The Hyphen Lowdown on Writer Jennifer Chen

August 26, 2011


The Hyphen Lowdown is a bi-monthly Q&A series profiling the influential and interesting, from actors, musicians, to politicians -- maybe even someone in your neighborhood! This week, Hyphen online Q&A editor Rachel Filipinas chats with magazine editor and YA author Jennifer Chen.

Jennifer Chen is one busy woman. In addition to her full-time gig as VegNews Magazine’s associate editor -- before that, she freelanced for publications such as Every Day With Rachael Ray, Bust, Natural Health, Fresh Home, Audrey, Rangefinder and AfterCapture -- Chen is also author of young adult book You're Gonna Miss Me and has another book in the works. Here, she shares her secrets of how she masters the art of time management and offers some up some suggestions of where to find tasty vegan cuisine.

What was your reason for going vegetarian?

I went vegetarian at 17, and at the beginning of 2011 went vegan. I'm a huge animal lover and the more I read about how animals were treated and what they went through so I could eat cheese or an omelet, I knew eating meat -- and now dairy and eggs -- was not how I want to live my life.

Favorite vegan recipe and restaurant?

It's so hard to choose just one, but here it is. The VegNews signature mac 'n' cheese. My omnivore friends are always impressed that it's vegan and it's super simple to make. Favorite vegan/vegetarian restaurant? Again, it's hard to choose just one. So it's a tie between Millennium in San Francisco and Candle Cafe in New York City. I've celebrated many happy occasions at both restaurants and have eaten the best meals of my life there.

In addition to working in magazines, you're also an author -- how do you find the time to balance your personal projects with a full-time job?

My calendar and my husband help me achieve balance. I schedule everything in my iCal on my iPhone -- deadlines, days to write, rewrite days, etc. -- and it keeps me on track to finish freelance projects. I love my full-time job as a VegNews associate editor, but it's always a struggle to balance outside projects. So I use my lunch hours, early mornings, and weekends to get writing done. My husband [Brendan Hay], as a fellow writer who works in TV and comics, is the one who helps me figure out how to schedule time to actually finish projects. He's my sounding board.

What's your number one tip for aspiring writers?

Make a writing schedule and stick to it. It's the only way you'll actually get writing done.

Why YA? What were some of your favorite young adult (YA) books growing up?

I've loved YA since I first picked up Baby-sitters Club and Sweet Valley High. It's the time in your life when everything is a first -- first time falling in love, losing friends, feeling unpopular, feeling like an adult. YA novels are thrilling, inviting, and innovative. My favorite YA books growing up were Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Modern-day YA books I love: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, and Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr.

Are you working on any future book projects?

Yes! I'm writing a book with photographer Bambi Cantrell that will be published in summer 2013 by Amphoto/Random House. I'm also working on a young adult series. My agent, Michelle Andelman, at Regal Literary is helping me develop it. She's a tremendous resource.

Finally, describe yourself in three words.

 Crafty vegan writer.