Westchester County NY
Place of Birth
New York, NY
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
It was a combination of things -- the first was its sheer beauty. The first time I visited the campus was on one of those postcard New England fall weekends and I remember looking out on the Athletic Fields walking down Memorial Field and thinking that something special was going on. Also, I chose Amherst because it was small -- barely bigger than my high school -- and the intimacy of that really appealed to me.
And then there was the all-you-could eat brunch on Sundays in Valentine which blew my small mind.
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) class at Amherst:
I took a creative writing class with Caz Phillips my senior year. He taught me to take risks and break out of the academic style I was so used to by that point. I don't want to say I exactly found my voice (that wouldn't happen for at least another 15 years and now I fear I've misplaced it again) but he definitely got me started in the right direction.
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) professor
How does one answer this question? Do people actually give you one particular writer? If so, I guess today at this very moment I have to be boring and say anything by Jonathan Franzen. I wish that "The Corrections" and "Freedom" had both gone on for another 900 pages. But if you ask me this question last year, it was Haruki Murakami and the year before that it was Lionel Shriver.
See above. But also, when I'm in a rut, I usually go back to read and re-read the same writers whose voices I love -- and they are each so wildly different from each other. The first is almost always Matthew Klam's "Sam the Cat" which is a collection of short stories and which includes the seminal "Issues I Dealt with in Therapy." (If you haven't read, please remedy immediately.) He is always writing from the point of view of a guy who's kind of sad-sack and cocky at the same time, and yet I can't help but root for him. Catcher in the Rye is another one I can tear through in a few hours and that pays off in rich inspirational dividends! Although I have to admit, I used to read it and say "Salinger makes writing look so easy" then "I'm going to pick up my pen and start writing immediately!" But now I know better and when I finish it I usually think "Man oh man, writing like that is so damn hard" and then "I think I should maybe retire right now."
Tips for aspiring writers?
Write everyday even if no one is reading. Writing a blog is so good for that. It forces you to be on deadline (I'd never write otherwise) and it keeps those muscles nimble. I read some of the posts I wrote two years ago and I can't believe how different I sound. It's like as though a photographer changed the way she lights his set-ups. It just feels so different and that's part of the fun of the trade -- the evolution.
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author.
It has been a very perilous journey. I was a women's magazine editor for a long time first and didn't write as much as edit. But when I did write, it was mostly service-driven copy. In other words, I could never write something with the sole intent of a reader just enjoying writing for the sake of writing. Everything I wrote had to have some kind of "takeaway," like a recipe or a tip or a recommendation to buy something. At times it could be pretty soul-crushing stuff, but in the end I think this kind of training really helped me convince people to get on board with my blog and book. Because if the goal of the blog and the book is to inspire people to get into the kitchen and cook something, there's really no getting around the service component. One of my old bosses called my writing "service with a soul." I'll definitely take that.
Jenny Rosenstrach is the creator of Dinner: A Love Story, the website devoted to family dinner, the author of (most recently) Dinner: A Love Story (Ecco, 2010). For four years, she was the features director at Cookie magazine, Conde Nast’s lifestyle magazine for parents, and prior to that, a special projects editor at Real Simple where she launched the first special issue of Real Simple Family. Her essays and articles have appeared in numerous national publications and anthologies including Real Simple, Cookie, Martha Stewart Living, Whole Living, the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, and Bon Appetit where she writes a regular family food column with her husband, Andy Ward. Since Dinner: A Love Story launched, she has been the subject of profiles in the New York Times, Whole Living, and Everyday Food and has appeared on NBC's Today Show and NPR's Weekend Edition. In January 2011, she signed an option with Imagine Television to develop the website into a sitcom.