(This may be an awkwardly-written post; it’s been forever since I wrote a sentence that didn’t need an accompanying citation)
I love TinyLetters. I wrote a few a couple of years ago. Every week I tell myself I ought to get back into writing one, but I never know how to start, so I don’t. Until then, I content myself with finding and reading other people’s TinyLetters. Especially ones written by writers (or those to aspire to write).
TinyLetters are stripped-down newsletters, lauded for their simplicity and intimacy. Some people use TinyLetter for traditional newsletters, but others use them in a more freeform way. As the name suggests, TinyLetters try to recreate the feeling of receiving a personal letter in your inbox. All you have to do is subscribe.
Because everything’s delivered through email, the letters aren’t that easy to find. Many of the letters I ended up subscribing to come from TinyLetter Forwards, a newsletter that forwards “one great TinyLetter, picked by the folks at TinyLetter,” twice a month. The writing community Catapult also started a Tiny Letter of the Month series. Often what I end up doing is punching in “TinyLetter” and “writing” into a Twitter search–sometimes I get lucky.
That said, I thought I’d share some of the letters I’m currently subscribed to. There are a few other TinyLetters I follow, but this list focuses on writers. They don’t always talk about writing, but sometimes discuss it indirectly, in an essay about travel or tarot or research. These also aren’t of the traditional newsletter variety, though there are many book/publishing-themed ones out there. I also only included those who make their previous letters accessible.
In no particular order:
Field Guide (Colleen Mondor)
This monthly-ish newsletter contains links to articles on history, science, culture and biography that are of interest to me and many other people (I hope). Also updates on my work-in-progress about the 1932 Cosmic Ray Expedition to Alaska.
Colleen Mondor is the author of a nonfiction book about the beauty and danger of flying in Alaska. She’s currently researching a new book, the process of which she describes in this newsletter.
Her newsletter is a godsend to people like me, who tell people they’re writing a biography but actually have no idea what they’re doing. Mondor’s research notes makes me feel less alone. When she describes the frustration of an inaccessible archive, or laments a source that may forever be lost to history, it’s like she’s pulling the thoughts straight out of my head. I am desperate to find more ‘research diaries’ like this one!
Shaken and Stirred (Gwenda Bond)
Ramblings about adventures in writing, and what I’m reading and watching and thinking that month. You know, like a cross between an old school nattering blog entry and a letter to you. There will be news sprinkled in, but only at the end. Swear.
Gwenda Bond is a YA author who writes books about Lois Lane. (Can we take a moment to admire/slightly envy someone who has found so specific a calling?) Part personal blog, part writing progress, part book news, Bond’s newsletter is everything an author newsletter should be. Her most recent letter is about the distractions she faces now that she is a full-time work-from-home-writer, and how to resolve them. (She also wrote one about how to write when the world is burning).
Each update feels personable and candid, and at the risk of sounding extremely lame, it really does feel like receiving a letter from a friend.
Nitid Nneka (Nneka M. Okona)
Heart stirrings and emo musings from yours truly on everything under the sun.
Nneka M. Okona is a nonfiction writer who’s written several articles for magazines. She has a blog, which is also wonderful. That’s one thing I can’t figure out: how do people know what to post on a blog vs. a TinyLetter? But Okona does both, and very well.
Okona’s newsletter is personal, reflective, and intimate. She has this beautiful way of writing about travel and family in a way that is sincere yet measured. There is pain in her essays, like in this extended reflection on grief, but it is pain made articulate by her skill as a writer. And of course, even in that pain, she never stops writing.
Reading the Tarot (Jessa Crispin)
A newsletter devoted to the tarot, by the author of The Creative Tarot. I’ll dispense advice, offer recommended reading, notes on individual cards, that sort of thing.
Jessa Crispin is an author and editor who founded Bookslut, a respected literary website that sadly stopped updating last year. She has since been, seemingly, traveling the world and writing books. I don’t always agree with her views, but I’ve always admired her. It’s hard not to feel intimidated by the ferocity of her intelligence and breadth of knowledge.
Her newsletter revolves around tarot, but tarot and her creative life are inextricably linked (a theme she explores in her book The Creative Tarot). One letter that exemplifies this is this one about The Devil card, which springboards into a larger discourse on evil. A book recommendation, or three, are always at hand.
…the fuck is this? (Bim Adewunmi)
things that have no real meaning, sent out sporadically
I follow Buzzfeed journalist Bim Adewunmi on Twitter, and only recently learned of her TinyLetter. The title brings to mind the line from Book of Mormon, said by General Buttfucking Naked. Though the description makes no apologies for what to expect, Adewunmi sends letters once or twice or month.
These are typically vignettes about her life, that recently have focused on travel, homesickness, and Blackness. Her update from Charleston, South Carolina, sheds light onto the difficult aspects of being black journalist tasked to cover the trial of Dylann Roof. She does not romanticize her anger, and knows how to add nuance to her indignation. Also, she’s damn funny.
Maven Game (David Moldawer)
[a] weekly newsletter on writing, speaking, and sharing without hating yourself in the morning.
This is a bit of a cheat because–as I just discovered while compiling this list–Maven Game isn’t actually a TinyLetter. But since David Moldawer’s most recent letter inspired this post, it felt wrong not to include it.
This newsletter contains a hodgepodge of information about writing and publishing. Some are motivational: the most recent, for example, asks writers to evaluate their routine to make writing more enjoyable. Another gives advice on how to “write damp”–when the initial fire of creativity has fizzled out. Moldawer has a clear and slightly self-deprecating writing voice, which makes his advice a fairly enjoyable read.
If you subscribe to any other TinyLetters, I’d love your recommendations!