All the editors on Writer’s Digest staff aren’t just 9-5 editors, we are also writers and storytellers—which is why we are so passionate about writing and publishing. “WD Editors Are Writers Too” is a feature on this blog to give you a sneak peek at the folks who lead the WD community—including their quirks, what inspires them and what they are writing outside of the Writer’s Digest world. Today’s pick is Writer’s Digest Editor Jessica Strawser (she’s a must-follow on Twitter @JessicaStrawser). Few people know that Jessica and I have been friends for a long time, all the back to college where we roamed the halls of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University (Go Bobcats!). We had classes together, worked on the college magazine together and even took an ice skating class together (surprisingly neither of us got severely hurt). She’s a fun person to be around and an amazing editor. I consider myself lucky that years later, not only are we still good friends, but we both get to work together every day. Oh, and we tried to make the word “poison” hip, as in “Those shoes are so cool, they’re poison!”—but that’s a story for another day.
Editor, Writer’s Digest
I joined Writer’s Digest in: You’d think this question would have a simple answer, wouldn’t you? I was an intern for Writer’s Digest Books in college, and had the good fortune of working with a talented staff that took me under its collective wing. Midway through my senior year at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, before I’d even started looking for a job, I was invited to apply for a position that was opening up with the magazine, and things fell into place before I knew it. I moved to Cincinnati and started work just weeks after graduation, and spent the next few years working as both an assistant editor for WD and managing editor for its sister publication, Personal Journaling (which has since ceased publication, though we were sad to see it go). I then moved on to serve as an editor for various nonfiction book imprints, in addition to working as a freelance writer, editor and writing instructor, and a brief stint in marketing and PR.
When my current position leading the magazine opened up in 2008, I jumped at the opportunity to return to a publication that had always felt like home. My experiences having worked in various other editorial capacities—and with writers and publishing professionals of all sorts—have proven invaluable in informing my work overseeing WD.
I knew I wanted to be a writer when: I honestly can’t remember ever not wanting to be a writer. That sounds too contrived to be the truth, but there you have it.
Favorite moment as a writer/editor: When I interviewed Alice Walker for a WD cover story, and she lingered on the phone to chat with me afterward—and very sincerely wished me luck with my own novel-in-progress. She’s been one of my literary heroes for years; I’ll never forget it. And I have it on tape!
Worst moment as a writer/editor: Everybody seems to have a writing conference-related story, and I’m no exception. One of my personal lowlights was when I flew to a very large airport at a very large city for a conference and my ride (a conference staff member) wasn’t there as promised. I was stranded at baggage claim for an hour trying to get someone from the event staff on the phone to find out whether my ride was on his way or I should arrange for my own transportation, when finally a man ran in carrying a sign with my name on it. His late arrival coincided with the arrival of rush hour, which we then had the pleasure of sitting in… and sitting in… as the times for the conference’s welcome sessions and dinner banquet (with emphasis on the word dinner) came and went. We arrived at the hotel so late that I had to go directly to the podium for my first evening talk, dragging my suitcase behind me and trying (and failing, I’m sure) to hide that I was frazzled and lightheaded from not having eaten anything since that morning.
Much later that night, someone pulled the fire alarm at the hotel. I joined the attendees in the parking lot—in my pajamas—for what seemed like rush hour all over again before we were finally cleared to reenter. It was not the best way to kick off an event!
The book that inspires me most is: This always seems like a trick question—it feels that impossible to answer. I’m always reading at least two books at any given time (an audio book during my commute, and a print novel at home), and I can find something inspiring in almost every one.
Personal writing project I’m currently working on: The aforementioned novel. I’ve also been trying my hand at some personal essays (such as this one on the birth of my son that appeared as part of Robert Brewer’s Life-Changing Moments Series).