The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Picture of Jac Jemc

Jac Jemc

Desert Nights Rising Stars Writers Conference Faculty, 2018

Jac Jemc lives in Chicago. Her novel The Grip of It was recently released from FSG Originals (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) in August 2017. Jemc is also the author of My Only Wife (Dzanc Books), named a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award;  A Different Bed Every Time (Dzanc Books), named one of Amazon's Best Story Collections of 2014; and a chapbook of stories, These Strangers She'd Invited In (Greying Ghost Press).  Jac's nonfiction has been featured on the long list for Best American Essays and her story "Women in Wells" was featured in the 2010 Best of the Web anthology. Jac received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has completed residencies at the Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, Hald: The Danish Center for Writers and Translators, Ragdale, the Vermont Studio Center, Thicket, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has been the recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Professional Development Grants, and was named as one of 25 Writers to Watch by the Guild Literary Complex and one of New City's Lit 50 in Chicago. She's taught English and Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame, Northeastern Illinois University, Loyola University Chicago, Lake Forest College, Illinois Wesleyan University, Story Studio Chicago, and The Loft Literary Center. She currently serves as web nonfiction editor for Hobart


Selected Media

"The Horror of Home Ownership: Jac Jemc's The Grip of It." Leah Schnelbach, Tor.Com (Aug 14, 2017).

"Obviously the best haunted house novels are not about ghosts. The best ones are about, for instance, the constricted role of women in US society in the 1950s (The Haunting of Hill House), the constricted role of women in US society in the 1890s (The Turn of the Screw), the horror of slavery (Beloved), the trap of capitalism (The Family Plot). The cool thing about Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It is that she knows that we know that, and introduces us to what the book is really about almost immediately. Then she scares the hell out of us anyway."

"Jac Jemc Thinks Romance is a Little Paranormal." Martin Seay, Electric Lit (Aug 31, 2017). 

"The initial spark was simply: I want to write a haunted house story that doesn’t limit itself to the physical boundaries of the house [ . . . ] the idea of the haunting expanding to the natural world (both the nature surrounding the house and characters’ bodies) was there from the start. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I was really writing about a relationship again (which was also the focus of my first novel, My Only Wife). There’s something impossible to me about romantic/domestic relationships that I keep returning to — about the assumption that they’ll be a part of everyone’s narrative, about the ways we discuss the magic that supposedly guides them. There are moments when I can give myself over to the idea of romance, but there are more moments when I just can’t stop laughing at how absurd and embarrassing and lonely it really is."


"Rejection Acceptance." Chelsey Clammer, Women on Writing (2017). See also Jac Jemc's list of rejections.

"The amazing Jac Jemc (author of My Only Wife and A Different Bed Every Time) is most certainly a writer who is always thinking forward. Back in 2008, I worked with Jac at the feminist bookstore in Chicago, Women & Children First. I was an aspiring writer, and Jac was quickly establishing herself in the publication world with her poems and stories. As I witnessed Jac’s writing career take off, I also saw her consistently updating her blog, “Rejection Collection.” Now nine years later, I recently talked with Jac about how her “Rejection Collection” began and why she continues to update it."


"Excerpt of A Different Bed Every Time." Jac Jemc, The Nervous Breakdown (Oct 15, 2014).

"Okay. Say the reason you’re stuck here in limbo is totally unclear to you. Say you were a woman who cared about little but treated others basically well. Say you had a twin who was married to a doctor, but because you were so ambivalent, you never agreed to partner up, never liked anyone enough to commit or even give someone a real chance, to ever approach the situation where you might have to explain these feelings to another human being because you’ve joined to have and to hold, in sickness and in blah blah blah…"


"Repetition." Jac Jemc, The Rumpus (Sep 10, 2014).

"On a train in downtown Chicago, a young man stood a row behind me, gripping the handrail overhead, laughing with his friend. I barely registered him until he moved to stand at the aisle seat of the row where I sat. He swayed, shifting his weight between his hands above and his feet below.

“What are you reading?”

I ignored him the first few times he asked, but then when he asked a fourth time adding, “Excuse me,” to the question, I responded, hoping he’d leave me alone

[ . . . ]

I looked down at my book again, and when I glanced up I saw the dynamic that had been at play the entire length of our conversation: the man’s dick was out of his pants."