Jean Ellen Whatley


It’s about not asking permission.
Risking everything.
Heeding messages from the universe
to change your life.

It’s a  triumph tale about a woman, who grabs her dog, jumps in the car and goes for a little spin across America to revive her life.

In July 2011, after surviving  a “Decade of Disaster,” writer, journalist, and former political press secretary Jean Ellen Whatley quit her job, packed her car, and took to the road for an eight-week, near 9,000 mile cross-country odyssey to reclaim her life. Her inspiration? Her dog, Libby, who accompanied her every step—and mile—along the way.

Here’s a sneak peak from her trip.

And a new podcast interview:

Off the Leash  is an evocative, often comical, but always inspirational read for anyone who has ever had to deal with the loss of a loved one, financial hardship, family secrets, or the bitterness of betrayal. Backed by Kickstarter and cheered on by the thousands who read her blog posts from the road, Whatley chronicled her adventures as she reconnected with the people and places she held most dear. Off the Leash is raw, funny and fresh, and told with rare honesty. Whatley’s voice is an American original, yet she echoes some of the most commonly shared fears and deeply held hopes.

The top five reasons why you’ll love this book: 

  1.  It’s about freedom, risk and breaking awayfrom the mind-numbing fear which keeps us trapped in unfulfilling jobs, relationships or lives. Challenging the notion that our lives are predestined to be hard, or sad or screwed up, Whatley risked her security and sanity to find her joy.
  2. It’s about survival and having the courage to move on after life’s disappointments. At one time, the author thought she had it all, a model husband, model family, living in a model home in the suburbs. They were somebodies—the picture of success, until their house of cards caved in: divorce, bankruptcy, and his conviction for sex crimes which left Whatley with four kids to finish raising on her own. Off the Leash is a cautionary tale for women to listen to their gut and learn to be brave.
  3. It’s a wake up call to take control of your own destiny. During her ex-husband’s seven year imprisonment, she suffered the loss of three members of her family. What happens when a person loses their drive to stay on the treadmill of a “normal” life? Whatley goes Off the Leash, going after the goal of a lifetime, to be a writer, a real writer, before she lost her chance.
  4.  It’s about our connection to other people. Whatley went seeking her family and came to embrace the family of man. With cosmic occurrences too perfect to be relegated to random, the author details the sign posts along the way which restored her faith in mankind and herself.
  5.  It’s a testament to what we can learn from our dogs.  Go along for the ride, love with abandon, forgive and forget and above all else, live in the moment. This is a tale of bonding between a woman and her dog of the highest order.

About Jean: (from

Subscribing to the notion that we’re all more alike than different, Jean Ellen Whatley feels privileged in her self-appointed role of cockeyed purveyor of our human condition. She’s both perceptive and profuse, sometimes profound, rarely punctual and given to alliteration.

Jean Ellen Whatley is an Emmy Award-winning journalist cum author who’s been published and, at the low ebb of her writing career, as the Bedding Columnist for Furniture Retailer Magazine.

Jean has been a guest columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal  and the Albuquerque Tribune and has been featured as guest host on “The Evening Special” on KMOX (CBS) radio in St. Louis.

Jean’s broadcast career spans nearly twenty years and several diverse regions of the country. She has been a news reporter and anchor in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Winston-Salem/Greensboro, North Carolina; and St. Louis, MO. Her reporting has been featured on CNN and ABC.

Bridging the gap between reporting news and wrangling reporters, Jean has also served as Press Secretary to a New Mexico Attorney General, a Governor of Missouri and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Excerpts from her popular blog, A Woman With a Past: The Post-Apocalyptic Approach to Men, earned “Editor’s Picks” on Open Salon and high praise from many people who are not even members of her family.

Jean’s the proud parent of four, remarkably well-adjusted, mostly-grown kids and two high-maintenance mutts who reside with her in St. Louis, the dogs, that is. In her spare time, she deletes names of former boyfriends from her cell phone and composes pithy six-word memoirs in her head.

“It was all material. Some good.”

What readers are saying about OFF THE LEASH:

Brilliant! I laughed. I cried. This is real life in America, Jean. You’re becoming my 21st century Steinbeck. — Michael, Houston, Texas

Your evocative writing draws the reader in. Your words and experiences resonate with many. You are a gifted writer. — Linda, St. Louis, Missouri

Your writing is addictive, I just hope it’s not fattening! — Sue, Graford, Texas

The reality of your landscape is so compelling and painful, yet your words cut through with such originality, meaning, and humor. — Gerry, St. Louis, Missouri

My kids are wondering why I’m crying into my smartphone. Thank you for sharing your story with the world. — Jessica, St. Louis, Missouri

I am transfixed by your honesty and willingness to share such beautifully written tales. — Craig, St. Louis, Missouri

This is a book about discovery, humanity, humility, brokenness and the realization that our most futile struggle is the pursuit of non brokenness … because it does not exist. The book is about finally seeing one’s life in perspective and recognizing that the frailty is life. The screw ups are life. And ultimately, the ability to accept and embrace that brokenness, is life. — Drew, Des Moines, Iowa

Beautiful and moving. I admire you so much for having done it and can’t thank you enough for sharing it with us! — Alysa, Paris, France

Your authenticity and transparency warms my heart. Thank you for your courage. — Cheryl, Salida, Colorado Soft and beautiful … sheer poetry. — David, St. Louis, Missouri

The only thing I can say is thank you. — Taylor, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 

The St. Louis Beacon:!/content/28262/off_the_leash?coverpage=2242