Kristina Busse is founding co-editor of OTW’s academic journal Transformative Works and Cultures and has been working for the OTW for 8 years. She has co-edited several academic books on fan fiction and fan cultures, and continues to publish in the field. Her books include the co-edited Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, Sherlock and Transmedia Fandom, and The Fan Fiction Studies Reader. All proceeds of the reader go, in fact, to the OTW. Kristina joined organized fandom as a Buffy/Angel shipper in the late 90s and has been in more fandoms since than she dares admit, with a Dragon Age, MCU, and Vorkosigan obsession at the moment. She has a PhD in English from Tulane University and teaches in the Department of Philosophy and in the Gender Studies Department at the University of South Alabama. She teaches everything from logic and mythology to fan studies and LGBT history. Kristina is a transplanted German, living in the Southern United States with her family of tabletop role-playing gamers.
1. Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?
This is the first time I’ve been certain that I can handle the expected workload without compromising the Board, my work for TWC, or my job or family, and I am looking forward to representing and serving my fellow fans on the Board. Many of the primary reasons why I never considered joining the Board before have changed: I just finished the book I had been working on for many years, so I have more spare time; I have nearly grown kids (who can drive!); and TWC is running smoothly. Given my life right now, I think I’m in a good spot to put more time into the OTW.
For me, Board has always had a twofold purpose: it helps keep the different parts of the org working together smoothly, and it works outwardly as an outreach and advocacy group. The latter is an expansion of the things I already do, such as media interviews and making connections with other people or groups with goals similar to ours. Moreover, I feel like it is useful to have people from a variety of committees on the Board. The Journal committee, for example, has never been represented on the Board, and I think a range of backgrounds in and out of the OTW is useful for Board members.
2. What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?
I’m a mom and teacher, so I have a lot of patience. I have co-authored and co-edited with many different people and like to think I collaborate fairly well. I have been a journal editor for eight years and edited three book collections on fan-related topics, and in all of these projects I had to wrangle people and get them to keep deadlines. I’m not officially chair of the Journal committee, but Karen and I pretty much divvy up all the duties, so I’ve been in charge of staffers and volunteers for the past eight years. We pride ourselves in unusually tight turnarounds and making our deadlines every time, in short, on getting things done.
I believe I have valuable experience to bring to the Board, both as a long term member of the OTW and from experiences in my personal and professional life. I have supported the OTW since it was an idea on LJ in the spring of 2007, and I joined and built its academic arm when I was asked to do so later that year. It was a long and hard journey to get to the point where Transformative Works and Cultures is now, but we persevered. Clearly, my focus has been on this part of the organization, but with my personal work load of advertising and soliciting slowly easing, I can step back a little to think about the organization more broadly. I believe wholeheartedly in every single project of the OTW, and I am excited about everyone who visibly or behind the scenes helps sustain this amazing organization.
3. What goals would you like to achieve during your term?
I would like to get all committees as self sufficient as possible. Journal has been lucky to have had a lot of continuity and a fairly simple and clear mission, but I would like to see the Board in a role that helps actively empower the committees. The current Board has been moving in that direction where possible, and I’d like to help continue that transition. In general, I think the current Board has been doing an amazing job in terms of transparency and accountability, and I’d like to help continue this process. As we move from 5 to 7 Board members with this election, we will have more people to distribute the workload and continue the changes the Board has instituted over the past months: being accessible to the membership base and volunteers; continuing to clarify our finances, hopefully with professional help; helping committees that require help and keeping track of the ones that are working sustainably.
4. What is your experience of the OTW’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Please include AO3, TWC, Fanlore, our Legal Advocacy work and Open Doors, though feel free to emphasize particular areas you’re interested in.
I have used and contributed to (or at least followed, in the case of Legal) all the different projects of the OTW, including AO3 and Fanlore, and I think what all of them need is support that doesn’t create needless additional work. Specifically, I think that listening to what the committees say, and planning and acting accordingly is most important. If Open Doors needs communication support, if Fanlore needs more staffers, if AO3 needs to hire a contractor as a dedicated paid coder, we should facilitate these things to allow the committees to do their work. At the same time, I am also aware that we are one organization and that we must work in the same direction and not needlessly replicate work. I see the Board as a place that has a sense of the needs and goals of all the committees and, as such, a body that can and should guide and advise where needed.
5. Choose two topics/issues that you think should be high priority for the OTW, both internally and externally. What do these topics mean to you and why do you value them? How will you make them a part of your service?
I would like to continue seeing Finance brought back in some form. In 2014 the Board decided to replace the Finance committee with the role of Treasurer. I strongly believe that several people should share this central role in the org, and reinstituting the Finance committee will allow for the work and responsibilities to be shared, especially as the OTW continues to grow. I believe we have a mandate to spend fandom’s money frugally and effectively, and I would like to be part of a Board that achieves that by saving where we can and spending where it is needed, such as the Archive. The Board has just begun recreating the Finance committee, and I want to help facilitate this process.
My other central concern is just as obvious as the money issue—namely, retention. We have a fairly involved recruitment process, but in reality, we still have committees that are struggling hard, too busy to train or even recruit and yet just the loss of one person away from becoming non-functioning. There is no easy fix for this problem, but it is something all Board members and active staffers are all too aware of. I know we all are looking into ways to find and keep enthusiastic, capable, and independent staffers and volunteers who nevertheless understand the org’s mission and work well within and between committees, and I want to help make our committees and their members as productive and as happy with their work as possible.
6. What do you think the key responsibilities of a/the Board are? Are you familiar with the legal requirements for a US-based nonprofit board of directors?
As an elected body, the Board members should follow the organization’s mission of fan advocacy and creating fannish support structures while maintaining the interests of the membership and safeguarding the organization’s fiduciary responsibilities. The Board is guided by the bylaws; it should internally support and guide the committees while it externally provides representation, networking, and advocacy.
I believe that the different projects for the most part have a sense of their own goals, and I believe the OTW and the Board should facilitate these goals–be they to publish another 20 issues, to secure yet another DMCA exemption for vidders, to broaden the user base of Fanlore to fill in the many gaps we necessarily still have, to rescue all the archives that are in danger of disappearing forever, and, of course, to keep the Archive of Our Own sustainable, expandable, and as awesome as it already is–and to have enough person power and redundancy that we can continue development along the roadmap, particularly towards archiving, categorizing, and searching other forms of fanworks.
7. How would you balance your Board work with other roles in the OTW, or how do you plan to hand over your current roles to focus on Board work?
As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t have considered running if I wasn’t certain that I could handle the workload. There would be no conflict of interest between my role as TWC editor and being a Board member and, in fact, little to no overlap given that most of TWC’s role is outward-facing. In general for my TWC work I communicate with readers, authors, and reviewers of TWC (who may or may not be OTW members, but that doesn’t impact their relationship with TWC). Unless my life were to change dramatically, I’ll be here teaching and writing and parenting and OTW volunteering for the foreseeable future.