Jessica Strawser is the editor-at-large and columnist 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; Forget You Know Me, awarded a starred review by Publishers Weekly, and A Million Reasons Why, called “a standout” in a starred Booklist review and named to Most Anticipated lists from Goodreads, SheReads, Frolic, E! News & others. Her latest, The Next Thing You Know, is a People Magazine Pick for Best New Novel (new in paperback March 2023). Her sixth novel, The Last Caretaker, is forthcoming in November 2023.
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 writing conferences, book fairs and festivals, book clubs, libraries, and other events that are kind enough to invite her. She tweets @jessicastrawser and enjoys connecting on Facebook and Instagram.
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(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 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 has been reissued in a new mass market paperback edition) and her second, NOT THAT I COULD TELL, was a March 2018 Book of the Month bestseller and a featured paperback selection at Target stores. In 2019, Forget You Know Me garnered her first starred review from Publishers Weekly; in 2021, A Million Reasons Why drew praise from Jodi Picoult, Susan Wiggs, Angie Kim, Booklist (in a starred review) and the Associated Press (get your copy now!). Her latest, The Next Thing You Know, is a People Magazine Pick (new in paperback in March 2023, St. Martin’s Griffin). International editions of her titles have been published in the U.K., Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere. Her sixth novel, The Last Caretaker, is forthcoming in November 2023 (Lake Union Publishing).
They’re the kinds of books she hopes book clubs will like. (Discussion questions and opportunities for her to join your group in person or online 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.
• Delighted to be a WFWA member and an active Tall Poppy Writer.
• For regular updates and other fun things, find her on Facebook.com, Instagram, and Twitter.