FAQ

FAQ

(on writing, editing, pitching, animal rights advocacy, organization, and general resources I find useful)

by Jasmin Singer

Thank you so much for reaching out! I love connecting with writers and emerging leaders within vegan media, the animal rights movement, the book-publishing world, and beyond. While I wish I could meet with everyone who contacts me for feedback or one-on-one time, my current life priorities make doing so increasingly difficult. In this document, I’ve put together responses to the most frequently asked questions I receive regarding writing, editing, pitching, animal rights, the Our Hen House podcast, and more. I hope this serves as a valuable resource and that you find it helpful!


Writing

1. Do you have any tips on how to write?

Writing does not come easily to many people. The way that most writers work is by setting specific parameters for themselves—such as to wake up early and write every day from 6-8am, with no distractions. There are apps that can help you drown out distractions—such as Freedom—but the most important thing is that you get in the habit of writing, no matter what.

And if you want to become a stronger writer, you can consider joining a writing group where you and your classmates provide feedback to one another. I don’t have specific advice for what writer group you should join.

In general, I think it’s also very useful to find a published writer whose style reminds you of your own, and follow their career. Read interviews they do, follow them on social media, and figure out what resonates with you so deeply about their work.

Put yourself into the story. Find your truth and tell it. Think of different ways of packaging who you are and what you are trying to say and be very specific. An essay about how to balance being a parent is not interesting; an essay about being a new mom in your forties who just moved out of the city and is struggling with rural life is much more compelling. Who are you and what do you have to say?

It’s also useful, when writing an essay or a book, to really lean into your hook. Start your piece in the middle of something that happened to you (“There I was, sobbing in a tiny bathroom stall at that mediocre burger joint in the Haight that gave my roommate food poisoning last summer.”) instead of overly relying on narration or chronology to tell your story. As a general rule, you can choose to circle back around to that original hook at the end of your piece, so that it’s bookending your essay.

I’m also a fan of subheads throughout an essay, especially if it’s running online.

Be sure to use value whenever possible, especially if you’re writing a lifestyle piece. It’s astounding how many valuable adjectives you can use to describe, for example, “a dimly lit coffee shop that’s known for having the creamiest (albeit most expensive) oat milk latte you’ll ever have.” That paints a picture; saying “a coffee shop in Brooklyn” is too vague.


Editing

2. Will you edit what I wrote?

The short answer is no. I really appreciate you reaching out and thinking of me, but I’m currently all booked with obligations—both paid and volunteer. I’m working hard to manage my schedule to create a healthy work/life balance, while making sure I have enough time and energy to pursue my own creative pursuits both within and outside of “work.”

I’ve found these tools useful and hope you do, too:

    • Grammarly. It’s an easy tool that checks your writing for common grammar and punctuation errors. I find it always catches something I don’t.
    • Familiarize yourself with commonly misused words. On a similar note, make sure the adjectives you use are full of value (avoid boring words like “delicious” or “great” to describe something).
    • I see so many comma mistakes in pieces I edit. Be sure to know how to use commas.
    • Personal narrative is underused in animal rights. I hope that changes, as I see it as an important part of social justice. Learn what personal narrative is, find a compelling hook, and put yourself into the story. Here’s a useful article to get you started.
    • Join a Binders group on Facebook, such as Binders Full of Creative Nonfiction. These groups are full of very supportive people and you could probably hire one of them to edit your piece.
    • For further reading, check out Stephen King’s On Writing or Anne LaMott’s Bird by Bird (I personally like to listen to books in audio form while I’m getting dressed in the morning).
    • Read your piece out loud to yourself after you think you’re done writing it. You’ll definitely find mistakes or things you want to tweak. Better yet, read it to someone else.
    • Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. The only way to be a writer is to write. The only way to get published is to try, even if you don’t think you know what you’re doing. (None of us really know what we’re doing.)

