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

Free resource to help you add tools to your tool box. 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 also works extensively with Velvet Ashes as content creator and curator, book club host, and connection group coordinator. She 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.
  • Kaylee Kelm

    Yay, Amy! Love the tidbit about you being a math teacher turned writer. 🙂 I definitely have a love/hate relationship with newsletters. What to share? How to share it? And then when you get behind, to play “catch up” or not? Our newsletters have also changed drastically in the 12 years we’ve been writing. Thank you for opening your life to us through your letters!

    • Kaylee, I’ve wondered about starting a FB private group for newsletter writing so we can encourage each other. BUT I’ve only wondered about it, no major plans :).

  • I’m an English teacher, so I love writing, but I totally know how difficult it can be to keep up with newsletters. Having only needed to write newsletters for short times, I’m now on the other side, receiving them from my friends on the field. I love them! I’m so incredibly thankful to read their stories and remember them.

    • Alex, I think you hit on an important aspect . . . newsletters bring the writer to mind, allowing for thankfulness for them, connection to the work, and prayers.

  • Irene NIcholson

    I wish I had more room on my newsletters to write stories!! There has to be the report aspect, the prayer requests section but I try to include answered prayer too. Would like a copy to share with the people I teach communication with home churches to.

    • Irene, would it be possible to embed your reports within stories? I think that would help those who write to feel less like they are hustling for their worth and those who read to remember what they read :).

  • Bobbie Hamm

    I’m in my 29th year of writing newsletters! It’s been a blessing and a privilege over all these years to give people a glimpse of other parts of the world, and to connect those we love at home with those we love on the field. I’d love to read your book for myself, and then pass it around to the scores of people I work with who are also newsletter writers. We can all use help. 🙂

    • 29 years~~ woot, woot! You’re right, it is a blessing AND a privilege 🙂

  • Donna Schepers

    I’m NOT a writer. Me and my husband struggle each month with our newsletter. It’s always a dreaded task! I would love to read your book to get ideas and then pass it on.

    • Donna, I wrote this book with you in mind :)! While I’m not delusional enough to think you’ll fall in love with writing 🙂 . . . I am hopeful that you will dread it a little less!

  • Angie Scott Weldy

    I’ve been writing newsletters for almost 10 years and writing has actually been a big part of my ministry, but I still have a love/hate relationship with writing our family’s newsletter every.single.month.
    There are a handful of people who respond regularly to our newsletters and that is so encouraging! It IS almost like a letter going back and forth between us when they respond, I write back, and so on.

    • God bless the people who respond :)!! I mean that. It DOES make such a difference :)!

  • Newsletters always stress me as I wonder how much to share? What is to be left out? I would love to read the book not only to learn for myself but to pass it along as well. Thank you1

    • You are exactly WHO I had in mind when I wrote this :)!! I don’t want you to be overly stressed . . . and more excited, JViola :)!

  • Jessica W

    I have a friend who lives in Asia and I think she’d enjoy reading this book! (Might have to send it to her as a Kindle copy though!)

    • Kindle works! :). I have it in various forms because I know people have different preferences AND realities!

  • Kate Nash

    I have the weekly letters I wrote my mother each Friday for the first ten years I was overseas. I took a little time to read a few soon after she died, but I haven’t read them all. I was almost laughing out loud at my attempts to share my great “insights” into our new culture. Even funnier are the tapes we made to accompany our slide sets for our first furlough! Anyway, we’re still in this and it’s been 30+ years, so something has communicated with our partners!
    We live near a training center for our mission. It would be a joy to read the book with someone here who is brand new. I think I would be surprised that her fresh perspective would inspire me much more than my old stories :-$

    • Kate, I love these ideas . . . of reading with someone new! A few years ago I discovered a cassette tape I had made as I bike around my city :). And then made my teammate say hi to my family. I love the conveniences of today, but there was something really sweet about all the effort that used to go into communicating :)!

  • I do enjoy writing them, but especially lately (after 15+ years) I have been wondering if anyone actually reads what I write. You’re inspiring me to try to go and dig up what we sent in those early years and do some rereading myself.

    • Rereading is good! 🙂 . . . and while I can’t say that EVERYONE reads your letters, I am sure more read than you think :)!!

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    As the President of a non-profit (Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc.) I am always writing newsletters and I totally agree with you that people are more drawn in by “stories” than by “reports”. I would love to win your giveaway to help me hone my skills and keep sharpening the rough edges of my newsletters.

    • Always more to learn, isn’t there Bev :)!! Which is both exciting, and a little exhausting.

  • H

    I agree with what someone else put of trying to fit both the report and the stories in and keep it short enough. Even harder when many of the things you want to share dont seem to lend themselves to story

  • Katie Rose

    I love writing newsletters! A friend and I are both about to leave the field, and she said last night that she needs to find an outlet for her writing, because in just a few months there won’t be any more newsletters to write! I wholeheartedly agree!

  • Winners have been notified 🙂

  • Ashley Dykstra

    As a recipient of many newsletters I’ve noted that if the letter looks short I will read it right away, but if it looks like it’s going to take awhile then I save it for “later” (which means I never get around to it no matter how much I love the person). So in writing my own newsletter I’ve decided to always keep it short enough that when someone opens it they are drawn in by a story and feel like they can read it right then. I write a more detailed letter several times a year, but most of my partners seem happy with (and will actually read) short updates that have 1 or two prayer requests. This also takes the pressure off that I don’t need to write a letter that validates my existence and their support by listing ALL the things I’ve done, but the goal is to provide some encouragement to my partners and activate prayer where it’s needed.

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