Jen Reeder is a national award-winning freelance journalist who specializes in pet and lifestyle features. Reeder was just announced as the 2017 DWAA president at the February 2017 annual meeting. Her first job writing about animals was for the World Wildlife Fund in 1994, but since then, her focus has shifted to man’s best friend. Jen is also a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), the Colorado Press Association, the Colorado Authors’ League and the Cat Writers’ Association.
Congratulations on being named president of the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA). What made you decide to run for president of DWAA?
Thank you! I’m really honored and excited. Last summer when I saw there were upcoming vacancies on the DWAA board, I thought it would be fun to join. I actually tried to convince Laura Coffey, author of the bestselling book “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts,” to run for president. But she’s super busy being a writer/editor/producer for Today.com, promoting her book, being Supermom and doing a zillion other things. I eventually wore her down and she said she’d run for VP if I ran for president. We urged pet fashion guru Laurren Darr to run for secretary, which was a great call.
How did you first get involved in DWAA? Is there something special that drew you to the organization?
I was starting to narrow my focus as a journalist to pets, so when I learned there was a group for dog writers, I immediately submitted a membership application. I already loved dog people in general, but finding people who love to write about dogs? Woohoo!
When did you start writing about dogs?
I’ve always loved animals – I started my career in the communications department of World Wildlife Fund. But after my husband Bryan and I adopted our first dog in 2010, I became a bit of a crazy dog lady. Rio changed my career trajectory and my life! I think I’ll go give him a treat.
You’ve written about lifestyle issues and about dogs. Tell us what lifestyle issues you’ve written about that continue to interest you.
I love the term “lifestyle” because it’s such an umbrella term for interesting features. When we first moved to our Colorado mountain town, I did some freelancing for the Lifestyle sections of the daily and weekly newspapers. Because it’s an outdoorsy place, I was writing stories about ski gear and moonlight hikes. One of my favorites was covering a local tour called “Lunch, Hike and Wine with a Llama,” which was as awesome as it sounds. Now my lifestyle stories seem to overlap with dogs – camping with dogs, apps for dog lovers, pet-friendly bars … notice a trend?
What about writing about dogs – what are your favorite topics?
I love writing service pieces that help people keep their dogs happy and healthy. I’m also a sucker for profiling inspiring nonprofits that involve dogs – I write a lot of rescue and animal welfare stories. Last year I was thrilled to start writing the “In Their Debt” column for Just Labs Magazine. I get to cover cool working dog organizations with Labrador retrievers, like Good Dog! Autism Companions, which trains Labs as service dogs for kids with autism. I have fun writing stories for the Zuke’s “Dog Blog” that celebrate the human-animal bond. Come to think of it, I guess I really don’t have a favorite topic as long as the story involves dogs.
Are there assignments when you can write about both lifestyle and dogs?
I typically write around 50 articles a year, and most of them involve dogs in some way. They’re a way of life, right?
Tell us about how you come up with your writing ideas. What’s your process?
My Lab mix, Rio, gives me lots of ideas. His trips to the veterinarian have provided plenty of fodder for articles for the American Animal Hospital Association, which I suppose is a silver lining to his penchant for mischief. But my ears perk up anytime someone starts talking about dogs. I end up with story ideas scribbled on the back of receipts in my wallet. I really should start carrying a notebook again.
Are there any tips you can give beginning writers who want to write about dogs?
Read pet articles, subscribe to mailing lists for groups like the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) to stay informed about new developments, and learn as much as possible about the writing biz before you start pitching editors. Obviously, I think everyone should join the Dog Writers Association of America to give a boost to their career – even unpaid writers can join at the associate level. List me as a sponsor if you’d like to join!
What can you tell us about your plans for the DWAA?
This is a very promising time for dog writers because loving a dog like a family member has become mainstream, so there are tons of newspapers, magazines and online publications looking for quality pet content. I’m fired up about trying to help our members find success in this climate! We’re going to have special “Members Only” content on the DWAA website that will share successful query letters and insights from editors about how to break into their publications. We hope to do even more to connect our members with one another – if a journalist needs an expert for a story, why not interview one of our authors? I’d love to hear any ideas from dog writers of ways to create more opportunities for our members.
Anything else you would like to add?
DWAA has a proud history that started in 1935. I really want to honor that legacy and help our members stay at the forefront of dog writing. This will sound cheesy, but I believe we have an important job: our work changes public perceptions of the role of dogs in society and makes life better for man’s best friend. It’s a terrific common goal!
For more information about the Dog Writers Association of America, please visit: https://dogwriters.org/
For more information about Jen Reeder, please visit: http://jenreeder.com/
Congrats, Jen on your new appointment. Loved learning more about you. Does this mean you’ll be completely dog-centric now? We met at the Purina Summit last year and was going to reach out to you but it’s cat -related.