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Writer reflections on Substack’s Grow Fellowship
11 fellows on what they took away from the program
In December, we welcomed 11 writers into our Grow Fellowship to explore and accelerate their publication strategies, growth potential, and ability to make the most of the Substack platform. These fellows participated in regular gatherings to share ideas, discuss different approaches to how they write and who they write for, and hear about how Substack’s product team develops new features.
The cohort represented a diverse array of topics and expertise on Substack, from fiction to culture, local journalism to parenting. These writers were united in a shared desire to grow their publications into viable ways of earning or supplementing a living. They also shared an appetite for brainstorming, collaborative problem-solving, and learning from one another’s wins and errors.
Here are the fellows’ biggest takeaways in their own words, with illustrations from Grow fellow Nishant Jain:
Redefining a publication’s purpose and strategy
“This Grow Fellowship forced me to refocus on my ‘why’ and ‘how,’ which surprised me because I thought I’d sorted those foundations. I’m now clearer about what I’m doing, who it’s for, and how to cultivate a sustainable, safe and growing place—what we call our Turangawaewae in Aotearoa-New Zealand.” ~ Bernard Hickey, The Kākā
“This fellowship forced me to ask some fundamental questions about what The New Fatherhood is. From the first session, I realized I hadn’t interrogated the “why” … why people sign up, why they relate to my writing, why they become paid members, why they want to join in the conversation. I had wandered off course, looking for a magic number that I hoped would make it all click—a conversion percentage, a revenue target, a paid subscriber threshold. But TNF is about more than that. It always has been. I'm happy that this fellowship helped me get back on track, and meet some incredible new writers (and Substack folks) along the way.” ~ Kevin Maguire, The New Fatherhood
Solidarity in trying new things
“My main takeaway from the fellowship is actually to be less precious about what I’m putting out there. It’s really cool to see what everyone is experimenting with. I tend to be perfectionistic and while that does lead to higher quality output, sometimes it stops me from trying stuff!” ~ Randa Sakallah, hotsingles.nyc
“It is good to hear new ideas. But what is truly impactful is hearing something you have already thought about, but never gave due consideration. I have received validation and reassurance from my other Fellows and the people of Substack. This gives me the mandate to trust my instincts and move forward with confidence!” ~ Nishant Jain, The SneakyArt Post
“Publishing an independent newsletter is empowering and exciting for those writers with an entrepreneurial spirit and a yen for experimentation. But don’t expect to make a living from it any time soon, and don’t expect what works for others to work for you. Others can help you sort through your project’s strategy to an extent, but when it comes to building an actual living around it, you’re going to mostly be on your own.” ~ Dave Infante, Fingers
“Thanks to my fellow Fellows, I now have other ideas to consider, such as launching an external community, using tools to get more feedback on posts, creating merch, and much more. My takeaway from the whole experience is that the possibilities for my newsletter are endless.” ~ Sharon Hurley Hall, Sharon’s Anti-Racism Newsletter
There is value in connecting with other writers
“This fellowship has been invaluable—chatting with the cohort, trading tips, reading everyone’s stories. We’re all different, and our plans and processes often don’t line up, but that’s only made this whole experience even more important for me.” ~ Animation Obsessive
“My number one takeaway from this experience is the brilliance and the diversity of the Substacks in the Grow Fellows program. I spend most of my days talking to finance professionals and it’s been a breath of fresh air to get new perspectives on writing and life in general. My Substack has a very practical purpose. I now realize that I can add value in many ways, including empowering my readers, taking them on a path of exploration or building a community.” ~ Michael Fritzell, Asian Century Stocks
“The biggest thing this fellowship did for me was give me hope again. Having exposure to writers who actually earn a living from their craft, and access to writers who are far ahead of my own success, have made all the difference.” ~ Elle Griffin, The Novelleist
“Many writers face the temptation to want to do it alone, to travel the long road by their lonesome. I used to be that way, mainly because I felt I was walking a path no one else had done before me. But I’ve learned that there is strength in numbers, that there is power in community, that I never have to walk alone anymore.” ~ David Adeleke, Communiqué
“I learned a lot: about Substack, about how to better steer the ship of my newsletter, about what's working for other people and what might work for me. But the thing I always take away from Substack-led experiences is the importance of a community you can trust and the space to foster real connections, especially when you're doing something as vulnerable as sharing your writing. ~ Katherine Dee, Default Wisdom
We’re grateful to the Grow Fellows for authentically showing up and being so generous with their knowledge.
We look forward to hosting more short-form programs such as the Grow Fellowship. Watch out for future Intensives and Fellowship opportunities on our Programs page here, and learn more about our next opportunity: an Intensive for Food Writers.