A Year in Newsletters 2022
The year of community
All years are strange in their own way. I recall in 2017, after reading another, “this was the worst year” essay thinking, maybe all years are bad in their own way. Maybe there was never a good year. There were only the years when we were more ignorant, more blind. There are only the years we can pretend we are not spiders hanging precariously off a cliff, floating on a single strand of silk.
That’s the thing about the internet, everyone can know everything all the time, and nothing all at once.
This is my third year running this newsletter, and it’s my second year running it as a full-time job. In that time, the newsletter has accrued 30,000 subscribers and over 3,000 paid subscribers. And we are continuing to grow.
I say “we”, because, this year, I’ve learned a lot about running a little media company, but the main thing I’ve learned is, I do not do this alone. The best part about this newsletter is the community.
This year, I launched a Discord server, Flyover Politics. Where I got to know many of you very well. We talked about pets and parents and fears and hopes and who likes Pepsi and who is a sociopath (but I repeat myself). And I’ve been impressed to see people grow and change in the Discord too. There was one conversation early on about pronouns, where I saw someone thank other posters and say they wanted to think about things more deeply. I was shocked. That’s not supposed to happen online. But it did.
I’ve also heard about the things you are dealing with out in the world. Shifts at work, in home, and in life. And it’s changed how I think.
I think I see more now, the politics of the personal — how so often our best hope and redemption comes not from the political leaders we task with saving us, but from one another. From the mutual aid groups we form, the non-profits we create, the radical acts of care, and the communities we have. These aren’t perfect solutions. We need a strong social safety net so no one gets lost. But if we’ve learned anything from 2020 and these ensuing years, it’s that we have to stop begging for our lives, and fight for them and fight for one another. This year, I’ve personally and professionally worked on expanding my sense of community, inviting in friends to hang out with me and my kids and in the process, building around them a community of support. I’ve worked on building up my home. And I’ve worked building up this space. All to be places of inclusivity and conversation. And often that means stepping back and being quiet and listening. And that means asking for help. In 2023, I’ll be hiring someone to help me manage all of this. And your subscriptions will directly support that person.
There is a lot I have yet to learn. This year,joined the Discord community. And I’ve learned so much from how formulates community and cares for people.
And in looking at the newsletters that were popular this year, I noticed that it’s the ones that strike a personal tone that resonates the most. Readers, you, want to see what is at stake with big political issues and discussions and feel the emotional resonance. And, maybe, we all want to feel less alone.
I have to admit, there have been times these past two years when I’ve called people to be interviewed for the newsletter and felt very silly saying, “Can I interview you for my newsletter? It’s called ‘Men Yell at Me’ but it’s not weird or anything, okay just a little weird.” There have also been times where I’ve texted friends to tell them that I feel very silly just writing in my little newsletter about dingii. Like, how is that a job? And who the hell do I think I am thinking that enough people care about what I think to keep writing?
But this year, I noticed a shift. People were asking me to be in the newsletter. When I called and talked to people, often, they told me they’d heard of the newsletter and liked it and were impressed with the number of people who subscribe and comment. I will also be traveling more and covering more stories. All because of your subscriptions and your support. And because you all read this newsletter, it no longer feels weird to reach out to places and say, “I want to write about this for my newsletter.”
I still feel silly (just like perpetually ridiculous). And still question my bona fides, but I am more confident now, not because of me, but because of this community. Because of the thoughts and ideas and stories shared here. Because you’ve challenged me and each other, because you all volunteer, and vote, and talk, and ask hard questions, and often, tell me to my face, that you don’t always agree with me, but you are here to figure this all out. Because of the articles you post, the thoughts you have. And now when I have those days of despair, it’s easier to push through, because I realize, I don’t have to have all the answers. Sometimes, I can just share and listen. Because I’m not doing this alone.
So this year, if there was a theme, it was community. It was getting close, getting uncomfortable, and learning to care for ourselves and each other in that mess.
Thank you for being part of this community with me. Thank you for your thoughts and stories. And I will note that as I was digging into the data on the most popular stories, I saw that in the top 20 were the newsletters I posted in the last half of the year. Showing that MYAM is only getting better.
And with that, here are the newsletters you loved the most in 2022.
The Subversive Joy of Being a Single Mother:
This newsletter about just being really freaking happy with my life has had so much resonance. I have a book coming out in 2024 about divorce, and one thing I noticed is how often the narrative is about the poor miserable divorcee when in reality, it’s really great to build the life you want.
That’s How It Works When You’re a Woman on the Internet: This newsletter is deeply personal and written by Aubrey Hirsch. I am not gonna lie. Most often, the guest posts are not your favorites. But every year, one hits exactly the right chord, and this one, by Aubrey did. I’m sure it’s because she’s a deeply talented writer and illustrator. But also, because I think it looks at the flip side of the debate about who is silenced online and challenges the narratives we tell ourselves about safety and the First Amendment.
The Joy of Being Alone:
My newsletter about being a single mother drew so much feedback, I decided to write a second newsletter about it. And it was just as popular, if not more so.
The Cult of Casey’s:
Back in 2019, I spent a lot of time pitching a story to various outlets about the culture of gas stations. I pitched the idea as a look inside the culture of the Midwest, about atrophying towns, and wide open spaces. I kept pitching this idea through 2020. And most often, I never heard back. This year, I finally just gave up and wrote it for myself. And you all loved it. This was the most-shared newsletter I’ve ever written.
Doing a Little Word Puzzle as the World Burns:
I got really burnt out in August. It was a summer of intense parenting my kids through some pandemic-related anxieties and book writing. So, I decided to write about my little Wordle obsession and about the beauty of distraction and the things we hold onto.
Dingus of the Week: Mother’s Day:
Well, this was the year, my Friday newsletters cracked the top ten. In previous years, the Friday newsletters were always an afterthought, a kind of grab bag of jokes and links. But if there is a second theme to this year, it might be the year the weekly dingus came into it’s own.
The Grassley Legacy:
I spent the better part of 2022 looking into the life of Chuck Grassley and the Iowa race for the Senate. I wrote two stories about it, one a profile of Grassley for Vanity Fair. And another story about the senate race for Politico. I learned a lot about this state, its people, the contradictions, hopes, and the lies we tell ourselves. (My favorite lie is, “Grassley used to be respectable.” My friends, he was endorsed by the KKK in 1980 and that didn’t bother many people then. So, if you think he used to be respectable you are telling on yourself.) But, writing for other outlets, I can’t always say all the things I want to say. So, I did a special subscriber’s-only newsletter about Grassley answering your questions. It brought in a lot of new paid subscribers.
Everybody is Leaving Iowa:
One of the strengths of my writing, I think, is that I live here. I didn’t used to live in the Midwest, I still do. And I am still in this mess with all of you. I wrote a love letter and a lament to Iowa. And I heard from so many people across the country that it feels relevant to their states too.
Dingus of the Week: Women’s Fashion
Once again, the dingus of the week proves popular. This time skewering the ideas promoted by women’s fashion.
Roe is Already Dead
In 2020, I published a book about reproductive rights, which in many ways predicted the Dobbs decision and the 2022 rollback of women’s rights. This newsletter was written about how reproductive rights had been undermined for years and argued that the fight for reproductive justice had to be more inclusive.