Jessica Strawser is the editor-at-large at Writer’s Digest, where she served as editorial director for nearly a decade and became known for her in-depth cover interviews with such luminaries as David Sedaris and Alice Walker. She’s the author of the book club favorites Almost Missed You, a Barnes & Noble Best New Fiction pick; Not That I Could Tell, a Book of the Month bestseller; and her latest, Forget You Know Me, now new in paperback. Her fourth novel, A Million Reasons Why, is coming in March 2021 (all from St. Martin’s Press).
Honored as the 2019 Writer-in-Residence at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Strawser has written for The New York Times Modern Love, Publishers Weekly and other fine venues, and lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two children. A contributing editor for Career Authors and an active Tall Poppy Writer, she keynotes frequently for book clubs, libraries, writing conferences, and other events that are kind enough to invite her. She tweets @jessicastrawser and enjoys connecting on Facebook and Instagram.
Let’s stay in touch. Join my email list for (very) occasional updates and hellos.
(And for the long-winded version of this bio, keep scrolling…)
The Director’s Cut
Jessica Strawser is a Pittsburgh native (as the granddaughter of a steel mill worker, she has fond summertime memories of Kennywood Park and thinks the world would be a better place if all salads were topped with french fries) who spent much of her childhood reading books, rereading books, and writing in a journal—often while perched in a cherry willow tree (fortunately her own limbs are still intact) or when she was supposed to be sleeping.
At Moon Area High School (her name was Jessica Yerega back then) she was co-editor of the student newspaper, The Moonbeams, and completed a senior project with The Allegheny Times that landed her first “real” front-page byline.
She went on to Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, where she took on the courts beat for The Post award-winning student newspaper, served as editor of Southeast Ohio magazine, and graduated as the outstanding senior in the magazine sequence for 2001, by which point she’d accepted an offer to relocate to Cincinnati and join Writer’s Digest as an editorial assistant.
Upon discovering that her studio apartment was also inhabited by mice, she was dismayed to find that they did not sing and sew her dresses, and underwent a swift but temporary transition from being a dog person to a cat person. (She is now both, but has neither.) That situation under control, she set about earning her stripes at WD and soon took on a managing editor role with its now-defunct sister publication, Personal Journaling.
She was lured away by a job offer in marketing and public relations at Xavier University, and after a year there joined start-up publisher Emmis Books, where she edited regional and niche commercial nonfiction titles, including Ohio Wine Country Excursions, A Taste of the Murphin Ridge Inn, Everybody Loves Pizza and My Sister Is Missing (which was made into a Lifetime movie called “Murder on Pleasant Drive” and yes, she threw a viewing party!).
In 2006, she married her husband, Scott, and returned to F+W Media (parent company of WD) as managing editor for Memory Makers Books and North Light Craft, where she helped to shape such beautiful books as Rice Freeman-Zachery’s Living the Creative Life, Michael George’s Simply Elegant Flowers, and Kelly Rae Roberts’ Taking Flight. She moved back to Writer’s Digest in 2008, this time to the helm as editor-in-chief.
The best parts of her job were threefold: 1) She had the privilege of interviewing and sometimes even working with bestselling and critically acclaimed authors for cover stories. (She is still pinching herself over having spoken with Alice Walker, David Sedaris, Anne Tyler…) 2) She was inspired by a thriving community of aspiring and working writers in all genres. 3.) She had a crash course in fiction writing right there in her inbox.
Indeed, she wasn’t back at WD long before she got serious about writing her own fiction. (You can read more about her crooked path here.)
Landing her first two-book novel contract with St. Martin’s Press in 2015, she continued to grow in her WD role with a promotion to editorial director, programming conferences and developing other brand strategies in addition to her magazine duties. In late 2017, she was named editor-at-large in order to better divide her time with her writing. She continues to be active in the writing community, and is a contributing editor for Career Authors as well.
Her debut novel, ALMOST MISSED YOU, was named to the Barnes & Noble Best New Fiction shortlist, and her latest, NOT THAT I COULD TELL, was a March 2018 Book of the Month bestseller and is now available in a new paperback edition featured at Target stores and booksellers everywhere. Her third novel, Forget You Know Me, garnered her first starred review from Publishers Weekly upon its February 2019 release, and is new in paperback as of March 3, 2020 (all from St. Martin’s Press). Her fourth novel, A Million Reasons Why, is coming in March 2021 (and available for preorder now!), and she is hard at work on a fourth.
They’re the kinds of books she hopes book clubs will like. (Discussion questions and opportunities for her to join your group via Skype are available here.) They’re the kinds of books she likes to read.
She recently completed a distinguished term as the 2019 Writer-in-Residence for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and as such spent the year hosting the library’s podcast, blog, workshops and office hours.