Helen Rosner

Helen Rosner

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Helen Rosner. I'm a writer — mostly about the culture of food, mostly for the New Yorker. I also write about other things (gaming, business, feminism) and do a fair amount of freelance editing. Up until recently I worked at Eater, where I founded the longform and features department.

What hardware do you use?

When I left my full-time job in October I had to give back my laptop, and I decided, as a perverse experiment, to try to live without one for a while. I wrote the first drafts of a 4500-word feature for Eater and a 1600-word story for NewYorker.com on my rose gold iPhone 6S, and switched over to a 10.5-inch iPad Pro with a Bluetooth keyboard when it was time for revisions. I hated working on the iPad; last month my bizarre hardware-oulipo experiment came to an end and I now have a 13" MacBook Pro with all the add-ons, in sexy space gray, with a CharJenPro side dock so I don't have to mess with converter dongles. (I also pretty regularly commandeer my husband's 27" iMac for big editing projects, video meetings, and late-night deadline dashes — nothing beats working at a gigantic monitor.)

Even though I have a laptop now, I still do the majority of my work — emailing, writing, researching — on my slow, beat-up iPhone, and I do a ton of note-taking by way of snapping photos. I have an old unlimited data AT&T plan, and prefer to always be at max screen brightness, so I live (or die) by external batteries. After years of Mophie allegiance I finally switched to Apple's house-brand silicone charging case, which I love both for its slimmer profile and for the fact that it has its own battery indicator on the lock screen. I've been through dozens of battery blocks, but my favorite is one I picked up in a moment of desperation at the Cleveland airport: it's a myCharge AMProng+, which has a fold-down plug so the whole thing goes right into the wall.

I have two pairs of Bose QuietComfort headphones — in-ear and over-ear. I use the in-ear at home and commuting, and bring the over-ears with me on airplanes. Both pairs came from those Best Buy vending machines at JFK, a couple years apart, before six- and ten-hour flights when I forgot to bring my own noise-canceling headphones. (I used to have a pair of Sonys, but the Bose are seriously so much better.) I travel a lot, and I'm moderately disorganized, so I end up doing a lot of emergency shopping at airports.

Paper notebooks are deeply important to me; I like top-bound notebooks when I'm reporting, and side-bound ones when I'm making lists and brainstorming. Ideally I'd only use Rhodia top-bound and Behance Action Method side-bound, but I end up having a ton of Moleskines because (surprise!) they're easy to find at airports. (Also train stations!) I usually get the lined or gridded Cahier journals, which are soft-covered and come in sets of three. I buy superfine Pilot Razor Point marker pens by the case, in black and green, and keep handfuls of them in every backpack, tote bag, purse, and coat pocket.

The most important piece of hardware I currently own is my Nintendo Switch, and maybe also my Amazon Echo, with which I am codependent.

And what software?

I use Wunderlist for basic to-dos, Trello to organize my projects, and I have a pro Zoom account for video calls (especially for remote interviews when I'm reporting: it's great to have the built-in recording function). I do most of my writing either in the Notes app on my phone, or in a Gmail draft on my laptop. I can't write first drafts in word-processing software, it psychs me out. I prefer to edit (my own work and others') in Google Docs, but will use Microsoft Word if an editor or writer prefers it. I'm still trying to find a research workflow that works for me, right now I save tons and tons of things to Pocket, which isn't really what Pocket is designed for — it's a reading app, not an archive app. I record phone calls using TapeACall Pro and use the Rev integration to send the recordings on for transcription. I get obsessive about phone games, right now I do two or three crosswords a day in the New York Times Crossword app, and I have a crappy backgammon app I play pretty mindlessly all day.

What would be your dream setup?

All of the above, plus an app that lets me add notes and comments to the photos in my camera roll, plus a full-time human research assistant, who also reminds me to bring my headphones when I travel, so I don't end up dropping hundreds of dollars at an airport vending machine ever, ever again.

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