Change the story, Change the World.
Hi. I'm Laurie. I'm a journalist, an essayist, a screenwriter, an author, a novelist, and all of the other things fractious professional word-wranglers tell you they are to prove that they're a person with a serious job rather than just a writer with a thesaurus. I'm a geek, a pinko lefty, a feminist, a rainbow-haired fluffy-hearted reprobate queer internet weirdo and sometime social justice bard, and I've got some stories to tell you. Most of them aren't about me.
This one is.
I've been a journalist for twelve years and a writer all my life. I report and write features about politics, social justice, pop culture and mental health and sex and gender and the shocking possibility of hope. I was a fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, I'm a graduate of the Clarion West Writers' Programme. I've written for The Guardian, Wired, The New York Times, The Independent, The Baffler, Time Magazine and lots and lots of other places. I've been a contributing editor at New Statesman magazine and at The New Inquiry, I've written seven books, and my eighth and best book so far is out next year (you can pre-order it here, if you like). I'm also a television writer - I've staffed on shows including HBO's The Nevers, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and Carnival Row, and I've got a lot of other secret projects in the pipeline. I’m five feet tall and I’m a Londoner and one day, if I'm very good, I might even take a day off.
That's the TLDR. In the end, though, I'm just a nerd, sitting in front of a screen, writing things down and hoping someone will read them. I’m a five-foot tall like Doctor Who and David Bowie and folk music and fandom and Foucault and Fanon and feminism and Sleater Kinney and Steven Universe and punk rock and panto and gonzo journalism and I’m sometimes unbearably, painfully earnest, but I think I’m not the only one. I think most of us are secretly thirsty for a little sincerity, panting for a bit of the sweet stuff in sour times.
And I’ve been lucky. I’ve been so lucky. My passage through life has been lubricated by privilege of all sorts, and I keep checking it, and it’s still there, and I’m mindful of it both as a framework to overcome and a reason to keep working hard and learning things and contributing however I’m able. I’ve been able to travel to all sorts of places and I’ve got myself into all sorts of scrapes trying to get under the skin of the political nightmare we’re all living in. Nobody wins a culture war, but that doesn't mean that there aren't ideas worth fighting for.
This is an anxious time time for media and the arts. Journalism is an industry in trouble at precisely the moment it most needs to be well-resourced, independent and not bound to clickbait, and editors and reporters are having to make horrible decisions about how to keep their business model going. I'm lucky enough to have a loyal community of readers who follow my work as well as holding me to account when I need it. I'm asking you to come with me for the next chapter.
And I’m asking for your support, if you can afford it. I want to make this sustainable, and to be directly answerable to my readers, not to advertisers. I ran this blog at Patreon, and I thought carefully about moving to Substack, weighed up the pros and cons and potential stake-filled pitfalls, and decided in the end that it was time. With this blog, I’m going back to my roots. That’s why it’s called Penny Red- after my first, beloved internet outboard brain, which I started back when I was younger and squishier and so was the world. I'm combining my public and subscriber-funded private writing for the first time, and throwing everything at the wall to see what happens.
If you take my writing seriously and have the means, consider becoming a paid subscriber, or even a founding member. The more I can be directly funded by readers, the more exciting things I can do. You could also chip in if you don’t care about my work either way but would quite like to annoy some right-wing trolls. Every new subscriber makes another swivel-eyed hatebot regret their life choices just a little. Woop.
I’m telling you stories. Trust me.
-Jeanette Winterson, The Passion.
Before we begin, so you know what you’re getting into, I should tell you that I believe all sorts of silly things. I believe in the triumph of the possible over the merely probable. I believe that cowardice can be overcome and prejudice defeated. I believe people are brilliant and terrible and worthy of love and clever enough to work out how to live together without killing each other before it’s too late.
I believe that hope is hard and necessary, that kindness matters, that change is possible. I’m a frantic romantic, and I still think the world is worth saving.
These are articles of faith, not fact. Nothing has so far blossomed in a test-tube or flashed across a screen with a definite answer about how we survive all this and whether we deserve to. But I believe that we will, and we do. I believe these things with my whole scoundrel heart, because I see them happening all around me.
I believe that better, stranger times are coming, ready or not. I believe that we’ll get there together, carrying our mess and our damage and our raw and glistening fragilities with us, and it will be hard and necessary and sometimes we have’ll to carry each other and it will fucking hurt. I believe in the restorative power of trashy books and small naps. I believe in the power of language and narrative to shape the wet matter of human destiny.
I do not have time for: fascism, sexism, white supremacy, anti-feminism, homophobia, transphobia, nationalism, small-minded bullies, petty despots who can’t bear to heard a story they weren’t the hero of and spiteful tyrants who would rather burn down the world than share it. I recall a time, quite recently, when this would have been a non-controversial position. But there it is.
Oh, and I believe in creating art and journalism that everyone can access, whatever their income level, and I know lots of you do, too. That's why I'm keeping most of my writing here publicly available and shareable - but if you subscribe, you'll get access to interviews, journal entries, and some super secret special projects.
This is a time for ambitious, innovative journalism and commentary and storytelling that works muscles mainstream culture has allowed to atrophy. That's what I mean to do, and it's more than anyone can do alone. Thank you. Buckle up, here comes the science bit:
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