Banks published in both mainstream lit. and SF. Ursula K. Le Guin wrote SF/F, published as mainstream, and even did a lovely children’s book (Fish Soup) that I’m insanely fond of. Michael Chabon writes mainstream lit. and superhero stories and Frankenstein baseball. (Yes, I am aware that these people are exceptional. Sigh.)

I am *trying* to focus. I am. But sometimes my brain just spins out in other directions. On my good days, I’m hopeful that it all goes together in some sort of hodgepodge that I hope will work synergistically.

My work does center around certain things, no matter what genre it’s in: Sri Lanka, domesticity, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, immigrant / refugee / nationalist politics, polyamory, food, gardening. (A bit of climate change too, as it intersects with postcolonial concerns.)

I mean, that’s a weird mix, but it’s me, and I can hope that there’ll be *some* crossover in readership across genre borders. I think I don’t really have a choice about writing all of that, honestly — I can’t seem to stop working in multiple genres. Maybe someday it’ll all come together in a glorious explosion.

But right now, it makes agenting / marketing much harder than it would otherwise be. Sigh.

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ADD thoughts

You know, I was actually in many ways a terrible student. I was bright enough that I tested well on standardized tests, and engaged enough with literature that I aced essay writing classes, but even there, I usually wrote the papers the morning they were due, getting up at 4 a.m. to crank out a quick first draft and hand it in.
 
I didn’t learn how to actually study until my Ph.D. program in my 30s, and I remember looking sort of bewildered at my college roommates, how they would just sit on their beds and study. For hours. I didn’t get *how* they could make themselves do that. I mostly didn’t try.
 
I think I am slowly processing this diagnosis / understanding of how my brain works. I hadn’t really found my ADD upsetting before now, but last night, while talking to Kevin, I kind of lost it a little. Looking back at all those years of half-attention schooling, wondering what my education might have looked like if I’d been able to approach it fully equipped. Maybe I wouldn’t have flunked calculus freshman year. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me three tries to get into grad school. (I really am stubborn. A reasonable person would probably have given up.)
 
I spent so many years in temp secretarial jobs, and I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t doing better career-wise. Which, okay, maybe makes me a better teacher now, because I have a lot of empathy for my students who are struggling. But still — frustrating. Roads not taken. Lots of what-ifs.
 
Which are all kind of pointless to dwell on, I know, but maybe I need to sit with the frustration a little bit before I can manage to release it and move on. Going to start meditating again today, though, after a long hiatus. I think I need it.
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Christmas present

Kevin and I were going to try to do a monthly date night this year — it was part of my Christmas present to him, to spend more time together, just us — which doesn’t seem too much to ask, one night a month — but then I asked if we could push the one we’d scheduled for last week to this week because I was feeling so far behind that I was too stressed to take 3 hours off on a Friday night. He said sure.
 
So we pushed to today, planning to have my assistant come in late and stay and keep an eye on the kids while we were out, but then we realized that with me going out of town for a work weekend tomorrow and him with a late work thing on campus, it’d be better if my assistant came tomorrow so we’d have coverage of the kids from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m (not that they can’t manage on their own for a few afternoon hours at this point, but it still stresses us out a little (more him than me, but still)).
 
So we thought we’d just make the kids eat pizza upstairs tonight and we’d lie in bed and get fancy takeout and watch a rom-com and call that date night, but we’re both working at home today, so he suggested we could also go out and work at a cafe together the way we used to do when we were young and carefree and I said that’s great, but it’s cold and I don’t want to leave the house.
 
So we appear to have ended up with me setting a load of laundry going and pulling all my winter clothes out of storage (because I’m cold and don’t have enough warm clothes available in my closet) and him piling them in the library for me to sort through later. And then with him lying in bed doing serious math stuff, and me lying in bed next to him half-watching cooking shows (which he swears won’t disturb him) while posting research photos from the Sri Lanka trip I took without him.
 
And maybe we’ll order some takeout later, but I actually kind of wanted to try making a curry to go with the pongal I cooked on Tuesday, so maybe we won’t do the takeout thing at all….and this, this is why even a once-a-month date night is maybe not going to happen for us despite our best intentions.
 
Maybe in February.
 
I love you, sweetie. Best of husbands.
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ADD Meds Report

ADD meds report, about 3 months in:

So, I’ve been taking Vyvanse for a while now. I like it. I still find myself a little unsure of whether I ‘need’ it — various things I’d read said that the nice thing about ADD meds is that if you started taking them, you knew immediately if you needed them, and I don’t think that’s the case for me. Maybe I’m an edge case, or maybe I have developed good compensating skills in 47 years, or maybe I have the kind of job that lets me function productively despite the ADD, or all of the above — I’m not sure. I can certainly manage without them.

