When we announced the latest version of the Substack Fellowship for Independent Writers last month, we intended to ultimately name five fellows. But then we received close to a thousand applications (940, to be precise) and the quality was so high that it felt wrong to limit the awards to so few. So we decided to go bigger.
Today, we’re proud to announce a total of 10 fellows and five honorary mentions, all of whom will receive a combination of financial support and training.
The Senior Fellow, Kaitlyn Greenidge, a novelist and essayist (see more below), will receive a $100,000 grant. Nine other fellows will receive advances of $25,000 and stipends of $3,000 each. The five honorary mentions will receive $3,000 stipends and special support from Substack, including access to Getty Images and the Substack Defender program. All fellows (see bios below) will benefit from coaching, advice, and support from a team of experts. The fellows were selected by a panel of judges made up of Danyel Smith, former editor of Billboard and Vibe; Bill Bishop, publisher of Sinocism; and Emily Oster, author of Expecting Better and Cribsheet.
While much attention on Substack focuses on big-name writers, we’re even more excited about a new generation of talent that will come to prominence in part because of a publishing model based on direct reader support. This talent is emerging on its own on Substack, and more will come given time. But we want to help speed up the process by investing in a support structure, from workshops to legal advice, that can help independent writers flourish.
We couldn’t be more proud to be associated with these fellows. These writers are in different stages of their careers, some of whom have been publishing on Substack for a long time, some of whom are just getting started. They write about finance, sourdough, literature, healthcare, faith, college athletics, and other subjects just as varied. One is an illustrator. One’s in Australia. One recently left a big media company. They’re all brilliant, and all are set up to succeed on Substack. We can’t wait to see the work they do.
Meet Senior Fellow Kaitlyn Greenidge
Kaitlyn Greenidge is a Brooklyn-based writer whose work has appeared in Vogue, Glamour, the Wall Street Journal, and The Believer, among other publications. Her debut novel, We Love You, Charlie Freeman, was one of the New York Times Critics’ Top 10 Books of 2016. Her upcoming second novel is about the first black female doctor in New York State.
What will you write about on Substack?
I hope to write cultural criticism that is entirely unchained from the demands of the timely/the zeitgeist. Deep dives on forgotten cultural phenomena; interviews with writers who wrote forgotten, seminal works; critiques and discussion groups around cult classics and art from the recent past. I want to write cultural criticism that goes beyond the language of stan or pan and that questions and complicates political and historical narratives.
Why is this topic important to you personally?
Since buying the Big Book of Salon Authors as a middle schooler and religiously subscribing to Entertainment Weekly, I’ve loved the world of cultural criticism – and what critically looking at popular and literary culture can tell us about ourselves and our assumptions, narratives, and aspirations. It’s with this spirit that I approach this Substack.
What do you hope will be the effect of being directly supported by your readers?
I look forward to creating a space for wide-ranging discussions with a group of people who are dedicated to doing the reading before they offer a viewpoint. I look forward to talking about things that don’t necessarily have a “peg” to a dominant news story or narrative.
Why do you think writers hesitate to take the leap into independence?
Financial obstacles are the biggest obstacle. Lack of access to health care, unemployment, retirement – all that affects who is able to take the leap to become full-time writers. What Substack is doing – providing substantial financial support to writers – is truly revolutionary and helping more voices join the conversation.
What sort of reader community do you hope to build on Substack?
I want to gather together people who are curious; who want to go deeper; who don’t want to just regurgitate given talking points but who wish to have real, vulnerable conversations about art and their responses to it. I can’t wait to hold an online movie screening and discussion group; group interviews with writers; and so many other things I now have the space to imagine.
Meet the Fellows
Amy McQuire writes an independent Australian Aboriginal rights publication with a keen focus on settler-colonialism, justice, and violence. amymcquire.substack.com
Diana Butler Bass writes The Cottage, which inspires and challenges readers to practice faith differently in their own lives and the world – by engaging faith traditions in fresh and imaginative ways and fostering a deeper understanding of how religion shapes culture and politics. dianabutlerbass.substack.com
Vanessa Mason writes Future of Belonging, which examines how we can redesign tools and remodel approaches to fulfill the basic human need for belonging over the next decade as loneliness, disconnection, and exclusion become more pervasive. belonging.substack.com
Interested in working at Substack? substack.com/jobs
Illustration credit: Krishna Chavda