Two Veg Editors Share What They Want to See From Food Writers

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My colleague at VegNews magazine, Aurelia d’Andrea, founded Swell! Magazine, an online magazine focused on “eco-friendly travel, healthy eating, creative self-care, guilt-free relaxation-and-pampering tips, and inspiration from other women leading creative, compassionate lives.” Aurelia recently interviewed myself and Vegetarian Times food editor Mary Margaret Chappell about what we look for when we’re searching for new food writers for our respective magazines. If you’re an aspiring food writer or want the inside scoop on pitching food magazines, check out Aurelia’s interview here. Enjoy!

Creative Wisdom From David Bowie

His music is iconic and timeless, but as a kid, I’ll always remember when my friend Meg and I watched Labyrinth a million times and LOVED when Bowie said, “Forget about the baby, Sarah.” That movie was magical, strange, and unforgettable. Artists will never die as long as we have their art.

On Wednesday, I got some writing news that was good but meant I’d have to challenge myself to face a major revision of a project-in-progress. While facing impending motherhood. And working on paid projects. Fear definitely set in. That night, I watched an older episode of the Daily Show and Trevor Noah said some kind words about David Bowie with a video clip of Bowie saying this:

“The other thing I would say is that if you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth, and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

It was the perfect piece of artistic advice I needed. Thank you to the Goblin King. I hope it helps you too. 

7 Awesome New Vegan Finds at Costco

Hello, loyal readers! I’m excited to share some new vegan finds from my latest Costco trip. There are some new goodies that I spotted and wanted to pass them along to you. Hopefully, you can find them in your local Costco.

1. Saffron Road Sea Salt Crunch Chickpeas ($8.79)

I’m always searching for healthy snacks and I love that these chickpeas only contain 3 ingredients (chickpeas, salt, olive oil). Normally, I make my own roasted chickpeas with different spices, but on busy days, this is great as a simple bite or an addition to salads.

2. Essential Living Superfoods Organic Superfood Mix
($9.79 On Sale, Normally $12.79)

Another great healthy snack that is full of goji berries, coconut chips, cacao nibs, and mulberries. I’m going to sprinkle this on some non-dairy yogurt or over cereal as a great boost of nutrition.

3. Popcornopolis Salt & Pepper Organic Popcorn ($4.99)

I love popcorn as a snack while watching a movie at home. This giant bag is super yummy and I love the addition of salt and pepper. I am a black pepper addict so this is my ultimate flavor combo.

4. Nature’s Path Love Crunch Organic Granola
($4.99 On Sale, Normally $6.75)

I am in LOVE with this granola so when I saw it at Costco, I snagged two giant bags. With dark chocolate chips, dried strawberries, and dried raspberries, this granola is more like dessert. I pair it with chocolate almond milk for the best treat. And at $xx, this is a total steal. I’ve seen much smaller bags for the same price at health food stores.

5. Harvest Stone Brown Rice & Chickpea Crackers ($8.69)

I will admit that I’m not a huge fan of gluten-free products except for crackers. I really love the crunch and taste of these crackers. I dip them in hummus or pair them with vegan cheese. Totally delicious!

6. Gardein Meatless Classic Meatballs ($9.49)

If you’ve read my previous vegan Costco blog posts, you’ll know that I’m obsessed with Gardein. My current obsession is the giant bag of meatless meatballs. They are so damn good. I add them to soups, marinara sauces, and sandwiches.

7. Explore Asia Organic Edamame Spaghetti ($9.79)

I’m always looking for extra protein sources and this organic edamame spaghetti boasts 24 grams of protein for every serving (I accidentally cut off the “2” in “24” in the pic). I haven’t tried this pasta yet, but I’m hoping it tastes great.

Have you spotted any awesome vegan products at your local Costco? Let me know in the comments!

Check Out the New Issue of Good Housekeeping!

I’m excited to share that a piece I wrote in the January 2016 issue of Good Housekeeping is out on newsstands right now. I interviewed Patrice Banks, a fascinating woman who is set to launch a mostly female-run mechanic shop called Girls Auto Clinic. Her story is in the Real Life section, and I’m really proud of how it turned out.

If you happen to be a newsstand or subscribe to Texture (the Netflix of magazines), it’s the pretty pink cover with the Makeover Issue on it, please check it out.

Have a wonderful holiday season and a warm and happy new year!

End of the Year To Do: Send a Thank You Note

Every holiday season, I send editors and anyone I’ve worked with a holiday gift along with a thank you note. In the handwritten note, I thank them for choosing to work with me. This year, I decided to order custom pencils from my friend Jenna’s Etsy shop, LZ Pencils. I ordered one custom set of Parks & Recreation pencils for my VegNews colleague and art director who absolutely loved them. And who wouldn’t? They are awesome sauce.


