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Jessica Keener: Jessica Keener

Short story and literary fiction writer.


Jessica Keener


October 2013


Jessica Keener
Photo © Roger Gordy.

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Jessica Keener's extraordinary debut novel, the national bestseller Night Swim, captivated readers with its eloquence, insight, and humanity.’ This gripping first novel announces the arrival of a strong, distinct and fully evolved new voice’, said Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of A Visit from the Goon Squad. Sara Gruen, NewYorkTimes bestselling author of Water for Elephants called Keener,’an amazing new literary voice.’  Now Keener returns with this collection of nine stories that thematically address variations of love ­ love of self, family, and sexual relationships ­ from loneliness and isolation, desperation and rejection to need and passion, forgiveness and, finally, to love found.

Poignant,surprising,funny and profound, and always perceptive and gorgeously written, Women in Bed is a rich collection of moving tales that will engage you from the first page.

Jessica Keener has been listed in The Pushcart Prize under ‘outstanding writers.’ Her fiction has appeared most recently in: Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Night Train, and Wilderness House Literary Review. a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist¹s Grant Program, and second prize in fiction from Redbook magazine, her feature articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, Design New England, O, The Oprah Magazine and other national publications.


What are you reading?  What's on your nightstand?

I just finished Lydia Netzer’s brilliant novel--How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky, and Ellen Wiseman’s rivetting, Coal River. Next up is The Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan.

Where do you go to get inspired?

This will sound hokey, but life inspires me. I look around at my personal world—my friends, family, people in the neighborhood, and work—and this is what sparks new thoughts and questions about relationships, the environment, and culture. So, I rely on the resources of my daily routines. Eventually, some emotional dilemma leads me to my next story and novel.

What's something that surprised you recently (in a good way)?

There is a wonderful website called Humans of New York. The founder had a fundraiser for a school in a poor section of Manhattan that raised over $1 million in less than 3 days. The result is of that charitable impulse is changing the lives of  kids who lacked resources and opportunities they deserved to have access to. I was so heartened to see the good side of humanity come forth to make a difference.

Where do you write?

I write on my dining room table at home, on my laptop, and in my notebooks.

What/who makes you laugh? Why?

Dogs and cats make me laugh, and little kids because of their innocence and lack of self-consciousness.

Favorite fictional character ever?

It’s hard to pick one, but I’ll start with Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I’ve read that novel eight times.

What are you working on?

I am working on final edits for my new novel that’s coming out with Algonquin Books called Strangers In Budapest. I’m truly excited about this work that I started more than 7 years ago.


On Women in Bed:

"As exhilarating as love at first sight, and written in prose as clear and spare as a single bed, these stories linger, haunt and showcase the talents of a literary master."
—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow

"It is impossible to turn away from these beautiful and evocative stories. Jessica Keener explores the courage, vulnerabilities, and strength of women in every phase of life. no matter who you are, you will see a version of yourself illuminated in this poignant, powerful book."
—Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Wonder Bread Summer
"Seductive, incandescent,suspenseful, and wise, Women in Bed is a masterful collection that explores a landscape of intimate love,heartbreak, and desire. Keener's writing has a thrilling clarity at once multifaceted and seamless, these stories map, with searing precision, the intricacies of the heart and those irrevocable moments on which a life turns."
—Dawn Tripp, author of Game of Secrets and winner of the Massachusetts Book Award

On Night Swim:

"Rooted in personal sorrow, this memorable debut will strike a universal chord with readers: Life was full of befores and afters."

"Keener's evocation of a young woman coming into her own is ... moving."
—Publishers Weekly

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