Hi, welcome to my newsletter! Yes, I know there are a ton of newsletters out there—and now here, at The Atlantic—but this is my first, and I’m really glad you’re here to read it. I’m Nicole, an author, writer, and editor whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Time, and Vulture, among other publications; I also wrote a weekly parenting-advice column for Slate. Previously, I was digital editorial director of the independent publisher Catapult, and before that I was managing editor of The Toast, which some of you may remember as home to one of two good comments sections on the entire internet. One thing I loved about working in indie publishing spaces was the expansive spirit, and how it nearly always felt possible to try something new. I was drawn to this newsletter project because I recognized a similar kind of pliancy and openness in The Atlantic’s offer, as well as the potential for a new kind of community. And I wanted to find out what might be possible with more time and freedom to write.
For a writer, everything is writing—at least, this is what I tell myself when I talk through a structure problem with a friend, or go for a long walk in the woods, or catch up on my magazine backlog, instead of actually opening my manuscript—and to be honest, I’ve never been great at doing it in total isolation. I’m not sure I’d be writing or publishing at all if I hadn’t been lucky enough to share intellectual and creative space with so many brilliant, generous people over the years. Just as I am always noodling over whatever writing project(s) I’m in the midst of, so am I constantly thinking about community, those I may want to learn from and dialogue with, and how we can all feel a little more human and be a little less alone in the work and pursuits that matter most to us.
Getting to write for a group of readers who have opted into sharing space with me on an ongoing basis feels like a privilege and an exciting opportunity. I’m looking forward to talking directly with you, and to experimenting and having fun with this new (to me) format. While this newsletter will focus on whatever I’m curious about or consumed with on a given day, one of my hopes is that there will be room for your questions and quirks and obsessions, too.
It’s important to me that this project begin as a wide-open field, with plenty of room to rove and experiment. But because I’m also a Taurus who understands how reassuring it can be to calibrate one’s expectations with a high degree of accuracy, here are a few things you’ll find here (sometimes in combination):
An advice column: This is one place where I hope to be able to interact with you right away, to hear what you’re going through and discuss the things you’re wrestling with—I really enjoy writing advice, and will always approach your letters with as much care as I can. While you can ask for advice on anything, I’ll be keeping a particular eye out for questions related to friendship, family relationships, and creative work and goal-setting. By submitting a letter, you are agreeing to let The Atlantic use it—in part or in full—and we may edit it for length and/or clarity. Letter writers’ names and emails will never be shared. You can send your questions to me at email@example.com.
Essays and commentary: I’ll write research-based as well as more personal pieces on various intersecting issues related to my past and current writing projects—grief, family history, adoption and adoptee identity, parenting and caregiving, education and disability, and the social safety net, to name a few—although anything I’m reading and trying to learn more about (e.g., the climate crisis, Asian American history and art, how much my dog can actually understand) is also fair game. Sometimes I’ll just want to talk about some especially sharp or beautiful or frustrating piece of writing I came across. And I love thinking and writing about pop culture, so expect to hear about whatever I’m reading, watching, or generally obsessing over as well. (Sorry I can’t narrow this one down too much more for you! I am about to get way more specific.)
Notes on writing: I’ll reflect on writing and revision, offer candid peeks into the publishing process, and explore questions of research, structure, and craft in conversations with writers I admire. As someone who has typically had to squeeze most of my writing in at odd hours—i.e., when a more sensible person would probably be recharging or sleeping instead—I’m also keenly interested in discussing what this work can look like when it is is pushed, by necessity, to the margins of our lives: How do we prioritize important personal or creative pursuits when we may have very little time to give them? How do we find energy and space for the work we most want to do while still treating ourselves like humans and not indestructible robots? This is another area where I would welcome the chance to consider and talk through whatever questions or challenges you’re facing, so don’t hesitate to reach out.
Everything I’m reading: I’ve never actually written a book review (I don’t think Tournament of Books judgments count), so … this is not that. What I’ll be sharing is a narrative account of my reading, which is a little haphazard, frequently surprising, as sustaining and necessary to me as friendship. I’ll be up-front with you about my biases and my outsized reactions to certain books; the books I fling at everyone I know and the books I can’t finish; the books that catch me unawares and the books that rewrite my opinions. And no: I’m not just doing this because I want publishers to keep sending me galleys (although I do want publishers to keep sending me galleys); it’s because nearly every conversation I have with a friend IRL eventually gets around to what we’re reading, and whether the book in question is a solace or a challenge, an irritation or a joy, I always love talking about it.
If all or even a reasonable portion of this sounds good to you, I hope you’ll sign up for I Have Notes! I would also love it if you shared this post with anyone you think might be interested in reading along. Thanks so much for being here. We’re going to have fun.