‘Where Do We Go From Here?’

Some advice and an update about The Reading.

‘Where Do We Go From Here?’
Photo by Yanyi: The seasons are changing. A road stretches before you at sunset, the sun just out of view. You look at the brown-leaved mountain cast in red and gold, the clouds swirling in tinged wisps behind it. Above, the sky gets bluer. The road is flanked by two grassy fields interrupted by looming cypresses and deciduous shadows. Some trees to the right have lost all their leaves. The light lays flatly on the road, drawing out the dirt and stone.

Almost three years ago, I was standing outside the subway with my hands on my head, close to hyperventilating, after I was told that my first book had won a contest and it was going to be published. I was standing on that same sidewalk when I called a close friend, who told me: stay grounded and figure out what to do with this opportunity, before the opportunity figures out what it wants to do with me.

While I haven’t had complete control of the progression of these years, this advice has followed me. I prepared. I set my intentions. I knew at the time that appearing in public has a tremendous responsibility. That to most people, I would continue to be unknown. But to the people who looked up to me, what I did with my opportunities would matter a great deal. I know this now, in hindsight, because I could only intend to become who I myself was searching for.

When I look back at what I set out to do at the end of June and what The Reading’s become since then, I know that what we’re doing here is not a fluke, but a future of what writing can be: who it can be for, what it can do, what parts of it are worth value—what it has been for me, what it can be for you. This is because life, right now, is an opportunity. The Reading is an intention of a writing life that is not about getting ahead—not about prizes, publications, or certifications—but one in which the right words getting to the right people are enough. One in which literature is not capital, but a storehouse of memory and an abundance of dreams. One in which our stories, combined, make a patchwork of our time.

Support a different writing life

The Reading would not exist without your letters and your support. They bring up my own memories; they nudge me to expand my views. I’ve never written so consistently and so much until now. While I hoped to reach 1000 subscribers by next July, The Reading grew to that number in a mere two months. Since June 25, we’ve exchanged 19 letters, had 14 discussions, and even started a Sunday podcast. We’ve talked about writing on our identities, loneliness, survival in capitalism, loving ourselves and each other, getting through MFAs, and figuring out what “goodness” is, just to name a few. Many of you have written to me with encouragement and gratitude. I’m thankful, too, for you.

The Reading is going paid on November 15. Not much will change when I start paid subscription content on Sunday, and that is by design. There are no levels of paid tiers. Those who support me with paid subscriptions will get the audio version of that week’s letter and access to The Writing, but these are enhancements to what’s available for free. The point of this newsletter is free access to my Sunday advice. It will always stay that way.

If you look forward to this newsletter all week, if it has brought you joy, realization, or changed the way you write, it’s already done what I initially set out to do.

Your financial support will sustain this space for much more time to come.

Share a subscription to The Reading

I believe in this work because I’m tired of watching prestige, prize culture, circumstantial wealth, citizenship, and location get in the way of a writer’s education and community. I believe in this so much that I will write from 8:00–15:00 most Saturdays, recording in a makeshift sound booth padded by a (former) mattress topper, no matter how late it gets. I hope to take this intention further into the future.

I believe in this because a writer’s education is highly specific and completely common, and I know the difference between writing and giving up can be one class, one instructor, and one comment. I believe in this because so often, writing stands in for who we’re afraid to become and what we wish we could choose. I hope not to be the last word, but to help you get to the first one.

When you choose to support The Reading, you put into action that you want to this work to exist. You believe in this vision of a writing community focused on writers and readers. You also believe that what we offer here should be free. Free to anyone who wants it but who may not be able to pay for it. You’re supporting the idea that their educations and communities matter too.

You’re also sustaining me. You’re helping ensure that I’ll have trans healthcare in this precarious US system, the main reason I remain attached to institutions at all. You’re giving me leeway to critique rather than depend on institutions, write based on what I think rather than what I’m told, and mentor those writers who don’t have access to the same resources based on their circumstances. You’re making it possible for me to choose to work on what I value rather than to work for survival. You’re giving me the gift of my own time, which, I hope, will one day be sustained enough so that I can focus on giving away my offerings for free, as they should be in the first place.

The Reading is a collective intention. It is about all of us becoming the writers we ourselves were searching for.

To support this work, you can share this post, send me a letter, or subscribe to The Reading for yourself or someone else.