Above: Jessica Leeder takes notes during a press conference held by the Governor of Kandahar in Afghanistan, 2008. Photo credit: Canadian Forces.
“Once upon a time...”
I would write it in crayon, installed at the dining room table with a stack of ruled paper. That was before I was old enough to be trusted with ink. Those early narratives featured a princess and a far-flung castle. There was always a moat and a dragon. Sure, I’ve left those characters behind and I’m allowed to use pens now. But I was born to tell stories. That passion is my fuel.
To tell great stories, of course! Okay, okay, you know that. On with the fine print: I have a deep background in daily news reporting for Canada’s most esteemed national papers. I’ve done stories across Canada, the United States, Afghanistan, Haiti and beyond; I’ve reported from doorsteps, tents, ivory towers, court houses, even a Navy ship (yes, there was Gravol).
It all adds up to having aced a decade-long crash course on developing expertise in a wide range of subjects, speedily and on tight deadlines. I’m an insatiable researcher, an excellent listener and, well, I’m friendly. I’m good at getting all sorts of people talk, including and especially those suffering heart-wrenching life events. They are the ones who slam their doors in the face of everyone else. Not me. I can get in. I can always get in (full disclosure: sometimes I'd rather a door slam).
THAT sounds like I’m beating my chest, all hairy King Kong style. No. Yes. Maybe a little. The point, though, is that when I’m in pursuit of the material I need – that clients need – to make a story sing, I’m determined as heck.
I work in both short and long-form non-fiction narratives. I write for print, online and toggle both when stories lend themselves to multimedia platforms (think melding column inches with audio, video, photos and other social media assets). I do structural and basic copy editing, copywriting for accuracy, continuity of subject and voice. No one topic is my specialty. My story subjects range from persecuted Afghan women to Egyptian fugitives, Canadian scientists turning crickets into protein bars, automotive restoration experts and parents decoding their newborns. I’ve written about the law, politics, wars, earthquakes, yogurt, vitamins, young mothers with cancer, opiate-addicted babies.
So, what’s my next story? Assign me and we’ll see.
Awards & degrees
- Master of Science in Journalism, Columbia University (2005)
- Knight Science Journalism Fellowship, M.I.T.
- HBA, University of Western Ontario (2003)
- National Magazine Award, 2015
- National Newspaper Award, 2010
- Emmy Award, 2009
- Webby Award, 2009
- EpPy Award, 2009