Ah, it’s the holidays, the season for a great number of excessive activities. This is the time of year when I drink excessively, eat excessively (you know, more than usual), shop excessively, burn electricity excessively (my Christmas light setup is a bit extravagant), watch holiday themed specials excessively and commit any number of other very excessive acts of fun and festivity. All of that makes me think, though, usually right around this time, that it would also be a good idea to give excessively, and not just to my family and friends. For me, charity is an important part of the holiday season, and while there are any number of very worthy charity options no matter where you live (children’s toy drives, homeless shelters, food banks, etc.), it’s always nice when you can add a somewhat nerdy spin to your charitable donations. That’s why I’m so happy that Worldbuilders, a charity founded by bestselling The Kingkiller Chronicle author Patrick Rothfuss (the bearded gentleman up there holding that adorable creature), exists.
Conceived in 2008, Worldbuilders has since raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Heifer International, a worldwide organization devoted to ending poverty and hunger through sustainable agriculture, education and more. If you’re like me, you might have someone in your life who has presented you, on a gift-giving occasion, with a certificate informing you that a family of ducks (or a cow, or a goat, or a chicken) has been given to a Third World family in your honor. That’s Heifer. They give these families the ability to help themselves by providing them with things that will ensure they have milk, or eggs, or fresh wool to keep warm. It’s a great organization, and Worldbuilders was designed by Rothfuss to support it every holiday season.
Participating in Worldbuilders is not just a chance to help a great cause, but a chance to do some serious geeking out. You can bid on auctions for seriously cool geeky items donated to the charity, including everything from signed books by Neil Gaiman and Rothfuss himself to a Portal Gun donated by ThinkGeek (but that was last year). You can buy things in Rothfuss’ online store, The Tinker’s Packs, which benefits the charity year-round. You can also enter “The Lottery” by making a simple donation to Heifer through Worldbuilders. This will enter your name in a lottery for even more awesome donated items. Any way you play it, you win in multiple ways.
Worldbuilders is growing every single year (they just announced they raised $55,000 in one week), and Rothfuss and his cohorts continue to expand it to benefit Heifer in as many ways as possible. The fundraising drive is now fully underway, so it’s time to start your giving, but a few months ago I had the chance to speak with Rothfuss and the Worldbuilders team about the charity, writing, fandom and more. Check out the interview below, and watch out for links that will allow you to catch up on all things Worldbuilders 2013.
Matthew Jackson: Though George R. R. Martin’s fans certainly seem to be the loudest, you’ve also got no shortage of fans clamoring for you to finish your series. It was four years between the publication of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, and you’ve made no secret of your desire to keep honing the final book until you’re ready to send it out. I’m not about to ask you how the book is coming (though feel free to update us), and you’ve often commended your fans on their patience, but as your profile has risen and the demand for the final book in The Kingkiller Chronicle has grown, how have you dealt with those readers who haven’t been so good (or so polite) with the whole patience thing?
Patrick Rothfuss: Truth is, it’s been comparatively quiet this time.
The real problem with the delay of the second book is that I originally thought I’d finish it in a year. So I promised people it would be done in a year. I promised *everyone.*
The problem was I didn’t realize how much work I was going to have to put in to make The Wise Man’s Fear as good as The Name of the Wind had been. It took a lot longer than I’d thought. Years longer. So people were irritated and angry. They felt as if they’d been lied to. I felt like an ass. Everyone was unhappy.
Needless to say, we didn’t make that same mistake this time around.
MJ: Does it ever get to you?
PR: It hit me hard with book two. Really ruined me.
How bad? Well, at one point I had a pain in my chest and thought I was having a heart attack. My first thought? “Well, now people will have to stop bothering me about book two…”
To say it wasn’t healthy is understating the case a little.
The real problem was that I was so new to being a professional writer. I felt guilty even without people complaining. I felt like I was letting everyone down. My editor. My publisher. My readers… When people complained or were angry with me, I internalized a lot of it. I beat myself up about it. A lot.
These days not so much. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I’m not a speed writer. I write slowly and revise obsessively. The end result tends to be good. That’s where my strength is.
Also, I now realize that some people are going to be impatient no matter what. If I wrote two books a year, someone out there would be pissed I wasn’t writing three.
MJ: You’ve talked about your reading prowess (which I believe has often equaled a novel a day) publicly before.
PR: I wouldn’t call it prowess, really. It’s not prowess if you watch 5 hours of TV a day. It’s just how you choose to spend your time.
MJ: How has being increasingly busy as a writer/father/philanthropist/Geek & Sundry star/beard icon affected your reading life, and how important do you feel reading is to your writing life, whether in terms of staying up on what’s new in your genre or just intellectual nourishment?
PR: I can still read a novel a day, two if they’re short. But these days I just don’t have the time. I probably read a book every two or three days on average now.
While it *is* professionally important for me to keep tuned in to what’s being written in my genre, let’s not lie. That’s not the reason I read.
I read for my own emotional and mental health. If I stopped reading, I’d probably just die.
MJ: What made you want to start (YouTube series on Geek & Sundry) The Story Board?
PR: Honestly? I thought it would be fun, and I thought people would have fun watching it.
MJ: How important is it for you to discuss your craft with other writers, whether publicly or privately?
PR: I don’t really think it’s *important* per se. But it is enjoyable. I think the main benefit is for the people that tune in to watch the show. I wish I’d been able to watch something like that when I was just a newbie writer.
MJ: You mentioned in a recent blog post that you brought in extra people to help with Worldbuilders last year. Did you ever think when you started this charity a few years ago that it would get this massive?
