News and Happenings



I’m so excited to announce that my new short-story collection,
A Warm and Lighthearted Feeling, is forthcoming from Invisible Publishing in fall 2023!!

I was thrilled to be part of the Constellation Writing Workshop Series, raising funds for the wonderful non-profit Story Planet, alongside the brilliant likes of Carrianne Leung, Téa Mutonji, Casey Plett, Adam Pottle, Waubgeshig Rice and Teri Vlassopoulos.

I read a new short story at the Brockton Writers Series on January 12, 2022, alongside other featured guests Nadia L. Hohn, Becky Blake, Jane Woods and Hollay Ghadery. The event was recorded and you can watch it here.

I also wrote this blog post for the Brockton Writers Series about the story I read (from the new collection I’ve been working on, which is about the obliviousness of white privilege and the harm that “nice white ladies” can do) and how it’s similar to—and different from—a story in my first collection, And Also Sharks.

It still makes me so joyful to think of my latest novel, Worry, being out in the world, and I’m grateful to all of the readers who have reached out to let me know that they’ve enjoyed it.

Worry is now available as an audiobook from Audible!!

Worry is on the CBC Canada Reads Longlist, waaahoooooo!!!

Worry was chosen by CBC Books for The Best Canadian Fiction of 2019!!

I was thrilled to see my story “Swimming Lesson” (published in Joyland Magazine) included on this amazing CBC Books list: “Need something to read while you isolate? Here are 73 Canadian short stories available free online”

I spoke about Worry on CBC’s The Next Chapter, which was a longtime dream come true.

I talked about Worry on Global TV’s The Morning Show, ahhh!! You can watch the clip here.

Sean Wilson recommends Worry for the September Book Panel on CBC Ottawa’s All in a Day with Alan Neal! Listen here.

Sue Carter wrote a lovely profile of me and Worry for the Toronto Star. Read it here.

Stacey May Fowles wrote this beautiful Open Book essay about Worry.

Worry was included on 49th Shelf’s Top Fiction of 2019 list!!

Parenting author and speaker Ann Douglas recommends Worry as a book pairing with Happy Parents, Happy Kids!

I had a great time chatting with Trevor Corkum for this 49th Shelf interview.

I had lots of fun gabbing about Worry with Jamie Tennant for his Get Lit podcast.

Worry was included in the Ezvid Wiki video wiki “8 Thought-Provoking Novels Written By Women”! You can watch the video here.

2020 EVENTS:

Friday, January 31: Worry book signing at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference, 10:30am (HarperCollins Canada Ltd booth #732/734)

Saturday, February 15: Discussion about Worry with Teri Vlassopoulos for the Neilson Park Creative Centre Authors’ Series.

2019 EVENTS:

Thursday, September 5: Reading and discussion with Farah Heron at the Brantford Public Library’s Bell City Author Series.

Sunday, September 8: Appeared at Eden Mills Writers’ Festival

Saturday, September 14: Appeared at Dunedin Writers’ Festival (“Words in the Woods”)

Monday, September 30: Launch Party for Worry at the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom

Friday, October 4 & Saturday, October 5: Appearing at the Cabot Trail Writers Festival

Saturday, October 26: Appearing at The Book Drunkard Festival

Monday, October 28: Appeared at the Ottawa International Writers Festival

Saturday, November 2: Appeared at the Wild Writers Literary Festival

Tuesday, November 5: Reading with Anar Ali at “In Her Voice” Reading Series at Ben McNally Books

Thursday, November 7: Reading with Lauren Carter and Andrew Forbes at The Sapphire Room in Peterborough

Thursday, November 28: Reading with Sara Heinonen at The City and the City Books in Hamilton

STATEMENT REGARDING MY CANCELLATION OF MY TORONTO PUBLIC LIBRARY YORKVILLE BRANCH READING (NOV 21, 2019): My sincere apologies to anyone who has been inconvenienced by my cancellation of this reading. Please know that I didn’t make this decision lightly. I’m heartsick that the Toronto Public Library Board did not reverse their decision to rent TPL event space to a known transphobic speaker (there will be an anti-transphobia protest on Tuesday, October 29 outside this event at the Palmerston branch), even after listening to numerous powerful and heart-rending statements at their Board Meeting from trans women explaining how this will endanger them and devalue them. Below please find the letter that I asked my publicist to send to the TPL contact responsible for arranging my reading. (This letter was sent before the TPL Board Meeting on Tuesday, October 22, which I attended as a concerned citizen.)

To Whom It May Concern, First of all, I wanted to thank you for your interest in my work and for asking me to participate in the Toronto Public Library’s Eh List Series. I have long been a fan of this reading series and I was very excited at the prospect of reading from and speaking about my new novel Worry, alongside the wonderful writer Teri Vlassopoulos, at the Yorkville branch on November 21. However, due to the TPL’s current position on allowing the MM event to take place, and thereby giving a platform to hate speech, I must respectfully decline to appear at my own upcoming event. I have also signed the petition that is circulating online. I am hopeful that the TPL will reverse its decision and cancel the MM event. If this is the case, and you would still like to have me appear in your series in our planned event with Teri, I would be delighted to do so, and I will keep the November 21st date open on my calendar. I love our public library so much, but this situation is incredibly disappointing and upsetting. We need to show our solidarity with trans people and stand up for their rights (including their right to be safe in a public space). We need to de-platform those people who would argue against the rights of others. My understanding is that many TPL employees are also very distressed about this situation, so I’m hoping that I’m writing this note to you in solidarity, and I ask for your understanding. Sincerely, Jessica Westhead

FOLLOW-UP: On January 28, 2020, I wrote this letter to the TPL Board to let them know that I haven’t forgotten their decision to rent public library event space to a known anti-trans speaker last October and that they need to make things right. I also crafted this letter to TPL Board that you can feel free to copy and share if you’re also still upset by their decision to rent library event space to a known anti-trans speaker last October. Let the Board know that you haven’t forgotten either.


