An incomplete list of my favorites

I like to read a lot. This is a completely incomplete list of the books I’ve liked-to-loved that I would recommend you read during these quaran-times. You will notice some descriptions are better than others. I got a little tired and so I phoned a few in. My list, my rules.

  1. Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine: This is not a recommendation for parents (though this is technically YA). …


Find Your Reader

To foster community and build audience, use discussion prompts

Photo: SDI Productions / Getty Images

As audience editors, we’re not interested in likes or retweets as measures of success — we’re much more interested in the comment section. Though typically, a writer should “never read the comments,” the rule doesn’t apply when a writer specifically solicits responses, engagement, and ideas through discussion prompts.

Discussion prompts are creative ways to build community and encourage growth as a creator. Readers seek a community online, and though they want to read, they also want to engage. They want to discuss what they’ve learned with you, the author, or with fellow readers. They want to get to know you…


Find Your Reader

Your reader gave you the keys to their inbox. Don’t just barge in there without a plan.

A laptop open and facing right with little envelopes flying out.
A laptop open and facing right with little envelopes flying out.
Image: imran kadir photography/Getty Images

In audience development, we talk a lot about “meeting the reader where they are.” That means that it’s on you, the creator, to find out where your audience spends a lot of their time (Twitter? Instagram? Scrolling their inbox?) and find creative ways to get your content into those spaces. And (almost) every reader spends a lot of time reading email.

I love email as an audience building tool for the same reasons I love push notifications — we know that people are glued to their phones, so sending messages directly to your reader’s device makes it a lot more…


You know what felt very weird? Walking across Second Avenue in Manhattan, in the middle of a workday.

Normally, that street is thick with cars, yellow cabs, swaying buses. To successfully cross you’d better at least be at the crosswalk (though no need to wait for a red light), and if you want to just go rogue and cross in the middle, you’re expected to behave like Frogger.

But in March 2020, you could cross the major street easily, lazily, at your own pace.

I was headed to CVS to see if they had restocked antibacterial hand soap. I wore…


Find Your Reader

The one question to ask yourself every time you write

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

“Who is this for?”

This is a question you should ask yourself with every piece you write — on Medium or elsewhere. By defining your audience and your ideal reader, you’ll be able to sharpen the focus of your writing and your publication, and you’ll have a clear sell to new readers on why they should follow your work.

Developing an audience from scratch is hard work, and there is a lot involved. The first thing to do, though, is build the persona of the “ideal reader.” This reader is informed by everything from the voice and style of writing…


I can’t stop thinking about this piece from Current Affairs, published in August, but highly relevant every day since.

The New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the New Republic, New York, Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, and the London Times all have paywalls. Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Wire, the Federalist, the Washington Examiner, InfoWars: free!

Just seeing those two lists juxtaposed is scary. And with the misinformation running rampant around the election—as well as around every single thing that’s happened this year, like MASKS WORK—makes me a little queasy about my…


You’re not alone. I relate to this piece from Katelyn Burns on the particular writer’s block that comes when the world is as filled with grief, confusion, and uncertainty as it has been this year.

I appreciate her honesty on how she’s doing amidst it all. It’s not a pretty picture, and that’s okay:

Right now, in this moment, the words aren’t coming. I apologize for that.

I’m not sure I have a point to any of this other to say that if you’re going through something similar, it will all be okay.

If this is you, too, please know…


Kim Kardashian, queen of the tone-deaf announcement. As Andie Kanaras writes: “Watching celebrities continue to live their lives as if the world is normal, and then complain about it in the process, feels like a form of gaslighting.” Yes, she’s referencing That Kim Kardashian Post, but there’s so much more to it.

About 400 years ago—also known as March—Eve Peyser noticed the pandemic “established a new genre of tone-deaf celebrity content, one that is supposed to be uplifting, but instead reveals how deeply class privilege affects people who thrive on social nearness.”

All I can say to the celebrities who…


This Is Us

It really is the little things, apparently

An illustration of various female faces in a seamless pattern.
An illustration of various female faces in a seamless pattern.
Photo: ANASTASIIA DMITRIEVA/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, I was at a crowded restaurant with two friends, sharing a pizza and attempting to focus on their stories while simultaneously trying to understand why the woman two tables away was crying.

It’s surreal how that entire sentence doesn’t… exist right now. Crowded restaurant, friends, huddled together with barely a foot between us. Strangers doing the same thing a few feet away. A young woman around my age with three men who seemed like her brothers, though they probably weren’t. As she began crying and gazing out the window, my attention shifted. Why was she crying…


Fiction

What happens when your heaviest secret becomes irrelevant?

Photo: Mark Bonica/Flickr

My husband Carl told me in a huff, after dinner, bag already packed, that I was the most inflexible person he’d ever met. That I was too cold and too set in my ways, that I hadn’t made room for him in my life over the last six years — in fact, I’d made none. I’d squeezed him out, he said. I’d expanded and pushed his body against the walls of the house. And he’d had it with me, he really had, and he was leaving. …

Samantha Zabell

Audience Development at Medium / Previously: Time Inc., Real Simple, childhood

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