When I spoke with Jennifer Hanson, the author of Hiking the Continental Divide Trail: One Woman’s Journey, I had no set list of questions only a few things I hope we would cover. I pleasantly got from her more than I could have anticipated and as I spoke with her I felt as if I was talking to an icon in our community yet to be discovered.
Jennifer Hanson is more than a writer, a mother of two young children, a loving partner, and avid hiker. Jennifer Hanson is the first woman to graduate WestPoint. She is a woman who was willing to sacrifice her sexuality to have a family and live in a quote unquote “normal relationship”. She has the heart of a thousand armies, never giving up after being denied by publishers 63 times. And last but not least she is one of “us”. She is just like you and me with the exception that she was able to take a story of a monstrous trail and make it relatable for the masses. Hiking the Continental Divide Trail: One Woman’s Journey is more than a story of the CDT. As I have said many times before it is a story of strength, courage, and perseverance of one woman who set out to conquer and ultimately found herself.
Jennifer Hanson shared with me that she had always wanted to write. When she was in second grade she would get books from the library and copy them, complete with pictures, and retitle them with her name as the author on the cover page. Her sister was also a great inspiration to her, getting her journals and guiding her in how to write in them. When her and her ex-husband Greg set out to hike the CDT she asked her family members and friends to keep the letters she had wrote to them during the summer for future use in a book about their hike. She was unsure if she would be able to write letters back home as well as journal during her excursion. Luckily for us all her friends and family complied and Hiking the CDT was born.
Writing this book was no easy task. Before I decided to write I just assumed writers just wrote a book and that was all that they had to do. The book is written and then it is done. This is so not the case as I am finding out and Jennifer Hanson reiterated this fact to me by telling me all she went through in getting her book published.
Hiking the Continental Divide Trail: One Woman’s Journey was 10 years in the making. She sent her manuscript of to over 60 publishers, 10 at a time. By submitting to publishers in this fashion it kept giving her hope to do ten more. Some of us will submit and never return to the publishing company, simply moving on. What were eye openers for me was one, the positive feedback she received from publishers and two; she took this advice to help improve her manuscript and resubmitted to publishers who had once denied her. In this alone was a story of true grit and determination.
I sat in awe as I listened to her talk about her long nights of reading pieces of her story to an English Professor friend who pulled out of her the emotional aspects of the hike itself to be included in the book. There was Naomi Call, her yoga instructor friend who kept encouraging her when she tried to remove herself from getting the book published. Naomi also inspired Jennifer to create a Woman’s group and as the leader she included in her list of goals to adopt a child and get her book published. I think I have beaten you all on the head with saying that people and situations enter your life for reasons. We never know why or where the path will lead but I thoroughly believe that ultimately having these things or people in your life does help you move closer to your goal. Everyones support system doesn’t reside solely in our families or partners.
Jennifer Hanson had considered self-publishing but wanted to work with professionals who could help guide her in marketing and other aspects of being a published writer. Rainbow Books Inc. has been not simply a publishing company that picked her up but also a friend that has helped her to grow, encouraged her to spread her wings, and helped her to make her dreams come true.
Hiking the CDT originally included Jennifer’s coming out story as it related to her hike. Although this part was removed from the published book you can still see traces of it within the pages. At first as I read Hiking the CDT, I griped because I knew the story existed and I wanted to hear more about it, but after speaking with Jennifer Hanson I am happy that the decision was made to separate the two.
Jennifer’s coming out story is one that needs a space of its own and I foresee it being a God-sent for those who are scared to speak up, unsure of what it means to be themselves and embrace their sexuality, as well as a voice of hope for those who think they are the only one. A part of me maybe even needs this book to be written. I watch every day as another child is damaged because the world tells them to be gay means that they are broken. I listen to my friends say that in order to have a family they must be straight, even for a moment. In my heart at times I long to see movies on the big screen with actors and actresses who have the same faces as “us” unspoiled by Hollywood personas. I want to walk into hetero-sexual bookstores and see our authors proudly displayed along next to the “straighties”. My gut tells me that if Jennifer Hanson writes this book her ability to parallel the two worlds would help in the movement to give us a voice in areas we seldom are able to visit.
Jennifer Hanson is also working on a project that will speak on her days at WestPoint. To have the honor of saying that she was the first woman to graduate from this school is a mouthful which in itself is another book of its own. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to talk in code in order to know if someone ventured on the same side of the fence as you. I don’t know what it is like to be in a male dominated place, such as WestPoint, during the time she attended and have to not only fight against the fact that she was a woman but also deal with the fact that she was a lesbian. (I see a screen play in the midst.)
I read over this interview and flipped back and forth between my computer screen and my tape recorder making sure I captured the essence of this woman. Truth of the matter is that I am on page two, embarking on page three, and I still have more to say. But everything can’t be captured within a few type-set pages and so I encourage you to read my review of Hiking the Continental Divide Trail by Jennifer Hanson and go out and get this book. Also take a moment to stop by her website, Hiking the CDT and purchase her book on Amazon or one of the many other locations listed on her publishers website, Rainbow Books Inc.
Between what Jennifer Hanson has accomplished, current projects, and the columns I have written, I can only hope that you are as moved as I am by this current day legend and feel inspired to conquer your own Continental Divide Trail.