I shared this list of book recommendations connected with the writing of Worry for the 49th Shelf.

I’m thrilled to have a new story up on Joyland Magazine, called “Swimming Lesson.” It’s about a mother’s fears, which coincidentally is also the theme of Worry…hmm. (Please note that on some browsers, there is a menu that covers the text. The fix is to just narrow your browser window.)

I shared my best piece of writing advice with Open Book (there’s a lot of great advice from a bunch of excellent writers here!) for “The Ultimate Writing Tips Post.”

I’m so excited to have a new story included in the 2018 Short Story Advent Calendar! Read my mini-interview about the story here.

Anne Logan gives my short story “Mister Elephant” this marvellous video review in her Day 11 Short Story Advent Calendar unveiling for her Video Book Reviews YouTube Channel. (I also love how dedicated she is to chocolate!)

Things Not to Do is on 49th Shelf’s 2018 Books of the Year: Fiction List!

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m now an instructor for online creative writing courses (non-credit) in The Chang School Department of Continuing Education at Ryerson University! These are the two courses I’m teaching: CWWR 410 Short Fiction Writing Level I and CWWR 952 Creative Travel Writing. Aspiring short-story and travel writers: I’d love to teach you!

CBC Books included Things Not to Do on this list of 14 Great Canadian Collections to Read to Celebrate Short Story Month!

I talked about my writing process, my love of social awkwardness, and some other things with Trevor Corkum for The Chat on 49th Shelf.

Things Not to Do is on Maisonneuve‘s Best Books of 2017 list!

“Westhead brings empathy and humour to everyday absurdities with believable and recognizable characters.” Thank you to Elizabeth Mitchell and the Toronto Star for this lovely review of Things Not to Do!

“Westhead’s writing is infused with a generosity that is infectious: It draws a reader in and demands an emotional accounting.” Thank you to Steven W. Beattie and The Globe & Mail for this wonderful, big-hearted review of Things Not to Do.

I gab about fear, writing-brain fog, and Churkendooses in CBC Books’ Magic 8 Q&A.

My goodness, I had a total and absolute blast at the Toronto launch party for Things Not to Do! Thank you so much to all the lovely folks who attended, and to the fabulous Queen Books for hosting me in their beautiful store.

Things Not to Do was included in “The Most-Anticipated Books of the Rest of 2017” in The Globe and Mail!

Things Not to Do is on the CBC Q Blog’s September Preview!

I’m thrilled to announce that Cormorant Books published my new short story collection, Things Not to Do, this past fall!!

I’m excited to have a new story of mine, called “Not Being Shy,” featured in Hamish Hamilton’s online magazine Five Dials. You can read it here.

I’m very happy to to have my new story “Things Not To Do” in PRISM International.

Kelli Deeth, a writer I very much admire, has written this lovely piece on her blog about my new short story “Empathize or Die,” published recently in Taddle Creek.

I wrote a wet valentine for Don’t Talk to Me About Love.

I’m delighted to announce that Hazlitt published a new short story of mine. “Prize” is about escape rooms, sort of. Plus, I’m on a swan, which equals gracefulness. Right?

I was very excited to have my new short story, “Flamingo,” in the 2015 Short Story Advent Calendar, a collection of 24 tiny books that readers opened, one by one, on the mornings leading up to this past Christmas. Thanks to writer Michael Hingston and designer Natalie Olsen for creating this lovely literary alternative to 24 days of cardboardy chocolate, and for asking me to be a part of it.

My short story “He Will Speak To Us” appeared in Issue 49 of Maisonneuve, accompanied by an amazing photo by Daniel Ehrenworth. They also did an interview with me…

…And that story was nominated in the fiction category for a National Magazine Award, woohoooo!

I’m thrilled to be included, in wonderful company, in two great anthologies: EAT IT: Sex, Food & Women’s Writing, edited by Nicole Baute and Brianna Goldberg, and Friend.Follow.Text: #storiesFromLivingOnline, edited by Shawn Syms.


I’m delighted with the two And Also Sharks book trailers.

Thanks to Jonathan Culp & Bryan Ibeas for helping to produce the first trailer, which you can watch HERE.

Watch the second trailer HERE. Thanks to the fantastic artists involved: Rob Elliott, Evan Munday, Aaron Leighton, Mike White, and Derek Humphrey.


One of my very favourite happenings of 2011 was electronically meeting the students from 3a 2011-2012, Midtfyns Gymnasium in Denmark, who studied some stories from And Also Sharks with their teacher Eva Pors. You can read (and watch!) their thoughts on my stories here. Many thanks to Gale Zoë Garnett, who presented And Also Sharks to the Nordic Association for Canadian Studies, which is how my book came to Eva’s attention.

I had a great time as the June 2011 online writer-in-residence at Open Book: Toronto. If you’re curious, you can read my archived posts here.

Listen to me read from my first novel, Pulpy & Midge, on Authors Aloud.

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