6 Questions with New WD Editor Jessica Strawser

She’s a fan of Alice Walker, a creative scribe and—if the steady typing on the other side of my desk is any indication—a driven professional, even in the first week typically reserved for endless staff lunches and mind-boggling IT quandaries.

It’s official: Writer’s Digest magazine has a new editor. In the wake of Maria Schneider, who left the publication in early October, F+W Media has appointed Jessica Strawser, North Light Books and Memory Makers Books Managing Editor—and former WD staffer—to the magazine’s top post.

Since beginning her career as an assistant editor with WD in 2001, Strawser has worked in Xavier University’s Department of Marketing and Public Relations and as an editor for Emmis Books. In addition to her new role, she serves as an instructor for Writers Online Workshops, and a freelance writer and editor for various publishers and publications.
Jane Friedman, publisher and editorial director of Writer’s Digest, says Strawser brings a refreshing dose of enthusiasm to the magazine.

“Jessica is a passionate writer, an editor and a book lover—three things that, in my mind, every Writer’s Digest editor needs to understand and serve the writing community effectively,” she says.

We interrupted work on the March/April issue of Writer’s Digest to find out about Strawser’s vision for the magazine, her publishing insights and of course, her favorite books.

What do you like about WD magazine?
What do I not like about WD magazine? That might sound like a way out of answering the question, but honestly, serving as editor of WD is nothing less than a dream come true for me. One of the things I most admire about the magazine is its loyal readers. Serving a community of aspiring writers is truly an honor. When I worked for WD years ago, the online community wasn’t nearly as active as it is today, and I’m really looking forward to being able to connect with the audience of the magazine on a daily basis.

What can readers look forward to under your leadership? Any changes?
Yes, there will be some changes. But this is a difficult question to answer when it’s only my first day! I’ll be working closely with the other talented team members to determine the best ways for WD to grow and change to meet the needs of our readers.

What’s special about the craft of writing to you?
I love that writers can relate to one another about their craft on a level that non-writers simply can’t. It’s a bond.

Do you write in your free time? What type of writing personally interests you most?

I love to write, both fiction and creative nonfiction. Free time is the problem, especially when I often return home, having spent all day in front of a computer screen editing, only to have assignments from a WOW course awaiting feedback or another freelance assignment at hand. But who doesn’t have excuses? I look forward to writing more and more as part of this job just as much as I look forward to anything else.
Which do you see as more important: The craft side of writing (how-to’s, grammar, style) or the business side (marketing, etc)?
The key to writing success, I believe, is recognizing that they are equally important. When you put too much emphasis on one, you risk sacrificing a bit of success with the other. Balance is the key.

What are your all-time favorite books?
The answer to this question is constantly changing; I can never seem to read all the books I want to read! Among my all-time favorites are: The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler, Life of Pi by Yann Martel and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, to name just a few.

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