Hello, and welcome to my notebook.

This is my place for sharing essays, works in progress, art finds, cultural criticism, writing craft talks, sketchbook pages, a monthly books column, occasional edited features, research discoveries, and The Book of the Courtesans, a series about the real-life rebel women of the 19th century Paris vice squad secret archives. It is also the home of Essay Camp, a semiannual write-along nonfiction workshop.

I like to keep things loose here, and don’t follow a strict publishing schedule. Paid subscribers can count on a minimum of 100 posts per year, and will usually hear from me at least once or twice a week, sometimes more. They can also take part in comments, discussion threads, and audio posts.

If you want a subscription but can’t afford one, please email me at summerbrennan@substack.com and I can add you to the comp list, or send a link to receive a student discount, no questions asked.

If you’d like to sponsor a student or other lower-income reader, you can do so by donating a subscription here.

Praise from readers

“Subscribing to [A Writer’s Notebook] is a balm to my soul in a time of fear and confusion.” — Natalia

“Summer’s essays have a strong lyrical voice and span a wide range of topics, from impassioned takes on popular culture to observations of daily life as an American writer living in Paris.” —Alice

“It's been such a difficult year … It all seems so overwhelming, but your posts have encouraged and motivated me to keep moving forward with my creative self… your words have been a salve during tough times, and a daily joy. I've missed having some intellectual challenge and excitement; I found it with you.” — Nicole

“If you write, and you're not subscribed to [this] newsletter, I highly recommend it.” — Rowan

“One of the best newsletters that comes to my inbox.” — Amy

The pitch for becoming a paid subscriber

This is an ad-free space, and all support comes from you. Your subscriptions literally keep the lights on, put tea in my cup and jam on my baguette. All writing costs money to produce in the form of time, food, electricity, a laptop, a roof over my head, my student loans that I’ll be paying off until I die, my health insurance so I don’t wither away, my life-changing jeans, and my haircuts so I don’t look like Hairy Mary Magdalene. It’s how I afford books and newspapers and literary magazines and museum passes and sketchbooks and pencils and brushes and of course, notebooks.

However I know what it’s like not to be able to afford even a few dollars a month. For that reason I also offer student discounts and free subscriptions—just email and say what you need, I’m happy to oblige, no questions asked.

If on the other hand you’d like to sponsor a student or other lower-income reader, you can do so by donating a subscription here.

photo by Alex Fradkin

Summer Brennan is an Orion Book Award Finalist and winner of the Matthew Power Literary Reporting Award. She is the author of The Oyster War: The True Story of a Small Farm, Big Politics, and the Future of Wilderness in America (Counterpoint, 2015), and High Heel: An Object Lesson (Bloomsbury, 2019). Her new book, The Parisian Sphinx: A True Tale of Art and Obsession, is forthcoming from Mariner Books. An exhibiting visual artist as well as a writer, she has written for, or been featured in, outlets including The Paris Review, Granta, McSweeneys, Literary Hub, The Guardian, New York Magazine, NPR, National Geographic, Vice, Men’s Journal, Salon, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Aeon, and Scientific American, among others. She was born in Northern California and lives in Paris.

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essays, art, and inspiration from an American writer in Paris


Award-winning writer and Orion Book Award finalist. American in Paris. Books: THE OYSTER WAR; HIGH HEEL. Next: THE PARISIAN SPHINX, A TRUE TALE OF ART & OBSESSION. Leonard Cohen blew me a kiss one time.