Call and Response with Michelle Mercer

Slow writing on culture and music

Recently my son was practicing a call-and-response assignment on his guitar, learning to use question and answer phrases as the building blocks of improvisation. I was reading a colleague’s Substack post as he practiced. It finally dawned on me that the newsletter revolution had granted call and response to writers (yes, I’m late to the party). Without the legitimizing presence of an editor, a writer has the privilege of essaying any idea she likes and the responsibility of shaping it into something worthwhile. As in well-crafted solos, writers can respond to calls of their own making, improvising writing careers in good time and good form.

An insistent calling to the page started me on my writer’s path, and I’ve built a fairly accomplished career. Yet too often I’ve let promising ideas sound in my mind with no response in writing. Too many essays have languished in my drafts folder. Call and Response changes that. With the newsletter I’m bringing the full force of my ideas, perspective, experience, and craft to my writing and to readers.

What does Call and Response offer?

Besides two new longform essays each month, newsletter content includes shorter commentary as well as unpublished interviews and pieces from my twenty-odd years of writing. Call and Response will offer quick topical posts when inspiration strikes. More often, though, upon the passing of a major artist or outbreak of a culture war, I’ll not rush to post and instead spend a few weeks crafting a more reflective and meaningful response. Finally, I promise to take the editing of posts as seriously as the drafting of them, another of slow writing’s gifts to the reader.

Please consider a paid subscription

For years the writing economy has been contracting into its present culture of scarcity. In my milieu, men tend to trade the few lucrative jobs and assignments amongst themselves. Call and Response is, among other things, a bypass of that small, exclusive economy, allowing me to trade my work directly with whomever finds value in it. I don’t own a Brooklyn apartment building or have an inheritance on my horizon. I could truly use your support, and believe my contribution here is valuable to the culture and to you, dear reader. Paid subscribers enjoy all newsletter content. Founding members have access to rare additional content, such as the full audio of select interviews from my deep archive.

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Slow writing on culture and music from an NPR veteran and bestselling author


Michelle Mercer

Michelle Mercer is a bestselling author/ghostwriter and a veteran contributor to National Public Radio. She's lectured and reported on art, music, and culture in dozens of countries. Michelle edits and coaches nonfiction writing.