For the editors I’ve worked with all year long who help make my writing shine, I ordered different pretty notebooks from Chronicle Books and requested Jenna make these “Write It Down, Make It Happen” pencils that I taped with gold washi tape to the front of the notebooks. I thought these would be fun gifts for editor types who are always brainstorming and writing things down.


I used to send cookies to my editors, but quickly realized that not everyone wants more sweets during the holiday season. The notebooks and pencils make ideal gifts instead.

Whether you’re a freelancer or not, I highly suggest buying some pretty holiday cards and dropping a note to your colleagues or bosses to thank them for that promotion, the encouragement, or anything else that they’ve done for you this year. It’s a nice way to spread cheer to those you want to work with again and again.

5 Things Writers Wish You’d Understand

Work for It

  1. You wouldn’t ask a lawyer to review a contract for free. Stop asking me for my writing for your website/magazine/nonprofit for $0. I put my time, research, and energy into tracking down sources, interviewing people, researching, and then writing a piece. Why should I give that to anyone for exposure, a link to my website, or full credit?
  2. We all get rejected, even the best of the best. My husband is a successful TV writer and executive producer. He still gets rejected on scripts he’s written. Sure, you see my online portfolio, but you don’t see the many rejections and countless pitches I’ve sent out to get here.
  3. If your friend of a friend wants writing career guidance, please tell them that doesn’t mean I will give them all my contacts and introduce them to everyone I know. I will answer questions and make suggestions, but please don’t assume I’m an open Rolodex.
  4. “I have an idea you should write.” Thank you, but I write what I’m passionate about and some times what you find fascinating isn’t interesting to me.
  5. Sending a writer a compliment about their work is very sweet. I’ve written/tweeted/emailed writers who have penned an amazing essay or book and told them how much I liked their work. That’s it. I don’t expect an email back. I don’t expect that they will connect me to their world of writing contacts. I just want to say that I read their words and appreciate their work. Whenever someone writes or tweets me about something I’ve written, it’s a very nice gesture.

You Can Do This: Staying Motivated as a Creative


A month ago, I got a Facebook message from a young writer named Haroon. I’ve known Haroon since he was 16 when he was an intern at an education nonprofit I worked for in New York City. Haroon asked me a few writing questions that evolved into this bigger discussion. With Haroon’s permission, I’m reprinting excerpts from our Facebook conversation about writing and staying inspired. His questions are questions every writer, artist, and creative person encounters and I hope my answers help anyone struggling with their work. Thanks, Haroon!

Q: Hi Jen! I have a writer’s question. Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your mojo? Like, you don’t feel motivated to write, and even when you force yourself to, it doesn’t seem as good? And words don’t come to you like they used to, it’s more like a salad of words in your head that you have to sift through? I’ve been experiencing that lately and am not sure what to do about it, thought I’d ask you for some thoughts.

A: Yes, every day.

I’m currently working on a first draft of a young adult novel to show to potential literary agents, and I will always find an excuse to do something else. “Oh, I should really wash these dishes. I need to read this article about Bernie Sanders to stay up on politics.”

Every writer experiences doubt and thinks their writing is crap.

I went to a writers panel with Brendan where our friend, the former head writer for The Daily Show, was speaking. The panel consisted of all Emmy-nominated TV writers for major shows. Almost every single one of them said that they wake up and think that this is their LAST great idea. They can’t possibly think or write anything else.

I say this because, every writer feels this way, whether you’re running a successful television show or writing a first draft of a book you hope to sell.

How do you work past it? Keep writing. Don’t listen to the voice that says, “This is crap. I’m a terrible writer. I am awful. Nothing I write is good enough.” Tell that voice, I’ve heard what you have to say and I’m going to ignore you now.

If you think your words are crap, still write them down. Throw them out at the end of the day. Then write more again tomorrow. As a writer and editor, you need to get your writer hat on and do the work. Then a week later, put your editor hat on and give your writing a critical eye—later. Don’t do it while you’re writing. You’ll never write.

The best book I can recommend whenever I feel this way is reading THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield. It’s very short. I don’t agree with everything he writes in there, but overall, he speaks to how writers can doubt themselves and resist their work. I read it whenever I’m hitting a lull or want to give up. Maybe I’ve gotten a dozen rejections that day. Or just feel unhappy with my writing. This book kicks my ass and gets me back in my seat and writing again.

This is a long answer to your brief question, but I take it seriously. I’ve had mentors and teachers who kept me motivated and saw my potential when I couldn’t see it. Every artist needs that person who says, you can do this.

Those are my two cents.

You can do this!


