News and Happenings



My new short-story collection,
Avalanche, is available now from the wondrous Invisible Publishing!

These stories combine humour with an earnest examination and indictment of white entitlement, guilt, shame, and disorientation in the wake of waking up to the reality of racism. Focusing on the perspective of white, cisgender, straight, and mostly middle-aged and middle-class characters, this collection shines a light on the obliviousness of white privilege, the violence of polite, quiet racism hiding just under the surface of mundane, everyday situations, and the anguished flailing of “well-intentioned white ladies” desperate to confirm their essential goodness at all costs.

I read a story from Avalanche (previously titled A Warm and Lighthearted Feeling) 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 this story, and how it’s similar to—and different from—a story in my first collection, And Also Sharks.

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.

It still makes me so happy 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 available as an audiobook from Audible!

Worry was included on the CBC Canada Reads Longlist!

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

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


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 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.

My short story “Not Being Shy,” from Things Not to Do, was featured in Hamish Hamilton’s online magazine Five Dials. You can read it here.

The title story in Things Not to Do was published in PRISM International.

Hazlitt published my story “Prize” …about escape rooms, sort of. Plus, I’m on a swan, which equals gracefulness. Right?

My short story “Flamingo” was included 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 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.