In Bloom | A Conversation with Jen Shoop of Magpie

You have a remarkable way of weaving thought-provoking essays and wisdom with an authentic aesthetic. What sparks your curiosities and encourages you to share them with your broader audience?

Thank you so much. I very much doubt you could find a woman with less on her mind – I have simply carved out the practice to work through those observations and curiosities in language, as a writer. I have been writing since I was a child, and a good measure of the pleasure of living – for me – is putting it into words. I write to know what I think. I’ve described it before as an impulse to slip the amorphousness of experience into a well-fitting suit. I don’t know anything of the value of these musings, but I do know it is my vocation.

At the same time, I belong to the most wonderful community of readers – I call them “my Magpies.” I have developed years-long relationships with many of these women. They have taught me so much, and they bring such rich insights to my daily practice. So it is very much an ecosystem of conversation and tinkering.

How has your business evolved over its lifespan and has it continued to grow in the ways that you were expecting?

At the beginning, I was much less personal in my writings and a bit more fashion-focused. I’ve evolved over time to embrace the medium of the personal essay, and of memoir-style writing. I’ve found increasing alignment with my readers and in my own self-expression as I’ve done this, plumbing subjects that really rest on my heart: motherhood, grief, failure, marriage. I’ve been surprised by how rewarding it’s been to open up, and how much my followership has grown at the same time.

Your eye is timeless and your roundups are comprehensive of lifestyle and wardrobe–where does your inspiration come from and how do you keep your recommendations feeling organic?

Literally everywhere – the mother in carpool pick up line with great sunglasses, my favorite Instagram follows, old movies, a color story that jumps out at me in my own closet. There’s a great podcast with music producer Rick Rubin in which he comments on his own creative practice: “What are the things that make me lean forward? What are the things I find beautiful today that I didn’t notice yesterday?” That’s a big piece of it. Attending to what’s making me lean forward, what’s sparking joy. From a functional standpoint, I use private Pinterest boards to pin literally everything that catches my eye – street style snaps, a dress I’m loving, pastel notebooks, a book in my tsundoku pile. Then I’ll skim through every few days and see what’s bubbling up: what feels cohesive here?

While there is no right balance of motherhood and work (we hear you on the mom guilt!)--what has helped you achieve boundaries in your day-to-day?

Oh, Willa - I could write a long essay on this prompt, but I’ll aim for concision. First, I think “balance” is the wrong paradigm. There is never a static moment in which the scales between work and motherhood equal out. It’s more about flow: I’m going to lean this way today, and that way tomorrow, and it’s just going to be a process. Second, I’ve learned that I rarely achieve more “balance” by doing things more quickly or efficiently. It’s about doing less. Saying no to things, deferring engagements so I can say yes to my children. Time is a tool to express your values. What values am I enshrining right now, if I conduct an audit of my week? Hopefully commitment to family is up there at the top. If not, it’s time to realign.

Finally, I really do find it’s productive to clip firmly in and out of modes. I am the worst writer when I’m half-engaged with arbitrating the disputes between my children, and I am the worst mother when I’m half-engaged with writing an essay. I try to work from 9-5 at my desk, observing normal work hours, and they’re out of the house, at school, for the bulk of that time. At the end of the day, I always factor in what I call a “ten minute buffer” between when I’m shutting down my computer and moving into parenting mode. I literally feel myself shifting roles. I usually try to stretch, sit in quiet for a second, splash water on my face, sometimes change my clothes. It does wonders for me to consciously mark this transition between modes.

As Mother’s Day is around the corner, we can’t resist the urge to ask what you will be gifting to the mothers & mother figures in your life. Also, we would love to hear any favorite gifts you’ve received over the years.

I’m planning to try your service for my mother-in-law, who is so difficult to shop for, with the most exquisite taste – looking forward to seeing what you find!

I love to give my own mother beauty discoveries, as we’re both helpless Sephora addicts. It’s so indulgent to receive a luxury beauty gift, like a tub of La Mer, or a bundle of Westman Atelier products. I also really love unusual, artisanal finds from small businesses, like glassware from Shop Hammett, handbags from FRP Collection, placemats from Proper Table, notebooks from Appointed Co (D.C. based!).

In terms of gifts I’ve received – my husband is an exceptional gift giver because he really listens and tries to give me gifts that will make my everyday life brighter, happier, easier. He’s purchased me everything from down comforters from Feather Friends (seriously the most luxurious) to a garden bench for our front lawn (as I was often complaining about having no perch while watching the children in the cul de sac). No pressure, Landon!

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