Flights of Foundry, May 16-17, 2020

Interview with Flights of Foundry Guest of Honor Ken Liu

In case you don't know, we're hosting a virtual convention this weekend, May 16th and 17th, called Flights of Foundry. We've got a ton of great content lined up that will be going almost 24 hours a day, including panels, interviews, seminars, workshops, and more. If you want to check out our schedule, go here. And when you decide you absolutely have to attend, you can register for the con using this link.

We have a plethora of Guests of Honor that we've invited to attend the convention to give you insight into the world of professional writers, artists, translators, and editors in the speculative genres. And today we have a special treat, because one of our Guests of Honor, Ken Liu, is here to do an interview in advance of his appearance!

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Flights of Foundry, May 16-17, 2020

Flight of Foundry

Dream Foundry is thrilled to announce Flights of Foundry, a virtual convention for speculative creators and their fans. Registration is open and the convention will take place May 16-17. Our guests of honor are:

Comics: Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
Editor: Liz Gorinsky
Fiction: Ken Liu
Games: Andrea Phillips
Illustration: Grace Fong
Translation: Alex Shvartsman and Rachel S. Cordasco

In addition to panels and information sessions, our programming will include workshops, a dealer's room, consuite (yes, a virtual consuite!), and more.

There is no cost to register, though donations to defray costs and support Dream Foundry's other programming are welcomed. Dream Foundry is a registered 501(c)3 dedicated to supporting creators working in the speculative arts as they begin their careers.

To register, go to: https://flights-of-foundry.org/registration/
For more information about the convention: https://flights-of-foundry.org/
You can learn more about Dream Foundry or check out our other programs by visiting our website: https://dreamfoundry.org/


OMEC Returns!

Are you ready for six months of incisive, multi-media discussion? The OMEC is back and coming to an internet near you. The theme for this cycle is “vulnerability” and we’ve got six discussion leaders lined up and ready to guide us through all of the theme, craft, and mechanics talk you can stand. Check out the schedule below for the dates, leaders, and the works we will be examining.

 

Illustration, Rhea Ewing: April 13 - May 10

Podcasts, Christian Kelley-Madera: May 11 - June 14

Film/TV, TJ Berry: June 15 - July 12

Comics, Christopher Eric: July 13 - August 9

Prose, Edward A. Hall : August 10 - September 13

  • TBD

Games, N. Theodoridou: September 14 - October 11

  • TAKE by Katherine Morayati

 

Don’t feel like you have to wait to start on the OMEC fun. The discussion thread is up and ready for your thoughts, progress reports, and chat.

 


Welcoming New Additions to Dream Foundry

The Dream Foundry would like to welcome Alexei Collier and Jordan Scism to Dream Foundry.

Jordan Scism will be joining Dream Foundry as the Community Manager in the Arts. Jordan will create events on the forums that focus on developing the forums as a useful space for beginning artists.

About her new position, Jordan says, “Each day awakens in me a desire to share the dark joy I found when, at six years old, I stumbled upon an illustrated copy of the complete literary works of Poe. What I found inside, the spooky tales of terror married with the queer illustrations of Harry Clarke, filled me with a lifelong delight in the horrific and the mysterious, the wondrous and the speculative. I've always striven to bring that same love and joy to my own illustrations and creative content and it excites me to be able to do so as part of the great team we have here at the Dream Foundry.”

Alexei Collier will be joining the content management team. As our new dedicated arts editor, Alex will be responsible for developing and editing art content on a monthly basis. Expanding the content management team to include an arts editor will allow us to continue to feature content from a variety of disciplines within the speculative arts community.

If you are an artist or illustrator interested in having your work featured or paying it back to a small but growing community of nascent creators who work in visual mediums, please reach out to us with your bio and samples of your work—that, or a link to website where your work is featured. The Dream Foundry specifically requests and seeks out work from marginalized groups—whether they’re creators of color, creators with a historically marginalized sexual orientation or gender identity, or from a nontraditional socioeconomic background or age bracket. If in doubt, contact us—we want to hear from you!