You’re Not Alone: Honoring Pregnancy Loss

In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, I wanted to include a list of helpful resources I’ve found in my journey writing about my own miscarriages and loss. Back when I first went through this, I thought I was alone in my loss. When I wrote about my loss for BuzzFeed and filmed a companion video, I soon learned that I was not alone. I had the honor of receiving hundreds of emails, tweets, and Facebook messages from women and men who have lost pregnancies or infants. Most of their stories broke my heart. Stories of guilt, blame, and shame that they felt. People who should support them, blaming them for the loss of their pregnancy or child.

If there’s anything I can say to anyone who has been through this, I would say this: I am so sorry for your loss. You are not alone. You are not to blame. Your grief is not shameful. Take the time you need. Your loss is profound and impactful. Reach out to a close friend or someone you trust.

If you need guidance, I suggest these resources and hope that they help. I had been working on a book proposal to bring together these important stories and resources, but sadly, a few publishers have already rejected the proposal. I have put the project on hold until I feel ready to return to it. It was quite an emotional project to put together, and despite my best efforts, even feminist-leaning publishers turned it down. But I carry with me the hope that my story and journey have helped other women and men share their stories, so we don’t live in secrecy about something that is common and sadly part of pregnancy for some.


  • Dr. Jessica Zucker. Her NY Times essay on her miscarriage inspired me to write about my own. She started the #IHadaMiscarriage hashtag. Search it on Twitter if you want to take comfort in the many stories that are out there.
  • Pregnancy After Loss. For those trying to get pregnant after experiencing miscarriage, this is a great resource for wrestling with the anxiety you may feel when trying again.
  • Jennifer Massoni Pardini. She has written extensively about her own losses and has a Baby Loss Resources section on her website.
  • Don’t Talk About The Baby. This Kickstarter-funded documentary film that explores the culture of silence and shame surrounding pregnancy loss and infertility. Their Facebook is a great community.
  • Through The Heart. A nonprofit organization with many resources on its site, along with free Comfort Kits for those who have experienced loss.

Sending a hug to those who need it! If you feel comfortable, share your story with me in the comments.

My 5 New Fave Vegan Costco Products

It’s been awhile friends, but I’m back with some of new favorite vegan eats from Costco! And these ones are so good. I hope they have them in your local Costco.

1. Tolerant Organic Green Lentil Ziti

If you see this pasta at Costco, grab a few boxes. Priced at $8.99, this protein-packed allergy-free pasta is a steal. When Costco was out, I bought some at Whole Foods and the sticker shock was intense. There are 21 grams of protein per serving, which I love. Don’t worry, there’s no bean-like taste at all. I use this in place of any pasta dish and it’s delicious.

2. Watermelon Water

Oh my gosh, it’s been so dang hot in LA. As I’m writing this, it’s 102 degrees out. This four-pack of watermelon water has been a lifesaver as a refreshing summer drink. Plus, it has a lot of potassium and vitamin C in it.

3. Next Organics Dark Chocolate Quinoa

If you used to love Crunch bars, you’ll love this dark chocolate quinoa. The quinoa adds a nice crispy crunch to the chocolate bites. And it has 5 grams of protein per serving. I stick them in the fridge so they are nice and cool when I want a sweet treat. (Did I mention that it’s a million degrees outside?)

4. Gardein Meatless Crispy Tenders

This giant pack of vegan chicken fingers is my go-to lunch these days. I bake them in the toaster oven and they get nice and crispy. I toss them in salads for extra protein, or just eat them on their own. Priced at $9.99, this freezer pack lasts forever!

5. Nutiva Black Chia Seeds

These little nutrition powerhouse seeds are chockfull of protein, fiber, and omega 3s. This huge package of organic chia seeds makes it easy to add some good-for-you nutrients to a smoothie. I also like to sprinkle a tablespoon of chia seeds into my watermelon water for chia agua fresca.

Have you found any awesome vegan or accidentally vegan products at your Costco? Tell me about them!

An Open Letter to Companies Who Don’t Pay Freelancers on Time

Dear [insert name of delinquent company]:

I love being a freelancer. I make my own schedule. I get to work on different projects. I don’t have to ask anyone for time off.

As such, my obligation to your company is to turn in work on deadline, answer any questions you have, and turn in invoices for my services.

The major downside is dealing with companies, like yours, who are frequently late paying me every month or drag their heels in paying for work I’ve already turned in (with so many wild excuses).

If I told Verizon that I couldn’t pay my cell phone bill because I’m “in the midst of a timing issue,” they would just cut off my service.

I’m a professional working writer who has to pay bills, eat, and make a living, just like you. Being a freelancer doesn’t mean FREE work until I threaten you with legal action or possibly quit.

Just pay me on time and we’ll be ALL GOOD.


Jennifer Chen

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