When I was trying to be a fiction writer, I knew I had to start an email list. Every single book tells you it’s the most effective way to reach readers and sell books. Back when I was in the thick of publishing in 2015, I chose Tiny Letter. It’s simple and easy, with a blog-like text field in which you can write–not like the campaign-focused email newsletters for people who do this as their job. The last letter I wrote from this account was in 2017, which must’ve been when the company was bought by Mail Chimp, because that’s the reason I left.
As an early adopter who was on Twitter in 2006, Tumblr in 2007, and Substack before the 2020 gold rush, I’ve seen what happens when websites get popular and then get bought. I was afraid the same thing would happen with Tiny Letter, and now I’m afraid it’s already happening with Substack.
Substack has decided to take Twitter’s stance on “freedom of speech.” When I opened the site in another tab just now to export my subscriber list and import it here, I noticed that Bari Weiss is “featured” on the front page. Substack has decided, even with the example of Twitter before them, that everyone is welcome–especially if they get clicks.
You might’ve noticed a bunch of your favourite writers joining Substack in the last year. A big part of that reason is because the company is actively courting them. If you have a name big enough, they offer an advance–much like a book publisher–against your future earnings. For some writers, they offer health insurance, even a legal team. Substack wants to be something else now–and it’s not something I particularly want, or need, to be a part of.
I need an easy way to send emails to a lot of people. I don’t need another blog, and that’s what Substack turned into for me. I started writing my newsletter to document my farmers market venture, and it sparked the writer in me, who had been dormant for a long while. I hadn’t been blogging or even journalling, my constant for 20 years now. Amid everything else we got in 2020, I got my writing brain back, and for that, I’m grateful.
But I don’t need another blog. I might need an audience, and that feels weird to admit, but I loved writing for you, hearing from you, and coming back each week to see the numbers grow. I’ve eschewed analytics for so long that I had forgotten how much they actually help to keep one motivated. I hope you’ll stick with me into this new year.
2021’s letters won’t come as often, but my original promise to you remains: I won’t waste your time, I won’t send you a bunch of links to go read, I will send you recipes! You subscribed because you want to follow along with my projects.
My zine about how I make zines will be published monthly. January’s issue is available now! I’ve been working on getting more of my archive off my harddrive and out in public. Oh yeah, I redesigned my website (lemme know what you think!).
2021 will be more writing and less baking, but that doesn’t mean no baking at all. It just means that I don’t have the energy for the market this year. It could just be the winter hanging heavy on me in this moment, but 2020 took a lot from us all, and time to rest is required. I’ve been sleeping and reading more than ever, and it feels good.
When I was writing and publishing the first time I started this newsletter, I was unemployed and living back in my parents’s house. Now, I’ve been in my job and this apartment for 6 years, and though a lot of things still suck, the Canadian government is taking care of the working poor with extended employment benefits for the rest of the year. I’ve never been this financially stable in my life. As I was reading through a book about how to navigate your first published book, I realised this money is my advance. This money is the soft cushion I never had before, the spotter behind the weight bench, the partner with the good job that pays all my bills.
This is the year I write my book.
PS. yes, I promised you a recipe. Breakfasts recently have been toast with peanut butter and banana, or with Nutella (leftover from Christmas). But dinners have been hard. So I decided to let go and just buy a salad in a bag. All the decisions and most of the labour is done for you. And because there are no leftover ingredients, you can try different flavours every night and not feel guilty about a bunch of half-empty dressing bottles cluttering up your fridge. My favourite of the bunch was an avocado ranch with tortilla strips and “Mexican” cheese (it looked like cheddar and Monterey Jack to me).
If you’re struggling with cooking, too, let me release you. Buy something in a bag. Don’t feel guilty about the excess packaging. Eat something colourful. You’re doing your best.