On a personal note—I’m particularly excited to welcome Alex as our arts editor because he’s a friend and we shared a writing group for a few years. Alex would regularly assemble visual writing prompts for the group, and his interest in art and art culture expresses itself in his written work. It’s going to be fun to work alongside him, and I’m grateful for his generosity in giving his time!

For his part, Alex says: "I'm delighted to be joining such an amazing team doing great work! Art and spec fic have both been lifelong companions for me. Growing up, my parents' bookshelves were filled with sci-fi and fantasy classics. I also went to a very unusual school (in a creepy old mansion) where they actually encouraged art and artistic expression. While I abandoned any aspirations of a career (or even a hobby) as a visual artist, I kept my love of art -- and of SFF. As a writer, I've long been tempted by the dark side, er, the editorial side of things, and I'm excited for this opportunity to contribute to the Dream Foundry!"


2019 Retrospective

As we head into 2020, we thought it might be fun to look back at 2019 and some of the things the Dream Foundry accomplished, with a little bit of looking forward to what we hope to do in the new year, too!

Kickstarter

Our first official Kickstarter was ambitious, aiming to fund our programming for the year with lots of stretch goals, including an early run of the contest. We reached our goal and then some, and made sure to put that money to good use! Details on many of those things are in the following sections. We're very grateful to everyone who donated, pledged, boosted, and supported the Kickstarter.

We will be running another Kickstarter in the spring of 2020, so be on the lookout for that and expect lots of nifty loot to be available.

Official Media Exploration Club (OMEC)

One of our first major programming initiatives involved professionals from many areas coming together to discuss the theme of Found Family across different works and mediums on our forums. During the course of the OMEC, we analyzed the first two episodes of Firefly, Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series, the entirety of Dragon Age: Inquisition, episode 11 of the podcast The Voice of Free Planet X, and volume 1 of the manga The Girl from the Other Side. Looking at a theme across works in different mediums allowed us to dive in depth into the craft elements of each story, and our industry professionals aided and guided the discussion. We had some great conversations—which you're welcome to contribute to, even now, on our forums. Our president, Jessica Eanes, had some thoughts on this first program and the lessons we learned, and shared them on our blog here.

We'll be running another iteration of this program in 2020, and we hope you'll drop by the forums to meet the professionals, engage in good conversations, and analyze craft elements across different works.

Blog Content and Website Revamp

Our website got a new look in 2019, putting our awesome content front and center. We've had interviews, roundtables, industry news, articles focusing on the business of art, game design, podcasting, writing, and more.

In 2020 we'll be looking for even more articles, interviews, and industry news. We're going to continue providing content across the speculative arts. If you have an article you'd like to pitch to us, please get in touch with content@dreamfoundry.org. We’re particularly interested in topics relevant to art, gaming, and the pragmatics of the business.

Contest and Winners!

We ran our very first iteration of our contest for writers and artists in the fall of 2019. We had nearly 400 entries wrangled by contest coordinators William Ledbetter and Sara Felix. We're very grateful to all of our volunteer readers and our judges: Charles Coleman Finlay, editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Lisa Rodgers, agent at JABberwocky, served as judges on the writing side. On the illustration side of things, artist Rachel Quinlan was our judge.

And we're happy to honor our contest winners!

Writing:
1st: Jamie Adams
2nd: Claire Whitmore
3rd: Rose Wachowski
Honorable Mention: Lynne Sargent

And art:
1st: Alison Johnstun
2nd: Christine Rhee
3rd: Lauren Blake
Honorable Mentions: Zara Alfonso, Emily Leung, James Russell

First place winners from both contests received $500 each, and all winners received critiques from professionals in their fields. Running a version of the contest this year was a stretch for us in many ways—we ran ahead of our timelines, but we did it for many reasons. We talked about those decisions in this blog post.

In 2020 we’re going to do it again!! We have plans to make it bigger and more awesome, but a lot of that will depend on how fundraising works out. We’re already lining things up, so stay tuned to hear about our plans and how you can help us make them happen.

Cons

In 2019 the Dream Foundry officially put in an appearance at ConFusion, WisCon, ReaderCon, GenCon, ArchCon, DragonCon, and WorldCon.

Would you like to see us in 2020? Is there a con you definitely think we should check out? Please let us know!

