Mic Wright's Conquest of the Useless and a South African letter from lockdown
Welcome to new subscribers, there’s been a flurry of you recently! Happy to be writing to you on this beautiful and soon-to-be-boiling-hot day in London. If you’d like to say hi, just reply to this email - I love hearing from you!
In this issue, there’s a summary of the latest podcast episode with Mic Wright, a global letter from lockdown from South Africa, a rundown on what I’ve been doing and my online masterclasses, plus things on the internet I’ve been enjoying. Let’s dive in…
Journalist, poet and founder / publisher of the Conquest of the Useless newsletter, Mic Wright joined me on the podcast for the last episode of Season 2. Freelance Pod is going on hiatus for the summer, but will return later in the year!
Mic Wright works inside the media industry, but also makes a point of critiquing it. Recent topics tackled in his newsletter include ‘Meghan Markle and media misogynoir: How the UK media perpetuates colonial narratives’ and ‘I have a child! Of course, I should be Education Secretary’. The newsletter takes hot topics in the media at the moment - or being talked about on Twitter about the media - and deep-dives into the subject.
Mic also uses his Twitter feed to share his deconstructions of front pages and other newspaper stories, sorting the fact from the other stuff. Here’s an example:
If you’d like 50% off a subscription to Mic’s newsletter, you can use this special link until the end of today (Friday 31st July): https://brokenbottleboy.substack.com/freelancepod
Episode 5 of Integrate That!, the podcast about refugees, by refugees, made by my friend Abdul Tahhan. Do listen to the podcast episodes in order (there are five out right now), but I just want to flag up how moving the latest episode is, in which he recalls the anxious wait for leave to remain, and then British citizenship.
Abdul made the decision to not ask refugees about their trauma on the podcast - because that’s generally all they’re asked for - but he does reveal something of the toll that escaping his hometown of Aleppo, Syria has taken on him. While the argument over burgundy EU or Brexit blue passports has raged on in the press intermittently during the years that he lived here as a refugee, Abdul’s still-new UK passport simply represents his freedom.
I’m running a couple over Zoom in August - in face the first one’s next Tuesday! You can still grab one of the last tickets for it.
Personal essays have helped me break into publications like Artsy, CityLab, Prospect Magazine and Zora on Medium. I’ve had the chance to cover areas like art, careers, Twitter trends, mental health and cities.
Writing personal essays is also good practice if you’re working on a memoir, evidence for agents and publishers that there’s an audience for your writing and, eventually, great promotion for your book.
Join me at 6:30pm (BST) on Tuesday 4th August to learn how to set boundaries around what you write about, finding editors who want personal essays and why location is everything.
My first podcast, Black Mirror Cracked, was made during my time on staff at the Daily Mirror, and hit 20,000 downloads in its first week.
I launched my second podcast, Freelance Pod, in November 2018, in very different circumstances. Not part of a media organisation, no tech help, not a huge number of social media followers. Yet, a year and a half later, the little podcast that I make by myself, often in my wardrobe, has passed 10,000 downloads.
Join me at 6:30pm (BST) on Tuesday 18th August and I’ll take you through all the strategies I’ve used to achieve that number in the first hour, then we’ll have half an hour for a live Q&A.
Global Letters from Lockdown
Lockdown in South Africa - Rebecca L. Weber
Rebecca L. Weber is a writer and coach from Boston, USA who is now based in South Africa. She coaches writers with her online courses and Freelance Writer Bootcamps. Here, she shares her lockdown experience so far.
South Africa’s hard lockdown ended on Sunday 31st May, as the country moved into Level 3. This means the curfew has ended, sales of most non-essential retail items are legal again (including alcohol but not cigarettes), and solitary exercise can be taken between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. (vs 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. during Level 4, and none at all in Level 5). Travel between provinces, gatherings, and the use of parks and beaches remain prohibited.
During this time, police killed 11 black men, and arrested 230,000 for lockdown violations.
The lockdown was effective in flattening the curve. As of Thursday 4th June, we have 40,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in a population of 59 million. It has also flattened the economy.
Work from home options are limited in South Africa, but as a freelancer, it’s my norm. The big shifts for me work-wise were adjusting to other people in the house and knowing that going out could mean a police or army check point.
In the first week, my neighbourhood WhatsApp group kept sending around warnings to report people who appeared to be out for a jog. Not long after, the plumber (who, like journalists, had an essential services permit and could move about) asked if I wanted to buy some moonshine. You’ve got to admire the entrepreneurial spirit.
Internet stuff I’ve done or enjoyed
The Pin on Radio 4: They’re the comedy duo of Alex Owen and Ben Ashenden, who’ve been sharing amazing lockdown videos on Twitter over the past few months, mostly riffing on the awkwardness of living our lives on Zoom. They had four series on Radio 4 from 2015 onwards, and they’re v. funny, especially when you notice a kernel of an idea that’s later expanded upon in one of their videos. Here’s one of my faves:
Love these literal windows on the world - found via Nisha Chittal’s newsletter, Nisha’s Internet Tote Bag - plus, if you’ve been covering the pandemic, then this edition of her newsletter is for you: No more doomscrolling
Ahh this piece by Fiza Pirani really spoke to me: It Took Me 18 Years to Embrace My Name, not least because I’ve written about my name for Zora too. Fiza is a recipient of the Substack Independent Writers Grant, and writes two newsletters: fiza’s word vomit and Foreign Bodies
I’ve been reading Ada Limón (poems; interview) and this is a stunning quote from her: “The more I put grief in a poem, the more I am able to move freely through the world because I have named it, spoken it, and thrown it out into the sky.”
Look forward to seeing some of you in Tuesday’s masterclass!
Enjoy the weekend and I’ll write again soon x