The power of Boost: How one editor is leveling up her Medium publication to help women’s stories get heard
ADEOLA SHEEHY-ADEKALE is part of our Boost Nomination Pilot, which isn’t just about Boosting great stories, it’s also about supporting the growth of Medium’s publications and editors.
We’ve been talking a lot about Boost lately — the tool Medium introduced in February to help high-quality stories get greater visibility across the platform. There’s been a lot of chatter about how writers can benefit from Boost, but today I’m sitting down with Adeola, one of the Boost Nominators submitting stories for Boost consideration, to hear about how the program supports the work of editors and publishers on Medium.
Hi, Adeola! So, let’s start here: How long have you been on Medium and what do you write about?
This is my second year on Medium, and I’m all about poetry and everything womanhood: femininity, masculine/feminine energy, personal essays, as well as self-development and self-growth. That’s my corner.
What led you to edit the publication, Modern Women?
In my real life, I run women’s circles and facilitate talking groups. I love them, but women with young children, single mothers, and folks with work commitments often can’t make the time to attend in-person circles. These women were missing out on sharing their stories and hearing other women’s stories.
For me, Modern Women is a bridge to those folks. It’s like being in a shared space with other women, but you don’t have to be there at a certain place or time. Now more than ever, we’re so isolated. Obviously, COVID did a number on all of us, but the isolation of women has always been a problem.
The publication has many different types of storytelling, but some of my favorites are the stories that are just women sharing. Because that’s where we learn the most. That’s where we feel less alone. Modern Women holds a space for that.
The True Tale of a Black American Woman
This Poem Was Inspired by A Writing Prompt and Maya Angelou
Some People Are So Angry About Pronouns
I had the opposite problem. I wasn’t mad… I was confused.
The Naked Truth About How I Used My Body to Pay for College
Posing nude for art classes helped me embrace my body and pay the costs of a higher education
How did you get involved with the Boost Nomination Pilot?
With writing, you choose your platform. You choose your home. And I had just decided this past winter, Medium is my home.
Then I saw Tony’s post about Boost, and filled out the application. To be honest, it was one of those things where I figured, “500,000 people are gonna apply for this, there’s no chance at all…”
Ha! Well, it’s not quite 500,000… Currently, there are 600 people on the Boost Nomination Pilot waitlist. As the person in charge of looking at applications, I can tell you what I’m looking for:
- First, I look at the quality of the content in the publication.
- Then, I look at the topic of the publication. I want to make sure that there’s a broad swath of topics represented — hardcore technical content, narrative poetry, self-development, fitness, spirituality history, design, and beyond.
- I’m also looking for a wide range of identities represented among the publishers in the program.
One of the things I appreciated most about Modern Women was the diversity of the editorial staff. It seems like the publication has made an effort to have a wide range of identities represented. I’d love to hear more about how that breadth of perspective plays into the kind of content that Modern Women features.
Megan Llorente, the founder of the publication, is the person that created the team. Amazing kudos go to her. I think she did it very, very deliberately. In the same way that we hope our writers represent every type of woman, we want that to be reflected in our editorial team.
How’s being a Boost Nominator (or nommer as I like to call y’all) changing Modern Women?
It’s massively changing the publication for the better. I think women who write for us are seeing that we not only want to give them a space, but that we take their voices seriously.
When you’re a new writer, all you want is to be published. But once you’ve felt that affirmation, you do want to take the next step. You want to know, “Maybe my work has value. Maybe I’ll actually get seen. Maybe I’ll be heard somehow through this. Maybe we’ll make a difference. Maybe it will matter.”
Having Modern Women be part of the Boost Nomination Pilot has really nudged the writers in my publication to be like, “How can I write in a way that my story will be heard and be listened to properly?”
I say this to my kids a lot: I think it’s really important to have a running mate in everything you do. You can run as fast as you can. When you’re by yourself, you’ll only get so far. But if you’re running with someone else, you run faster. You run harder.
I think that’s what’s going on with the Boost Nomination Pilot! I think we’re reading other stories and saying, “Oh we need stories with a purpose.” This creates a snowball effect where, when we’re reading better work on Medium, we’re challenged to write better.
How has being a Boost Nominator affected how you manage the publication?
Being a Boost Nominator has changed how I edit. The Medium Distribution Guidelines are clear about what Medium wants from “Boostable” stories, and it’s changed how I look at submissions.
Initially, I might have had a visceral response to someone’s story like, “Yeah, I agree with you! I want people to hear this!” But then when I break it down, not as a reader or an editor, but as a Boost Nominator, I can see where the story could be better.
Being a Boost Nominator teaches you so much about being a writer and an editor. It’s actually harder than you think to find really, really good writing.
What advice do you have for writers who want to get Boosted?
Don’t be satisfied with just being published on Medium. Ask yourself: Who is my story for? Who will remember it? What difference is it making? If you want to write an outstanding story, you have to think about the difference it’s going to make. How will your story sink in with readers?
I think all writers would do themselves a service by using the Distribution Guidelines as a framework.
And what advice do you have for folks running publications on Medium?
My first question for publishers would be: What’s your why?
I feel like a lot of people start publications to promote their own writing. Is that really your aim? If you just want to do your own stuff, that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But maybe don’t have a publication.
If you’re going to have a publication, I think you should have a really clear idea of what your purpose is. Running a publication will take time away from your writing. It will be a whole other job that you need to put time and effort into to do well. And you shouldn’t do that if you only want to write!
Once you’ve decided you genuinely want to have a publication, then be clear about who your writers might be, and what you can actually do for them. Be clear about what you can do for your readers. Treat it like a print publication.
If it were a print publication, you would put so much time and effort in, and it would mean so much to you that you would never let it go. It would take real effort — real blood, sweat, and tears! Just because it’s online and not printed, a publication shouldn’t feel disposable.
Are you currently accepting submissions for Modern Women?
We’re always accepting new writers and submissions! As a team, we’re looking for authentic women’s voices — and that has to include every version of womanhood and femininity. There are no narrow margins for what that means. It is literally: Who are you? What is your experience? What do you have to say? What’s your story? I think everyone has a story to tell.
As I said before, Modern Women is about putting yourself in that shared space, in that circle with other women, knowing that you will not be judged or seen as anything other than what you are. And writing from that space, sharing from that space…I think it’s the most powerful thing we can do.
Medium can be such a great place for personal growth and a sense of community.
So, on that note: why Medium?
Medium is needed more now than ever. I feel such a massive pushback against the shallow, disposable writing on social media, and how it’s brought us all down. Medium is doing something different.
More than ever, people are craving platforms that have integrity, spaces with a human ethos behind them. Medium is that space.
Also in this series:
- How Google data scientist Cassie Kozyrkov found success (and a fulfilling creative outlet) on Medium
- How Kaki Okumura’s Medium essays led to a book on health and human psychology
- How Thomas Smith successfully launched a new AI publication on Medium
- How Devon Price redefined ‘lazy’ and turned his Medium essay into a book
Who should we interview next? Let us know in the comments. And, if you’re inspired to write on Medium, get started!