Board Expansion

We are slowly but surely growing our board, and added two more members in 2019. Both new board members are also volunteers with the organization who have been with us from the beginning. Coral Moore, who doubles as our social media manager, and Evergreen Lee, our treasurer, are welcome new additions to the board.

In the coming year, we hope to expand the board even further and move the organization out of the start-up phase. If you'd like to know more about the behind-the-scenes management of the Dream Foundry and are considering volunteering, please get in touch with leaders@dreamfoundry.org.

Fall Auction and Merch Sale

We ran our second annual fall auction in October of 2019. With goodies all over the spectrum, from hand-carved wooden trains to signed ARCs and art prints, there was a wide variety for bidders to choose from. We also added a merchandise sale on our website, selling T-shirts, bookmarks, and enamel space dragon pins for a limited time. The fall auction was a success, and helped offset our operating costs.

Patreon Overhaul

Last year we made it easier than ever to support the Dream Foundry and simplified our Patreon, with new support levels and pretty new graphics. There are two ways to help the Dream Foundry now: becoming a $2/month Space Dragon Support or a $5/month Space Dragon Pillar. Each one of these allows us to do incredible things and ongoing funds from Patreon help us to publish more articles, run more programming on the forums, and do more for our contest winners. Pledging at the $5 level gets you a yearly gift of physical loot, too, in addition to extra bonus content. We're very proud of the new Patreon and hope you'll check it out.

And Now, The Future!

We're working toward offering many exciting things in the coming year! We'll be doing short in-person workshops on craft and business and retreats to get more in depth. On the forums, we'll have ongoing challenges and accountability groups, so you might want to sign up now if you haven't already. We've also got plans to offer a set of standardized contracts and documents to help support translators.

If you'd like to keep up with the Dream Foundry on a regular basis, consider signing up for our newsletter. It comes out monthly, with the occasional special news issue, and there are always cute cat pictures included.


Contest Finals and Winners

The finalists for the Art Contest are:

  • Zara Alfonso
  • Deanna Bach
  • Lauren Blake
  • Kae Hunter
  • Alison Johnstun
  • Emily Leung
  • Greer Nielsen
  • Christine Rhee
  • James Russell
  • Abbi Schellhase

The finalists for the Writing Contest are:

  • S Rain Lawrence
  • Douglas Wu
  • Steven Berger
  • Jamie Adams
  • Sam Tovey
  • Tiffany Smith
  • Andrew J. Savage
  • Rose Wachowski
  • Samantha Lynne Sargent
  • Claire Whitmore

And the winners are:

Art

  1. Alison Johnstun
  2. Christine Rhee
  3. Lauren Blake

Honorable Mentions: Zara Alfonso, Emily Leung, James Russell

Writing

  1. Jamie Adams
  2. Claire Whitmore
  3. Rose Wachowski

Honorable Mention: Lynne Sargent

First place winners from both contests win $500, and all winners are getting critiques from professionals in their fields.

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners!


Writing Contest Finalists!

We wrangled and we read and we processed over 300 entries. It was hard, but we got the list down to ten finalists, and here they are!

  • S Rain Lawrence - Minnesota
  • Douglas Wu - Connecticut
  • Steven Berger - Texas
  • Jamie Adams - Minnesota
  • Sam Tovey, United Kingdom
  • Tiffany Smith - Texas
  • Andrew J. Savage - Japan
  • Rose Wachowski - Virginia
  • Samantha Lynne Sargent - Canada
  • Claire Whitmore, Madison - Wisconsin

Stay tuned for the finalists from the art contests. Winners of both will be announced on November 15.

While you wait, make sure to check out our fall fundraising activity. Your donations and support during this time are how we'll keep our programming going, fund future contests, and bring you exciting new things! Browse our auction, swing by our merch sale, back us on Patreon, or give a direct donation via Paypal.


OMEC Retrospective

Six months. Six examples. Six conversations. September closed out the first cycle of Dream Foundry’s Official Media Exploration Club and we learned a lot. I want to take a moment to extend a deep and heartfelt thank you to all of our discussion leaders. Ferrett Steinmetz, Rachel Quinlan, KT Bryski, Darcie Little Badger, SL Huang, and Emma Osborne: you are all, individually and as a whole, fantastic. Thank you for stepping up to be the first.

