Jen !. Miller is a muse in our portrait/interview series Muses Surround Us with Emily "Birdie" Busch. A link to all the interviews is at the end of this page.
The intro for this interview is written by Betsy Cook, interview questions by Emily "Birdie" Busch. All images courtesy of Jen A. Miller.
I checked in with Jen A. Miller as she was wrapping up a relaxing break in Avalon, NJ. Her new e-book just dropped, second in a series she is writing on best practices for freelance writers: Notes from a Hired Pen: Where to Find New Freelance Writing Clients and Turbocharge Your Career.
I can't remember how I first became aware of her work, I sheepishly admit I don't have her running book (I run only when chased!) but I have running friends that likely helped our orbits to cross. Running: A Love Story: 10 Years, 5 Marathons, and 1 Life-Changing Sport (Seal Press, 2016) is one of the largest jewels in her writing crown. Another is her impressive collection of content written for the New York Times. Her award-winning career also sparkles with numerous magazine articles in Runner's World, Washington Post, The Outline, The Guardian, SELF, Buzzfeed, The Goods, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and more.
I can speak best as a reader of her first e-book on freelance writing. I'm a huge proponent of exploring seemingly unrelated industries to look for ideas that might also apply to my fashion business. In the thick of the pandemic I downloaded her first e-book, Notes From a Hired Pen: How I Made $135,000 in One Year of Freelancing. No one employs me to make clothing, and I "pitch" my work in part via writing, so that makes me somewhat of a freelancer, right?
Beyond the sales-y title was a more important message that a total dollar amount is less important than one's own lifestyle goals. Inside the book were the personal and candid experiences of a confident, fellow self-employed woman who hopes others, she says, "can take some of the lessons I’ve learned here and apply them to your own career, wherever you are in it, and wherever you want it to go...The thriving, profitable, joyful freelance career lets me do that, and for that I am very grateful." The content was highly relatable to me—I've worked without a W2 since 1998—because like Jen, self employment provides the ideal working lifestyle for my needs.
Because it's October: "A brief Halloween history of pets in costumes." Written by Jen in 2018 for Vox, it's a timely link full of pandemic-malaise-busting cute dog photos.
Read more about Jen and find links to waaaay more articles at jenamiller.com. You can also follow her on twitter at twitter.com/byjenamiller
Running: A Love Story: 10 Years, 5 Marathons, and 1 Life-Changing Sport (Seal Press, 2016)
Explorer's Guide Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May: A Great Destination (Countryman Press 2011)
Both are available here
Notes From a Hired Pen: How I Made $135,000 in One Year of Freelancing.
Notes from a Hired Pen: Where to Find New Freelance Writing Clients and Turbocharge Your Career
What is a career/creative moment you are proud of?
This spring, I quit my regular New York Times' gig - I wrote about running every week. I was proud of the work I did, but I knew my heart wasn't in it anymore, so I left. Giving up such a lucrative spot might seem counterintuitive - people thought I was fired but was just trying to save face! But I was feeling sapped by it, in all parts of my writing work. Walking away because I knew it wasn't right for me is something I'm proud of. Because I know there's something out there for me that will be more fulfilling for me, creatively and career wise, for this stage of my life. I needed the time and space to find it. I haven't regretted leaving once.
What are you listening to now? What are you looking at? What recipe you feeling?
I'm currently listening to Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Family by Anderson Cooper. I love audiobooks and listened to a lot of them during the worst of the pandemic lockdowns. Cooper previously did a book with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, called The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss, which was their letters to each other, and the audiobook was them reading it back and forth. I can't imagine what a gift it is to Cooper and his son that they got that recording done before she died. I recommend both.
I'm not sure what I'm looking at except my dog? She's a red heeler aka cattle dog mix with the most wonderful speckled fur. I adopted her while on a road trip - she's from Idaho. Cattle dogs aren't as common in New Jersey as they are out west. It's startling when I'm out that way and see more of her. She's a bit of an anomaly here.
My favorite cold weather recipe is the New York Times' stuffed peppers one. It's perfect for when you're in need of a warm up.
How do you define your own personal style or approach to clothes?
I've worked from home for almost 17 years, and I'm often changing in and out of running clothes because without a commute, I run when I want. So most of the time, it's comfort. When I go out - we'll have meetings again someday soon, right? - I have a well made classics that I can wear again and again. I've also been a vintage collector and thrift store shopper since high school. I appreciate how many people, especially younger generations, are really challenging the concept of gender and what items are for what people. I've been playing with what's labeled as men's styles lately. Why can't I wear those clothes too? It's amazing what a little tailoring can do.
What would be your advice to a teenage girl clothing and style wise that you wish you had received?
Wear whatever you want. My picking up men's styles now are how I dressed when I was a teenager, but stopped doing because I was told I "shouldn't." What nonsense.