Writer and Editor
I write essays, fiction, reviews, profiles, and sometimes uncategorizable things. I've published in The New York Times, Jack White's new Third Man print magazine Maggot Brain, Salon, Longreads, Details, The Weeklings, The American in Italia, and many other places. My profile subjects for magazine pieces have included such widely varying personalities as Steve Martin, Barry White, Martin Amis, and Dennis Hopper. I've also written web content, artist bios, and liner notes for albums.
My career on the editorial side started right out of college at Esquire magazine in New York, where I worked with writers including Denis Johnson, Mary Gaitskill, and Norman Mailer. I went on to freelance at magazines including Rolling Stone, New York, and Harper's. I was the Books Editor at Time Out New York and the Literary Editor at Details, jobs that required me to tackle piles of galleys and spot new literary talent.
More recently, I have been editing books on a freelance basis, helping writers shape, refine, and go more deeply into their novels, memoirs, nonfiction, and hybrid works. My clients have included acclaimed authors Dale Kushner, Wayétu Moore, David Lida, and Carmen Gentile.
For my own writing I have received fellowships from The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Ragdale Foundation. In 2022 I was awarded the Lori White Nonfiction Fellowship at Porches Writing Retreat in Virginia. In 2019 I was awarded the Stone Residency at The Museum of Loss and Renewal in Molise, Italy. I've also worked as a co-curator of the Murmrr Lit reading series at Murmrr Theatre in Brooklyn, where I hosted and introduced authors including George Saunders, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Maggie Nelson, and Chris Kraus. At Johns Hopkins University, I studied fiction writing with John Barth, Edna O'Brien, Madison Smartt Bell, and Stephen Dixon.
I grew up in Pittsburgh (that's western PA in the photo above) and now live north of New York City in the Catskill mountains. I love being around creative people, read widely, listen to music obsessively, and frequently pull over to write things down when I drive.
Personal/literary essay, "Letting the Story Go," in LitHub.
My interview with legendary writer Denis Johnson, unearthed after his death, on Longreads.
Longreads essay, "Wrestling With the Ghosts in My Head"
New York Times essay, "My Mother's Keepers"
A reconsideration of Robert Altman's cult-classic TV series, Tanner '88, in The Barnes & Noble Review.
A piece about the mysterious resurrected town of Calcata, Italy, in The American in Italia.
The Weeklings essay, "They Found Him in Vegas"
Liner notes for New Store No. 2, an album by Chris Maxwell.
An essay of mine was included in the best-selling anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York.
Finding the right editor is something akin to finding the right therapist. In both circumstances, one hopes for an ally with professional skill, mature judgment, experience, vision, perspective, integrity, reliability, and not insignificantly, a good sense of humor. Janet Steen embodies all the above qualities, while also possessing the unique gift of discerning the larger shape of the project and nailing what’s missing. A masterful writer herself, she knows how to help others polish and refine their work and take the necessary risks that excellent writing requires. My lucky stars were hovering when Janet agreed to edit my first novel."
I was staring into the abyss of a completed manuscript that needed a serious edit. However I had no idea where to begin. Janet offered smart suggestions for cutting superfluous asides, thereby quickening the pace of my story. She also advised me on what I could add to further engage my readers. Countless peers' reviews can't compare to what Janet's insight meant to my work."
Janet Steen saved my book. The acquiring editor where it eventually landed paid it a compliment it would never have achieved without her care: 'I don’t know what you’ve done here, but I read all the way to the end.' Janet’s insights and recommendations gave the book its drive, brought much-needed order to its story and lifted it from decent writing to publishable novel. I will be forever grateful."
CARMEN GENTILE, Author of Blindsided By the Taliban
DENNIE WENDT, Author of Hooper's Revolution
Author of The Conditions of Love
To talk about my writing or enquire about editing or coaching services, please get in touch at the following email address. I'd love to hear from you.