Jessica Keener

STRANGERS IN BUDAPEST available everywhere - from Algonquin Books

photo by Roger Gordy

Links to stories, articles, etc.

Reach me a few ways:

Literary agent:
Emma Sweeney at Emma Sweeney Agency
245 East 80th Street, Suite 7E, NYC, NY 10075

Publicist at Algonquin Books:
Kristen Bianco

To arrange a Speaking Engagement:
Contact: Authors Unbound at

email me at:

My personal timeline goes a bit like this:

I grew up in the greater Boston area (and if you're from Newtonville you'll remember me as Jessica Brilliant).

-Graduated early from high school because I couldn't wait to get out and explore the world outside the classroom.

-Eventually, got my B.A. (with honors) in English from Boston University.

-Picked up my diploma and then checked into a hospital for a bone marrow transplant. (I was fatally sick with a rare blood disease called Aplastic Anemia. For 2.5 months I lived in a sterile room. After I left the hospital, I spent another year avoiding germ-infested crowds. The happy ending to this part of my life is that the transplant worked. A complete cure.)

-Awarded a full-tuition scholarship from Brown U. based solely on writing excellence.

-Received a Masters degree in creative writing (fiction). Taught a fiction workshop to freshman.

-Married a wonderful man. We moved to Miami, Florida where I taught ESL, then freshman lit and comp. at U. of Miami, FL. and after a few more moves (Atlanta, Budapest, Portland, ME, Boston) we landed in Massachusetts. Raised our beautiful son. And our dog, a fish, a cat, and two degus. Taught writing at Boston University.

-Worked one summer critiquing manuscripts for the Senior Fiction editor at The Atlantic.
Early on, I devoted a lot of time to writing short stories, a form I love. My story, "Recovery," won second prize in Redbook magazine's fiction contest and is part of my new collection: Women In Bed. Over the years, my fiction has been listed in The Pushcart Prize under 'outstanding writers' and published in many literary magazines and online sites including The Southeast Review, Chariton Review, Northwest Corridor, Night Train, Eclectica, Wilderness House Literary Review, Connotation Press,The Nervous Breakdown, and Huffington Post. Other stories have been finalists or place winners in various contests.

I am also a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in fiction.

In recent years I've been on some radio shows including a National Public Radio interview with John Ydstie. I've also been a guest on Reading with Robin radio show, Brad Listi's wonderful Other People Podcast, and David Brudnoy's radio show.

For ten years, I read and helped selection fiction submissions for Agni, one of the nations' top literary publications.

In 1997, started freelancing full-time for The Boston Globe Magazine and other national magazines including O, The Oprah Magazine, Inspired House, Coastal Living, Design New England and Poets & Writers. These days, I'm working on a new novel; I'm a Grub St. manuscript consultant, and I work as a senior proposal writer for Brigham and Women's hospital. My novel, STRANGERS IN BUDAPEST, will be coming out Fall 2017 with Algonquin Books.

All best,


P.S. You will find earlier works of mine under my full name: Jessica Brilliant Keener (Brilliant is my birth name.)

You can reach me by email: jessicakeener1@​ (Don't forget to include the "1" after jessicakeener1@​....)

"Like the adults in Rick Moody's Ice Storm," the central couple in this novel of 1970s suburbia are remote alcoholics. "Love was something distant that retired to a room on the second floor," Sarah, he 16-year-old narrator, says, referring to her stay-st-home yet absentee mother. This is a woman who makes a divot in the soil for her drink glass while tending her roses...This earnest debut centers on Sarah as she tunnels through new depths of loneliness...moving."
"Keener’s prose is spectacular, almost poetic. I found myself rereading many of the passages just to experience the beauty of her written word. She gives the reader the gift of a wonderful, honest, coming-of-age story. At just under 300 pages it is not a long read, but one that will resonate. "
“vivid…dreamlike quality. Keener's evocation of a young woman coming into her own is … moving.”
"Keener’s observations perfectly capture a certain kind of 1970s adolescence: the adults who tried too hard, the sudden appearance of a joint when in the presence of older cousins, the way a grownup party could spin from fun to disturbing in a blink. Most exhilaratingly, she taps into the thrilling moments when a girl of 16 can see her future, whether in music or books or a boy’s smile. Sarah watches her mother’s rose garden after her death. Like her children, some “bloomed haphazardly while some wilted,’’ a living symbol of what goes on, no matter what."
"Rooted in personal sorrow, this memorable debut will strike a universal chord with readers: "Life was full of befores and afters."
"Keener understands deeply that scene writing creates powerful moments for her characters. We learn of Sarah’s irritation, fear, reticence, and desire not through discussion, but through her actions and interactions with others. And Keener’s writing is lovely; she manages to build sentences that are both precise and ornate. While Keener’s Night Swim tells of a girl who has lost her bearings, her hold on her novel is both assured and poised."
"Jessica Keener's debut novel Night Swim is a masterfully told tale. Dysfunctional family dynamics are revealed in language evocative and honest, and her characters so well-drawn they could be our own kin. The emotional depth of this novel has me constantly recommending it to friends in book clubs."
About Night Swim
"Set in 1970's Boston high-society, Night Swim tells the tale of the Kunitz family, who hide their deep tensions behind a shimmering facade of parties and affluence before tragedy breaks their stable dance." (Brookline Booksmith)
Feature articles
More than a hundred feature articles published in The Boston Globe and other national magazines. Google my name as Jessica Keener or Jessica Brilliant Keener