I Just Love This

My Serendib & SLF staff are getting vaccinated, which means we can start having in-person meetings again. Darius and Emmanuel were able to come by for a few hours of work today:

– I made them move a dresser two flights of stairs (without warning them in advance, but they were cheerful about it) — we’ll use it to store packing supplies for Serendib in the basement
– I spent a while filling them in on some genre Hugo Award stuff + writer gossip, which is a conversation we probably wouldn’t have had in a Zoom meeting
– I think I may have talked Emmanuel into taking over administering the Fountain Award, so the SLF may be bringing it back next year
– they worked on computer stuff for a few hours, tossing questions around on occasion, sorting out things much faster than we could’ve online
– I didn’t have the energy to cook after staying up late with George last night, so I ordered pizza to feed us, and also sent them away with some leftover milk toffee and coconut rock,

…and I just love this.

It is SO MUCH BETTER having the option to meet in person on occasion; it’s just a different kind of conversation that happens.

I think we’re going to aim for once-a-week in-person meetings at the house going forward, with the rest remote…because remote is also very convenient, no commuting time, can put in laundry in between work tasks, etc. and so on.

I’m not sure what my ideal workplace would look like, but maybe in person 1-2 days of the week (for max 6-hr days, and definitely a meal with co-workers as part of that), and the rest remote? Hm….

Robot Dude

Okay, I know I was complaining last night about having an 8 p.m. meeting and a 7 a.m. meeting, but in fact, both meetings were great, and I would happily talk with the people on the calls for much longer, EVEN THOUGH I am very sick of Zoom generally.

I was just really exhausted yesterday, I think — spent most of the day working from bed, aside from one trip to the bank (finally managed to wire funds to the two SLF grant recipients in Nigeria, fingers crossed) and drugstore (hooray cancer-not-come-back-meds), and was still quite tired.

But I did watch movies 2 and 3 in the “To All the Boys” sequence while processing e-mails, and they were charming and delightful and wasn’t it nice to see all those Korean (and other POC) characters in lead roles?

Today is probably too scheduled to manage a midday nap — teach at 10 (structuralism!), teach at 12 (fiction workshop!), talk to a musician at 2 about composing something for the Portolan Project, attend department reading at 4. But I’m feeling reasonably energetic now, so I think I can make it through ’til 5, at least. May then fall down go boom. 🙂

If I *do* have the energy, my main other goal for today is to try to get the last few Valentine packages in the mail — I have to sew some masks for one of them.

And I’d like to start cooking for Vegan Serendib again — I picked up some pineapple yesterday, and am planning to make pineapple curry AND pineapple pickle. I have way more recipes planned that I actually have room for in the cookbook, I think, so at some point soon, we’ll have to do a winnowing. I bought three different brands of vegan yogurt yesterday, so am planning to do a taste-testing.

Oh, and I think my responses to the Activist Toolkit might be due today, and I have six more questions to answer. I guess that happens next.

I leave you with a little ‘robot dude’ that Kavi drew yesterday — I know what’s going on next year’s Valentine’s cards from Serendib House! I love him so much. I feel like he needs some kind of cute text to go with him, but am terrible at coming up with that kind of thing. Suggestions welcome. 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day!

In celebration, and to help us get through this cold, snowy February in Chicago, we’ve decided to do our FIRST EVER BIG SALE today at Serendib House — everything in the Serendib shop is 20% off!

That’s cookbooks, curry powder, other books (sci fi, lit fic, and romance), tea towels, masks, greeting cards, and more.

The site still has list prices on items, but you’ll see the 20% discount in your cart. Today and tomorrow only — enjoy!

The Dig

Watched “The Dig” on Netflix yesterday, and apparently watching a slow-paced, beautiful, WWII-is-imminent-let’s-meditate-on-death movie is enough to actually make me a little more patient about waiting my turn in the vaccine queue, waiting for the disease to be fought back enough that we can start relaxing strictures again.

We’re still living through a global disaster. Hopefully, many of us can come out the other side in not too much longer, returning to something approaching normalcy, but it was never going to be a fast fix. And even when we do, many of us will still have grieving to do. I’ve been very lucky, not to lose anyone to COVID yet. I know quite a few people who have lost friends and family.

Last March, knowing what I knew then, I said we were going to lose a year to this. I have to keep reminding myself of that. A year at least, and a slow, measured recovery afterwards.

Careful, judicious steps, erring on the side of caution. We’ve lost too many already.

Last Day for Valentine’s Shipping

Quick reminder that today is the last day to order from me for Valentine’s shipping. I’ll keep taking orders until supplies run out, but can’t guarantee shipped sweets will arrive in time after today’s orders. Link here.