If you want to visit the insights about craft and the specific works we discussed, you can share in that learning by dropping in on the conversation here. Just because the facilitated part of the conversation is over doesn’t mean it’s disappearing or that the conversation has to stop.

The learning I want to talk about here, though, isn’t a rehashing of the conversation happening in the OMEC but about the OMEC itself. This was the second program offered by Dream Foundry, launching a few months after we started publishing content on our site, and we learned both about program planning and implementation in general, as well as how to run this program in particular. Now that we’ve had a few weeks to evaluate, I want to discuss some of those takeaways, both so people can get some insight into how our programming planning and evaluation works, and so others can benefit from our experience when planning their own endeavors.

From the outset, the OMEC was designed as a program to embody the core premise of the Dream Foundry by bringing creators from different areas of the industry together to a shared conversation where they could learn from each other. It helped that as a program happening online, on our forums, potential expenses for the program were low: the necessary threshold for success the pilot had to hit in order to justify itself was, consequently, modest and attainable. With that, we had two major metrics we planned to use for assessing the program’s success both while it was running and after.

Does it work on its own?

The first of those metrics was the success of the program itself. Did it run well and cause the kinds of interactions and conversations we wanted it to facilitate?

Specifically, we examined:

  1. Did discussion participants represent the diversity (in role) of the industry?
  2. Was participation consistent from month to month?
  3. Were the logistics of the OMEC implementation (e.g. recruiting, onboarding, and paying discussion leaders) smooth, functional, and replicable?

The third criterion was the one that was most dynamic over the course of the cycle. Payment was smooth from the outset because that procedure followed existing procedures we’d established for content management. Onboarding got better as the cycle went on. The first couple of instructors, after agreeing to join and choosing a work, were basically told: “We’re figuring this out. Do what seems like a good idea and we’ll see what happens.” (Those early discussion leaders, especially Ferrett Steinmetz, deserve an extra dose of gratitude for stepping up under those circumstances.) Once we had an idea of what seemed to work and what didn’t, we developed onboarding documentation, which was a huge step in the right direction. It wasn’t a fix-all, though, which leads us to the biggest takeaway for this criterion: recruiting for discussion leaders needs to be completed >before choosing a theme and starting the cycle. Not every theme can be well supported in every medium. “Found family” was a great theme for a lot of categories but didn’t work well for illustration or games. We made it work (and the games segment of this cycle was the one I personally found most enlightening), but we brought unnecessary complications by choosing a theme without involving everyone who’d need to work with it in the conversation.

The first and second criteria (diversity of role and consistency of participation) couldn’t be meaningfully evaluated while we were in progress, so we’ve examined them after the cycle ended in September. They were both more miss than hit. OMEC participation reflected the prose-writer-heavy demographics currently present throughout the organization. That makes sense, but it is notable that despite being a program very much designed to bring in and offer value to people from a variety of backgrounds, there’s no evidence the OMEC attracted participation that was more diverse than the organization as a whole or generated integration across roles. Similarly, while different months had participation from different people, the participants who were consistent across months *cough* work for us.

As a result, in planning for the next cycle, we’re specifically looking to:

  1. Get commitments for discussion leaders for each month ahead of time and have their input involved in theme selection.
  2. Include the OMEC in outreach efforts planned for 2020 to address the current overrepresentation of traditional prose writers in program participation. (We’re not trying to get rid of any of you, prose writers. We’re glad you’re here! But having the rest of our industry hanging out here is good for us, too.)
  3. Increase participation stickiness from month to month.

With the pilot cycle as a baseline, we’ll have a clear means of measuring the effectiveness of the changes we make.

Does it work for the organization?

The other metric for judging the effectiveness of the OMEC was whether it worked for the organization. We have a track record now and more organizational maturity than we had when we first launched the OMEC. Despite that, we are still very new and while we’re rich in many things, we don’t have the financial resources to be careless, or even cavalier, about what we fund.

