Hi, I’m Emily Ding, a freelance writer, journalist, and photographer from Kuala Lumpur.

Letters from Somewhere is a personal email newsletter about my reporting, travel, and armchair adventures, and how we make sense of the world through stories.

You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved. —Ansel Adams

You could say the same about writing and travelling.

My fervent wish is that every letter arrives in your inbox in a flutter of serendipity, and that you find something in it which spurs, tickles, and awes you—in head and heart.

Want to know what you’re signing up for? Read my past letters.

+ Mark

“Stories of human nature are linked with pathologies of places.”
—Suzanne Joinson

I’ll also be dispatching, as part of this newsletter, an occasional series called Mark, which explores the connections between where we are and who we are.

I hope it’ll grow to become a collection of portraits, vignettes, and conversations featuring a bunch of interesting people who have been shaped by, or have shaped, a place in some way. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll also begin to reveal something of what it means to be human in a rapidly changing, increasingly interconnected world.

Why “Mark”?

At the Atomic Bomb Museum in Nagasaki, there is a grainy photograph of a guard climbing down a ladder from the roof of the Nagasaki Fortress, when Fat Man dropped on August 9, 1945. The summery yellow bomb exploded in a flash of atomic heat that froze the city’s clocks at 11:02 a.m., and the guard became a shadow seared onto a timber wall. Nagasaki hadn’t even been the original target.

But seemingly random events can conspire to make, or remake, a place and the people who live in it. And even planned events can have unintended, sometimes absurd, consequences. Mark, as in: the imprints—visible and invisible—left on all of us by the places where we grew up, or loved, or resented, or suffered, or journeyed through, or left, or came back to; and also what we leave on these places in return. Like an everlasting shadow on a timber wall.

Why you might want to subscribe

If you’re the sort who sees travel not so much as an act of escapism but a closer communion with the world, I think you’ll enjoy this newsletter.

What readers are saying:

“I love welcoming new newsletters into my inbox and this one looks like it’ll be a ripper!” —Erin Cook

“Really enjoyed the newsletter, love the range of content on there, especially the article recommendations, and the quotes you picked out! It made me feel like I was reading an actual newsletter, and I was back in the early 00s, traveling around Asia, when Internet cafes were still a thing, and smartphones were not to be seen. Don’t know why exactly I got that feeling, but it was a golden one.” —Liang Lu-Hai

“She lives the way I can only dream of, chasing stories deep into parts less trodden.” —Florentyna Leow

Been reading? Got something nice to say? Please write me a recommendation.

Free vs. paid subscriptions

With a free subscription, you can read selected letters that are publicly available.

If you want access to all letters, or just support this newsletter’s growth and the bit of time that I put into it, I’d be very grateful if you would make a paid subscription for USD$5 monthly, or USD$50 annually.

You would be helping me cultivate a readership wholly my own, independent of the publications I write for. Sometimes, writers just want to write what they want to write, and certain stories are more appropriate for autonomous, personal outlets like this.

That said, I take no offence if you choose not to take a paid subscription. Every reader counts, and I’m glad you’re reading.

Those who do: Extra thanks to you! Know that I will be ever, ever thankful. Do drop a line and say hello.

A few things to note

How often will I receive your newsletter?
It should arrive in your inbox at least once a month, possibly more.

Can I share your letters?
Sure, feel free to forward on my emails to friends and family or send them on to the online archive.

By the way, you got something wrong in one of your letters…
Please email me and let me know. I would very much appreciate a heads-up.

I know someone you should speak to for your Mark series…
I’m always happy to hear ideas, so please get in touch.

I don’t seem to be receiving your letters…
Check your Promotions or Spam folders. You may want to mark my email address as “not spam” to make sure they reach you in future.

If you got this far, I’m guessing you’re going to subscribe… Many thanks in advance for granting me friendly passage through your inbox!

Sign up now

I never, never take eyeballs for granted.


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All words and media published on emydeewrites.substack.com © 2019 Emily Ding, unless otherwise noted or as common sense dictates. All rights reserved.