Rebecca Sentance: Rebecca Sentance has been in fandom for around fifteen years, starting on Quizilla where she would read second-person fanfics in fandoms like Yu-Gi-Oh!, Inuyasha, Yu Yu Hakusho and Dragonball Z. However, her first ever fanwork was an Enid Blyton fanfiction that she wrote at the age of five – long before she ever dreamed there might be whole communities of people publishing and reading these works online.
She discovered AO3 in 2011 and slowly began to learn about the organisation behind it and its many other projects, which led to her delving into fandom history and fan academia, and learning about the vital importance of preserving and defending fanworks of all kinds. While she was eager to be a part of the OTW, she didn’t manage to catch an open recruitment round until mid-2015, shortly after finishing her postgrad studies, when she saw a posting for AO3 Documentation staff – the perfect fit for someone who loves all things to do with words.
She later found her way onto the Transformative Works and Culture and Fanlore committees, and now devotes a significant portion of her time to being part of this amazing community of fans. When not volunteering with the OTW, she can be found lurking in various parts of Marvel fandom and procrastinating on her latest fic.
1. Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?
Volunteering for the OTW has been a huge part of my fannish life for several years now. I love the OTW, what it represents and who it’s made up of, and I want to help it continue to be an incredible force for good in fandom. That’s why I’ve poured so many hours into OTW work over the years, and it’s also why I’m running for the Board. The Board plays an important role in keeping the OTW true to its mission, keeping us transparent and accountable, and responding to the concerns of our volunteers and our membership, and I’m keen to help with that wherever I can.
I’ve been thinking of running for the Board for a couple of years, and this year is the first time that I know I would be able to give it my all. And while there’s no such thing as being completely prepared to serve on the Board or having all the necessary experience, I’ve built up enough experience that I’m as confident as I can be in the contribution that I could make and the skills that I could bring to the Board.
I’m also keenly aware of the importance of having committed, enthusiastic candidates run for elections so that we can continue to find the best people to serve on the OTW Board of Directors. I know that by putting forward my candidacy I can help with this, and so that’s what I’m doing.
2. What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?
After a decade and a half spent in online fandom and close to four years as an OTW volunteer, I can bring a boundless enthusiasm for fandom in all its forms, and a complete dedication to furthering the OTW’s mission of protecting fannish interests. My time as a Fanlore co-chair and avid editor of the Fanlore wiki have also given me an understanding of our history and context, and an awareness of how fandom perspectives (particularly perspectives on the work of the OTW) can vary. I have experience with responding to fannish concerns of various kinds and finding ways to reconcile differing fan perspectives on an issue, which I believe are important skills for an OTW Board Director to have.
I have also spent more than three years in a chairing role, and at one point co-chaired two committees. Chairing has given me valuable experience with taking a big-picture view of committee work, and balancing long-term planning with day-to-day tasks – skills I would expect to call on regularly if elected to the Board. Chairing has taught me about inter-committee relationships and collaboration, which again, I am expecting to be a crucial part of Board work. It has also taught me some very important time management skills, as well as how to delegate and prioritise.
My work as an AO3 Documentation staffer has honed my documentation skills, which I plan to use in helping to document Board processes and tasks. I am also a strong communicator in general, and one of my strengths lies in helping to find exactly the right words to convey something – whether that be in an inter-committee message, a piece of documentation, or an explanatory post. And above all, I’m a team player, and do some of my best work as part of a team.
3. Choose one or two goals for the OTW that are important to you and that you would be interested in working on during your term. Why do you value these goals? How would you work with others to achieve them?
The first issue that I’m extremely passionate about tackling is volunteer burnout. As someone who has been a co-chair of two committees and, honestly, skirted the edges of burnout at times, I’m intimately familiar with the demands of juggling OTW work with real life and other fannish commitments, and how difficult that can be – particularly for those individuals within the OTW who are the linchpins of their respective committees and projects.
There’s no one, easy solution to remedying burnout, but various things – including regular check-ins, support with recruiting additional committee members, and assistance with documenting crucial processes – could help with the situation. If elected to the Board, I would work to implement measures like these, and also encourage committees to share strategies among themselves, as that’s another thing that in my experience can be really useful to help improve workload distribution and combat burnout.
Secondly, I want to support our engagement with our growing membership base and outreach to both fannish and non-fannish communities. The OTW is increasingly in the spotlight, and awareness of our projects is growing steadily, thanks to events like the Hugo nomination for Archive of Our Own, our Legal team’s excellent work, and the hard work by our entire volunteer base that is reflected in the health of our various projects. My goal as part of the Board would be to find even more ways to engage fans and non-fans with our work, reach out to new communities, and communicate our mission. This is already a big part of my work with Fanlore, where we regularly run challenges and brainstorm ways to engage new editors with the wiki, and I can bring that experience to bear in helping to improve and strengthen our outreach.
4. What is your experience with the OTW’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Try to include a range of projects, though feel free to emphasize particular ones you have experience with.
During my time as a volunteer for the OTW, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a variety of different committees across several of the OTW’s projects.
As a staffer and formerly a co-chair with AO3 Documentation, I have worked closely with the Support, Accessibility, Design & Technology (AD&T) and Translation committees: drafting FAQ answers and Tutorials that will best address the tickets sent in to Support and relying on their insights into user feedback; bringing questions about the Archive’s interface and potential bugs to AD&T; and working with Translation to clarify the language of help documentation and make sure documentation changes are conveyed as clearly as possible. I’ve also beta read tutorials drafted for Open Doors, which has given me some insight into the invaluable work that they do to preserve at-risk archives – and have documented the fruits of that work on Fanlore as well.
I’m a current volunteer for Transformative Works and Cultures and take a keen interest in fannish academia: I’ve attended fan studies conferences as a non-academic and weighed in on many a discussion on Twitter. And as a current Fanlore co-chair, I have an in-depth understanding of the priorities, scope and challenges of the wiki.
For the committees and projects that I’m familiar with, I intend to build on my existing knowledge of their work and how they interact in order to determine how I can best support and collaborate with them as a member of the Board. For those I have spent less time with, I intend to approach things with an open mind and a view to learning as much as I possibly can about what they need from the Board, their history and context, and their relationship to the other projects and committees in the OTW.
5. 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 been planning to put forward my candidacy for the OTW Board for a little while, I have dialled back my OTW commitments in preparation over the last year, and stepped down from one of my co-chair roles (with AO3 Documentation) in January as part of that. I currently hold roles in three committees: Fanlore, where I’m a co-chair; AO3 Documentation, where I’m a staffer; and Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC), where I’m a layout editor.
Of these, my role with TWC is the least time-consuming, requiring bursts of intensive work two or three times a year before an issue is published. My work on drafting and beta tasks for AO3 Documentation is also fairly self-directed and can be fitted around my other commitments quite easily. My role as Fanlore chair is the most demanding, requiring the most day-to-day attention as well as weekly committee meetings. I share these responsibilities with an amazing co-chair, which helps a lot in dealing with the workload, and I wouldn’t be running for the Board if I didn’t think that I could balance Board work with my chairing responsibilities.
However, if I find that Board work is more demanding than anticipated or if things otherwise become too difficult to manage, my co-chair and I can look at other options for rebalancing the workload, including recruiting more committee members or training up an additional co-chair, so that I can give Board work as much attention as is needed.