Editor’s note: this is a guest post by Jennifer Chen of Typecraft.
I went vegetarian when I was 17 years old. My best friend went vegan (no dairy, eggs, or meat) and I thought I could give up meat at the very least. I haven’t looked back. I love animals. As a kid, I spent two weeks straight begging my mom for a dog until she finally caved. For me, animals are my friends, not my food. While this isn’t a decision that’s for everyone, my veg lifestyle helped me land my dream job—writing and editing for a national vegan lifestyle magazine, VegNews.
My love for animals is equal to my love of magazines. As a kid, I created my first and only issue of Mom magazine, which I made for my mom for Mother’s Day. I wrote, designed (a red heart was the cover), and stapled it together. As an adult, I didn’t pursue magazine writing until I was 28. I tried everything under the sun as a writer, until one day, I thought, if I could do anything, I’d love to work at a magazine.
What’s better than a stack of magazines, a lazy Sunday, and a comfy outdoor chair? To me, I love how much information I can get from a magazine. Yes, so many people proclaim that print is dead and digital is in and while I’ll agree that the iPad and Kindle are pretty cool inventions, I still love the feel of flipping through a magazine and marking pages that I like.
I think by now most people know what it means to be vegetarian, so how exactly is vegan different? Vegans don’t use or consume any animal products. No leather shoes, no omelets, and certainly no chicken fingers. The questions I am most frequently asked are, “Then what exactly do you eat? What’s wrong with milk? Do you get enough protein?” For me, I love food and vegan food has a ton of great options. Vegan doughnuts? Done. Vegan cheese that melts and doesn’t taste like rubber? Check. I eat a lot of beans, nuts, leafy greens, fruits, grains, tofu, seitan, and everything labeled vegan. (Click here and here for a mini-food tour of what I eat.) As for milk, some people think that dairy cows need to be milked or else they will explode. The truth is, dairy cows only give milk when they are pregnant, just like humans. So they are frequently artificially impregnated so that they give birth and provide milk. Unfortunately another byproduct of the dairy industry are male calves. Since they can’t produce milk in the future, they are put into tight crates so they don’t move so they can become veal steaks later. It’s so sad. I used to love cheese, but the thought of what cows go through so I could have a slice of Brie upset me too much. BUT the upside? There are so many non-dairy alternatives (almond, coconut, soy, etc.). And lastly, I do get plenty of protein.
Landing My Dream Job
When I lived in LA, I pitched VegNews a travel piece on veg-friendly Pasadena and they bit so I wrote my first piece for them. It’s an indie publication so instead of payment, I was offered a free subscription, and I fell in love with the magazine. It was well-written, chockfull of travel, great recipes, and news. Fast forward a few years later, my husband landed his dream job at Lucasfilm so we moved up to the San Francisco area, where VegNews is published. When I saw that they had a job opening for an associate editor, I jumped. I wasn’t vegan when I landed the interview but I knew enough about the lifestyle to be able to do a good job at the writing sample and editing test. Once I landed the job (I literally jumped up and down), I decided to go vegan.
Writing & Food
Switching my diet opened the door for me to write about vegan news, travel, food, and even interview animal sanctuaries. My editor at Bust magazine offered me a piece writing about a vegan cookbook author and her latest project helping feral cats. I think most importantly, I’ve tapped into what I love: food, animals, and magazines. As a writer, it’s so important to figure out what you love because the passion shines through. Also, having a focus is so much better than trying to doing everything under the sun. Trust me, I tried to be a short story writer and realized, wow, I’m not really great at this.
With all of the many food blogs out there, writing about food has never been easier or better. I know quite a few vegan bloggers who landed their first cookbooks based on the popularity of their blogs. So if you’re not considering going vegan or vegetarian, if you love food and you love writing, consider starting a food blog or writing for popular food magazines.
If you’re interested in going veg, I’m happy to answer any questions as best as I can. My last piece of advice: think about what you would write about if you never got paid anything. What are you crazy passionate about? It might just help you land your perfect writing job.
Jennifer Chen is an associate editor at VegNews magazine. She has written for Every Day With Rachael Ray, Bust, Natural Health, and Rangefinder. She is also working on a young adult novel and she’s represented by Regal Literary. She lives in Berkeley, CA, with her TV writer husband, yellow lab, and three-legged cat. She blogs at typecraftwriter.com.
Do you have any questions for Jennifer about being a vegetarian or a vegan? Are you a vegan or a vegetarian yourself? How has it influenced your writing? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!
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