3. Do you have any tips on how to be edited?

My biggest tip here is to trust your editor. Understand that they want you to look good, and it’s their job to make sure you do. Don’t hold on too preciously to your words; it’s your editor’s job to make sure your point is being made in the strongest possible way it can.

And please don’t ever hand in anything unless you deem it publish-ready. Even though I guarantee it’s not publish-ready, it’s not your editor’s job to rewrite every word or bring a half-assed essay to a solid place. That’s disrespectful to your editor and undermines your own ability.

The best thing you can do is understand that your editor is your editor for a reason. They are probably talented, insightful, and experienced. They can offer a fresh perspective on your story that you are just not able to see.

Also remember that frequently, being an editor is a thankless job. It doesn’t generally pay well, and the magic that your editor will do to your piece will never be associated with them; you’re the one with the byline. So, bottom-line: be very, very nice to your editor!

And get over yourself a little bit. Most of the time, your piece will be remarkably elevated after your editor has gone in and done their work.

4. Do you have any tips on how to be an editor?

Stay very focused on the piece you are working on. Use Freedom or another app to remove all distractions. Be sure to be gentle but firm with your edits. If something moves you, add a comment telling your writer; they probably have a delicate ego, at least to some extent, and need affirmation. Don’t blow smoke up their ass, but be sure to be generous when you feel something they wrote has indeed landed.

Don’t allow yourself to be bullied or dismissed. Pause whenever you need to (whether that means you take a ten-minute break or a ten-day vacation), and recognize your own value. If you are being mistreated or underpaid, it’s OK to leave that gig behind.

You are the magician here. Writers would be nothing without a good editor. Take your job seriously, but not too seriously. Understand your value, but don’t get cocky.

Being edited is hard, just as being an editor is hard. Have a sense of humor about it and be very, very thorough when providing feedback. Don’t offer broad feedback like “this just doesn’t work.” Why doesn’t it work? Prompt your writer with a few possibilities to get them started in a new direction.


Pitching

5. Do you have any tips on how to pitch?

When pitching, keep your pitch concise (one or two paragraphs) but detailed. Ask yourself, why is this story important? Is my idea the right fit for this publication? (Always make sure you’re familiar with the publications you’re pitching!)

How will this publication’s audience benefit from this piece? In your pitch, make sure to provide a detailed explanation of your idea, how you will tackle the piece (who are your proposed interview subjects?), and an estimated turnaround time.

If a publication offers pitching tips or guidelines, familiarize yourself with them. Take the time to pitch via the proper channels—this can often help save time and help ensure your pitch is seen.

Make sure you are pitching the right person, whenever possible. Though expensive, Cision offers a detailed list of the many players at media companies, along with their contact info and specialty. You can usually find that info for free, however, just by Googling them or paying attention to mastheads. You can also follow your favorite writers on Twitter, and many will reply to your inquiring DMs. Be sure to include in your pitch why you are the right person to write that story. Add a sentence or two about yourself and hyperlink your relevant work.

Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date.

If you don’t hear back regarding your pitch, don’t take it personally. Most people on the other end of pitches have very little time and it’s impossible to respond to everyone. You can try again in a month or so.

6. How can I get a story placed …


Our Hen House

7. Can I be a guest on the Our Hen House podcast?

To suggest a guest for an upcoming episode of the Our Hen House podcast, please visit OurHenHouse.org/suggest-a-quest/, When suggesting yourself or someone else, please be as detailed as you can be—the more details you give us, the more helpful it is in determining whether or not your recommended guest is a good fit for the show. Please note that we receive a lot of guest suggestions, and we cannot guarantee that we will be able to book you or your recommendation. And definitely familiarize yourself with Our Hen House before you pitch us; note that we don’t cover many broad lifestyle topics. Rather, we focus on animal rights activism.

