Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today’s post is with Alicia, who volunteers as a Social Media & Outreach volunteer on our Fanlore Committee.
How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
I’m a member of Fanlore’s Social Media and Outreach team! Our team drafts posts and makes graphics for our social media pages to promote Fanlore, the OTW’s fan-run and fan-authored wiki.
Being on the social outreach team fits into the OTW’s mission of “preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms,” which is something I’m super proud of! Since all of Fanlore’s pages are written and maintained by fans, we’re always looking for ways to welcome newcomers and invite a variety of perspectives. I like to think of us as the wiki’s megaphone, especially for newer fandoms whose fans might not know we exist, or that they can contribute their own experiences.
What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
I try to write at least one post a week, sometimes more if we’re doing a themed month (like this year’s Femslash February). I also attend one of our bi-weekly meetings, either with the rest of the outreach team or with the larger Fanlore committee. I tend to be a lurker in the meetings, but it’s always interesting to see how the discussions unfold.
I also help out with some of the organizational tasks, like delivering feedback to our graphic designers and moving things around on our virtual corkboard. I’m a big fan of checking boxes and making things nice and tidy, so I enjoy the behind-the-scenes work as much as I do writing posts!
What made you decide to volunteer?
I think how I got started at the OTW is similar to how a lot of other volunteers did—I’d been an AO3 user for a while before I somehow found my way to the OTW’s main page. There, I learned about the archive’s purpose, as well as why it and OTW existed—not just to share fic, but to preserve and protect fandom at large.
After some digging into why the OTW was established, I realized how fragile online fandom spaces really were. It blew my mind that if I’d gotten into online fandom pre-OTW, there was a good chance all the work I’d done—like posting my fics or building relationships with other fans in comments sections—might’ve gotten swept away by time, corporate buyouts, purges, etc. The OTW strives to give fans the resources and infrastructure to preserve their work/communities/histories, and I wanted to be a part of their mission.
Finally, and for a much simpler reason—I wanted to give back to the organization that has been such a bright spot in my life all these years! Fandom has pulled me through some rough times, especially more recently with the pandemic, and I’m so grateful for it. And much like writing fic or any other fannish activity, volunteering is also a fun way to meet new people and do work I feel good about doing.
What has been your biggest challenge doing work for the OTW?
My biggest challenge has probably been understanding that the organization is always learning and growing. There are almost a thousand volunteers now (woot!), and millions of fans worldwide who contribute to the OTW’s many projects. This means that there are a lot of different perspectives to take into consideration when it comes to policy making, and that it’s not always easy to find solutions.
But regardless of the difficulties, I’ve found that others are usually willing to sit down and talk things out. It helps me to remember that the OTW and fandom at large are just groups of people coming together over things we love—and that at the end of the day, we’re all here to help each other out.
What fannish things do you like to do?
I’ve dabbled in drawing fanart and writing meta, but ultimately fic is the name of the game for me! I read, write, and bookbind fic. I’m an avid commenter—since I know how happy I feel when someone comments on one of my own fics, I try to do it for others as often as possible. I also tend to leave long, rambling comments about what parts of the story I liked, what I was doing while I was reading, which lines made me laugh/cry, and so on. The AO3 comments section is one of my favorite places to connect with other fans, and I’ve met some of my best fandom friends there.
I also bookmark nearly everything I read! I’ve found some of my favorite fics in other users’ bookmarks and consider an extensive bookmark collection to be one of the greatest gifts one can bestow upon a reader (especially a reader who, say, just got into a new pairing and spent several consecutive nights exhausting all the available rec lists they could find and still needs more. Not that I would, ahem, know anything about that).
Finally, I’m also a member of Renegade Publishing, a collective of fannish bookbinders! Since most of my primary fandoms are animanga fandoms, I tend to read and bind a lot of animanga fics. Folks in Renegade bind for a variety of reasons, but for me personally it’s about building community, preserving fannish works and history, and making authors feel as loved as possible. (As well as hoarding pretty paper like a dragon.)
Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in the comments. Or if you’d like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.