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Authors » Jana Riess

Since 2008, Jana Riess has been an acquisitions editor in the publishing industry, primarily acquiring in the areas of religion, history, popular culture, ethics, and biblical studies. From 1999 to 2008, she was the Religion Book Review Editor for Publishers Weekly, and continues to write freelance articles and reviews for PW as well as other publications.

She holds degrees in religion from Wellesley College and Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in American religious history from Columbia University. She speaks often to media about issues pertaining to religion in America, and has been interviewed by the Associated Press, Time, Newsweek, People, the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsday, among other print publications, as well as “Voice of America,” the "Today" show, MSNBC, and NPR’s “All Things Considered,” “Tell Me More,” and “Talk of the Nation.” 

She is the author, co-author, or editor of nine books, including Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor; What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as a Spiritual Guide; Mormonism for Dummies; and The Writer’s Market Guide to Getting Published. She blogged for Beliefnet before coming to RNS in 2012.

Most Recent

When It’s Not the Hap, Happiest Season of All

Because of a family illness, I need to take a break from blogging. I hope to be back to writing in January, and I wish you all . . . not a merry Christmas, exactly, but a deep joy no matter what your life feels like right now.
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Have Yourself a Very Pagan Christmas

Earlier this week on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart brought up the all-too-predictable "war on Christmas" that creeps into December news stories, as alarmist commentators bemoan the erosion of Christmas as a Christian holy day and whimper aloud about how the separation of church and state p...
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Designing Your Author Website

My new author website is live and mostly ready to go. Spurred by helpful instructions on what authors should have in a website, I wanted a site that was active with fresh content, though the newsletter feature is not yet live. I am so pleased with the results, and wanted to post some photos here to thank Paraclete Multimedia for listening to all of my suggestions and working on multiple revisions to get an author website that is both fun and functional.
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Bethlehem on the Brain

As Advent begins and a cease-fire is brokered in Gaza, guest blogger Ruth Everhart, author of Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land, has Bethlehem on the brain. Our gauzy Christmas carols don't do justice to the realities of ongoing conflict in holy places. As she writes, "The next time you’re shopping and hear a song about Bethlehem, would you pray for them [the people there]?"  
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5 Advent Devotionals

I know it's old hat to say "keep Christ in Christmas," yada yada, but I find that this time of year I need a daily reminder that the month of December is about more than just decking the halls. Here are five daily devotional suggestions I like for the holiday season.
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Hey, Mormon Woman! A No-Guilt Christmas Present

Hey, you! Mormon woman with the minivan. Does visiting teaching bog you down with miles of guilt? Do you pretend to have a fussy toddler when it's time for the annual visiting teaching conference, just so you can stay in the hall? When If you read the Ensign's monthly visiting teaching message to your assigned sister, do you feel like you're not measuring up and hope like hell you don't make her feel that way, too?
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Shopping for Jesus

Am I giving to charity via these glossy catalogs of chickens and goats, or am I just satisfying an insatiable need to shop?
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5 Things Not to Say If You Want to Get Your Book Published, #3: “This Book Is Ready for Publication”

“This book is like a baby that needs to be born and I am looking for a stable.” Can we just say that as a general rule it’s a bad idea to compare your book to baby Jesus? Baby Jesus did not need editing. Mary didn’t send the bambino back and say, “Well, all the basic baby organs are in place, but his eyes are too far apart, and he has redundant navels, and I’m not thrilled with the proposed Jesus title. Can you fix those problems in the second draft?” Those are the kinds of things an editor does. 
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5 Things Not to Say If You Want to Get Your Book Published, #2: “I’m Happy to Do Interviews”

I started this series with some softball advice: Don't mention in a query letter that God told you to write this book. Most of you were probably patting yourselves on the back when you read that, because you're not psychotic. (Well done, you!) So today's advice is a little less intuitive to sane people: don't tell your publisher that you're happy to do interviews.
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5 Things Not to Say If You Want to Get Your Book Published, #1: “God Told Me to Write This Book”

This first short post in a five-part series aims to help authors avoid five all-too-common pitfalls that can instantly derail their query letters. First up: "God told me to write this book."
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