Newsletters, Tiny Letters, SubStacks, whatever you want to call them, I love getting these updates from people’s lives in my inbox. I’ve always loved email. I subscribed to so many mailing lists in the pre-social media days of the internet that email was how I first got to know people online. Email is still the first thing I open when I sit down at my computer.
A good newsletter can feel like a great secret and it feels a little bit odd to be talking about my favourites out in public like this. Maybe it’s because they are sent directly to me and that makes them seem private and personal, or maybe because they remind me of the early days of online journals when every newly discovered site felt like it belonged to me alone. But I like sharing the things I love, and I can console myself with the fact that very few people read this blog, so they will remain mostly secret!
These are five (plus one bonus one) of my favourite free newsletters.
Vinay Patel is a screenwriter and playwright who sends out a weekly newsletter that’s mostly about his writing life and a little bit about his cats. I really enjoy reading about how writers write and he also writes well about the things he’s seen on stage and screen. He writes for theatre and tv and I like reading about the differences between the two processes, and about the next stage, after the thing is written and handed over to the directors, designers, actors, etc to become something more than words on the page. The newsletter provides a good insight into the day-to-day life of a busy, working writer who is juggling lots of things – bits of teaching and mentoring, seeing work performed, meetings, writing deadlines – and what that looks like, or more accurately, what it feels like from the inside.
2. The collected ahp
Anne Helen Peterson wrote one of my favourite essays this year – How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation and she also writes this regular newsletter. I really enjoy her writing so I’d probably read it no matter what she was writing about. As it happens, she is currently writing a book on burn-out and her newsletters are often about her own experience/recovery, which is interesting to me. She also includes a great selection of other things worth reading around the internet.
3. Jimsy Jampots
Amy Jones was a writer for The Pool until it folded last year and I subscribed to her Tiny Letter because of her writing there. She used to send out a regular newsletter that I looked forward to every Thursday. I don’t think she ever missed a week! The newsletters are less regular now but they haven’t stopped and I still enjoy them when they appear in my inbox. The style is a personal “what I think” section, some recommended reading from around the internet and also a curated list of things to buy, from dresses to notebooks, novels and necklaces. I have bought things receommended by Amy on more than one occasion but I also just really enjoy her writing.
She has also written a book called To Do Lists and Other Debacles.
4. That’s What She Said
Anne T Donahue’s is one of the first newsletters I subscribed to and still one of my favourites. She has a wonderful, chatty, informal style which reminds me of old-school blog posts. She tells you where she’s writing from and what’s she’s been up to, but also writes a lot about trying to figure out life and is very frank and open about how difficult that can be. She sometimes answers readers’ letters, Agony Aunt style, and every newsletter includes pet peeves and sources of joy provided by subscribers. I often feel like I have a better understanding of the world after I read her newsletters. This feeling is often fleeting, but I enjoy it while it lasts!
Anne also has a book out – Nobody Cares.
5. Can’t complain
Emily Gould is a writer living in New York with her husband and two small boys. I read her novel Friendship a few years ago and signed up for the newsletter because I like her writing. They are occasional treats that give me a glimpse into a life that is very different to my own and that’s why I like them. There was one a few months ago that just gave me such a rush of nostalgia for the descriptive, serious blogs I used to read a lot of in the late 90s/early 00s. She also often includes recipes.
Bonus – Criticism and Love
These were a series of critical essays written with love by Maddy Costa and Andy Field. They were dense, nerdy writing about (mostly) British theatre makers. There are no new essays coming, for now, but the archive is still online.They remind me of things I read in college when we were often taught about theatre practioneers we would never get to see and that we could only experience through someone else’s description. I like reading about theatre and I like seeing how other people write about it. Each essay is an indept look at the work of one company or indivdual. I think it’s a lovely thing to do for theatre makers, to collect their work in this way and share it with others. (The theatre makers might not agree.)