News from the Dream Foundry, a nonprofit organization, dedicated to providing resources for prose authors, illustrators, game designers, and people working in film:
by Anaea Lay
There are stories the community tells about itself. This is your community, the stories say. This is the place where you can find shelter from people who don’t understand your enthusiasm, your curiosity, your verve for the mysteries of the world, the potential of the future, the possibilities of realms completely unlike ours. It’s a place where you can experiment, learn, grow, come into your own power and skill and find support, approval, recognition. The tale of the spec fic community is one of agency and growth and bold, vibrant gusto. One where old hats and community elders give of their time and skills and knowledge to bring in and welcome newcomers.
There are ways in which that story is more aspirational than real, but aspiration and story are what we do. What matters most is that we don’t settle for aspiration. People do give back, reach out, answer questions, offer critiques, and give advice. We make workshops and reading series and discussion groups. We care. We try. We strive.
Last year I was at a talk by a film studies professor given at a fan convention. During the Q & A, somebody asked, “How much of my project should I have complete before I start pitching?” I internally rolled my eyes. This is a common, basic question I’ve known the answer to, from blogs and forum posts and FAQs shared by agents and editors all over for ages: finish your manuscript, then pitch. Sure, there are stories of people who got a contract off an idea, but those stories get passed around precisely because they’re exceptional and rare. I’ve known this since I started getting serious about submitting, when I was sixteen. Frankly, at this point, asking that question just signals rank ignorance.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when the speaker’s response was, “As little as possible. Perfect your pitch, leave the rest alone.”
Film does not work like publishing. In the film world, everything is going to change so much between the pitch and when it’s time to have an actual script that any extra work you do is just going to be wasted and, worse, risk leaving you inflexible in a process where flexibility is absolutely mandatory. The questioner wasn’t ignorant at all. I was.
We give, but we can only give what we have. We can only teach what we know. We’re only as wise and connected as the experience and resources we have to hand.
Enter: The Dream Foundry.
We’re building a community meant to capture the community. The whole community. We want to find beginners and bring them in to nurture them, help them learn, smooth their career path. We’re going to have resources that are useful to prose authors, and illustrators, and game designers, and people working in film. We’re building a space where the question to “How do I…?” is, “Well, in these circumstances, but also in these other circumstances…” It’s a place where our aspirations bring in all of our colleagues, regardless of their medium, specialty, or background, where the thing that connects us all is our love for the speculative and the fantastic and our desire to be professionals about it.
We aren’t even a year old yet, but we’re off to a good start. We’re publishing articles with news and advice from across the industry. We’ve got our forums up, and we’re running our Official Media Exploration Club, where we focus on a single theme and study it across a variety of mediums.
In the future we plan to do much, much more. Weekly challenges on the forums to promote productivity and experimentation, pairing beginning developmental editors with authors to help them learn from each other, open Q&A sessions with panels of professionals from a variety of backgrounds and, perhaps most exciting, a beginner-focused contest that comes with a cash prize, a fully funded workshop, and a showcase of the winners’ work. We’re dedicated to doing all that without creating financial barriers to the people who’d want to access our programs, and while compensating the professionals who work with and for us.
Anaea Lay lives in Chicago, Illinois where she is engaged in a torrid love affair with the city.
She’s the fiction podcast editor for Strange Horizons, where you can hear her read a new short story nearly every week. She’s the president of the Dream Foundry, an organization dedicating to bolstering and nurturing the careers of nascent professionals working with the speculative arts.
Her fiction work has appeared in a variety of venues including Lightspeed, Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Pod Castle. Her interactive novel, Gilded Rails, was released by Choice of Games in 2018. She lives online at anaealay.com where you can find a complete biography and her blog. Follow her on Twitter @anaealay.