Jay Varner grew up in Central Pennsylvania. He earned a B.A. in creative writing from Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA. He helped found The Susquehanna Review, one of the few national literary journals dedicated solely to undergraduate writing.
After college, he worked the police and fire beat for his hometown newspaper. Along the way, he wrote obituaries, covered school board meetings, examined the extended debate over a county skatepark (which included riding a skateboard for the first and last time), and a local man who spent years collecting one million pennies (Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey referenced the story on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update).
He received his M.F.A. in creative nonfiction from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. While in graduate school he taught creative writing and literature courses. He also served as nonfiction editor and eventually managing editor of Ecotone: Reimagining Place.
He teaches at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville, Virginia.