It is not a secret that Substack has been courting high-profile people in media with money and resources to leave their staff jobs and publish here instead. This week, Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie wrote a blog post detailing the program, Substack Pro, and how it’s supporting the writers they’ve handpicked for it.
Transparency about Pro status is at the will of the person who has it. I have some presumptions. My feeling is that Roxane Gay’s Audacious and Tressie McMillan Cottom’s essaying may be part of the program; if they are, then I have even more admiration for what both women doing with their work here. Gay is creating space for emerging writers and building a book club community that centers diverse literature. Cottom’s essaying is fun and instructive; her recent post about voracious research and engagement with what’s already been written, Sleep Around Before You Marry An Argument, is on my music criticism syllabus. I want to reinforce to my students how much of our work is part of a bigger ecosystem of critical writing and thought.
Substack is its own ecosystem in the bigger one. I dig that writers like Hunter Harris and Anne Helen Peterson can use this space to expand upon their curiosities and push their voices without the roadblock of editorial approval. I’m cool with that.
What I’m not cool with is the possibility that money spent on subscriptions on this platform is going to coffers for people like Bari Weiss, Jesse Signal, Glenn Greenwald, Jonathan Chait, Andrew Sullivan, Matt Taibbi, and their ilk. If the Substackening of cancel-culture cry-babies happened because these writers were offered secret self-publishing advances, then Substack is contributing to the cry-wolf hustle of conservative-silencing.
Do I know for sure if one or any of them are a Pro? Nope, and I’m not comfortable with that. I’m not ok with the fact that I don’t get to make an informed choice here.
I’m a teeny, tiny fish in the Substack pond. It’s not going to matter to them or anyone, really, if I leave. I don’t care about that. What I do care about are my contributions to the ecosystem and that means where I choose to speak and spend time. I came here because I wanted to feel free from the specter of digital media competition but Substack is not only recreating the parts of it that make me feel like a damp idiot, I’m also not allowed to know whose taking up the most space. No, thanks.
EDIT: Read You, Wrote You is actually doing something else!
I’ve moved the newsletter to Buttondown, so the archive will live there and I’ll be coming to you from there. I’ll send three pieces a month: one letter of news, as I mentioned before, with links, recommendations, and, of course, some confessional-adjacent preamble about pop culture and whatever I’ve been doing; additionally, I’ll be sending two other emails, one Q&A with someone interesting (who may or may not be a writer) and one piece of writing or reporting. (Right now I’m working on a piece from the point of view of artists and creators on NFTs.) In April, these three emails will be free. Starting in May, only the letter of news will be free. The rest will cost you $2/month or $20/year. I am going to use e-claire as the title for this newsletter so I’m not tethered to reading and writing stuff. I know you’re here for music and pop culture, so that what I’m going to give you <3
If you’re subscribed here, you’re already on the new mailing list. If you’d like to join now, sign up here.
(Yearly and founding subscribers, expect refunds this week. Thank you so, so much for your support <3)
One little thing before I go. My genius friend and teacher Sarah Elaine Smith is launching an alchemical novel revision class tomorrow that I will be taking to turn the bag of gross-and-sad1 word-bones that is my novel’s first draft 5.0 into its final form.
Of the class, which is called, reVisionary, Sarah says: “I believe that writing isn't a mechanical skill. Writing begins before you sit down to write: It's in your childhood, your thoughts, your fears. It takes a lot of courage just to write the first word of anything. And for that reason, it only makes sense that revision requires some deep work. It's not just a book. It's who you are.” We stan. You can sign up for the inaugural live reVisionary through my referral link or take it asynchronously when the link is right for you. The class is 40% off for BIPOC.
If you want to know more about why Sarah is a genius, you can read our convo for this newsletter here.
Thank you again for reading my little rantings and ramblings here. You can find me on Twitter at @clairelobenfeld. Otherwise, I’ll see you soon.
In a good way!!