Scott has received critical acclaim for her novels. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Guggenheim fellowship, and the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction.
Her stories have been included in Best American Stories (1993) and The Pushcart Prize (1993). In 1992 she won the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction from The Paris Review for her story "A Borderline Case." In 2006 she won the Ambassador Book Award for her novel Liberation. Her books have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN-Faulkner Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Award.
She is one of at least three authors who share the same name— the other two are a romance novelist and Joanna C. Scott, who has written both fiction and nonfiction books.
Scott grew up in Darien, Connecticut and received her bachelor's degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in 1983. Before graduating, she spent a year in an exchange program at Barnard College. She also worked as a copy editor for United Features Syndicate in New York and spent a year at the Elaine Johnson Literary Agency. There she was an assistant to Geri Thoma, who later became Scott's own agent.
Scott received her master's degree from Brown University in 1985 and taught creative writing there as well as at the University of Maryland and Princeton University. Since 1987 she has been in the English Department of the University of Rochester, where she has taught courses in creative writing, modern fiction, the contemporary novel, the writing of Charles Dickens and other subjects. She also sits on the contributing editorial board of the literary journal Conjunctions.
- De Potter's Grand Tour, a novel; Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2014; ISBN 978-0-374-16233-7
- Follow Me, a novel, Little, Brown 2009
- Everybody Loves Somebody, a collection of 10 stories; release date: December 11, 2006; ISBN 0-316-01345-5 (Paperback)
- Liberation, winner of the Ambassador Book Award for Fiction from the English-Speaking Union of the United States; ISBN 0-316-01053-7 (hardcover)
- Tourmaline (2002), finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in the fiction category; ISBN 0-316-60848-3 (paperback)
- Make Believe (2000); ISBN 0-316-77666-1 (paperback)
- Various Antidotes (1994), a collection of short stories and another PEN/Faulkner Award nominee; ISBN 0-805-2647-9 (hardcover); ISBN 0-312-42387-X (paperback)
- Arrogance (1990), based on the life of artist Egon Schiele which received the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award, the Lillian Fairchild Award, and a nomination for the PEN/Faulkner Award; ISBN 0-671-69547-9 (hardcover); ISBN 0-312-42388-8 (paperback)
- Fading, My Parmacheene Belle (1987); ISBN 0-89919-451-6 (paperback)
- The Closest Possible Union (1988); ISBN 0-312-42136-2 (paperback)
- The Manikin (1996), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1997; ISBN 0-312-42138-9 (paperback)
-  Zack, Suzanne, "Writing with an alchemist's touch," Mosaic magazine at Trinity College, Hartford, April 1997, accessed October 26, 2006
-  Longon, Brooke, "Writer Joanna Scott reveals her muses" article in Pier Glass magazine, Spring 2003, at Tulane University, Web page accessed October 26, 2006.
-  Scott's short story: "What Will Happen"
-  Scott's page at the University of Rochester English Department
-  Book review of Make Believe in Salon by Kate Moses, 2002