Free Fall Challenge 2021

We're delighted to announce that this fall, our Free Fall Challenge will be returning! This event is for creatives of all kinds, with a community space to encourage attaining goals, fostering skills, and honing craft.

The challenge will begin November 1st. Prepare to stretch your creative muscles, set goals, leap into new feats, and cheer each other on!

The goal of this month-long event is to foster skills that will help you translate your current workflow into something sustainable as you learn your limits, expand your boundaries, build endurance, and learn how to work without burning yourself out. Build a plan! Set goals! Make a schedule! And cheer each other on! And if you don't succeed, that's okay too. In fact, failing is a valuable learning experience and we're here to help guide you through it.

Maybe you're writing a novel this November. Or perhaps a series of short stories? Awesome. This is for you. If you're thinking of making a new interactive fiction game? Good! This is for you, too. Want to stretch your drawing practice or try a new medium for a month? This challenge is all yours. Want to translate a poem a day, or write the scripts for your next SFF podcast? Jump right in! Whatever your project is, if you’re dedicating the month to doing something big and difficult for you, the Free-Fall November challenge is for you, and we're here to help you with it.

We're running the challenge through our Discord server, complete with a dedicated channel for co-working, tips, and encouragement.

How it works!

  • The Dream Foundry is providing space for co-working, accountability, and scheduling help. 
  • Come over to our Discord server and find the #free-fall-challenge channel. 
  • Let us know what your plans and goals are - and if you’re not sure how to set goals that are the right level of challenging, we’ll help you out! 
  • When you have your plan ready, you can sign-up here. If you want to join the official co-working sessions, you’ll need to sign up.  
  • You can also share your progress and join in on twitter with the hashtag #freefallchallenge.  
  • And if you stumble along the way? We’ll help you recover, with some cheerleading from the other folks working on their own challenges. 
  • The official launch of the Free Fall Challenge will take place in our community room November 1st. Details and invites will be sent to those who sign up using the form below. We look forward to seeing everyone there!

Preparations for your jump can start now! Drop in, get hyped, and prepare to make November a challenge that gives you life!

Sign up here!


A 2020 Wrap-Up from the Dream Foundry

Relevance is one of the four cornerstone values we laid for Dream Foundry, and 2020 has been a year that destroyed context so thoroughly that relevance was easy to lose.  As an organization that focuses on the speculative arts, engaging with what ifs and possibilities, however implausible, is at our core.  Dedication to relevance forces us to make sure we’re doing that, freshly and deliberately, with everything we do.  People always need information, support, guidance.  Resources.  Care.  That doesn’t change.  The details are where everything changes.

This year, the details changed a lot.

We aren’t even three years old yet, but 2020 could have turned us into a fossil.  We had a five year plan and a setup that said, “Hey, grow this way.”  In March we hit a pause button on the plan and started breaking down and reconceptualizing the setup.  March of 2020 did not have the same needs as January of 2020.  To remain relevant, to be absolutely true to our values, we had to let go of how we thought we were going about ourselves.  The forums are gone, long live the Discord.  Kickstarter no more, but welcome, Flights of Foundry.  The Official Media Exploration Club is still around, but thriving in the new setup very differently from its prospects under the old.  It’s been joined by watch parties, productivity pacts, an upcoming seminar series, cooking live streams, and more.  We have a community room available to the world, and if that isn’t the most big-tent, Dream Foundry dreaming big thing ever, I don’t know what is.  

Relevance, and jumping on the moment to make sure we embraced it, means we’re never going to unpause that five year plan.  It was meant to chart our way to being an organization with a thriving community who counts on us for support, with representation from across the industry and around the world.  We have more growing to do, roots to send deeper, foundations to build on.  But we have, more or less, reached the destination we were mapping our way to.  

A generous endowment for the Monu Bose Memorial prize in art means that all our contest winners received meaningful cash prizes this year.  Over 1,200 people came to Flights of Foundry, the madcap pandemic party of a convention put together in seven weeks and chock full of information and resources.  We’re publishing a lot of that content on our YouTube channel, something we never foresaw having until it was suddenly vitally important that we do.  We’ve published our processes and reached out to others to share what we’ve learned, helping everyone hit a level of professionalism and excellence that should and can be the fundamental norm across the industry.  We’ll do more of that, and will always be available for questions and inquiries along those lines.

