The Professional Version:
Jessica Conoley connects story tellers and tells stories. She writes essays, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and fantasy. Her coaching services demystify the business aspect of writing by drawing on her past experiences as president of a non-profit and managing editor of a literary magazine. In addition to developmental editorial services, she offers virtual workspaces and critique groups as a way to foster creative community for writers. Learn more at: https://jessicaconoley.com/
The Whole Story:
And how’d this all start? Well, my brain was starting to atrophy, and I realized I would die a tortuous, stifling death of boredom in the gray cubes of corporate America. I turned to my friend, who loved her job more than anyone else I knew, and asked “But how did you know you wanted to write computer code?” (Because computer coding sounds atrocious, but she loves it in the same insane way I adore stripping wallpaper.) She told me she took some tests.
I paid $600 to a research institute and drove to Texas. In a benign looking office building, I spent two days arranging eye-shadow samples into color schemes, putting poker chips with words embossed upon them onto place-mats, and writing really, really fast until a timer freed me from my tasks. The tester people came back and said, “You would be good at disaster management and writing.” Disaster management was all right, but I’d already worked hurricane Wilma and getting glow sticks when you check into the hotel because they don’t have power is a young person’s game. (I mean I had just turned thirty.) So, writing it was.
Writing wasn’t something new to me—it had always been the way I worked through my thoughts. But, after the tests I looked at writing with a fresh eye. I realized I was building a new career, and as with any other career you start at the bottom. I took my blows in writers groups, celebrated the sale of my first essay, and steamed in the pit of self-loathing when I didn’t write every day because that’s what “real writers do.” I discovered the genres that called to me, stumbled into my writer’s voice, and even completed a novel.
I mainly write YA and fantasy novels, short stories, flash fiction, and essays. My creative non-fiction piece, I Am Descended From Giants was awarded first place honors by the Bacopa Literary Review. I love to eat and take road-trips, and I combined the two into the I’ve Been Everywhere & Then I Had Dinner Project which shows up on my blog. In 2017 I signed with the Kneerim & Williams literary agency, and found a great partner in my agent, Lucy Cleland. Lucy and I are currently shopping my YA fantasy novel to publishers and hope to have my debut out to the world soon.
In 2011 I put my decades of business experience to use while serving on the board Whispering Prairie Press–a non-profit dedicated to art and literature. The years I ran the non-profit allowed me to build a sustainable small business. In 2012, I became Managing Editor of Kansas City Voices arts and literary magazine, and spent the next five years publishing emerging writer and artists. I chose to step away from both WPP and KCV in 2017 to pursue my own writing and editorial business. I love editing in the earlier stages of a project and helping writers see their stories through fresh eyes.
When my editorial clients began asking about logistics of the publishing industry or how to build their author platform, I realized my in-depth industry experience could be of benefit. I began teaching workshops and speaking to demystify how to “make it” as a working author. In 2018 I expanded my business offerings to include Authorpreneurial Coaching. I work with clients to help them build sound business practices and polish their manuscripts to better prepare for their long-term writing careers. My business model expanded when the Pandemic hit in 2020. As I struggled to write and create while under quarantine I realized other writers had to be struggling with the same issues. In June of 2020, I launched the Co-Work Creative and Critique Crew. These virtual work spaces help writers carve out work time, refine their craft, and create virtual community from the safety of their own homes.