PR: No. Never.
MJ: And now that it is this massive, what are your hopes for its future?
PR: I would eventually like it to become big enough to fix everything that is wrong with the world.
I’m willing to admit that that might take a couple years.
MJ: What up and coming fantasy authors do you wish more people were reading, and why?
PR: Hmm…. I don’t know about that. Who counts as “up and coming?” Sometimes I don’t get to a book until years after it’s out….
Still, they’re new-ish. At least to me.
I just read a couple really great novels by Ben Aaronovitch, but he’s been around for a while. He wrote some Doctor Who back in the day. His new urban fantasy series is really good though.
Same thing with a trio of Mike Carey’s books I read just last week. I enjoyed the hell out of them, but he’s not really a new writer. New novelist, sure. But he wrote Lucifer and Crossing Midnight. He’s a brilliant storyteller.
Oh. And there’s Benjamin Percy. He’s definitely up-and-coming. His first book Red Moon just came out a week ago. We taught at the same time here at University Wisconsin Stevens Point. I haven’t had a chance to read his novel yet, but it’s been getting great reviews….
Also, I’m fairly active over on Goodreads. If I read something and really love it, I always make a point of talking about it there.
Here’s a link if people are interested.
(The following questions were answered by the Worldbuilders Team)
MJ: Pat mentioned in a recent wrap-up post for Worldbuilders 2012 that he actually had to finally bring in more people to help with the charity this year because it’s grown so much. Are you expecting more growth for Worldbuilders 2013?
Worldbuilders: Oh definitely. Even with the added staff in 2012, it was nearly everyone’s first time running the fundraiser, so we were really still held back. Now we have someone on staff with real charity experience, who has been through our process and can find ways to improve and expand our fundraiser to levels the rest of us couldn’t have imagined.
MJ: The prizes alone for 2012 looked like such a massive undertaking. Do you have any idea yet what your fundraising total for the year actually ended up being?
WB: For the year it was a little over $600,000, including the amount we raised from our calendar and the $100,000 kicked in from one of our stretch goals. It brings our total donation to Heifer International overall to $1.95 million, which just blows us away.
MJ: Worldbuilders evolves every year, not just in terms of the prizes offered and the ambition of the fundraising goals, but also in terms of the ways people are able to help out. Are there any more changes in store for 2013?
WB: There’s so much already in process: we have a real and true headquarters, we’re greatly expanding our store and putting up new and interesting items more often, and we’re making ourselves more available via social media.
But the fundraiser itself will (hopefully) get a bit of a facelift this year. We’re working to build a new website, and make our blogs which describe our prizes a little more interactive and interesting to read.
MJ: You guys always receive such cool stuff from fellow authors, publishers and other people. What can you tell us about some of the awesome prizes that will be available to Worldbuilders supporters this year? Any really standout gifts so far?
WB: Well, we can always count on Subterranean Press to really bring out some of the most beautiful books we’ve ever held. We’re expanding who we accept donations from every year; last year ThinkGeek donated the amazing Portal Gun, Prime Books gave us thousands of books, and we took cool donations from fans. We expect a lot more coolness from a lot more donors.
We do have some numbered edition Ruth Thompson artwork coming this year, which will be exciting. We’ve also got a few creative projects going within Worldbuilders, including our publication of a Heifer International calendar coming this fall!
MJ: What about Heifer International, and Worldbuilders specifically, made you want to be a part of this charity?
WB: Almost everyone who works here was a friend and/or fan of Pat first. While only one of us helped out that first year, many of us witnessed from the outside how much good the geeky community was capable of doing and were inspired by it. Being able to start working for the charity has only deepened that awe, even if maybe we’re exhausted at the same time now.
Being able to touch a book that Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett signed is a cool bonus, though.
MJ: Pat has often touted the fact that a charity like Heifer is able to deliver a more direct impact to the lives of individual families (for example: you give $20 and people who really need it get a flock of chicks). After working with Heifer through Worldbuilders, have you guys been able to see some of that impact?
WB: Definitely. We read a lot of Heifer’s project updates, and it’s amazing the progress that is made every year. It’s not like cancer research where millions of dollars buy two pieces of equipment; we can really make a difference with our donations, and clearly do. We choose the projects our money goes toward, and we watch as we completely or nearly fund a project just with Worldbuilders contributions. It really puts into perspective how much good we can do.
MJ: I’ve always found it interesting that, in the fantasy community, the phrase “worldbuilding” is associated with enriching a fictional world with details, and here Pat and the rest of you have appropriated it to describe charity work that enriches the real world. I’m sure that’s not an accident, and given that the charity originated with Pat and his fans, I wanted to ask: How do you think this charity has been affected by an enthusiastic community like the world of fantasy fandom?
WB: We wouldn’t be here without them. In the first year, Pat was nearly bankrupted by the overwhelming support, and that first year it was primarily the fantasy fandom. We’ve expanded a great deal since then, but that’s still a large part of our core support, and we appreciate every one of them.
MJ: And lastly, just to do a bit of logistical stuff, where can people go to get regular and updated information on the progress of Worldbuilders 2013, and participate themselves?
Our fundraiser runs over the holiday season, but all proceeds from our online store, The Tinker’s Packs (www.thetinkerspacks.com) go to Worldbuilders. They’ve got a great Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TheTinkersPacks) and Twitter (@TheTinkersPacks) too.
Both of those pages make sure to share any blogs Pat posts about Worldbuilders and The Tinker’s Packs, but following his blog is always smart – blog.patrickrothfuss.com
To find out more about Worldbuilders and all the ways you can help, visit their website.