In Soviet Russia, Newsletter Pay For You!

David Iscoe newsletter, Weekly Update #3

Hey folks, I.G.I.A.F.F.. It’s been a pretty good week so far. Been making some progress on a lot of projects, including this newsletter.

I’m liking this thing, because it gives me an outlet and formal structure for the type of writing work I want to do. I don’t see things exactly like ‘“I Hate” Mondays’ or “Monday Mansplaining” other places. They’re long, messy, and not organized around an easily recognizable premise, and the form finds itself as it goes. But I like to write them, I like to read them, and I hope to practice forms I’m interested in, get better at them, develop more of a style and voice, accumulate a portfolio, and eventually build an audience. This work is what I want to do and that nobody else will prioritize, so having some public-facing commitment to it helps push back against the constant erosion of personal creative space in the face of all sorts of other potential commitments.

A different thing I need to do is get paid, and I often manage to. Sometimes it’s for writing, sometimes it’s for teaching, sometimes it’s for data entry, moving boxes, staffing events, picking up trash. I used to work EMS and retail but they aren’t the best fits anymore in terms of pay versus stress and schedule inflexibility. I can learn to do other things if the shoe fits enough to be worth breaking in. Generally work works if it’s good and ethical, I’m treated decently on the job, and I don’t need to put the rest of my goals aside to do it. Right now I get by on a combo of stress-free, flexibly scheduled, work-from-home data entry for a music company at $16/hour, and college prep work in public schools for a DOE contractor, which pays a lot better than the data entry, but isn’t even close to being close to what private tutors make. I won’t go broke with my current rent, and I have the time and flexibility to work on my stuff, so my lot is not bad.

Of course it would be great to get paid for creative shit that I like. Writing, acting, voiceover, and whatnot. These things are competitive, but also I don’t always know where to submit things because that’s work on top of all the other work and I haven’t done it yet. But if other people already have this knowledge and want to share it with me and get some money for it, they might be interested in a feature called:

In Soviet Russia, Newsletter Pay For You!

We ain’t in Soviet Russia, of course, and good job that, as the Brits would say. The Soviet Union had a shitty government that killed, oppressed, and immiserated people. I’m no capitalism cheerleader, but I’m no goddamn tankie neither. Still, in this case we’re going to do things the Soviet way. In America, you pay for newsletter, but in Soviet Union, newsletter pay for you!

Here’s how it works: it’s all filthy, Soviet-style bribes or filthy Wall-Street-style kickbacks, depending on your system of choice. Drop me a hint on how to get paid for this work, and you get paid for that. The pay comes from The Newsletter, and I am it and it is me. Here are the rates:

  • If you read something here and tell me a place that might republish it, and they do: 20% of whatever I get paid, pre-tax.

  • If you tell me of an outlet whose freelance specifications I could write to, or who might have a job they’d hire me for: 15% of the pre-tax payment for the first three individual works I sell them, or 15% of the first month of post-tax pay for any employment-based work.

  • Any sort of connection to any acting opportunities for stage, screen, or voice: 10% of my pay for the duration of that project, up to one year.

  • If you recommend that I apply to a job or gig that isn’t any of the above and it fits and works out: 5% of my gross pay for the gig, or 5% of my net pay for the first month of the job.

  • If you introduce me to an agent or manager and they sign me: whatever the agent/manager gets paid for the first three months.

  • CAVEAT: If I already have the connection, I won’t pay out again. E.g., someone already recommended the New Yorker (and it wasn’t Steve Bannon) and New York Times (not Ivanka Trump via Maggie Haberman), and has dibs on those payments. Also aware of American Bystander and McSweeney’s (which I’ll start submitting to when it starts paying). But beyond that I really don’t know a lot of the field, especially for written humor.

If you would do this anyway, cool, but you can still get paid for it, I think people should get into the idea of getting paid in general.

If you’re not into any of that but just trying to read from time to time that’s also great! This concludes the section in which this greasy-palm deal is advertised.


  • In business speak, news article is content. In New York Times, article’s content is you! I’m quoted in the end of this piece about poll work, which I started doing last year. I’ll be working next week for the September 13th primary, way out an hour away in North Brooklyn, and I recommend you sign up for the general if you have or can get the free time. There are 6,400 open slots for the primary but I’m not sure if there’s time left to register.

  • Some of the writing/voice work I did for the secret project last week got through, but it might not ever be public-facing.


  • Daniel Mallory Ortberg is one of the best writers going, with a very distinct voice that evokes all sorts of influences but takes its own form and inflection. This week this piece from his newsletter was very good at describing and dramatizing the experience of aspiring to clean up. Now I know that messiness is one of the habits of highly effective writers and I will never reform my habits.

  • I will stop recommending people read Zeynep Tufekci when all people are reading Zeynep Tufekci. A lot of people rightly went in on the decision of the New Yorker to give Steve Bannon a platform this week (and people reversed that decision via a labor strike!) and on Malcolm Gladwell’s naive responses, but this simple Twitter thread by Zeynep had a different angle that addressed the narrative element behind Gladwell’s foolish opinion in a way I really liked. I think a lot about how narrative structures influence our understanding of reality, but it’s hard for me to write about because it’s complicated.

  • This old Slate piece was pretty good on understanding impostor experience as something normal that most people go through, rather than a syndrome some individuals have. I was entertained and heartened that Neil Gaiman, a writer I sometimes have read but don’t follow that closely, shared a deep fear that I’ve had my whole adult life: someone knocking on his door and telling him the jig is up and he has to stop writing. If I only I also shared his concordant success and fully extant writing career. Feeling good though.