The Portolan Project Moving Forward

I’ve written to a possible donor about funding for the SLF that might allow me to put off doing a Portolan Project Kickstarter for a few months, which would be great; I could just focus on producing good work, rather than taking out time to raise money — it’d also mean that we would have a more complete project to show as part of the Kickstarter, so people really understood what we were asking them to fund.

I’ve also written to one of the writers we interviewed, to start the process of creating materials to supplement the teaching videos.

What I’m hoping to do is attach little assignments to each teaching video. I can write them, but if the writer wanted to contribute something, we’d love to have it from them. So

for example, to accompany the interview we did with George R.R. Martin, I’d love to present:


George R.R. Martin on writing epic fantasy: [15-20 minute audio embedded on the page]

George recommends: [3-5 texts that are relevant]

George suggests you try this: [writing prompt(s)]


I’m trying to balance this in various ways. For one, the page itself, I’d like to be welcoming and non-intimidating. This isn’t where we’re going to get three pages of Delany essay — not for the first round assignments, anyway. 

That works on the teaching side too — if I keep what I ask of the writer very simple and brief, then hopefully it doesn’t feel so onerous that they would need to be paid to do it.

There’s a tricky line here, because on the one hand, I think teachers should be paid for their labor, obviously. I don’t want to undercut the work that teachers put in creating serious lesson plans and designing courses.

But on the other hand, if I have to spend a lot of time fundraising to pay for instructional labor, this project will honestly not be in my capacity, or the SLF’s capacity this year. (I am trying to be much more careful about capacity these days, so I don’t overcommit and run myself into the ground.)

So I’m going for a sort of middle ground, where I ask the writers if they’d like to contribute something small and relatively easy, it’s entirely up to them, I fill in where they’re not interested, and that will hopefully let us get up at least a dozen videos and instruction pages by the end of the summer. (My actual stretch goal is 3 dozen finished by the end of the summer, to set up for a fall Kickstarter — we’ll see.)

And then if all that goes well, then I can build in fundraising that will let us actually pay at least a small honorarium for that work of creating instructional materials going forward. This is the proof-of-concept phase.  I’d like to pay people for the interview itself as well — it takes time from them, and that time should be compensated if possible.

We’ll see how it goes, and if people actually find this useful!

(Am I completely off-base, thinking the world could really use better free instruction on how to write fiction and create interesting stories? I guess we’ll find out…)

Photo of George form our interview in Dublin — I wish I’d been set up to do video as well as audio. Oh well. I’ll make him talk to me again sometime. 

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