Spotlight on the Portolan Project – Locus Online

Mary Anne Mohanraj (2017)

Tell us about the Portolan Project. What’s the mission?

The Portolan Project’s mission is to provide creative writing and literature educational resources to speculative fiction writers and readers, especially those facing barriers to access.

We interview authors and other experts in the field on aspects of writing craft, post the interviews on our site and YouTube channel, and then use excerpts from the interviews to create free writing lessons (our Deep Dives), including study questions and writing exercises for anyone to use.

You recently ran a successful crowdfunding campaign for Phase 1. What will that money enable you to do?

With the generous support of our community, we’ll be able to interview even more authors and experts, purchase equipment to conduct higher quality interviews in the field, contract instructors to create more educational modules, develop more paid courses, and continue paying our hardworking staff who make all of this possible. We’re also developing writing workshops and courses for those who prefer more direct instruction; Our first course, Intro to Screenwriting, ran Fall 2022.

Benjamin Rosenbaum (2015)

Tell us about some of the panels and interviews you’ve already organized.

During the duration of the Kickstarter campaign we hosted some panels that included the likes of Sheila Williams, Neil Clarke, Ellen Kushner, David D. Levine, Lynne Marie Thomas, and more on topics like generating ideas, creating a shared world, and editing. In addition to the panels we occasionally do, we have interviewed Nicola Griffith on her work, Silvia Moreno-Garcia on publishing sci-fi, Nalo Hopkinson on vernacular speech in writing, and Scott Woods on arts community organizing.

The Portolan Project is operated under the aegis of the Speculative Literature Foundation. Can you tell us about that organization’s purpose and goals?

The SLF is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting literary and artistic quality in speculative fiction through our grants and programming. We strive to encourage and cater to the needs of readers and writers, especially those from marginalized and underrepresented communities, who may otherwise face barriers to access. Our staff is dedicated to providing as many free and accessible resources as possible to those who read, write, and engage with speculative literature and art.

How can interested readers and writers help with the project?

Those interested in supporting the mission of the SLF can donate or become members. As a member of the SLF, you can benefit from access to our Discord server, biweekly writer encouragement letters, our grant recipient anthology, discounts for SLF events and courses, and more. We’re hoping to be able to utilize volunteers in some of our projects in 2023, so if you’re interested in volunteering with us, follow us on social media or sign up for the newsletter to stay informed.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

There’s lots more that goes on at the SLF than just the Portolan Project. Check out our free easy-to-apply-for grants like the upcoming Gulliver Travel Research Grant or the AC Bose Grant for South Asian writers. And if you like podcasts about writing with likable hosts, make sure to follow and subscribe to our podcast, Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans, on your platform of choice for when season two begins in a few weeks! To stay engaged with the SLF and all the awesome things coming up, you can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

Speaking from Experience: Mary Anne Mohanraj interviews Nalo Hopkinson

Locus Magazine, Science Fiction FantasyCover and interview art and design by Francesca Myman

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