books · On Writing · Reviews

Showing Up

Jessica Strawser has played in the business of words for decades. Her roles have included stints in publishing, journalism, as well as her current leadership as Editorial Director of Writer’s Digest magazine.

I imagine that in these roles of bringing ideas to others that she has endured long slogs through cold, terrible mud as well as sudden, brilliant flashes of insight, delight, and a shimmering feeling of rightness.

What Jessica talks about, however, is joy in her work, the honor of speaking with and working with exceptional writers, colleagues, and readers. At last year’s Writer’s Digest conference, she shared the humanity and brilliance of luminaries, the lessons that she herself learned from them as well as her own journey.

Ms. Strawser showed up with generosity, humor, and awe during her presentation —in the way that I suspect she has always brought her whole self to her work. That commitment, that dedication, and well-developed talent have resulted in the remarkable ALMOST MISSED YOU.

During the Women’s Fiction Writers Association Facebook book launch party last week, Jessica showed up in full glory. For her half hour time slot, she shared, responded, entranced — and drove me straight to her book.

Here is my review:

Jessica Strawser’s ALMOST MISSED YOU starts with a simple premise: what if you missed — or found again — a connection with a soul mate? What would happen if you had a second chance? And what would happen if taking that second chance meant that one day you walked into a hotel room and discovered that your husband took your child and left you there alone, no reason, no explanation, no trace? In the capable hands of Jessica Strawser, following that line of questions would results in an exceptional novel filled with flawed, perfect characters, twisty plot turns, and tough, essential questions about knowing yourself and your loved ones and the lengths to which you will go to protect your happy version of the way that life is supposed to be.

Ms. Strawser’s novel offers a wide-angle lens portrayal of marriage with its unspoken bargains as well as the dynamic balances of romantic and familial relationship. Major characters are complicated individuals with unique voices, perspectives, and motives while child characters are notably well-crafted, as complex, charming, and confounding as the children in real life. Settings are vivid, palpable. Logical steps and missteps, evasions and confrontations yield a gripping plot. Her story kept me up way, way, way past my bedtime, reading as fast as I could go, breath held and wonder flashing at this wonderful piece of women’s fiction.

This is Ms. Strawser’s first novel. I cannot wait to see what she comes out with next. In the meantime, I have alerted her to likely fangirl moments at this year’s conference (and I might be one of them).

Jessica Strawser shows up. She shows up for writers, for readers, for the greater writing community. Kris Loomis wrote the insightful, encouraging piece about her one year anniversary (http://www.kkrisloomis.com/writing/writing-anniversary/) that I have printed out as a guide for myself in my own writer journey.

Both of these writers are generous, open, and ambitious to develop their art and their craft. To their examples and suggestions, I would add a highlight to show up, just as you are, ragged and open, scared and brave, hopeful, powerful, and bold.

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