Brisk, witty, and always surprising. Expect the unexpected.
In their Substack columns, these acclaimed authors share their perspective on writing, publishing, and reading, and finding the focus to write, as well as the more quotidian subjects: making coffee, stories from book tours, their writing spaces, and more. Paid subscriptions offer additional content, but the free versions provide a wealth of expertise, experience, and great reading.
In This LitStack Rec:
Brandon Taylor’s Sweater Weather
Expect the unexpected subscribing to Sweater Weather, Brandon Taylor’s Substack. The author of Real Life and Filthy Animals and The Late Americans column resembles an intimate chat—from a recent book tour that led him to the UK’s Bath, Brighton, and Bristol, and a search through London for a drip coffee maker to satisfy the yearning for a bracing cup of America joe. A professor of creative writing at NYU, Taylor’s astute takes on writing and craft include a recent dive into Maile Meloy’s short stories, “I have loved Meloy’s writing for years now, and whenever I’m confronted with a problem in my own writing be it spiritual, psychic, or technical, I turn to her stories in search of answers.”
Rebecca Makkai’s SubMakk
From her recent project of reading books in translation from around the world, to her five-part series on the variety of endings in short stories, Rebecca Makkai’s Substack is informational, brisk, witty, and always surprising. The prolific author of The Great Believers, and more recently, I Have Some Questions for You, Makkai has an energetic style and seemingly bottomless curiosity for all things literary.. Recent posts include, “The Palestinian Novella Making Me Rethink Length,” and “Why You Aren’t Reading Short Stories and Why You Should.”
George Saunders’ Story Cub
The Man Booker Prize-winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo and The Tenth of December can be found on Substack at Story Club with George Saunders, a multifarious resource that includes regular craft analyses of classic Chekhov short stories, including “The Lady With the Dog,” and “My First Goose,” as well as other short classics, such as Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing.” (“part of the thrill of this story is how fearlessly she goes to what matters – love, and the absence of it, caused by want.”). Saunders also hosts a regular Q&A, Office Hours, in which he fields questions from readers.
Maggie Smith’s This Dear Life
The poet (Goldenrod) and memoirist (You Could Make This Place Beautiful), offers behind-the-scenes looks at poems and essays, craft tips, and creative pep talks, as well as regular lists of her favorite things, writing and otherwise. Recent posts include pacing in poetry (in which she unpacks her poem, “A Room Like This,” and a regular feature, “PIck My Brain,” in which she takes questions from readers. A recent post covered writing author bios and cover letters to accompany submitted work. “What to include? What to leave out? How much of ourselves do we share in that limited space?”
Courtney Maum’s Before and After the Book Deal
For #amquerying writers, a Substack not to be missed is Courtney Maum’s Substack (which takes its title from her 2020 book, Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book, covers craft concerns like effective first lines and finding the voice in main characters, but here’s other practical tips to be found—from writing a query letter that gets noticed, to illuminating the editing and publishing process. As to writers starting their own Substack, one of Maum’s recent columns posed the question, “Should you start a Substack? 5 tips before you launch.” Her advice? Know your speciality, be consistent, design a content calendar you can commit to, be patient and consistent.