My personal high point?  We paid our staff.  Not enough, not remotely enough, but they got a stipend.  Raising enough funds to guarantee I would get to do that was my favorite part of Flights of Foundry.  The kindness and generosity showered on us by people willing to volunteer their time is amazing and appreciated.  But volunteering is a gift, and we cannot remain relevant, or worthy, if we depend on gifts from the community we want to build and nurture.  Taking this step was important to me, and the fact that this year, where crisis has folded over crisis, is the one where we made it?  

I am so proud of what we’ve done.

What do you need?  What do you want?  What do you hope for?  These are the questions we’ve been asking from the beginning.  We’ll keep asking.  From one month to the next, or week to week, whatever 2021 demands of us.  So much was lost in 2020.  We’re determined to stay.  We’re determined to grow.

We have plans for next year, because of course we do.  Flights of Foundry is happening again, from April 16-18.  We have Goals and Planning support underway that will help you with accountability and planning throughout the year.  A market rubric, translator toolkits, cross-role mentoring, are all projects we’re working to bring off the backburner and make real.  The contests will happen again, and I haven’t told the coordinators yet, but I’m hoping to double the submission pool.  

We’re going to meet next year head on and ready.  

Thanks for dreaming with us.  We’ll see you next year.


Dream Foundry Contest 2020 Winners

Dream Foundry is delighted to announce the winners of our speculative short story contest and the sister contest for artists working in the speculative arts. These contests are designed to provide a boost to beginners in the field, with professional judges and significant cash prizes. We're pleased to have had 454 contestants, with entries from every inhabited continent. We're grateful to have been able to reach so many people across the globe. This year’s first place art prize is the Monu Bose Memorial Prize and is funded by a generous donation. In addition to cash prizes, all six winners will receive first pick of workshop seats at Flights of Foundry and showcase events at the online convention in April 2021.

Writing Contest

WINNERS
1. “Surat Dari Hantu” by Lisabelle Tay
2. “The Failed Dianas” by Monique Laban
3. “The Loneliness of Former Constellations” by P. H. Low

FINALISTS

  • Tehnuka Ilanko
  • Nick Thomas
  • Allison King
  • Julia Leef
  • Jennifer Bushroe
  • Finn McLellan
  • Rodrigo Assis Mesquita

Art Contest

WINNERS
1. Thaleia Demeter
2. Lauren Blake
3. Michaela Matthews

FINALISTS

  • Aya Sabry
  • Sam Hutt
  • Thaleia Demeter
  • Michaela Matthews
  • Lauren Blake

We would also like to extend our thanks to contest coordinators Vajra Chandrasekera, William Ledbetter, and Dante Luiz and also to our contest judges S.L. Huang, Neil Clarke, and Grace P. Fong. We are incredibly grateful for the gift of their expertise and time to help us uplift emerging voices in speculative writing and illustration.


End of Year Goal Setting

Last month's Free-Fall Challenge turned out to be a success! We hope that everyone who participated picked up something valuable from it, whether it be learning your limits and how to take breaks or how to find the right "get to work" headspace.

With the upcoming new year, we've decided to two communal goal setting and business planning events, for all your productivity New Year's Resolutions. We'll have two community events (one in December and one in January) to help you work through your 2021 goals. Our first guided meeting will be 19 December 2020 at 2PM CST here for two hours, unrecorded. Fill out the form to start thinking about your goals and sign up for check-ins and support from Dream Foundry.

Our second guided meeting will take place January 23rd from 2-4 PM CST.

Want some extra support? Join our Discord server for a community eager to give advice, keep each other accountable, or just general cheering on. Failure or success, the goals of these events is to help you figure out your workflow and capabilities without over-extending yourself. We want to encourage growth responsibly, with plenty of community support to help everyone along.


