Read an Accidental Memoir Told in Newsletters (and a giveaway)

by Amy Young on June 16, 2017

This month marks the 25th anniversary of writing newsletters. I know some reading this post have been writing newsletters for many more moons than I have, but I am still a bit surprised that I have 25 years under my belt.

Did the word “newsletters” have a Pavlovian response for you? If so, I bet you’re not salivating with excitement, instead you might have twinges of shame, anxiety, and/or dread. This should not be my friends. This should not be. But instead of adding to the shame that exists by saying, “I love newsletter writing and so should you. End of story.” I set out to find a way to help people fall in love with newsletter writing. Maybe for the first time. Maybe again. Maybe a little bit more for those who already enjoy writing newsletters.

Here is one of the fundamental problems: too often those in ministry don’t write newsletters, they write news reports. Now, someone else may feel passionate about reports, I don’t. A report accomplices something different than a letter. A report often shows progress. A report has to hustle for its worth. A report justifies what a person, product, or division has been doing. A report shares information.

A letter, on the other hand, fosters a relationship.

At its core, a newsletter should do just that: share the news of your life and ministry embedded in the relationship a letter offers. Sometimes the news is exciting, sometimes it is heartbreaking, sometimes—let’s be honest—it can be a bit dull (do I really need to know what you ate for lunch?). But every line written can be a thread weaving the heart of the writer to the heart of the reader, strengthening the tie.

Does this sound like the kind of letters you write? If not, don’t worry, help is on the way. For the past year I have been compiling the newsletters from my first nine year on the field and writing nine short articles for those who write newsletters. Last week Love, Amy: An Accidental Memoir Told in Newsletters from China was published.

Why should you buy this book or give it to someone you know who writes newsletters?

We need to know we are not alone. I did not compile these letters to say, “Look at how amazing I am.” Actually, there are parts I’d rather not share. As I compiled them I had to come to terms with First Year Amy. She says things that makes Current Amy cringe. I want to put my hand over her mouth and say, “When you know what you are talking about, then you may speak.”

But she has the right to be First Year Amy. She has the right not to know what she cannot know. She has the right to do the best she can when it comes to the culture, functioning on a team, and sharing her faith.

One area my editor and I wrestled with was how much to alter the letters. You will notice that my writing ability improves and I go through phases. For instance, the letters start off without titles and in year seven I became enamored with subtitles. I kept coming back to the heart of the project: not making me look better than I was, but showing you do not need to write perfect newsletters. You just need to keep showing up.

You can move at least one tick towards the “love” end of the “I love—hate writing newsletters” continuum. I am not deluding myself that this book will turn everyone into raving newsletter fans. I wish it could! I am, however, sure that by reading these letters you will move a little bit on the continuum. I wrote it specifically for you. Those who already love writing newsletters will enjoy it, but they don’t “need” it the way you do. You ministry and relationship with your supporters is with the time, money, and effort to read this book.

You will get ideas for your own newsletter writing. In the short articles at the end of each year you will find:

  • What Gets in the Way of Writing Newsletters
  • Ideas for Your Newsletters
  • How to Write Readable Newsletters with One Easy Tip 
  • Five Things Newsletter Writers Do Well by Davita Freeman
  • Five Things Newsletter Writers Do Well by Davita Freeman
  • Ideas for Supporters Reading Your Newsletters
  • Questions to Help You Develop a Theology of Newsletter Writing
  • The Joys of Newsletter Writing
  • Three Final Practical Tips for Your Newsletters

Reading the letters themselves will also spark ideas.


Technology offers us many ways to connect with supporters. Secret Facebook groups, making a Facebook live video or an Instastory on Instagram, are great. But there is something special about a letter. A newsletter in which you share a story, an encounter you had, a cultural lesson you learned. A letter allows you to bring others along on the journey. It is long enough to say something of substance, but short enough that no one letter bears the weight of the relationship.

If you haven’t written a letter recently, write one this week. If you’re not sure where to start, let Love, Amy give you a few ideas.

Because I believe in paying it forward, I will give three copies of this book to someone you know. Leave a comment and enter to win a copy you can give to them.

What has been your newsletter writing experience? What stresses you? What have you grown to love about writing newsletters?

You know I wasn’t always a writer. In fact, I was a junior high math teacher, but writing newsletters turned me into a writer. It may just do the same for you!



P.S. Read the back story of Love, Amy here.

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About Amy Young

When Amy Young first moved to China she knew three Chinese words: hello, thank you and watermelon. She is known to jump in without all the facts and blogs regularly at The Messy Middle. She helped found Velvet Ashes and writes books to help you. Amy is the author of Love, Amy: An Accidental Memoir Told in Newsletters from China and Looming Transitions: Starting and Finishing Well in Cross-Cultural Service. Looming Transitions also has two companion resources: 22 Activities for Families in Transitions and Looming Transitions Workbook. You can listen to it too.

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