In terms of mission and project goals, the OMEC is and remains perfectly aligned. It ties very clearly into our core principles of “inclusivity,” “mentorship,” and “networking.” “Relevance” is the fourth principle, and while the OMEC doesn’t intrinsically tie into it, by choosing discussion leaders who are active in their fields now and works that are pertinent to the industry, we slip that one in, too.

But one of our organizational needs, across all our programming, is “outreach and growth.” The content builds engagement with the site, develops an archive of resources, and keeps us consistently present and visible. The contest is a giant road sign pointing people to us and drawing them in. (The numbers on that will need more time to be properly crunched, but the preliminary ones are quite good.) Does the OMEC do that?

There are two ways to measure this. The first is in terms of discussion participants, and as discussed above, that’s an area where growth and improvement will be a focus for the next cycle. The other gauge, though, is in terms of organizational reach and recognition. This is, arguably, the place where the pilot of the OMEC demonstrated the strongest success. Engagement on social media sites, especially when current discussion leaders amplified our outreach in those spaces, got a demonstrable boost around the OMEC. This provides some evidence that the core concept behind the OMEC is attractive and appealing and our efforts for improvement should be focused on converting that engagement on social media to participation in the club itself.

What’s that all mean?

There’s a danger here of reading the preceding and seeing a lot of negativity. Yes, there’s “needs improvement” stamped all over that report, but that’s not bad. This was a pilot. If we’d walked away from it going, “Perfect. Let’s do exactly that over again,” we’d be missing opportunities to improve. This pilot cycle could have led to shuttering the program without another run. If the logistical overhead in running it had exceeded the organization’s capacity to support it, we’d have either done a major redesign or nixed it. Similarly, if we’d seen evidence that the OMEC was functioning as a deterrent for outreach or engagement, this would have been its only cycle. What we saw instead was evidence that the core concept works as intended, the program runs well with the resources we can allot to it, and that it has some intrinsic ability to foster outreach and engagement.

We’ll make the changes and adjustments necessary to apply the lessons learned from this cycle and improve the areas that need it. We have two more six-month cycles planned for 2020, and we’ll run those with the same measured, evaluative approach we used in the pilot. Then we’ll do a hard assessment of the program to decide whether, with those improvements and any others we make as we see the effects of the changes, it makes sense for us to keep running it.

That, in a nutshell, is how we plan and assess our programs. Thoughts or questions? Feel free to share, either in the thread for discussion of this article on the forums, or by dropping a line to leaders@dreamfoundry.org.


The Contests Have Closed: The Hunger and the Table

Hey, guess what? We did it! That’s a close on the submission window for Dream Foundry’s first art and writing contests. We had almost 400 submissions total, and our teams are selecting our fabulous finalists. This has been a great experience so far, and I’m looking forward to the results when they arrive.

While we wait, I want to share about why we ran this version of the contests this year. Although we announced the contest as a stretch goal for our Kickstarter, we didn’t wind up funding at that level. We ran the contests anyway. There are many reasons for that, but I’m going to focus on the one I think matters most.

Last November, when the leadership committee met to assess our progress and success so far and establish our goals and plans for 2019, one thing was clear: we were doing well. At that point we’d announced a vision with timelines and goals, we’d done all the hoop-jumping and logistical organizing required to be firmly and formally established, and we were about to launch our first program. About being the key word there. We’d done a lot, all of it important and necessary, but none of it was what we were for. And yet, we were rich in support, well wishes, and people volunteering their time and energy. We’d raised enough money to start strong, mostly because people were hungry for the dreams we were promising.

We looked at the numbers. And the offers. And the plans. There was an opportunity there. That hunger we were seeing? We let it inspire us to be ambitious, and that ambition has been rewarded. Three hundred and ninety-three submissions to a brand new contest from a fairly new organization. That, on its own, is a success. But that’s such a small part of what we’ve seen while we’ve done this.

