Jessica Wilson

Jess's hybrid memoir examines landscape, narrative, performance, and long walks, through the lens of her hike on Te Araroa, New Zealand’s 3000km long trail.

Commenced 2021

Jessica Wilson is a writer, editor,  teacher, and performer from the USA. She's taught nonfiction writing and business communication at the University of Iowa; playwriting for the Combined Efforts writers group in Iowa City; creative writing and theatre at the Deerfield Academy Summer Arts Camp; and introductory fiction for New Zealand's Creative Hub. She's also held professional copywriting and copyediting positions, and has acted in dozens of productions in regional and community theaters.

Her writing has appeared in Best Travel Writing, Best Women's Travel Writing, the Seneca Review Online, Alligator Juniper, New Fairy Tales, and more.

Jess holds a BA in Gender Studies from Brown University and an MFA in Nonfiction from the University of Iowa, where she was awarded an Iowa Arts Fellowship, a Stanley Graduate Award for International Research, and a Marcus Bach Graduate Fellowship.

Jess writes: 'I'm researching and writing a hybrid work of literary nonfiction about landscape, narrative, performance and long-distance walking trails. I'll use the memoir of a through-hike on Te Araroa--New Zealand's 3000km, country-long footpath--as a means to explore larger questions about the social and cultural functions of these contemporary pilgrimage routes: How do we create and perform narratives to give meaning to our lives? What does it mean to perform mythologized journeys over real, sometimes extensively civilly-engineered, landscapes--landscapes possessing their own dense and unrelated histories (including histories of colonialism and disenfranchisement)? What's our investment in creating such trails? What does it mean that those of us who engage in such putatively "universalized" performances do so in vastly different, hyper-specific bodies--bodies that have both practical and cultural implications for how we move through our stories and our world? Given that only a fraction of walkers embarking on through-hikes are likely to finish, what happens when our narratives fail us? How do you reconstruct a self, and reconcile it with the competing narratives of a wider trail culture and community? And what if you throw a pandemic into the mix?'