8. Do you have sponsorship options or opportunities for announcements on the Our Hen House podcast?

Yes! We have sponsorship options or opportunities for announcements on the Our Hen House podcast for vegan companies and organizations. If you’re interested in placing an ad, announcement, or are inquiring about a sponsorship opportunity with Our Hen House, please email our Director of Operations, Jen Riley, at .


Animal Rights

9. How can I find my dream job in animal rights?

That’s so fantastic that you’re interested in making the world a better place for animals!

Volunteering with local chapters of animal-rights organizations such as PETA, The Humane Society, or your local animal shelter is a cool way to learn about job opportunities within the movement. You can also check out my podcast, Our Hen House, and consider joining the Our Hen House flock.

The reason that I co-founded Our Hen House more than ten years ago was because I believe that everyone can bring their skills to their animal rights work, without necessarily working “in the movement.” So start with skills you already have. Whether it’s accounting or graphic design, I can guarantee you will be able to offer your skills to an animal protection nonprofit.

You can also just Google “vegan jobs” or check out the VegNews vegan job board.


Productivity

10. You do a lot. How do you get it all done?

This is something I struggle with, admittedly, but I’m working hard to create more boundaries in my life and not take on so many projects (hence this document). A work/life balance is extremely important, and being exhausted all the time is no help to anyone, nor is it any fun.

I have gotten better at this in the past year, partly by taking advantage of some online tools that keep me organized and grounded:

    • Caveday.org is helpful for me to reach “deep work” while being accountable to others. It’s been transformational.
    • I listen to binaural beats on Spotify as it helps me stay focused.
    • I own a virtual reality headset (the Oculus Quest 2). Every day, I do a workout and a meditation with the Supernatural app. I also use the Tripp app for meditation.
    • I time-block very aggressively so that I can stay proactive instead of reactive. This includes keeping many calendars on GoogleCal but also writing out a weekly calendar using my Ink & Volt planner.
    • I use Calendly to automate my appointments with others. One of my Calendly “events” is for offering free one-on-ones with others, and I only offer one or two a month. Boundaries are extremely important to success. Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. This is something I’m constantly reminding myself.
    • I listen to a productivity audiobook every morning when I am getting ready for my day, such as How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb.
    • I am working on only checking emails or other notifications during specific times (only a few short sessions a day), otherwise turning off all notifications, and understanding that I will not be able to get back to every email (or, in fact, most emails … this has been a steep learning curve for me but has proven to be very helpful in terms of my productivity).
    • I delegate whenever possible, whether that means hiring someone for a short gig (such as transcription or research) through Fiverr, or hiring an assistant to help me with scheduling, research, or outlines. I pay fairly and make sure that I’m a useful resource for whoever is assisting me.
    • I go to therapy every two weeks.
    • I keep track of what my life goals are and I regularly audit my work to make sure that every single thing I’m doing is aligned with my bigger purpose. Sometimes, I have to do something that’s not necessarily aligned, but I try to keep those gigs to a minimum.
    • I don’t let work take over. Though I don’t speak with my friends as often as I’d like, I make sure that social time (even if virtual) is a regular part of my life.
    • I look up to others who are successful in similar fields as my own. I ask myself what makes them successful and then I try to replicate that. I recognize the importance of having a team, taking downtime, clearing my head, stretching my body and even my eyes, and having fun. Fun is a very important value to me, and it reminds me to not take everything so seriously.
    • I recognize that I don’t have all the answers and I do my best to always improve. I celebrate the small victories along the way.

Endorsements

11. Will you provide a blurb or review of my book?

I am grateful that you thought of me. I will do my best to accommodate blurbs for books, but I can’t always. Email with your manuscript, summary, and request. If you are able to provide a few sample blurbs, that would be ideal.

12. I have an exciting new product. Can I send you a sample? Can you help me promote it?

If you have a vegan product that you are interested in getting covered, my suggestion is to reach out to VegNews at . I don’t personally do reviews of products. If there is a specific reason you want me to know about it or try it, please email .