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.

Fun with Lighting Kit

This was fun — I ordered a lighting kit a while back because I had started getting really frustrated by how hard it was to light food photos well sometimes. I mean, some days I can go outside for natural light, or to a window, but sometimes it’s night when I’m cooking, etc. and so on.

I’m reading a book on lighting food photos, and he suggests that even using white card stock can help to bounce light helpfully, but I thought umbrella lights would likely work much better than me trying to balance pieces of card stock. So I ordered this kit months ago, and finally set it up today, and used it to take photos of mask fabrics. Helpful!

My tentative plan is that if we manage to get the makerspace up and running, that I’ll loan this out through there, so that members can borrow a light kit to take home, or anyone can walk in (on our free walk-in days) to use it on-site. I also have neon green fabric, and am planning to get a bar to go across the top of the stands, so we’ll have a green screen for Zoom calls or making videos or whatever.

It’s honestly a little hard to imagine the makerspace being open and ready for use anytime soon, but maybe with restrictions being lifted, it’s not unreasonable to think that we might be able to find some way of using the space without congregating.

Maybe a limited set of members who clock in and out individually, using it as a workspace away from kids, wiping down everything they use? I’m not sure when that will be feasible, but surely someday. Can’t hurt to start planning for it now, I think.

Tiffani Smith of Sanofka Arts

This was an artist I met in Columbus, Tiffani Smith of Sankofa Arts, who rents space for her studio in Scott Woods‘s shared art space, the Streetlight Guild. She kindly gave me permission to take some inspiration photos (for Maram Makerspace, perhaps, one day).

I love it when artists can come and work together; we were having a writing conference, and she was hammering away in her studio upstairs. Love it (and love that dinnerware and those pens!). The pieces on the wall are tremendously moving.

Please note bitter-sharp pricing on liquor!


Game design, week 4

Game design week 4 — we’re finishing up our role-playing game unit. This week, we showed the students how one kid’s rough pencil sketch could be transformed (by his big sister), into a nice clean illustration. We also looked at classic dungeon map design, using graph paper and a dry-erase mat to experiment with some options.

The kids should have all come home with a pad of graph paper this week, along with a few instruction sheets from Hero Kids, talking through different elements of their dungeons, such as branching paths, traps, and secrets.

The kids spent half the class developing their own maps further, adding exciting illustrations, creative ideas (pit of bees!), or color. Then we did some very rapid-fire game playing, adding a few little mini monster figures for some extra fun. Although again, you don’t really need any of that — your imagination and a die is all you need to play a role-playing game.

We didn’t get through quite all the maps, so we’ll finish those up next week, and then we’re going to try designing some Pokemon characters!

Nice little Maram workshops yesterday

Nice little Maram workshops + writing coaching yesterday, and Oak Park Works was a great spot for them. Warm, clean, brightly-lit and welcoming — locals, if you’re looking for co-working space, or event-hosting space, definitely check them out! I ran a little publishing workshop, helping writers understand the current indie/trad publishing scene, what their options were, and what would be involved with various approaches. We talked for two solid hours, and I think it went pretty well and was helpful to them.

Then I did some writing coaching, meeting with someone who is thinking about an MFA, looking over her submission story for some developmental edits, but mostly just talking through where she is in her writing right now, and what good next steps would be for her. It went really well, I think.

I don’t want to set up a full-time writing coach business or anything like that, but at least in the future, when doing writing workshops, I’ll try to append this kind of thing when possible. It’s satisfying — feels like my 25+ years in this field are actually offering useful perspectives. 

I’ll be back at Oak Park Works this evening at 6 p.m. with a free How to Write a Cookbook Workshop. Register at the link below if you’d like to join us! (And if you need to come in a bit late, that’s fine — I know 6 can be tricky with people’s commutes.) I’ll have copies of Feast with me, if anyone wants to pick up an early Kickstarter edition of the cookbook. If you can’t make tonight, there’s another one there, Sat. the 26th @ noon.


Central themes for Maram

Thinking about how we’re describing our central themes for Maram right now — I’ve been using futurist, heritage / culture, and sustainability. But in a lot of ways, I really think it all falls under tech, just not in ways people are used to thinking about tech. ‘Tech’ as ‘application of complex, structured skills’?

Tech (futurist): 3D printing, wearable electronics

Tech (heritage): sashiko embroidery, stranded knitting, sourdough bread-making, beer-making, ethnic heritage cuisines

Tech (sustainable): worm composting, decorative mending

And I really want to keep interrogating that, especially given the gender divisions that people keep wanting to reinforce, where some types of tech get coded male, and some get coded female.

I swear, sometimes I want to start a men’s textile arts group, just to start pushing back against this. Maybe I can hold a free ‘learn to crochet class’ for men in our community. Or ‘learn to sew on a damned button.’

Would anyone come? Model this kind of knowledge and skill for your sons, dads! Let your daughters see you with a needle in that big, manly hand.

Last Saturday’s Tea and Textiles

Last Saturday’s Tea and Textiles. Arya (kitten) helped teach Pat the basics of crochet — we got the chain stitch down, I think, and made good progress on single crochet, although why, oh why, is the first row also the hardest one to do? Seems unfair to beginners.



I added some stitches to my dress pockets that otherwise had a tendency to drop phones out of them; I should’ve chosen a darker blue thread, clearly, but I was too lazy to go back downstairs and hunt for it in the chaos that is my basement at the moment. Task for this week — straighten up the basement! But it’s okay; I doubt anyone will be peering too closely at the stitching on my pocketses…

I also managed to get the stitches back on the needles after some terrible person [cough, ANAND] pulled two needles out of them at some point, probably somewhat aimlessly while watching a tv show.

I knit another row, and was feeling quite proud of myself for finally picking up this project again after many months, until I looked at it more closely and realized that I definitely have a noticeable error about six rows back. Am I willing to tink it back that far in order to fix it? GAH. I think so, because this is my first time designing something, and I want it to be done right, but I may need more tea for fortitude before attempting it. (Also have tons of computer work to do this morning, and meetings, and annoying errands in the afternoon, so it’s not going to happen soon. Maybe this evening, though.)

(‘Tink’ is the word for un-knitting; it’s knit backwards, because knitters are cute that way. What’s less cute is that it’s just as much work as the actual knitting. Sigh.)


Next Tea and Textiles will be Sat July 7 link in comments!

(I think I’m remembering the names right — Jackie and Pat? I am so very terrible with names…)