Plan for today:
• 10 a.m. meet with student
• finish sending out assignments for my students for the week (one class done, one to go)
• make passionfruit gummies (try not to eat them all while making)
• finish game writing assignment due today
• sew 5 mask orders and send them out
• start sweet pea seeds
• pot up some succulents
• take cuttings from plants in office
• spend a few hours in front of the TV and try drafting something for the next Spoonflower challenge, “Year of the Ox” — I think most designers will be trying to design something Chinese-inspired, but I’m going in a different direction, I think — maybe a toile?

• start work on another “Jump Space” story — not sure which one. “Skin Deep” probably, which I’m hoping only needs a revision pass to finally pull it together. Although there’s the temptation to go back to something I just have a bit of (like “Warrior”) and dive into drafting — that probably should wait for a more open day, though, where I can set aside 4-5 hours.

Should be a pleasant day. I haven’t done any sewing or drawing in at least a week, I think, with the confections kind of taking over the kitchen, so this will be a nice change. 🙂

Excerpt from “Warrior” (right now, all I have is this bit and some notes on plot):

*****

The gun is out, pointing at her.

“Father Patrick, if you had a problem with how I dusted the altar today, you could have just told me.” Her voice level, with the tension running like a taut cord beneath it. He lowers the gun, starting to laugh, and she joins him, both of them hysterical.

“You should get rid of that thing.”

“I know.” But later, he puts it back under his pillow. It is the only way he can get to sleep.

*****

Maram Magazine

I think we’ve settled on Maram Magazine as the name for the ‘making’ magazine I’m hoping to start. It will be a joint venture of Serendib Press and the Speculative Literature Foundation, which has recently redefined its mission somewhat, to a literature AND arts focus. (That gives us more leeway to do all kinds of things.)

Organizationally, I’m thinking of it as:

• SLF –> Portolan Project –> Maram Makerspace –> Maram Magazine

• Serendib House –> Serendib Press –> Maram Magazine

It may take us a while to go to full on ‘magazine,’ and whenever we start taking in money, we’ll need to sort out which parts of the project are non-profit and which are for-profit. But I realized last week that we can get started pretty quick, with a website and blogging. I’m envisioning something like columns for:

– writing
– cooking
– gardening
– textiles
– tech fun

– etc.

And then 3-5 bloggers in each category, to start. Unpaid, but you’re welcome to copy over pieces you’re blogging on your own site or elsewhere, and you get to promote your own stuff (in your bio). If you’re interested in blogging for this, and can commit to at least one post / week, comment below? I’ll ask to see a writing sample (a blog post is fine, doesn’t need to be published), so be prepared to e-mail that to me. I’d like a mix of local-to-me and based-elsewhere folks. International would be very cool.

ALSO, if you’re interested in helping with behind-the-scenes project organization (dreams of being a magazine editor?), no pay now, but quite possibly down the line, let me know that too. (Can be simultaneous with blogging for it, or not.) For that, you’d need to be willing to join the organizers on Slack (it’s easy to use).

We’ll also likely be teaching classes along with this (virtual for now, but in-person as well, eventually). In-person would be near me, if we manage to actually open Maram Makerspace. We were ABOUT to put down money last March on a space, with the plan to start holding classes by June, but then, well.

A Weird Work Day

Having a weird work day so far — I stayed up working ’til close to 2 a.m. last night, and then couldn’t sleep for some time thereafter, so I ended up oversleeping and missing my 10 a.m. budget meeting, gah. Having a hard time focusing on getting back to work now too — the Inauguration is just sort of hanging there, mid-week, lurking at me.

Okay, there are few thing I really do need to do. Maybe a shower will help wake me up. Plan:

– apologize and reschedule budget meeting for next week (DONE)
– shower and dress
– record and upload teaching videos for ENG 240 for this week
– send assignments for ENG 491 for this week, including sign-up form for critiques
– record and upload teaching videos for ENG 491 for this week
– go to bank to deposit check
– wire transfer funds to SLF grant recipient
– read and critique story for Emmanuel

– start filling out campaign website

That’s all the MUST DO stuff for today, I think. I’m going to refrain for putting anything else on the list for now, and try to power through these.

In Theory, but in Practice

In theory, I’m co-writing right now, but in practice, I’m dealing with e-mails, and that’s fine, that needs to be done too. I’m still hoping to get to some writing today — I’d ideally like to knock off the revisions on “Hush” and send it off to Jed for the Jump Space anthology.

*****

Other things I’ve worked on so far:

• packed up some mango-passionfruit curd and mango-ginger cream scones for a friend (recipes later today, probably)

• sorted out some more financial stuff for the SLF (we’re trying to send grant money to a writer in Nigeria, and it’s more complicated than you would think because of various legal aspects, but I think Western Union is going to take care of it

• started thinking about what should go on my D200 school board candidate website

• written to a bookkeeper and a graphics person to see if they’re available to do some work for the campaign

• checked on when you’ll be able to pre-order the anthology my BLM / pandemic story will be in (soon!)

