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, now new in paperback, and Not That I Could Tell, a Book of the Month selection and Barnes & Noble Best New Fiction pick for March 2018 (both from St. Martin’s Press). Her third novel, Forget You Know Me, is forthcoming from SMP in February 2019.
She has written for The New York Times Modern Love, Publishers Weekly and other fine venues, and lives with her husband and two children in Cincinnati. She tweets @jessicastrawser, enjoys connecting on Facebook, and speaks frequently at book clubs, libraries, writing conferences and events that are kind enough to invite her.
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 up 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 magazine senior for her year (let’s not get into which year), by which point she’d accepted an offer to relocate to Cincinnati and join Writer’s Digest magazine 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 publication Emmis Books, where she edited a fun array of 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, of course 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. In late 2017, she was named editor-at-large in order to better divide her time with her writing.
The best parts of her job are threefold: 1) She has the privilege of interviewing and sometimes even working with bestselling and critically acclaimed authors, many of which are her own literary heroes, for cover stories. (She is still pinching herself over having spoken with Alice Walker, David Sedaris, Anne Tyler…) 2) She is tapped in to a tribe of aspiring and working writers in all genres—and they daily surprise, delight and motivate her with their own stories of where they’re going and where they’ve been. 3.) She has a crash course in fiction writing right there in her inbox. Aside from being a voracious novel reader, editing every article in the magazine multiple times over is the only real fiction training this journalism major ever had.
She got serious about writing her own fiction—though she’d always wanted to “one day”—in 2009, and spent more than five years rewriting and revising the same book (with breaks to welcome a pair of incredible kids to the world). That manuscript ultimately found an agent, but not a publisher. Then along came a new story, a new agent, and her first book deal. (You can read more about her crooked path here.)
Her debut novel, ALMOST MISSED YOU, is new in paperback from St. Martin’s Press (and was named to the March 2017 Barnes & Noble Best New Fiction shortlist!), and her latest, NOT THAT I COULD TELL, is a Book of the Month selection and Barnes & Noble Best New Fiction pick for March 2018. Her third novel, Forget You Know Me, is forthcoming in 2019.
They’re the kinds of books she hopes book clubs will like. (In fact, 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.
• Delighted to be a WFWA member.
• For regular updates and other fun things, visit Facebook.com/jessicastrawserauthor.