An Interview with the Dream Foundry’s Art Contest Coordinator Dante Luiz

With the Dream Foundry Art Contest wrapping up soon, we asked contest coordinator Dante Luiz a few questions about the art contest, illustration, and the experience it fosters.

 

Dante Luiz is an illustrator and occasional writer from southern Brazil. He is one of the two Art Directors for Strange Horizons, and his first graphic novel was published in 2020 by comiXology Originals ("CREMA", written by Johnnie Christmas).

 

Illustration work tends to be different than other kinds of art. While the fundamentals are the same, what do you find translates from less illustrative art education to illustration? What doesn’t translate over? Do you find there are specific challenges to illustrating SF/F? 

It's hard to capture the entire mood and feeling of a story, I think it's what makes illustration so difficult. You really have to vibe with the story, you really have to get to pass the right tone. When I'm choosing artists for Strange Horizons, for example, I see it like matchmaking. The art has be in the same tune with the story, and the same goes for artist and writer. Additionally, in SFF, sometimes it can be difficult to portray the speculative element. Right now, especially, there are a lot of stories out there that are character-centric and inwards, and the artist might find that the right "feeling" does not show the magic or science, and finding a balance takes work. You have to push yourself out of the obvious to showcase both.

 

Portfolio evaluations are a big part of finding a career in illustration and animation. Can you tell us a little about the selection process for the contest? What are you looking for in submissions? What constitutes a strong body of work versus one or two stand-out pieces in a portfolio? 

Consistency is key. I think every artist has that one work that we did on a whim that just feels better than the rest of our work, but a general sense that the person knows what they're doing and then can do it more than once is what I generally look for. Also a sense of style, cleanliness, knowing how to do more than one thing (nothing kills a portfolio for me more than no backgrounds, or just busts with characters facing left, etc).

 

Do you have any advice on how to pull together a portfolio, whether for this contest or for job applications? 

Put up only recent, complete works. When I'm hunting for news artists, I often find myself bored if the portfolio archive is too long, or lists too many older works. 6-12 pieces seems to be the sweet spot for art, along with consistency. Less = better, only complete works = better. Sketches, works in progress and such are great for social media, but it's not what people are looking for in a portfolio.

 

What sorts of opportunities did you see or wish you had when starting your illustration career? How do you see the Dream Foundry Art Contest benefitting beginning- or early-career artists? 

When I was starting out, I felt like resources were being "hoarded" by those who already had access to them, and those resources were not made public, but it turns out I also didn't know how to search for those resources. It's very important to put yourself out there, send your work to magazines, find calls for submission, and not rely only on social media. The Dream Foundry Art Contest can give a beginning artist this initial push, and gives credibility and visibility for future works as well.

 

Artists are finding community through social media, especially through prompt challenges and theme showcases. How do you feel the art contest fitting into this ecosystem? 

Social media is great for showcase, but artists are also battling against the algorithm to be seen. People with less following tend to be less noticed, and a contest gives everyone a fairer chance to be seen!


Dream Foundry's Free-Fall Challenge

Fall has arrived for those of us in the northern hemisphere and the second month of the global phenomena of using October and November as creative "make a thing" months. Here at the Dream Foundry, we brainstormed ideas on how to pull together an event to encompass creatives of all kinds, forming a community space to encourage attaining goals, fostering skills, and honing craft.

Starting November 1, the Dream Foundry presents The Free-Fall November Challenge: prepare to stretch your creative muscles, set goals, leap into new feats, and cheer each other on!

The goal of the challenge is to foster skills that will help you translate your current workflow into something sustainable as you learn your limits, expand your boundaries, build endurance, and how to work without burning yourself out. Build a plan! Set goals! Make a schedule! And cheer each other on! And if you don't succeed, that's okay too! In fact, failing is also a valuable learning experience and we're here to help guide you through it.

You're writing a novel this November? Or maybe a series of short stories? Awesome. This is for you. You're thinking of making a new interactive fiction game? Good! This is for you, too. Want to stretch your drawing practice or try a new medium for a month? This challenge is all yours. Want to translate a poem a day, or write the scripts for your next SFF podcast? Jump right in! Whatever your project is, if you’re dedicating the month to doing something bigger than you ever have before, the Free-Fall November challenge is for you.

