What is The Long Scrawl?

The Long Scrawl is an ever-growing collection of true stories about the long haul of life: the mess and the triumphs, the stress and the dreams, the unexpected heartache, and the joy that waits beneath.

This project was created as a mini memoir to help the reader connect and the writer remember. The personal essays explore themes of transformation, relocation, immigration, deconstruction, and other things that don’t end in “ion.”

The author, LaDonna Witmer, is a writer/dreamer/mother/ex-religious person/American emigrant/resident of Portugal who is figuring out life in a new country, navigating a new culture, and learning a new language (while also trying to write a book and keep a career alive and hold down the home fort and list all the household snacks for the preteen so she can say they’re gross and not trip over two velcro hounds and just stop for a minute to appreciate this exact moment right here before it all whirls away.)

Joining her on this adventure are:
Marido (husband), her partner of 20+ years
Filha (daughter), her dragon-loving preteen
Vila, an elderly, very emo Boxer/Boston Terrier
Zambú, a gentle Spanish Galgo giant
FeeBea, a small, irreverent parrot

If any of that ticks any of your boxes, you’re welcome to hit the red button to subscribe and a new essay will drop into your inbox every couple of weeks. Come for the words and stay for the photos, if you like. Each post contains (lots of) original photographs from Portugal and beyond. All photographs were taken by the author unless otherwise noted.

No paywall + optional paid subscriptions

The thing that sucks about paid subscriptions is that they leave a whole subset of people out in the cold, on the other side of a paywall, or unable to leave a comment or read the entirety of a post.

And yet. Writing for The Long Scrawl requires a sizable number of hours — a labor of love, yes, but bona fide labor nonetheless.

If you’d like to support LaDonna’s writing, you can sign up for a paid subscription. In addition to the author’s undying gratitude, you’ll get more of her writing. Once a month for paid subscribers only, she will post an excerpt from her memoir-in-progress. It’s a book (working title: See If I Burn) about her upbringing in a fundamentalist religious community in rural Illinois.

If you’re not into paid subscriptions, but you’d still like to show support, you can leave a tip here on LaDonna’s Tipeee page.

No matter what, all the usual Long Scrawl content remains available to both free and paid subscribers.

Where should I start reading?

You can start anywhere: beginning, middle, most recent.
Here are a few good places to get you going:
Cast of Characters
The Why of It All
There’s No Such Thing as Paradise
Always Time for a Heartache
Don’t Listen to the Internet
Never Say Forever

More photos, plz?

People things @wordsbyladonna
Dog pix @veelahvee_zambu

What is substack?

Substack is the Grubhub/DoorDash of word delivery. Instead of trotting your tired fingers over to some faraway url to get a heaping helping of blog, you get a fresh hot post delivered directly to your inbox the very second it’s published. Sometimes technology is nifty.

Subscribe to The Long Scrawl

True stories about life in Palmela, Portugal (and beyond) from a writer who emigrated from the States.


In previous lives I was a newspaper journalist, advertising copywriter, brand voice expert, editorial director, public speaker, and poetry slammer. Now I write (lots of) essays, (occasional) poems, and a (slow going) memoir.