2022 Year-End Letter
Dear SF/F Writing & Reading Community,
This is the Speculative Literature Foundation’s end-of-year / start-of-year letter, where I try to recap a little of what we’ve been doing this last year – and really, the last couple of years, because I haven’t written one of these letters in a while. It’s been a rough pandemic, folks.
Like many non-profits, we were hit pretty hard by COVID. Just before it hit, we’d hired our first part-time staff (after almost 20 years as an all-volunteer organization), and with that added capacity, started seriously ramping up our in-person activities.
We created local chapters in Chicago and the Bay Area, ran the Deep Dish reading series in Chicago at Volumes Bookcafe, and generally tried to provide more of the in-person connection that so many writers told us they were looking for.
And then, boom, March 2020. All of that had to shut down.
A lot of non-profits went under in that time, but thanks to our supportive community and generous donations, we’ve been able to stay afloat, and actually GROW our activities over the last few years. Here are a few things we’ve done recently:
- We continued to give out our grants – since we started, we’ve given out over $100,000 in grants to writers and organizations, including $10,000 in COVID-support grants to conventions to help them weather this difficult time. Grants are always free-to-apply, and are designed to be quick and easy to apply for as well – learn more here: https://speculativeliterature.org/grants/
- We successfully started our new Portolan Project (providing creative writing and literature education, in a variety of free and low-cost modes), with interviews, free lessons, weekend workshops and long-form courses – here are some of the ones up right now, with many more in the works:
- Paolo Bacigalupi on writing solutions in values fiction
- Vida Cruz on increasing international participation
- Divya Srinivasan Breed on editorial gatekeeping
- Cory Doctorow on copyright versus creative commons licensing
- Ajit George on representation in game writing
- Liz Gorinsky on approaches to the editorial process
- Minal Hajratwala on working in multiple genres
- Nalo Hopkinson on using vernacular speech in storytelling
- George R.R. Martin on the importance of fact in science fiction
- Farah Mendlesohn on global literary markets
- Silvia Moreno-Garcia on publishing science fiction
- Benjamin Rosenbaum on gender in speculative fiction
- Scott Woods on creative community organizing
Check out the interviews and lessons, and learn more here: https://speculativeliterature.org/portolan — we want to help EVERYONE get the tools they need to tell their own stories.
- We dropped the first season of our podcast, 39 episodes of me and Benjamin Rosenbaum talking about all kinds of writerly things (as well as various topics that just interest us), interviewing writers, editors, game designers, and more – Ben and I will also be teaching together at Clarion West this summer! Check us out, and if you like it, we’d love for you to subscribe (and leave a review!) Season 2 is being recorded now!
- We ran a successful membership drive! Our long-term health is going to be dependent on building our membership – we’d love to be supported primarily by thousands of small memberships — so look to see more of those in 2023. And, of course, you can join us as a member at any time: https://speculativeliterature.org/membership/
- We revamped and modernized the SLF’s website, as well as implemented a new membership system that should make becoming a member of the SLF a much more easier and automated process.
- We created a Discord community for our members and a member newsletter with a regular writer encouragement letter!
- We hosted an exhibit in Chicago at the World Science Fiction Convention!
- We rebooted the Deep Dish reading series, with readings in August and October 2022 at The Book Cellar and City Lit. books. We’re looking forward to March and May readings in 2023, along with more over the summer and next fall! (We don’t usually try to get people out for readings during a Chicago winter!)
- We ran our first weekend virtual panels, with book editors Beth Meacham, Christopher Morgan, Diana M Pho, Mia Kleve, Jacob Weisman magazine editors Neil Clarke, Sheila Williams, Lynne Marie Thomas, Jed Hartman, Arley Sorg and a host of writers, including Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Walter Jon Williams, David D. Levine, Angela Dalton and even a panel on applying for grants, featuring Raina J. León, Nina Woodruff-Walker, and Setsu Uzumé, organized by our SLF-SF Bay Area co-chairs: Rebecca Gomez Farrell, Jasmine H. Wade and Audrey T. Williams Those panels are all available on our site and YouTube channel for your education and enjoyment; we plan on more in 2023!
- And finally, we received grants from the Oak Park Area Arts Council, Village of Oak Park, Illinois Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation, Literary Arts EmergencyFund, supported by the Mellon Foundation (@MellonFdn), and SFWA, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association. Whew! Thank you for helping to keep us afloat!
If you like what we do, please consider joining us as members, and/or making donations – and don’t forget to apply for matching funds, if your employer offers them!
These donations help us pay teachers to create free writing lessons, pay the administrative staff who put together our writing workshops and courses and manage registration, pay for editing our podcast and interview videos – they make everything we do possible.
We’re a 501(c)3, so donations are tax-deductible in the U.S. Donations are always welcome here: https://speculativeliterature.org/donate/
If you’re already a member or have donated to us — thank you, so much! (And tell your friends!)
Finally, huge thanks to:
- all of our staff: Darius Vinesar, Margaret Treanor Frey, Emmanuel Henderson, Catherine Lin, Jai Caldwell, and Meghan Lamb
- our first course instructor, Ted Schneider, who put up with us working out the kinks, and taught an AWESOME Intro to Screenwriting class — it’s coming back in February, details soon!
- our team of volunteer transcriptionists, who help make sure our interviews are as accessible as possible
- and our advisory board: Malon Edwards, N.K. Jemisin, Farah Mendlesohn, Debbie Notkin, Ada Palmer and Cat Rambo
We wouldn’t have gotten any of this done without their hard and thoughtful work! (And if I’ve forgotten anyone, huge apologies, and please blame COVID fatigue. It’s getting better, but as I said, it’s been a long pandemic…)
Looking towards a brighter future, together.
Mary Anne Mohanraj
Director, Speculative Literature Foundation