Mary Anne Mohanraj

An Ongoing, Erratic Diary

10 December 2010, 9:27 AM
 
  I could use some SLF brainstorming help -- I have three big questions for you.

So here's the thing. I founded the Speculative Literature Foundation in 2004, and wanted it to be a non-profit arts organization for the field, to offer grants and awards, to train writers in applying for arts grants, to be a resource for readers and editors and teachers. Like the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts), but focused on speculative fiction.

We did some cool things along those lines, and we're still doing some of them (the Gulliver Travel Grant, the Older Writers' Grant). We're also planning on new ones (contributing funding and publicity for the new Translation Award.) Other projects are either on hiatus (the Fountain Award, the Mentor Program) or effectively moribund (the Small Press Co-op), and we need to decide whether it makes sense to revive them.

Now that I'm finally sleeping eight hours most nights again (HOORAY!!!), and the house renovation actually has an end in sight, I'd like to get the SLF back on track. My family is done with the babies, and with moving come March, so barring unexpected life occurrences, I actually project a fairly calm future for the next several years. It's a good time to put some more energy into the SLF, giving some time back to a community I love. Also, working on it makes me really happy. Okay. Then the question is -- what exactly should the SLF do?

I have some ideas. But I think maybe I should stop trying to just generate projects myself (or with the help of a few brave volunteers), and throw this question out to the community, since we're trying to be a community arts organization. What could the SF/F community use at this point, in terms of grants / awards / services? What do the writers / editors / artists / readers / teachers need? Any suggestions?

That's actually Question 1.

Question 2 is about publicity. I was thinking that whatever the SLF does, we need to be better about publicizing it. And part of that would ideally be having a vibrant site that served as a community hub. A cool place to hang out. Since we're a non-profit, it'd be ideal for us to do that -- we don't have any financial motivations that might potentially conflict (publicizing a particular magazine or press or author's books, for example). So then the question is, how do we become one of your go-to sites for SF/F stuff? The sort of place you check in every week, or even better, every day? What would bring you back? (I wish I could just serve everyone tea and samosas. Sigh. But maybe giveaways?)

And I guess that leads to Question 3. One publicity option is a group blog. But more than that -- a community blog. Specifically, one with a new post, and a new writer, every single day. We'd sign up members of the community in advance to write posts -- and not just writers. Readers too, and editors, and artists, and teachers, and publishers, and hey, filkers and whomever else. And it'd be okay (even encouraged) to publicize your own work as part of your post, but your post shouldn't be just an ad. It should be more like a little mini-essay, say 250-1000 words, on a topic of your choice. Sort of like the Strange Horizons articles, but more informal. Unedited by us -- you write what you want to write.

Although perhaps we should have a filter; someone who managed the blog, just to knock out any pieces that were clearly inappropriate? Completely off-topic to speculative fiction, or pure advertising, etc. Do you think that's important? And if we had that person, they could also manage it so that we were always running a week or so ahead in terms of backlogged material, just in case someone got sick or otherwise couldn't post when they were scheduled to? And I suppose we need someone to actually sign up and schedule bloggers, even if we're going to be very open about who gets to participate. So I guess we need a Blog Wrangler if we do this, or possibly a team of them.

I'm imagining blog posts sort of like this:

  • Ben Rosenbaum riffing on Judaism and science fiction and parenting
  • Jed Hartman talking about balancing writing and editing for Strange Horizons :-)
  • Kat Beyer talking about some aspect of illustration work (the materials she uses, the topics she focuses on, selling her work, etc.)
  • Debbie Notkin talking about gender / race / class politics at SF conventions, especially WisCon
  • Avid reader Joe Smith giving us a list of 50 must-read YA fantasy novels
  • Fanfic writer Jane Smith talking about the latest developments in the Buffy/Willow slash universe (assuming there is such a thing. Surely there is?).
Ideally managed in such a way that there's a good variety of topics and bloggers. And each piece would end with a little bio and/or link to their web page, in case you wanted more.

I think that would be kind of fun, and something I'd like to stop in at every morning. What do you think?

Recap:

Question 1: What programs would you like to see the SLF running?

Question 2: How do you think we should publicize ourselves?

Question 3: What do you think of the managed community blog idea? Would you read it? Any suggestions?

THANKS!!!

 

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