“Hoping if these days feel dark to you (as they often do to me), there are also sparks and blazes and fragments of light to stay with you.”
never more damaging O Eirana have I encountered you
]bitter ] ] and know this
]whatever you ]I shall love ]
]for ]of weapons ]
having come from heaven wrapped in a purple cloak
please know ] whatever you ] I shall love,
A conversation with Carrie Frye:
I started it in March 2016. I’d just launched my business, Black Cardigan Edit, and realized I’d need a steady way to remind people I was around if they needed editing help. My joke is that it seemed easier than walking around in a sandwich board. It morphed into something much more meaningful to me than that, but that’s how it started.
Right now the schedule’s every other weekend, although I’m just getting back to that after a bumpy, busy summer. Sometimes the letter comes together quickly, in just a couple hours, especially if it’s one where I’m mostly sharing links. Other times I’ll spend some loose after-dinner time throughout the week researching and reading for whatever the topic is, and then an embarrassing amount of time on eitherSaturdayorSundayin thwarted composition.
Do you know ahead of time what you’re going to write about, or it more like free-writing a letter to a friend? How much do you revise before sending?
I do know ahead of time! I pick themes for the newsletter—currently the theme is Beginnings, as I thought it’d be interesting to look at some established writers’ early work—and I like to have at least three or four places in mind of where a theme could go before I act on it. It’s like some sort of mental guard against “TinyLetter block.” Still, I let myself veer away from the theme or schedule if the topic goes sad-balloon or there’s something bubbling up that feels more urgent (the letter you share here was one of those).
About revising, you know how it is. The letter’s got a pretty chatty tone, and if I’m writing well, that’ll just come burbling out. Other weeks, it’s like I can’t get to the end of “hello, how are you?” without deleting it five times, and those weeks the letter requires a lot of mopping. This particular one was funny in that I had written most of it the daybeforethe eclipse but I knew the draft was too unwieldy and so I didn’t end up sending it as I’d planned. I wasn’t able to look at it again for a couple weeks and, when I did, I could see exactly what had to be whacked—and I was so grateful that I’d held on to it as Sulagna had given me, without prompting, the right line for the close (“I feel as if my heart is giving off sparks.”).
Side note: I wish to formally acknowledge here that if you’ve ever hankered after the opportunity to see your own typos come leaping out at you like salmon from a river, just start a TinyLetter, reread your draft carefully a few times, send it to yourself in Preview to check it one more time, then send it out to your list. You will see your typos very clearly in the minutes immediately after!
You are writing a novel; you also own and run a freelance editing company focused on helping authors write their books. As a fellow editor, I’m curious how and when you decide to tackle your editing and writing work, and if you ever find it challenging to toggle back and forth? (I do.)
Ooh, I look forward to the day we get to discuss this in person! So I’ve found the only thing that works for me is to get novel work done first thing in the morning, before I do anything else. I try to start by7 a.m.and finish by9:30or so, and then go to Black Cardigan work. (Here the luxury of my not having kids to get out the door is in play.) This is my best self’s version of my routine. Worst self is in evidence at least a couple times a week—most often seen in her pjs, crouched over her phone en route to the coffee maker.
You know, I don’t find the toggling between editing and writing as difficult as the toggling between the administrative part of running Black Cardigan and writing. I’d be curious if that’s in play for you too; I know we have a good amount of soul-overlap in our love of organization and keeping-all-the-plates-spinning-ness. But that part of me—the part that’s good at lists and calendars, etc.—is the part that I most have to keep in check to get good writing done. When I’m writing well, there’s this real feeling of sinking like a stone into the book; and the list-loving part of my personality sometimes refuses to sink! I’ll just keep bobbing willfully back to the surface like “Don’t forget to email [X]” and “send [Y] the schedule for her book.” (I’ve thought about thisgreat Melissa Febos piecea lot since it was published.)
Have you made any great new friends or connections because of your TinyLetter?
New friends, yes, and I like how it’s deepened some friendships from my past (high school, college), too. Last year, around the holidays, I asked people to sendtheir favorite words from 2016and what that collection ended up being—a mix of words from people I didn’t know, and people I sort of did, and old-old friends, and moms of old-old friends, andmymom—was exactly why I love doing the letter.
Please recommend some of your favorite TinyLetters!
I oversubscribe to TinyLetters—I like them for the same reason I like novels, it’s a form that you can stretch a lot of different ways. A smattering of favorites: Maud Newton’sIdeas & Intimacies, which youfeaturedlast month. Maud’s my writing partner, and her letters are everything I love about her: unexpected, unflinching, radically smart. Two newsletters that I’m going to yoke together here as they’re both a. ridiculously charming to read and b. written by people who have books coming out early next year: Jasmine Guillory’s newsletterLipstick and other storiesand Katie Heaney’sDo not buy. Two by Emily Books proprietors: Emily Gould’sCan’t complainand Ruth Curry’sCoffee & TV(I’m so glad when either of these arrives in my inbox). Two others: Monet Thomas’sWhile You Were Sleeping, currently being sent from Beijing, and Justin Wolfe’s dailythank you notes. And I’m really glad Anne Helen Petersen hasstarted one: it comes out Sundays and is reliably great.
You can read more about Carrie, her editorial philosophy, and her various and stellar freelance services here.