The Writer’s Pet: Jen Sookfong Lee, Finding Home, and The Shadow List

 Jen Sookfong Lee on her adorable dog, her new children’s book, and her first poetry collection.

An adorable small white dog looking at the camera - the dog of writer Jen Sookfong Lee
Rosie McDoggle. Photo: Jen Sookfong Lee.

No. 13 in the series The Writer's Pet by Zazie Todd PhD.

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Jen Sookfong Lee is a Canadian writer whose work spans many genres. Well known for the fine storytelling of her Chinatown trilogy (The End of East, The Better Mother, and The Conjoined), this year she has not one but two books coming out. Finding Home: The Journey of Immigrants and Refugees is a children’s nonfiction book that tells the story of how immigrants and refugees have shaped the world. She shares her own experiences as the child of immigrants as well as first-hand accounts of people who have moved to another country and why. This accessible guide to emigration is aimed at 8-12 year olds.

Book cover of Finding Home by Jen Sookfong Lee

And in April, Lee’s first book of poetry, The Shadow List, will be published. Zoe Whittall says, “Jen Sookfong Lee’s debut poetry collection is vivid and sophisticated, a whirlwind of tender, anxious lines, and a balm for any broken-hearted reader. Whether her subject is moth murder, Harry Styles, parenthood, or the man who “never yelled/as if that makes a difference,” The Shadow List is an addictive read from start to finish.”

Book cover of The Shadow List by Jen Sookfong Lee

Lee told me about her dog (pictured above), how she helps her writing, and why she loves to write in different genres.

What is your pet’s name? 

Rosie McDoggle!

Type of pet?

Mexican rescue dog, so my best guess is a chihuahua/Jack Russell mix

What makes your dog happy? 

Rosie loves to burrow under blankets and snooze, but what I think makes her happiest is seeing her favourite people and dogs. She is a dog who is ruled by intense emotions, and love is her primary motivating feeling.

"I know myself well enough to know that the themes and topics of my writing will likely always remain consistent."

Does Rosie help or hinder your writing? In what way? 

I think she helps. There is something very centering about having my dog on the couch with me while I write. In addition, the act of walking her and stepping away from my laptop helps clear the mind, in ways that often help me solve funny little writing problems.

Tell me about your books. 

I have two new books out, Finding Home: The Journey of Immigrants of Refugees, which a children’s non-fiction book exploring the complex topic of migration. And The Shadow List, my very first poetry collection.

What’s it like writing in so many different genres? 

The best thing about writing in different genres is that I am constantly learning. I know myself well enough to know that the themes and topics of my writing will likely always remain consistent, and in order for me to keep the writing fresh, I need to find new ways of writing, and new media that will really keep my brain growing. I’ve always believed writing different genres for different audiences really helps us fit more skills into our writerly toolboxes, and those skills are what will help us build long term, sustainable careers.

"There is something very centering about having my dog on the couch with me while I write." 

Name your local/favourite independent bookstore that has your book for sale. 

My local bookstore is Iron Dog Books, which I love. But other local-is favourites are Massy BooksUpstart & Crow, and Vancouver Kidsbooks.  

All of the books featured in The Writer's Pet are available in the Companion Animal Psychology Amazon store

Portrait of writer Jen Sookfong Lee

Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in Vancouver’s East Side, and she now lives with her son in North Burnaby. Her books include The Conjoined, nominated for International Dublin Literary Award and a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, The Better Mother, a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award, The End of East, Gentlemen of the Shade, The Shadow List, and Finding Home. Jen teaches at The Writers’ Studio Online with Simon Fraser University, acquires and edits fiction for Wolsak & Wynn, and co-hosts the podcast Can’t Lit.

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