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!
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.
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:
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.
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 …
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 [email protected].
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.
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:
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 [email protected] 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 [email protected]. 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 [email protected].