I am so excited to finally “officially” share some really big news…I wrote a book, called Brave Enough! And my website got a much needed update! And…I’m currently in Beitostølen, Norway, skiing in a winter wonderland, so life is good all the way around.
The website update seemed obvious, and a huge thanks to Doug DeBold and Zach McGill for their awesome work!
But why would you write a book, Jessie? (I asked myself this many times, especially around the 200 hour mark of working on it). Weeks after the Olympics, I was approached about writing a book. I thought “eh, that’s cool…but seems like a lot of work. No way, dude.”
Then I did the ESPN body issue shoot, and decided to share more of my history with an eating disorder. And the weirdest thing happened. The more I talked about the hard parts of my past that I thought people might judge me for, the more human and relatable I became to young skiers. The more I talked about my eating disorder, the more I heard from skiers, coaches and parents saying that it helped them open up a positive conversation with the people in their life. I started working with the Emily Program as a spokesperson. I started to hear from college teams that were initiating constructive team building talks around body positivity. And I realized that part of the book I’d maybe write some day needed to include the full, nothing-held-back story of how I got into my eating disorder, and more importantly…how I got out of it.
I figured the world didn’t need another glamorous, unobtainable sports book, but maybe I could help some people by sharing both the best and worst parts of my life in the most unfiltered way I could think of. And, in a very important detail, I learned that I could partner with an author who (wait for it…) actually knows something about writing books, so I wouldn’t be winging it on my own, wandering in circles! Imagine my relief! I decided to go for it. If this book makes at least one person feel inspired, or laugh, or get pumped up to get out the door and go skiing, it will have been well worth the journey. Either way, I had a lot of fun writing it with my co-author, Todd, because like anything memorable I’ve ever done in life, I didn’t do it alone.
This isn’t a book to make me look good, and in fact some parts were incredibly hard to write. But some chapters were easy to write, with the fun twists and turns and ridiculous moments that seem to happen every year on the World Cup.
My hope for you, if you choose to read the book, is that you get some unexpected laughs. That you get a very real and raw look into the worst parts of my life but also the best parts, and you’ll get a feel for what training and racing on the World Cup actually feels like for me. I hope you find something to inspire you, whether that’s from my own stories, stories of my coaches, or stories of my teammates incredible team spirit off the course and brilliance on the course.
And now, finally, allow me to introduce my awesome co-author; Todd Smith! He wrote the book Hockey Strong, lives in Minnesota, and became a good friend during the last 18 months. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the book writing process from teammates and friends, so without further ado..here’s how we did it!
Sometime in the spring of 2018, I was connected through my agent and a book agent to my future co-author, Todd. He came to my house, we bonded over our shared love of Tina Fey, and I realized he was the perfect person to help me write my life story. Over the next month we emailed and called back and forth, building a book outline based on what stories I wanted to tell, and where they fit into chapters.
In June of 2018, Todd came to Stratton, Vermont and joined me in workouts for a week. In between, I talked, Todd asked insightful questions, and he recorded something like 20 hours on a tape recorder. Back in Minnesota, Todd got all those hours transcribed, then set to work on the book itself with all this raw material. He cleaned up my “um”s, “ahh”s and way too many “like”s, and hammered my stories into more readable chapter formats. This is the part that I would have procrastinated over for years, but he hammered right through it! Major kudos.
Then Todd sent the chapters back over to me one by one, and all through the season and spring of 2018-19 I edited them, adding in details I forgot the first time around and taking out parts I thought weren’t necessary. It’s weird, reading your own words after they’ve been transcribed. Somehow we never quite sound as smart as we think we do! Luckily, we had a lot of time to work with it. We submitted the first draft of the book to our publisher, U of MN Press, and our editor, Erik Anderson, sometime in the late spring of 2019.
Then Erik began the editing process with me, going through the book in a more “big picture” format, making sure we had the larger storyline where we wanted it to be. Todd was double checking everything as well!
Next came the copyediting round with Mary Kierstead, and she and I went through the entire book line by line, word by word. Every punctuation mark was looked over, every word signed off on. Through the process of editing the book three times, I think the UMP press and I managed to change about 50% of the book! By the time we were done, I was really happy with it. It sounds exactly like me, and if you’re a frequent blog reader, it sounds like one of my blogs that grew up and went to college.
During this last round of editing, I was in New Zealand at a training camp with Coach Cork and my teammate Julia Kern, who also happens to be a very talented photographer. I love her style (and she knows me so well) that she was my first and only choice to shoot the cover image for the book! It also seemed fitting to do the shoot during a camp in one of my favorite places on earth. We had a lot of giggles, wandering around the mountain at sunset, and I think she did an amazing job. Afterwards, I got to see the design process take place, and it’s so impressive to see how many people have to work so hard to make everything about a book come to life.
I had a lot of fun reaching out to people who really inspire me to share an advance copy of the book for them to read and-hopefully-give a quote on. It was very nerve-wracking yet exciting to share with them the early draft. All their beautiful (and likely undeserved) words are on the “book” tab of my website. A very special thanks indeed to Mikaela Shiffrin, Kikkan Randall, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Ann Bancroft and Wayne Coffey!
Brave Enough is out March 10th, but it’s already available for pre-order through a number of outlets! The “book” page on my website has links taking you right to them. I hope you enjoy it!