Made and remade continually

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Ann Friedman Weekly
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This week

A friend and I—both of us extroverts—were lamenting recently that we just don't know who we are after a full year of not feeling ourselves in relation to others. Prepare your eye-roll, because I'm gonna quote Virginia Woolf: "I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me." I've been bumping up against the same two people—myself and my partner, who I live with—again and again. Which means I'm finding the same words, over and over. I can sense that there is so much that has not been drawn out of me this year.

This newsletter turns eight today. I've sent more than 400 Fridays' worth of words and links (holy moly), but these past 52 have been important to me in a way that I never could have predicted. A way to remake myself each week. How great it's been to feel tethered to all of you. "How fortunate I am that in this life I am one who has been allowed to create beauty with newsletter." (But really. Truly.)

Eight years ago I was a wobbly baby giraffe, knocking against myself as I tried to figure out self-employment. I had been, until very recently, a magazine editor. The collision of writers' and editors' and designers' brains is what makes magazines magic. I missed that process, and I was trying to recapture a bit of it by starting a newsletter: I wanted to have a record of the ideas that affected me in a given week. I was not aiming for more financial stability or public prominence (though these have been very welcome side effects). This is why I always laugh when people are like, "How did you grow your newsletter audience?" As if it were all a grand plan from the beginning. The answer is that writing this newsletter every week has always brought me great pleasure, so once I started I simply didn’t stop, and then readers came to rely on my weekly practice, too.

A few months ago I decided to try to use this newsletter to support a few writers who are trying to break into the industry. This might seem like charity, and I was indeed partly motivated by a desire to prop open the door rather than let it slam shut behind me. But after many years of doing this newsletter solo, I am excited by the prospect of having some other brains to bump up against. More than 500 writers answered the call for applications, and I spent most of January and February immersed in the letters they sent me. So many incredible stories and ideas!! I wish I could hire hundreds of them to form some sort of mega-mag. Since I have not yet figured out how to clone myself or my money, I had to choose just two. 

I'm very excited to introduce you to the inaugural AF WKLY writing fellows: Nereya Otieno writes about food and music and, most recently, about the legacy of architect Paul R. Williams. You can find her on Instagram. Shanti Escalante-De Mattei writes about art and climate. Her latest is on crypto-rich art collectors, and you can follow her on Twitter. Look for their words here in the newsletter once a month. And look for my own ideas to get sharper as a result of working alongside them. 

Thanks to those of you who are paying members, because you're enabling me to pay these writing fellows. And thanks to all of you for drawing different words from me every Friday for the past 96 months. I couldn’t have made it through these last 12 without you.

I'm reading
Surviving a year without touch, and the true nature of intimacy. We're forgetting what "normal" was likeTherapists and traveling nurses are not ok. Femdacha is a retreat for Russian activists who need a respite from working to oppose Putin's regime. The ghosts of migrant dead haunt California. The long legacy of violence against Asian Americans in the Western U.S. Biden won't say "abortion." Corporate mindfulness programs are an abomination. A story about how an academic found himself on a joyless path, and what happened after he asked himself, "My god, how did I get here?" A man who built Facebook's algorithm is trying to undo the damage. These are golden days for the venture capitalist who fancies himself a philosopher. The trans history you never learned in school. How being in a racial majority makes a difference for Black kids at school. From raising anti-racist kids to being an anti-racist family. Hilton Als on race as performanceOprah's rigorous empathy as an interviewer. "Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns." Tressie McMillan Cottom on Dolly Parton's nostalgic moment in the sun and our own rose-tinted glasses. What should we wear now? A beautiful essay by Thomas Page McBee on writing through the shame. The pleasures of book-centric instagram accounts. A call to appreciate your notes app poetry.

Pie chart
What do we have in common with sea slugs? 3% sallow color, 7% often found in temperate water, 90% have fully left our body, yet continue to survive
The Japanese Sea Slug Pie

(For more ocean-life comparison, see this archival crab pie.)

Programming note! A year ago when this pandemic hit, I made pie charts available to all subscribers. Very soon, pie charts are going back behind the paywall (er, piewall). So if you want to keep seeing them every week, or if you just want to support my work and this new fellowship, now is a great time to set up your membership

If you're already a paying member, you're all set! You can increase or decrease your annual payment with the "Manage paid membership" link in the bottom left corner of the newsletter. Thank you for the support.

I’m looking & listening
Soul! the tv show, via R. Eric Thomas. A delightful historic tale construction kit, via Laura Olin.

a white woman with dark hair walks from left to right and bumps into a white man with dark hair; they're both unclothed
Marina Abramović and ULAY, Relation in Space, 1977. Mostly selected this for the literal "bouncing off of other people" art, but also: Abramović is on a new between-seasons episode of The Last Bohemians.

I endorse
This advice from audio producer Eric Eddings: "If you’re in the workplace, pay attention to the structures of power. If someone comes to you and talks to you and says, 'You know, I’m struggling, I’m wondering what to do about this,' listen, and offer them support. That would fix so much. The actual empathy, the compassion like that — there needs to be more of it." Pay attention to the structures of power.

I want to send this quote to everyone who seems baffled by how to "do" diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Paying attention to structures of power also means noting our own place in those structures. This would be a very different world if we each acknowledged our own power—yes, we all have at least some of it—and were as thoughtful as possible about how we deploy it. 

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