I started this newsletter in 2015 because I was young and impressionable and bought into the idea that anyone who wanted to be a successful writer should have an email newsletter. I’m not sure at what point this idea was introduced, but it was driven home by people like Ann Friedman, one of the original email newsletter success stories, whose newsletter I have read every week since…2015. My first subscribers were family and friends and exes who wanted to keep up with my work. (To all the exes: I see you, I love you, thanks for sticking with it.) But the landscape of email newsletters has changed a lot since then. I’m frequently awed by the quality of work that lands in my inbox on a weekly basis, and new platforms have made it easy for journalists to monetize that work.
So, I’m starting to rethink what Keynotes should be. (Should it even be called Keynotes?) To start, you’re now reading this on Substack, where it’s easier for readers to browse for newsletters they like, and where the editing tools are simpler. (Sorry, TinyLetter—you’ll always have a special place in my heart.) I also want to change up the kind of content you’re getting here; free writing a mini-essay intro and throwing in a bunch of links doesn’t really feel like the thing to do anymore. I’d rather bring you guys something that’s targeted and specific. In the next few weeks, I’ll be thinking about what that looks like. I admire so many other newsletters that I figure it’s time to put some intention into my own.
For this issue things will proceed as usual, meaning I’m about to share a bunch of stories that I found interesting or moving or hilarious, plus a few things I’ve been working on myself. But between now and the end of the month (and honestly at any point), I’d also love to hear from all of you. If there are things you like or things you don’t, hit me up and let me know. Do you just read the intro? Or just the links? Is there too much of one thing/not enough of another? I have a bunch of topics in mind for miniature or full-fledged essays (depression sinks, the static year), so tell me if you’d be into that, too. It’s special—and still sort of surreal—to have a group of people specifically interested in what I’m curating. And I want to do right by you all.
In December I interviewed Chani Nicholas, my favorite astrologer and a marvelous human, about the coming year. (She just launched an app that I happen to love; my favorite part is her “The Week Ahead” podcast, which is pretty self-explanatory and which is delivered in a voice so soothing it feels like a brain massage.) Hearing from her actually gave me some hope for 2021. May it do the same for you.
Personal essay stuff
On Online - From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy - Alicia’s thought bubble about what it means to be on the internet these days is brilliantly thought through and made me think about my own habits of digital consumption. (Her newsletter is one of my personal favorites; you can subscribe here.)
I Left My Career In Prestige Media Because of the Shitty Men In Charge - Medium - If you’re in the mood for some steeeeeeaming hot media-world gossip, this is a good starting point. The boss in question is obviously James Bennet, who left the New York Times after several blowups in the Opinion section that he relaunched. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg gets an honorable mention here, too. Personally, I want to hear from allll the women who left the Atlantic and signed NDAs (which of course is the point of having them sign NDAs: not hearing from them). This piece also made me think about the often fuzzy line between what is considered “reportable” behavior and what is brushed off as a bad day, a momentary lapse, a personality flaw. That is to say: the older I get, the more I realize how often I have made excuses—mostly just to myself—for others’ bad behavior.
Here’s What It Was Really Like to Work at a Women’s Website - Human Parts - On a related note: this fantastic scorched-earth dispatch from Gabrielle Moss basically gave me the energy to survive the last week of January. It’s hilarious, highly relatable to anyone who’s worked in “women’s” media, and self-critical in a way that’s really interesting.
Mind the Gap - Guernica - This essay about the writer’s experience dating an older woman obviously made me cry. It also offers one of the more probing explorations of a romantic age gap that I’ve ever read. And the ending is sweet and fragile and lovely.
The Journalist and the Pharma Bro - Elle - If you missed this story near the end of December, you are in for a WILD ride. Christie Smythe, a former Bloomberg News journalist, writes about falling in love with Martin Shkreli, who in addition to being a horrible person, is also not hot enough to be seducing journalists, imo. This story kicked off a whole dialogue on the internet about abusive behavior, personal agency, and fame grabs. Personally, I’m interested in what it says about who wields power in a relationship and how. But I’m also content to simply revel in the drama of it all.
Living With Karens - The Cut - I love this story because it’s a combination of the niche suburb drama that gives me life and a crucial testament to the many forms of racism that Black people in America deal with on a daily basis. You end up disliking the antagonist, but also asking a lot of questions about the neighborhood where this all unfolded. A narrative that could’ve been presented in a simple way is deliberately complicated.
The Nightmare Share - The Cut - The Cut has been killing it with the horrifying-yet-engrossing neighborhood exposés lately. This story out of the West Village is about a serial scammer who cons and manipulates people into letting her live with them for free. It made me so mad that I spent a good chunk of time after reading it googling everyone involved.
Eileen Myles on writing during a pandemic is a treat—you’re welcome. Speaking of personal newsletters, Today in Tabs is back, baby! I also loved this Q&A that my friend Delia Cai did with my boss, Radhika Jones, about her outlook on the media industry and the nuances of her job. (You can subscribe to Delia’s newsletter here.)