Jen in black Jen at table


Jen Waters began playing the piano in her parents' Hershey, Pennsylvania, home in the second grade. In the fourth grade, she saw her first musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats. Although she enjoyed learning classical pieces on the piano, sometimes she would write her own songs instead of practicing her assigned lesson. Thus began her love of writing lyrics and melodies. She wrote her first song in the seventh grade and hasn't stopped since.

During the summer of 1994, Jen attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. In 1999, she graduated as an S.I. Newhouse Scholar from the School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a major in magazine journalism and minors in music industry and in English and textual studies. She took the TV, radio, and film classes in sound production. She also took classes at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs of Syracuse University. During her junior year, she studied abroad for a semester in London, England. Upon graduation, Dean Rosanna Grassi awarded her with the Henry J. Wolff Prize for the graduating senior deemed most proficient in journalism.

She has worked for such Pennsylvania publications as Harrisburg Magazine, The Patriot News, and The Times Leader. She also worked for seven years in the Washington, D.C., media, writing mostly human-interest stories.

"Yellow Roses," a song Jen co-wrote, became the grand-prize winner in the country category of the 2005 Session-I John Lennon Songwriting Contest. She has performed at various places such as the ASCAP Writer's Showcase at the Kennedy Center with host Stephen Schwartz, Genghis Cohen, Hallenbeck's, Hotel Cafe, the Koffeehouse Sundance Film Festival Chateau, and the Durango Songwriters Expos. Since 2010, music-industry veteran Judy Stakee has mentored her.

Jen on a red stageIn August 2014, Jen released a 33-song collection through Pen Jen Songs called Whimsy. She also released ten spoken-word children's stories and poems that she wrote and performed in a collection called Wonderland. In April and May 2016, she re-released the Whimsy songs as Whimsy for One and Whimsy for Two, each with an original Christmas song. In November 2016, she released nine spoken-word Christmas stories that she wrote and performed in a collection called Winter Wonderland.

She had three releases in 2017. Handwritten, a 22-minute recording of her grandparents' historical-fiction World War II love story, was released in February. The following month presented Purity, a 12-song collection with a pop-classical influence. In October, she released Impossible Things, ten original spoken-word children's stories and poems.

In April 2019, she released Simplicity, a 20-song pop collection. By December 2019, she gave the world Curiouser and Curiouser, seven original spoken-word children's short stories. In March 2020, she released Hoops Time, a 14-minute inspirational basketball story inspired by her father. By December 2020, she finished Entirely Bonkers, seven original spoken-word children's short stories. In March 2022, she launched Fate, 17 original pop songs. By May 2023, she presented The Great Puzzle, eight original spoken-word children's short stories. In November 2023, she released Holiday Muchness, two original Christmas songs.

She also launched Pen Jen's Inkwell Podcast, featuring the children's music and spoken-word stories from her Apple Music releases. Her blog Pen Jen's Inkwell features her latest children's short stories and poems.

Jen in a forestCombining her love for music and children, she founded Pen Jen Productions and created a children's novel and musical series, The Whirlwind Chronicles: The Magic Music Box, The Horse Gate, and Dreams or Dust. She also wrote Kisses, a musical based on the life of chocolatier Milton S. Hershey.

Her current works in progress include several children's novel and musical series: The Mary Nose MysteriesThe Dilemmas of Daisy DimpleMandy Dandie's Pink LemonadeThe Peaceable Kingdom, Legends, All Angels, and The Harp of Iris (part four of The Whirlwind Chronicles).

She is an ASCAP member and a nominee for the ASCAP Joe Raposo Children's Music Award. She has hundreds of pop tunes yet to be written.

Jen with knees foldedEssences of Jen
(from Sam Christensen's Image Process Workshop)

  • A Feather in a Whirlwind
  • A Velvet Blanket and a Stringless Kite
  • And This Is What Happens if Dorothy Decides to Stay in Oz Forever
  • Compassionate Kisses and Private Prayers
  • Dreamy Music With A Will of Steel
  • If I Were a Dog I'd be the One You Could Leave to Watch the Kids for An Hour and Know Everything Would Be Just Fine
  • If Someone Says I Can't, Well, Then I Sort of Have To
  • Music in Every Breath, Poetry in Every Step
  • Red Riding Hood Talks the Big Bad Wolf Into Mending His Ways
  • Sharp as a Needle and as Soft as the Kiss that Soothes the Place Where the Needle Pricks You
  • Slow Motion Hyperventilation
  • Soft Like White Sheets Drying on the Line in the Noonday Sun
  • The Lady Contains Her Excitement
  • The Very Pink of Courtesy and the Bright Yellow of Unending Hope

Fun fast facts

Birthday July 26 Jen
Birthplace Reading, Pennsylvania
Hometown Hershey, Pennsylvania
Eye color Brown
Hair color Light brown
Siblings One brother, Andy
Favorite food Thai, Indian, anything organic
Favorite season Summer: I love waking up to the sound of birds singing outside my window.
Favorite flowers Red roses. Listen to "Yellow Roses" to find out why.
Favorite sports Swimming and tennis
Favorite dessert Anything chocolate
Favorite actress Sandra Bullock
Favorite actor Denzel Washington
Favorite sculpture Michelangelo's David
Favorite children's book author Dr. Seuss
Favorite cartoon series Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz
Favorite mythic character Joan of Arc
Favorite music venue Ryman Auditorium in Nashville
Favorite publication The New Yorker magazine
Favorite fiction books The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis, and A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. Both authors were way before their time.
Favorite movie It's a Wonderful Life
Favorite stage musical The Sound of Music by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Favorite film musical Disney's Enchanted with songs by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, and anything with Barbra Streisand
Favorite musicians Amy Grant and Carole King are two of the finest, most talented female artists ever.
Favorite performance Madame Butterfly at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. This performance was a true inspiration for me.
Favorite vacation spot The beach, especially Jamaica and Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
Favorite European highlights Experiencing the mountains of Switzerland; attending a bull fight in Madrid, Spain; punting in Cambridge, England; seeing the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy.
Favorite outdoor adventures Riding a horse through the Caribbean Ocean, swimming with dolphins in Mexico, rock climbing at Great Falls Park, Va., riding in a hot air balloon in Pennsylvania, and a Jeep safari in Jamaica.
Favorite painting Two Young Girls at the Piano by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1892