Newsletter #1: 3 Invitations
On freewriting and our first prompt, Substack, and a party
Welcome to our first Midstory Newsletter! I want to give all of you the warmest of welcomes to our Midstory Magazine community.
My intention is to start each week with an update on the magazine, with a mix of telling you about our new published essays and other events and opportunities, as general as our general musings about life, midlife, and writing in general. This week I’m writing to invite you to do three things.
Many of you are brand new to our HerStories Project community. We are Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger, and we “met” well over a decade ago in that active, fractious, and utterly unique world of online blogging (yes, I’m talking about the “mommy bloggers”) during the early 2010s. From there, we started our own blog, publishing stories of women’s friendship. Soon after we began teaching personal essay writing and blogging, as well as publishing essay collections (five in total).
We’ve tried a lot of new things at HerStories over the past decade, some of them successful and amazing (our writing groups that we called Small Steps begun during the early days of the Covid pandemic, some of them still going strong), others not so much (a brief, foray into the platform Mighty Networks that confused everyone). We listen to our community and listen to your needs and goals and want to evolve with you.
So that brings us to Substack and my first invitation:
Give Substack a real chance.
(If you know and love Substack already, go right ahead and skip to #2.)
From my handy Substack dashboard, I know that many of you (most?) did not have Substack accounts before signing up to join our Midstory Magazine community. First, THANK YOU. Thanks for taking a risk with us and for signing up for something new and uncertain to support midlife women’s storytelling. I’ve heard from many of you, saying, “What is a Substack? How do I do this? Is this a newsletter? A blog?”
I get the skepticism/hostility. I actively avoided understanding much about Substack for years. (Why should I bother trying to manage *yet another* online platform?) Until too many of my fellow writers (including my co-editor Stephanie) hopped on the bandwagon, and then I dug deep.
And, fellow Gen X/midlife friends, please believe me when I say that Substack is actually pretty great. It’s this perfect mix of a blogging/newsletter/community platform.
Here’s what I’m asking you to do: Open Substack on your desktop/laptop. You won’t get the best Substack experience from your phone. Fill out your profile. Check out our full site, but then look at others’. Start with our Recommended Substacks, and then look at others’ recommendations. I’ll think you’ll soon get the general vibe and I think you’ll like it. I’m hardly an expert so I’ll be learning and getting used to Substack along with you.
Write for 10 minutes.
This is my second invitation. We are big proponents of freewriting. Call it journaling, morning pages…whatever you’d like. Each of those terms mean something a big different, but what we mean is sitting down — with or without a prompt — and setting a timer and just writing, whatever comes to mind. No censoring, no editing, no judgment. This is what we do in our writing groups.
From what many of you have already told me, I know that you may not be an experienced writer. You may not have written anything *just for yourself* in decades. Or ever. And that is totally okay. You belong here with us. Or you may have published multiple books. We have women in our community on both ends of that spectrum, and lots in between. We are all the same when we sit down to a blank page or empty screen.
Here at HerStories we love these “zero drafts” — not even yet first drafts. They’re our first attempts at figuring out what we think and how to process our lives.
So today or tonight or tomorrow, or sometime during this week, get out your notebook or favorite journal or a new Word doc, and write.
Our first prompt is: “The bravest thing I’ve ever done…” Go with the first memory that pops into your head. Don’t judge it. Keep writing for 10 minutes (don’t stop!). I want to invite you to share this writing below with us. This is not a place for critique because this is not that kind of writing. We will tell you which words and sentences spoke to us, what questions we have, or how the writing made us feel.
Eventually, we will make this is a private space (just for paid subscribers), so that it feels more intimate and approachable, but for now, we would love it if you shared as much as you feel comfortable, even if it’s just a line or two.
And if you already know this is the kind of writing you like to do, our next session of our signature writing group starts on Monday, October 16th. Find out more here. We’d love to see lots of new faces!
Come to our launch party (over Zoom).
Pajamas encouraged. We’ll send out a Zoom link for a meet up on Monday, October 16th at 8 p.m. (Eastern). Mark your calendars! We will hang out, introduce each other, and talk about writing and midlife and all of its complexity, craziness, and confusion.
Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions. You can always write us at email@example.com.
We can’t tell you how much it means that you’ve chosen to be a part of our new magazine. Thank you for all your support so far.
Introduce yourself in the “Introductions” thread. Don’t be scared. Tell us about you and your midlife experience.
You can submit your writing (as personal essays or an “unsent letter”) here.
Our Fall HerStories Writing group starts October 16th.
Our Midstory Magazine “launch party” is at 8 p.m. ET on October 16th.