J. Ryan Stradal

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
I’m a novelist, specializing in literary fiction, usually focused on the world of food and drink. My first novel was the New York Times bestseller Kitchens of the Great Midwest (Penguin Random House, 2015) and my second was the instant national bestseller The Lager Queen of Minnesota (Penguin Random House, 2019). My third novel, Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club, will be published by Penguin Random House in April 2023. I was a huge reader and a recklessly imaginative kid growing up in Minnesota, and I still can’t believe I get to wake up everyday and make stuff up.

How did you first become interested in writing?
My mom was a published poet and worked as a technical writer for the state government in Minnesota, and her love of reading and writing seeped into my life. I’ve had so many people help me along the way, from my elementary school librarian Pat Schultz to a brilliant local novelist and UCLA extension instructor named Lou Mathews, but it all begins with my mom’s encouragement and alacrity.

How does art enrich a community, and what are some ways people can engage with art in Burbank?
In my experience, immeasurably — it’s the crucial aspect of human endeavor that inspires and recalibrates our emotions and senses. So much human output and activity stratifies us and either defends or fails to challenge our inability to understand and connect to others. One of art’s most meaningful imperatives, especially in literature, is to be a tool for empathy, and we can never have enough of that.

In terms of how people can engage with art in Burbank, I’m still learning! My family and I moved here in 2020, and given the pandemic, we haven’t experienced as much of our new city as we’d like. I’d love to learn more about how people are engaging with art here in Burbank and how I and other authors can participate.

If you could share with our community one thing about art, what would it be?
It’s never too late to start making art. This is true of writing in particular. Too much is made of writers under 30; give me more “50 over 50” lists of emerging artists!

To find out more about J. Ryan and his work, visit his website jryanstradal.com or find out more about his books here.