First, there’s William Ledbetter, who, when asked, dove right in to not only share his experience with writing contest logistics and design, but to spearhead this effort. Then Sara Felix, who just as generously answered when Bill asked her to handle the art side. By the same turn, Rachel Quinlan and Charles Coleman Finlay stepped up when asked to judge. Lisa Rodgers didn’t even wait to be asked, and I’m hoping she enjoys being a judge because otherwise she might think twice before having lunch with me again. Our slush readers? Some volunteered for the job before Dream Foundry had a name or a timeline. That eagerness and enthusiasm, backed by commitment and action, is all over the industry. We jumped on it.

In the process, we found a different hunger.

“Is there an age limit?” youth asked, hungry in a world where there’s a shortage of opportunities for them to be taken seriously as professionals, or potential professionals, and not as children. Adults asked too, people who’ve been busy with lives and work or with careers that delayed their pursuit of their craft beyond the point where anybody says “beginner” and pictures them.

No. No age limit. Come to our table.

“Are there entry fees?” asked people who are used to an ecosystem that feeds on them, at best concentrating resources from many of them to a few, and at worst by actively picking their pockets.

No. No entry fees. Have a snack while you wait.

“Is there a prompt or a theme you have to follow?” asked those who’ve been taught that to pursue their own vision first they have to pay dues to somebody else’s.

No.

We had extra fliers, so I took them around to all the libraries where I am in Chicago. Libraries are great places, full of programs and opportunities to learn and read and practice. Chances to study and discuss. They’re good places to find beginners of all sorts, but especially the arts. It was a small adventure, a tiny side quest in life that would spread the word and let me pop into pockets of community and imagination I wouldn’t necessarily wander into otherwise. What did I find?

Hunger.

By and large, librarians care deeply about their patrons. They have a unique relationship to their needs and hopes, a special opportunity to influence the people they encounter in their professional lives for the better. They respond with a palpable enthusiasm when somebody shows up with fliers and says, “I work with an organization that’s running two contests for beginners. It’s free to enter, and there’s a cash prize. I’d like to make sure people know about it, if that’s okay?”

“No age limit, you said? Can I have two of those?”

Yes.

“Is it okay if they’ve never done anything like this before?”

Oh definitely, yes.

“Would it be all right to tell that art group that meets here about this?”

Yes. Here, take some bookmarks, too.

When I explain Dream Foundry to people, I present it like this: You know the old adage about the best way to build a movie theater? The one that says you find a good spot for a popcorn stand, then put up the marquee? The contest is our marquee. It’s the thing that lets people know we’re there, gets them excited, and prompts them to come in. The real value in us, though, is the popcorn. That’s the everything else. The community. The support. The content and discussions and model of who we are, what we should do, and what we can expect from our colleagues, peers, and ourselves. We’re the popcorn.

Because it feeds that hunger.

There will be finalists, and that will be fun. Then winners, and that will be exciting. It matters. It’s important. But it’s also the capstone on something that is already succeeding in its mission. Three hundred and ninety-three people showed up to our door.

Welcome. Come in. We’ve got room at the table and we’re serving dinner soon. There’s something for everyone, and a ton of popcorn.


Contests Close Oct. 13- Submit Now!

There’s something interesting about firsts. They’re fresh. Powerful for setting precedents, and fragile for being new and inexperienced. Easy to mark because every first creates a transition point of before and after. There’s a magic to first-ness, and like most magic, that brings power, but also risk.

Tally your firsts. The first tooth you lost. The first time you rode a bike. The first story you told. The first sketch you drew. Line them up, collect them together, and you’ll have a kind of self-portrait. It won’t be complete. We’re more than our firsts. But the firsts we have are a bit like the corners on a puzzle, the anchor points that we can use to find the shape of the rest.

Dream Foundry has had a lot of firsts, and we’ve got a lot more to come. Right now, though, we’re in the final stretch of a biggie: our first contest. This is the first time we’re nearing the end of a submission window. Soon, we’ll be announcing contest finalists, for the first time. Then granting prizes to our first winners. Thanking and lauding our first judges. Congratulating everyone who was part of our first cohort of submitters. Soon.

But first, there’s you. Have you had your first sale? Excellent, and congratulations! Get ready to help us cheer on the contest entrants. If you haven’t, though? If that first is still in your future, then you need to hurry. You’re running out of time. There’s only a few days left. Submit. Let me be the first to say, we’re looking forward to seeing your work.