Email to staffers on remote communication

This is the e-mail I just sent my non-profit & small press teams, sharing in case it’s helpful as a model (and as always, if you’d like to come volunteer with the SLF, we’d love to have you — we’re trying to get organized to better put people on projects now):

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Hey, everyone. Sorry I didn’t write more coherently sooner — I really was very exhausted coming back from travel this weekend, short on sleep, and I think the ambient stress is getting to me a bit too. I’m going to try to be in better communication going forward, and I’m going to ask you to do the same. I know e-mail isn’t necessarily the best mode for everyone; we’re going to try a few different remote tools (see below), and see what works.

Thank you for being flexible — hopefully at the end of this process, we’re all going to be a lot more comfortable on remote tools! (Some of you may already be very adept at them, which is great — we’ll rely on you for help and advice!)

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Serendib Press: Stephanie, you’ll be in charge of getting Heather, Darius, Emmanuel, Julia, and Mizan up to speed on the tech. I’ll help. 

SLF Management Team: Karen and Carly, I’ll need you to get up to speed, and get the interns (Julia, Emmanuel, and Darius) and ideally Mizan too, if he has time, up to speed this week. (Stephanie will be working with some of the same people, but a little duplication and practice won’t hurt.)

SLF Chicago Chapter: Chris, if you can work on this with Dain and Jeremy, that’d be great. Even if you’re comfortable with the three of you working elsewhere, I’d like to make sure you can join the rest of us on these tools.

SLF Maram: Carollina, Pamela, Pam, Kurt, Amanda, if Maram starts actually doing stuff, which it may soon, with UPG at least, then this will be relevant to y’all soon. So if you can join us and try out the tech this week, that’d be great, though not as urgent. I plan to write to you all in more detail shortly.

SLF Portolan: Niall, Gary, Farah, Dale — we’re just starting this, of course, but if you can take some time to try out the tech, it’ll only help. I plan to write to you all in more detail shortly. (Matthew, this is mostly FYI; we’re not planning to keep bugging you on this going forward.)

SLF Bookkeeeping, Tech and Publicity: Kirsten, Gregory, Kaolin, Jed, Ellen, and Irene — I’m not expecting much of the rest to be relevant to you, but wanted you to be informed, and if you do want to join us on the remote systems, you’d be very welcome.

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GOING REMOTE: While we can all just work on our own in theory, in practice, in-person work tends to be much more effective for getting things actually done — it helps keep everyone on track and accountable. But it seems irresponsible to gather people together without real need right now, so I’m going to ask that we start to avoid larger gatherings for the SLF or Serendib Press until you hear otherwise.

The last actual event the SLF is hosting is this Saturday’s Deep Dish; we’re going to go on hiatus for the reading series for a few months after that (we may try to organize a virtual reading of some kind for those spring dates? Chris, I’ll look to you to take the lead on that, maybe with the rest of the Chicago chapter team — brainstorm and see what you come up with. At the same time everywhere in the world, SF/F writers post little videos of themselves reading? Is that goofy? Might be kind of fun if we set up a place for people to post that they’re doing it, with the links so everyone can check each other out).

For Serendib Press, I’ll still be doing a few book events locally this week, but am mostly thinking that I’m going to postpone scheduling much more until later in the year, when the situation should be clearer.

For our planning meetings, if a few of you want to gather in person to meet, I think that’s up to you. But I’m going to ask Karen, Carly, and Stephanie to try supervising the SLF interns / Serendib Press staff remotely this week and see how it goes. I spent several months working on a video game project with a game studio in Vermont, and although at times we had frustrating technical difficulties on occasion, for the most part, Discord (a system like Slack, more common in the game world) worked pretty well for that.

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SYNCHRONOUS VS ASYNCHRONOUS: The first is when we’re all on at the same time, the second, we’re not. Both can be effective. I like to do asynchronous chatter in the background over the course of the day, as I move through domestic chores and work projects. It’s nice company, and helps keep me on track. I like quick synchronous ‘stand-up’ meetings for talking something over between a few people. “Hey, everyone, let’s gather on Slack from 9 – 9:15 tomorrow to run over a few things.”

In terms of specific tools:

PHONE: Sometimes the easiest thing will be to call me — please do. I’m at [————-]. I can be phone avoidant sometimes when I’m really stressed and feeling bombarded with inputs, but I’m going to try to be better with that now, and this slowdown should counter that effect to some extent, I think. Please do leave a message if I miss you and you’d like me to call back.

FB MESSAGING: Since I kind of live on Facebook, this is often the fastest way to catch me if you have a quick question. Stephanie and Heather and I use it pretty constantly right now, and it works well, esp. when we’re synchronous (all on at the same time).

SLACK: This is a very nice system (both desktop and mobile) where we can have different channels for different projects, we can see what we’ve said previously (up to a point — it doesn’t hold onto it forever, I think), etc. It offers voice chat as well, though I think mostly we’ll use it for messaging, either in groups or individually. I’d like us to shift over to using it more intentionally.

We have Slack set up for the SLF already; we should set it up for Serendib Press too, and I’ll be talking to Stephanie about that separately. Karen, can you please get all the SLF folks on this thread onto Slack this week, and set up times to practice with them? (I don’t remember if we have a channel set up yet for the Chicago chapter, but if not, set that up, and Chris, please bring your team on board there.) Stephanie, ditto for Serendib Press, once we set it up? We should talk through how best to organize that.

My challenge with Slack has always been remembering to check it and see what’s going on there — you can set it up to send you notifications, but that can be annoying if there’s a lot of chatter going on. I’m planning to just plan to be online there at certain times daily, so that people can easily come find me and check in with me. 8-10 a.m. CST for now, and then again in the afternoon, 3-4 p.m.

Karen and Carly, I’d love to work with you two at least on Slack at 3-4 today, if that works for you — let me know? Stephanie and Heather, shall we try 9-10 on Thursday?

ZOOM: This free video conferencing system should also be helpful. I’d like us to try a Zoom call in the next few days, make sure everyone can get on smoothly. Given schedules, not everyone may be available at the same time, so we should probably do a few. I’ve used it before, but only as a participant, for an international call with several folks, and it worked pretty well. (I expect Zoom stock is booming right now.)

Karen, can you pick 3 times for Zoom calls in the next few days (today @ 4 p.m. plus one in the evening and one in the morning), and send Zoom invites to ALL the SLF folks? (I think that’s everyone on the e-mail thread above except for Stephanie and Matthew.) Let’s see how it goes — if you can’t make any of the times Karen sends, let her know, and we can set up another time. Aside from my teaching, I’m pretty available. (If you don’t know how to do any of this, Karen, just get in touch, and I’ll talk you through it. If you want to come by and work with just me in the dining room, that’s fine with me.)

FINAL NOTES: There are other possible tech options, but let’s start with Slack and Zoom for now. I expect that there’ll be some tech hiccups and frustrations initially, and that this will slow us down for a bit, but that’s fine — nothing we’re doing is super-urgent and needs to race along.

Any questions? (If I had more energy, I’d have done this with a lot of cute graphics so it wasn’t a big block of text. Sorry! Maybe next time! Thanks for reading!)

– Mary Anne

P.S. It makes me sad that I can’t feed y’all as much as I often do for our in-person meetings. Maybe, local folks, I can leave you boxes of cookies on the porch for pick-up, at least…stay tuned. 

#serendibpress
#slf