Former Winter Park Manifest writer lands national book deal
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado
Editor’s note: Though it is not graphic in nature, this article does contain discussion of a sexual abuse of a child.
Like all good travel writing, Tracy Ross’ journey is internal and external – physical and spiritual.
Though her story will last a lifetime, on paper it begins and ends on a hike.
Former Winter Park Manifest reporter Tracy Ross captured national attention and, this month, a book deal from her story “The Source of All Things,” published in the December 2007 edition of Backpacker Magazine.
She wrote, “All my dad has to do is answer the questions.
“Just four simple questions. Only they aren’t that easy, because questions like this never are. We’re almost to The Temple, three days into the craggy maw of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, and he has no idea they’re coming. But I have them loaded, hot and explosive, like shells in a 30-30.”
As you follow them on the trail, you learn that Tracy’s mother was a widow who remarried when Tracy was a little girl. You learn that the new family was happy until Tracy was 8 and her father molested her on a camping trip.
You learn that the nighttime visits didn’t end that night, that Tracy eventually ran away from home as a teenager and continued to run through her adult life.
On the backpacking trip in “The Source of All Things,” Tracy’s father may not know what questions are coming, but he knows the two are there to bring up the past.
She writes, “I know my dad is hurting, because I’m hurting, too – and not just my legs and lungs, or the blisters on the bottoms of my feet. We have barely spoken since we left the dock at Redfish Lake three days ago.”
They reach their destination and Tracy pulls out a tape recorder. The entire conversation takes 13 minutes. Her father confesses, tries to explain and apologizes.
Then they collect their belongings and walk back to the trailhead.
For all the world to read
Tracy started working as an editor for Backpacker Magazine in August 2007.
“The Source of All Things” was one of her first pieces for the magazine.
As she wrote, she couldn’t help but be aware of all the people who would be reading it. Her father. Her mother – who still denies anything happened. Her friends and all her new coworkers.
“I was really worried about that,” she said. “I just did this trip with my dad and I was working on this article with my new editor, my boss, and this is about as personal as it gets.
“I wondered ‘Are they going to treat me differently?’ It was awkward, but the response was so overwhelmingly positive.”
The article touched a chord with readers and caught the attention of the larger publishing world.
“The Source of All Things” will be included in two anthologies this year – Best American Sports Writing and Best American Magazine Writing.
The article won a national magazine award in April, beating finalists from The New Yorker, Glamour and Harper’s.
Tracy accepted the award at a ceremony at the Lincoln Center.
“When I went up on stage to accept the award, it was so awkward,” she said. “There was this giant screen behind me of myself speaking and I get getting distracted by my own self.
“An ‘Ugly Betty’ actress gave me my award. Jimmy Fallon was there. My boss was standing there saying these nice things and I didn’t hear a word he said.
“I was thinking, ‘I hope I don’t look fat.'”
It was a whirlwind trip to New York – to accept one of the biggest awards in the magazine world, but also to meet with publishers about turning her story into a book.
“Nine editors were bidding on it from huge publishing houses,” she said.
Ross chose Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster, to publish her book. She will be taking a six-month sabbatical from Backpacker in July to write it. The book will be out in Spring 2011.
“I had been writing about what happened for years (in journals), but I had never published anything until the Backpacker article,” Ross said. “It never occurred to me it would become something.
“I didn’t think anyone would care,” Ross said. “But a lot of people care.”
In her article “The Source of All Things,” Ross writes, “According to Darkness to Light, an international non-profit dedicated to child sexual-abuse awareness and prevention, one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused in the United States annually, and only 30 percent of all cases are reported. Most girls are molested by their fathers or stepfathers, and almost always inside the family home.”
“But nobody talks about it,” she said. “It’s the big invisible issue.”
– To reach Autumn Phillips call 887-3334 ext. 19600 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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