(Meta note: I mostly try to copy at least the most significant posts over from Facebook to here, but if it’s not clear, I’m mostly living my digital life on Facebook these days, and I just don’t have the time to copy all of the posts over. So if you want to see all the Paris photos from the last few days, or the Mexico photos from last week with the family, etc., please do head over to my FB page. Sorry!)
I know you just want to see more of my Paris photos (gargoyles are coming! lots of gargoyles!) — but I need to wind down a little mentally first. I’m once again in this weird place where I’m having a very hard time deciding what I should work on.
– This weekend at Plurality U sparked a host of new ideas for projects, but none of them are my own fiction.
– Walking around Paris for a day actually did spark several good ideas for my own fiction.
– Spending a little time in the governance track at the U today reminded me that by now, I have a fairly developed skill set for governance, and I really would like this Plural U project to succeed, but getting involved with that aspect would take precious time. Maybe I can give them a year (by which I just mean a few meetings over the course of the year, hopefully, not an actual year of work) on the governance thing, just to help it start on the right foot? (How many boards can you sit on, Mary Anne? Be realistic here. No, really. I said REALISTIC.)
– I spent a little time just now reading about the current competitive field of trustees for the next Oak Park election (9 people running so far for 3 slots, and I know of at least 1 more), and while I’m not running this time around, it means that there’s a good chance that if I run in two years as planned, for trustee or village president, there will likely be serious competition necessitating a time-consuming campaign. I don’t have to run — but I am worried about most of the current slate of candidates, many of whom are clearly running on platforms that I do not support. There are 52,000 people living in Oak Park who depend on good governance, even if they’re mostly just living their lives and not paying attention to the decisions that are being made in the room…
I don’t expect you folks to give me any answers here. Just…feeling painfully torn.
This may be kind of the perpetual state from here to the end of my life?
Mortality, it is not very convenient when you have a lot of stuff you really want to get done. Is it time to start training my replacements yet? Training takes time too, but I will have to pass the torch eventually…
(Feeling so grateful to all the people who took over Strange Horizons after me and ran it so beautifully. Susan Groppi, Niall Harrison, Jane Crowley, Kate Dollarhyde, and all the rest of the staff over the last two decades — thank you thank you thank you for not dropping the baby.)
(This is the last conference photo, as Tomo Kihara and I walked to our Uber back to the hotel.)
“The noise at O’Hare is a dull roar of voices, rising and falling, dissolving into chaos. We must almost shout to hear each other, packed into long lines that press against each other, sticky in the June heat, waiting to get into the building.
My mother frowns, raising a folded newspaper over her head to block the relentless sun. “Keep Raj inside. You know how dark he gets at the end of the summer. He looks like such a blackie – he won’t be safe.”
“I know, Amma.” I wince to hear her use that term, but my mother is an old woman, and there’s only so much you can expect of her. And she’s not wrong – since the latest growth spurt, Raj could easily be mistaken for a young black man. Especially at night, should he venture into the wrong part of town. Lately, it seems like everywhere is the wrong part of town; John and I have started making Raj come straight home from school. It feels like we’re stealing away his childhood, what’s left of it.”
It was a very, very long week. Almost everything in it was good, but there was just too much of it. Today, I had just two meetings (both good), and planned to spend the rest of the day puttering. Then Kev reminded me that we needed to go look at cars, ugh, so we went. I know some people love shopping for cars, but that is not me — I just want a car that reliably works, that can safely haul all my stuff, and that I don’t have to think about.
It needed to be done, so I went, and then thankfully came home to watch dumb yet delightful holiday movies (currently The Princess Switch, which has no surprises in it whatsoever) and putter in the kitchen. Making soaps and sweets is all I want to do right now. I also have to do some e-mail, I’m afraid, but mostly, this weekend I am immersing myself in making little lovely things to sell at Pem Hessing‘s Colorful Holiday event coming up in a few weeks.
Pictured below, avocado-mint garden scrub. Coming soon, fairies trapped in sparkling crystal. Oh no! Who will release them? Kids, you better take your baths tonight…
We had a meeting last night about the makerspace, etc. project, and mostly determined that we should focus our Big Idea grant proposal on the makerspace piece. If that happens in isolation, great — if we can raise enough funds to do a bigger space with co-working, cafe + shop, artist studios, residency program, low-income artist housing, etc., also great. I need to put together a list of places we’ll be applying to for grants (could use help with that!) Good progress.
Most of the last few weeks has been heavily scheduled with meetings as I try to get feedback, collaborative vision, buy-in from lots of local folk — people in government, housing, arts, business, etc. There’s going to be lots more of that! Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to has been supportive of the idea, and most have been genuinely excited by it! It’s the sort of thing where you look at it and say, “I can’t believe we don’t have this already!”
Two of our people have now taken the proposal to try to turn my wordiness into two tight opening paragraphs. I am terrible at boiling things down to sound-bites, elevator pitches, and even concise paragraphs. I just want to put in more words. Brutal concision is not my strength, and I’m grateful that they’re taking a stab at it.
They’ll give it back in a week, and then I’ll try to draft answers to the rest of the proposal questions, and then we’ll meet again to review that draft and fine-tune it. I need to start collecting supplemental materials too — a list of other makerspaces, photos of great makerspaces we can compare to, for example.
I’m spending time in upcoming weeks touring possible rental spaces, hoping to find someone willing to donate space or at least let us use it at significantly below-market rates for a while. We could do a month-to-month lease to get the project off the ground. (If this is maybe you, get in touch, please!)
