The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Abigail Wise, soon-to-be Managing Editor at Outside Magazine, sent out the first edition of her newsletter, Sticks and Stones, on 25 July 2016. The mission was “a weekly email newsletter that highlights women's issues, important news, and cool ladies doing kickass things in the outdoor world.”
Why did you start it?
I used to go get drinks with my girlfriends all the time, we all work in an outdoor industry. We would swap stories about cool women doing cool things. The outdoor industry is so heavily male dominated. Those drinks with my friends were so rewarding, and I thought that someone should do that all the time. We should round up cool stories, that we as women are interested in. I thought “Well, what a hell, let's start this!”
Where does the name come from?
It comes from the old children’s rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me”. As women we feel underrepresented on the lesser end, and on the more extreme end we can even feel harassed. Plus Sticks and Stones are out in the wild where we go to play.
Why did you pick TinyLetter as the way to run it?
I didn't anticipate having a huge list size when I started out. I’m not going to hire a designer and code this thing, and pay for subscription, because probably it's only my friends will be reading it. Ann Friedman is a big-time feminist writer, she’s fantastic. And she has a TinyLetter. That's how I found it.
How many subscribers do you have now?
I would say around a thousand. As it started to grow a little bit, at first it was “I should try to turn it into a big newsletter and really grow that list”, but then it became a networking tool in a lot of ways - everyone from athletes to editors, pr-people, travel-people. It's just cool to connect, to hear what everyone is reading. I always saw newsletters as megaphone, a tool for sharing your words and links. But it's more a conversation now.
Have you ever missed a week?
I don't think I have. I've been late and I’ve changed days. It used to be Mondays but I couldn’t get my mind together after weekend adventures, so now it’s Friday. I have all the week to get it together.
Is finding content easy?
It's definitely not a chore. It really is what I'm reading that week. That's not hard. I‘m huge nerd, my mom was a librarian and I grew up reading.
You have just let it grow organically?
Yes. I have talked with some friends who have a better business mindset than I do about starting to grow it, and maybe getting some ads. That may happen in future.
Any interesting opportunities that have come from it out apart from conversations?
Yes. I've met a lot of freelance writers who subscribe and email me their own work. I've ended up reaching some of them for stories. Or we start chatting and they pitch me with some ideas. I live in Boulder, Colorado, land of the outdoor athletes. People come up to me saying “Oh, Abigail Wise! I read your newsletter!” It's always a cool moment. It becomes an icebreaker.
Sign up for the Sticks and Stones newsletter here.
Find Abigail at her website or on Twitter / Instagram @abigailwise.
For more information on the advantages of email lists (and on how to decide on content) check out our blog post - Why Adventurers Need An Email List
If you produce an email newsletter in the outdoor/adventure space and/or you subscribe to such newsletters, take our short survey. We'll share the most interesting examples in a future post.
And don't forget to sign up for the weekly The Business of Adventure newsletter, landing in your inbox every Monday. See below.