But I still like them. There are two distinct positive effects I can point to:

– about half an hour or so after I take them in the morning, I start feeling noticeably more relaxed. That surprised me, because my understanding is that what I’m taking is a form of ‘speed,’ which I’d expect to be the opposite of relaxing. My best guess, though, is that what the med does is reduce the stress of the cognitive load of distraction / switching attention. Because it makes that so much easier, the end result is that I feel less stressed. I hope I explained that clearly; it’s a little convoluted, but it feels right.

– when I start working on something that’s logistically complicated — a host of e-mails and FB messages and digital notes and paper notes all related to one project, which need to be sorted and assembled into some kind of coherence and then posted to a wide variety of places, keeping track of them all so I don’t duplicate or forget or put the wrong thing in the wrong place — it’s much easier. Before the meds, I found that kind of thing intensely stressful, and it would make me panicky (though I was reasonably good at shoving the panic down and getting through it somehow). Now, it’s straightforward — I just do it, and while it doesn’t make the work of it any less, the meds seem to remove an extra layer of franticness, which I think must come from the added difficulty of switching between many different types of input and output.

So that’s the good. Then there’s the ‘I don’t know yet,’ which is writing. Between everything else that’s going on, I haven’t actually done the kind of sustained novel-writing that I hoped the ADD meds would help me focus on. I haven’t even started, really. I’ve been finishing up Wild Cards and other smaller projects, and there were three international trips and Christmas and it’s easy to come up with reasons (excuses), but the end result is that I just don’t know yet how Vyvanse affects my novel writing. Hoping to change that in the next month; we’ll see. More on that anon.

What about the bad? Well, it’s not super-bad, but here’s a few more things I’ve noticed:

– if someone (usually Kevin) tries to talk to me when I’m deep in work mode, working a complex problem, I have a hard time pulling out of it to even speak to him, and I have to suppress a bit of crankiness about it. Mostly this isn’t a problem, as I try not to start on complex projects when I’m likely to be interrupted, and Kev and I both try hard not to interrupt each other during work time, but occasionally he needs to ask me something logistically important (like who’s picking up the kids, etc.). It’s a small, annoying thing.

– after about 8 hours, when the Vyvanse is wearing off, I’m definitely cranky, and try to avoid my family for 20-30 minutes until it wears off. I think that must be the return of the cognitive load, the stress of switching attention being hard. I’m trying harder to not work in the evenings, which is good for me overall anyway, and that does help.

The appetite suppressant effect is much less noticeable than it was when I started, by the way. I still don’t feel super hungry at lunchtime, but I’m not as likely to just forget to eat as I was originally, and what I eat at breakfast / dinner easily makes up any missing calories.

And that’s where we are. I like Vyvanse and plan to keep taking it.

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MPS 175

Last night I went to a reunion dinner for my high school, Miss Porter’s. My parents sent me to an all girls’ high school over my fierce objections — I wanted to go the local Catholic school with my friends. I think they sent me mostly because they were worried about me getting in trouble with boys at a co-ed school; they had gone to single sex schools in Sri Lanka. (They had no idea what was to come…)

In the end, they decided that Porter’s had actually made me too feminist and independent — tough on immigrant parents! But for me, it was one of the best experiences of my life; that all-girls’ environment made it possible for me to speak up in class when I got to college in a way I think I’d have had a lot more difficulty with otherwise. Porter’s really does train leaders, and I’m seriously thinking of taking Kavi back to CT next summer for their summer leadership institute (can also visit my parents in the process).

I’m probably not going to send her there for high school — we’d need serious scholarship help, for one, as it is not cheap; my parents could barely afford it back then, and I’m not a doctor and tuition has gone up! And right now, I can’t bear the thought of sending her away to boarding school. (I was a day student). And we moved here in part because our local public high school, OPRF, is really excellent.

But I had such a great experience there (once I got over the misery of being a weird brown girl who didn’t know what to wear and didn’t fit in at all — thank god for a Star Trek geek to bond with freshman year), that I still waver sometimes. And maybe Kavi and I will start fighting all the time once she’s a teen, and the distance would be a good thing? Two strong-willed women in the same house….

Well, we’ll see what the future brings. She’ll only 11. In the meantime, it was truly lovely to be reminded of all the sweetness of those days at MPS, and to get to know a few other alumnae a little better. Now I’m wishing I’d made the effort to go out for a few of the reunions.

Also, host Sophia du Brul fed us incredibly — awesomely garlicky edamame hummus, chicken marbella (which I haven’t had before, roasted with olives, capers, and prunes! yum yum yum) with couscous and roasted vegetables, followed by a limoncello tiramisu. Her table setting was also so ridiculously pretty (with daisy-embroidered napkins!) that I was just entranced.

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