Ideally, our main space down the line would be big, near transit, and near both Austin / Berwyn (so Arts District or near Oak Park and Harrison would be ideal). But a big space may be years off, and in the meantime, we could put a makerspace in something as small as 300 sq. ft. — though definitely having more like 900-1200 would be better, letting us fit in lounge and classroom / meeting space as well, plus a coffee station!
I’m having a budget meeting today with a finance person who will help me start drafting a spreadsheet (volunteering his time, so kind). Space rental, tool purchase, furniture and supplies, insurance, permits and fees, and if we have some money left over for staffing, that’d be good, but initially, I suspect we’ll be relying on volunteers (working in the space) to keep the doors open.
We’re going to aim for being financially self-reliant through class tuition, memberships, and space rental in off hours, with fundraising to help us lower costs as much as possible — making everything sliding-scale, and offering free scholarships. We’re also going to have one day / week open for walk-in free making — the Chicago Public library does Wednesday 1-8, which sounds like a good possibility, though Saturday might also be good.
If you’re in the Oak Park area, an artist or educator or just someone who thinks we should have a place where we can introduce people to all kinds of making in a fun, low-cost environment, and want to be involved in the project in some way (planning, volunteering, donating, teaching), please do get in touch! We will need lots of help getting this off the ground.
Things are progressing. It’s exciting to see this taking shape!!!
(I borrowed the graphic from the NUSD Makerspace task force — isn’t it charming? We may need to make our own version.)
Got in to World Fantasy around 9:30 last night, held at a waterfront hotel in Baltimore. I actually managed to make it to the tail end of the panel I’d been scheduled on (and then taken off, because I didn’t think I’d make it in time), so that’s 15 minutes of hopefully usefulness to the community? I don’t know.
Amusingly, someone in the audience actually brought up Earthsea, so I got to talk about the Tor.com piece I published yesterday, which I actually like more now than I did when I wrote it. I think you could even get something out of it if you’d never read Earthsea, or even Le Guin. It ended up as hopefully something of an antidote to these trying times. Or maybe a prescription.
I also had a very interesting conversation with a publisher — I think I know where I’m sending the revision of Flight now, which is exciting. It’s going to end up around 50K, I think, which is an awkward length, and I wasn’t sure where to place it, but now I think I have a possible home — they’d consider it a novel and bring it out as a book, which I think is right for it. I’d actually love to have it at this house; fingers crossed, and toes too.
I’m hoping I can talk a few friends into reading it first, because while it’s pretty solid at this point, I really want it to be the best it can be before it goes out. I also think I need to work through, emotionally, the fact that I’m probably never going to come out with a ‘debut novel’ that makes a big splash. It’s a writer’s dream, but I’m not sure it’s going to be my path.
Bodies in Motion was linked stories, and so was The Stars Change, and maybe I’m just not built for writing big, fat Great American novels. Or maybe Flight will actually be that great debut novel, despite being slim, and more of an intimate family story than anything world-changing. Well, we’ll see. It is what it is, and when I tried to force it to have a bigger scope, that didn’t work at all.
Other than that, last night was just chatting with old friends and meeting new people for a few hours in the bar / lounge. It’s on the 5th floor at this hotel, which is taking me a little while to get used to. I can see why they did it this way, because it means you get beautiful views of the harbor from the restaurant.
This is a very pleasant place to grab a morning cup of coffee with an old friend, C.c. Finlay, editor of The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy — it’s a magazine I have yet to crack, but I’m coming for you, Charlie! I’m going to write you a story that you *have* to publish, because it’s just that good.
Now I’ve retired to my own table, to consume one of my crabby eggs benedict (so much food — will have to find someone to feed the other one to — maybe I can talk my roommate, Angeli, into it), and then settle down to two hours powering through e-mail.
Ah, the excitement of the writer’s life. It’s pretty exciting, actually. Or at least satisfying, pleasurable, interesting — I feel lucky.
One of the issues I’ve focused on as a library board trustee is looking at how our library approaches diversity. As a queer brown woman, I have to think that part of why I was elected was because my constituents wanted me to be paying attention to that issue.
Last night as part of the board packet, there was a detailed report on diversity initiatives from various of our librarians, addressing different aspects of the issue. Generally, I think our librarians are doing a pretty stellar job of working on this problem, and could serve as a model for other institutions.
But I’m mostly writing here because I wanted to take a moment to point out just how difficult a problem it is, and how, despite years of effort on our librarians’ part, our collection of books, in particular, still skews very white. That is entirely because American publishing still skews very white — the vast majority of books published, including children’s books, still feature white protagonists.
Our librarians try to balance the general audience’s desire for popular books (which is influenced / limited by what major publishers actually put out, what readers see on the bookstore shelves, or at their friends’ houses, or reviewed in major news sources), with the librarians’ own attempts at increasing diverse representation.
(A tremendous tool for librarians in the latter efforts, by the way, are the various blogs and booklists maintained by various communities and reviewers of color, so keep that up, people, please! It’s made it much easier for our librarians to find brilliant, fabulous #ownvoices titles, often from small presses that would otherwise fly under the radar.)
But we’re still quite far from even reflecting the community around us in Oak Park (which is currently around 68% white). Our librarians are going to keep working the problem, and they’re making improvements every week. To really fix it, though, we need big changes in publishing.
Publishers, editors — get on that, please. I know I’m preaching to the choir a bit here, for the publishing folks I’m friends with, who are likely to see this, but maybe this will add a note of urgency to your efforts.
We can’t read the books that show our diverse world in its complex truth if those books aren’t even being published. Our kids can’t read them either.