Full disclosure: I am a little biased in favor of Jessica Leigh Lebos.
We worked ogether at Connect since the day I began my internship back in 2014. We spent four years side by side covering this community and proofreading each other’s articles.
So, when her first book, Savannah Sideways, was published last May, I had already read it all.
Savannah Sideways is a compilation of Lebos’ weekly columns, The (Civil) Society Column, which she began in 2011. Each week, she wrote about the myriad people who made Savannah the city it is.
“I tried to arrange them in a way that if you had never been here before, you would come away with an idea about Savannah that was truthful but also obviously from a unique perspective, someone who came here as an outsider,” says Lebos.
“The theme of my column was always about trying to find my way in, trying to belong here, because I believe everyone deserves to belong to Savannah. Everyone deserves to be part of this narrative.”
While Lebos worked part-time as Connect’s Community Editor, she was also being a full-time mom to Abraham and Liberty and wife to Mark, a job that she says always came first.
“I was very rigid. The people I interviewed will remember,” she laughs. “I have these hours and I had to manage my time every day because I had to go get my kids and make dinner and be a mom. It was a really great situation. Now, if I had known all that time I was writing a book all along, maybe I could have been able to breathe and enjoy it a little more, but it was a stressful schedule for that time.”
Lebos is no stranger to the alternative weekly newspaper. She began her career at the Pacific Sun in Mill Valley, California. Every time she travels, she picks up that city’s alt-weekly to put her finger on the pulse of what’s going on. She even credits our syndicated horoscope writer Rob Brezsny as the reason she and her husband are married.
Now that her kids are older, Lebos has moved away from the hamster wheel of alt-weekly writing and is devoting her time to freelancing and pushing her own projects, including a new website and a screenplay.
“Every day as a writer, you have to push your practice forward and hope something catches fire,” she says. “I’m happy to have the time to nurture those things between my freelance work.”
Lebos is no stranger to being the Best of Savannah—she’s won an award every year for a decade, be it Best Blogger or Best Columnist.
“This award really feels the most special to me, because I wanted to have a book my whole life,” says Lebos. “I feel like it’s such an honor. Writing about Savannah is one of the most fulfilling tasks of my life. Writing about where you live and the people in your community is a tremendous honor.” – Rachael Flora
Runner-up: Jose Lucio