We're running the challenge through our Discord server, complete with a whole new channel for co-working, tips, and encouragement.

How it works!

  • The Dream Foundry is providing space for co-working, accountability, and scheduling help. 
  • Come over to our Discord server and find the #free-fall-challenge channel. 
  • Let us know what your plans and goals are - and if you’re not sure how to set goals that are the right level of challenging, we’ll help you out! 
  • When you have your plan ready, you can sign-up here. If you want to join the official co-working sessions, you’ll need to sign up.  
  • You can also share your progress and join in on twitter with the hashtag #freefallchallenge.  
  • And if you stumble along the way? We’ll help you recover, with some cheerleading from the other folks working on their own challenges. 

Sign up here!

Preparations for your jump can start now! Drop in, get hyped, and prepare to make November a challenge that gives you life!

The official launch of our Free-Fall Challenge will take place here in our virtual co-working space November 1st. Details and invites will be sent to those who have signed up using our form. We look forward to seeing everyone there!


An Interview with the Dream Foundry's Writing Contest Coordinator Vajra Chandrasekera

In light of the Dream Foundry’s Writing Contest opening submissions, we asked writing contest coordinator Vajra Chandrasekera a few questions about the contest and what these sorts of opportunities mean for emerging writers.

 

Can you tell us a bit about the process of reading and evaluating submissions? How does it differ – if at all – from reading slush for a magazine?

It’s really quite similar! All submissions are read and responded to; a shortlisted selection will be discussed further, and final selections will be made out of that.

How do contests and open submissions drive the creation of encouraging environments for emerging writers?

Effectively, or so I hope. Writers need opportunities to be paid and recognized for their work; writers at the beginning of their career, especially, need more opportunities that aren’t predatory or exploitative like the Church of Scientology's Writers of the Future contest; or foreclosed by restrictive eligibility criteria or entry fees like many prestigious literary fiction magazines and contests; or walled off into invitation-only prestigious genre publications.

Professional development spaces for emerging writers are not necessarily easily accessible to those who need it most. How do you see opportunities like the Dream Foundry’s writing contest fitting into the professional development of new and upcoming writers?

I think nine-tenths of “professional development” for a short story writer at the beginning of their career is learning how to make their own practice effective. This means figuring out what they want to write about and what they’re good at writing, and writing more stories where they do those things, ideally at the same time. Sometimes it's just that a contest gives you a clearly defined set of constraints to work within, which can be very productive. Sometimes it's good to hang out in a discord with a bunch of other people who are trying to solve the same problems you are—so you can commiserate and share experiences and animal pictures, if you're into that sort of thing, and even if not, these are good spaces to eventually share knowledge about the industry, too.

Do you have any advice on how emerging writers can get the most out of participating in the writing contest?

One of the most difficult hurdles in a writer's entire career, in a rather cruel irony, is the very first one: submitting your work for consideration in a contest or for publication. I think most of us struggle with it in the early going. It takes practice for it to stop feeling like a huge leap of faith every time—it never stops being a leap of faith, but you do get used to the jump. So if you're a writer eligible for the contest who wants to participate but is already stressing about whether you can even write something for it, you're exactly the person this thing is for.

What kind of experience do you believe transfers from the writing contest to publishing at large? What can emerging writers learn from this process?

If you want to write and publish, then you have to write and submit work as much as you can. This may sound like a mere tautology, or maybe too simple to require saying out loud, but it's neither of those things in real life. Properly connecting the back half of that sentence to the front half can be the work of years, but what matters is that you get started—and when it falls apart, that you get started again.

 

Interested in joining a community of other writers participating in the contest? Come join our Discord server (discord.gg/dreamfoundry) where you can discuss writing and ask for help in #writer-chat, ask for and receive feedback in #find-crit-beta, discuss industry goings-on in #industry-chat, or just come update us on your story progress in #am-working!


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!

Read more


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.