*****

Not a bad start for a Saturday morning. Plans for the rest of the day after co-writing:

• spend one hour with the family on straightening up the second floor

• see if I can talk anyone into playing a new board game with me

• write to people to see if any of them are willing to be Zoom-recorded doing a “Jump Space: Event Planners!” RPG play through, so we can show people what this kind of thing looks like (if this might be you, let me know! I’d be happy to run a few games of this — no RPG experienced needed, but it’s a 3 hr commitment)

• do my laundry

• post recipes

• try making a new recipe for Vegan Serendib (yes, we’re finally back to recipe-testing, woot!)

• work on some art with Kavi

• keep reading a Courtney Milan romance

Nice Saturday!

Writer Life Finance Thoughts

Would love your input on some questions at the end of this.

My Patreon is almost at $500 / month right now, which is great, because it’s a very steady source of income. My secret goal in the next year (I guess not so secret) is to get it to $1500 / month, at which point, it’ll be enough to replace one of my classes.

My department chair is looking into whether in 2022-2023, I can drop down to 3 classes / year instead of 4, which would open up a lot more time for writing books; I would really love that. Teaching is great, but it’s also endless — there are always more students you could be teaching. There are only so many books you’ll get a chance to write. But we really do need my income to pay the bills. So all of this is in aid of making that happen.

I’ve had a lot of fun making items for Patreon this year, but I do think I need to think a little more carefully about how I do it in 2021. Production capacity is a real issue — they just take a lot of time, making everything by hand, and while I want to do that while I’m developing items, it doesn’t scale well for just me when I’m shipping them to a lot of people (and even 25-50 is a lot, in this case).

I start losing too much time from writing, is the big problem — even this week, I’ve had to take a few extensions on George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards story (which pays quite well), in order to get the boxes put together and shipped. When I’m writing on a contract these days, I’m usually making something between $50 – $100 / hr (mostly depending on how much rewriting the thing needs). So it makes sense to hire out as much work as I can at $25 / hr.

Part of the issue right now is the pandemic — I couldn’t have Emmanuel Henderson and Stephanie Bailey over here helping with packing and shipping, which would have saved some significant time. I don’t *think* it would’ve made sense to have them swing by, pick things up, take them home, and wrap / ship from there — although I’m not quite positive of that.

But I do think that the bath products at least, we’re going to try having Stephanie help with production. She likes making them, she’s good at it, and I can still have the fun of coming up with scent / color / mold combos. (I’m planning to experiment next week during holiday down time on the unicorn garden theme, and that part will be much fun.) I’m also loving the pattern design, so more of that, which I think is going to find its way onto stationery more as well as fabric. Little notebooks for writers, perhaps? Stay tuned.

We’re also going to start thinking about sweets production, although that’s a little more complicated, as it requires getting appropriate licenses / training for everyone who’ll have their hands on the food, and possibly renting space in a commercial kitchen — that may have to wait until summer to sort out. The summer box is also kind of light on food stuff anyway, since a lot of food treats don’t ship well in heat. So really, maybe we aim for September or even December on that?

But in general, I’d like to come up with something for Patreon that’s more scalable, which means digital rather than physical rewards. I had planned to write stories for it, or release RPGs, and somehow neither of those quite happened this year. Need to reprioritize a little bit around that, because while the treat boxes are great, I think I need to add a digital-only subscription option too. (Stephanie, maybe we should sit down in January and make a bit of a plan on this?)

All of which raises the question of what to put in the digital tiers, so this is where I could use some advice / thoughts / requests? If I were sending you something digital monthly (say, $5 / month) or quarterly ($12 / quarter), what would you like to see from me? Here are some possibilities:

– poetry
– short stories in progress
– novels in progress
– RPGs (probably my Jump Space universe; I’m thinking of writing up various modules for the game I drafted this year)
– food essay drafts
– garden essay drafts
– Serendib House magazine pieces?
– SF writing / teaching modules — craft exercises, links to interviews, etc.

– garden photos (which also opens up the possibility of themed tiers, like a garden tier, which had garden photos, essays, poetry)

These are all things I’m planning on working on anyway in 2021, but if there’s something that people would particularly like to see, now is your chance to holler for it to jump to the head of the queue. 🙂

The big plus side for me in sending out drafts this way, of course, is that it also motivates me to actually, you know, draft things. And once drafted, it’s usually not that far to a finished project, ready to send out to editors (or release myself). Efficient!

Thoughts welcome!

(Photo is of my jasmine, which has decided to bloom like crazy right now. I can never predict when it’s going to bloom, but I’m always delighted when it does. The living room smells incredible.)