Jennifer Steil is an award-winning American author, journalist, and actor currently living in La Paz, Bolivia. Her first book, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (Broadway Books, 2010) is a memoir about her experiences as editor of the Yemen Observer newspaper in Sana'a. The book received accolades in The New York Times, Newsweek, and the Sydney Morning Herald among other publications. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune chose it as one of their best travel books of the year in 2010, and Elle magazine awarded it their Readers' Prize. National Geographic Traveler recently (December 2013/January 2014) included the book in their recommended reading list. It has been published in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, and Poland.
Jennifer's second book, a novel titled The Ambassador's Wife, will be published by Doubleday in March 2015. The Ambassador's Wife recently won the 2013 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Best Novel award.
She is currently working on two more novels.
Jennifer has lived outside of the US since she moved to Yemen in 2006 to take over the Yemen Observer. After four years in Yemen, she and her husband Tim Torlot and daughter Theadora Celeste moved to London, where Jennifer continued writing her novel and worked as a freelance journalist. While there, her work included a long piece on Yemen for the World Policy Journal, a Yemen piece for the German paper Die Welt, and stories on Kate & Will's royal wedding, London's 9/11 monument, and British politics for the Washington Times.
Theatre was her first love, although she has kept a journal ever since she learned how to write. After completing a bachelor's degree in theatre at Oberlin College, she spent four years working as an actor in Seattle. During this time, she became increasingly frustrated with the limited roles available to women (nearly always cast as an ingénue or prostitute with a heart of gold, she longed to play rocket scientists, politicians, paleontologists) and the dearth of female voices in the theatre world at large. This frustration drove her to begin writing the things she wished her characters could say. While never abandoning theatre, she began dedicating more time to her writing, eventually completing a master's degree in creative writing/fiction at Sarah Lawrence College. Writing fiction gave her a feeling of artistic control she had not previously experienced. At first, the stories she wrote were solely her own, but as she developed as a writer she began listening more to the stories of others. This led to a career in journalism, which began with a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Since 1997, she has worked as a reporter, writer, and editor for newspapers and magazines in the US and abroad, while continuing to perform when in a country where it is legal to do so (ie, not Yemen). In 2001, she helped to launch The Week magazine in the US, and worked there for five and a half years, writing the science, health, theatre, art, and travel pages.
She moved to Bolivia with her family in September 2012.
The Woman Who Fell from the Sky
An American Journalist in Yemen
Broadway Books, 2010
In a world fraught with suspicion between the Middle East and the West, it's hard to believe that one of the most influential newspapers in Yemen—the desperately poor, ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, which has made has made international headlines for being a terrorist breeding ground—would be handed over to an agnostic, Campari-drinking, single woman from Manhattan who had never set foot in the Middle East. Yet this is exactly what happened to journalist, Jennifer Steil.
Restless in her career and her life, Jennifer, a gregarious, liberal New Yorker, initially accepts a short-term opportunity in 2006 to teach a journalism class to the staff of The Yemen Observer in Sana'a, the beautiful, ancient, and very conservative capital of Yemen. Seduced by the eager reporters and the challenging prospect of teaching a free speech model of journalism there, she extends her stay to a year as the paper's editor-in-chief. But she is quickly confronted with the realities of Yemen--and their surprising advantages. In teaching the basics of fair and balanced journalism to a staff that included plagiarists and polemicists, she falls in love with her career again. In confronting the blatant mistreatment and strict governance of women by their male counterparts, she learns to appreciate the strength of Arab women in the workplace. And in forging surprisingly deep friendships with women and men whose traditions and beliefs are in total opposition to her own, she learns a cultural appreciation she never could have predicted. What's more, she just so happens to meet the love of her life.
With exuberance and bravery, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky offers a rare, intimate, and often surprising look at the role of the media in Muslim culture and a fascinating cultural tour of Yemen, one of the most enigmatic countries in the world.
Recently reported freelance pieces for the World Policy Journal, The Washington Times, Die Welt, New York Post, Readers' Digest Version, ivillage.com, Irish National Radio, France 24 (English), CBS radio, and GRN Global Reporter Network Service
Yemen Observer, Editor-in-chief, Sana'a, Yemen
September 2006-September 2007
Overhauled and edited the entire newspaper, managed staff, and wrote news, features, and editorials
The Week, Senior Editor, New York, NY
February 2001-August 2006
Wrote and edited health, science, theater, travel, opera, art, and film pages
Folio: The magazine for magazine management, Associate Editor, New York, NY
October 1999—March 2001
Wrote news and feature stories about all aspects of the magazine business, including new launches, repositioning, information technology, editorial issues and advertising
Playgirl, Associate Editor, New York, NY
Wrote features, assigned and edited stories, reviewed books, CD's and videos
Daily Record, Health/General Assignment Reporter, Parsippany, NJ
October 1998-March 1999
Covered health issues, breaking news and general features
Daily Record, Municipal Reporter, Parsippany, NJ
Covered five towns, wrote features on education, health, development issues and politics
The Patriot Ledger, Intern/Reporter, Quincy, MA
Covered two towns, wrote features on religion, health, business, art, kids and other subjects
Good Housekeeping, Freelancer, New York, NY
Wrote several stories, including a profile and a humor page
Life, Stringer, New York, NY
Reported for special issue in May, 1997
Time, Stringer, New York, NY
Reported for cover story on Ennis Cosby, January 27, 1997
The Missoula Magazine, Reporter, Missoula, MT
Wrote features on local artists
For additional information and the latest updates, visit Jennifer's personal website at http://www.jennifersteil.net/
Kneerim, Williams, & Bloom
20 West 20th Street
New York, New York 10011
For Film & Television
Creative Artists Agency
2000 Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles, California 90067