Episode 349: When a Story Idea Won’t Let a Writer Go – Interview with Jeremy Hance

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Jeremy Hance.

Jeremy is writer and freelance environmental journalist, who also happens to cohabitate with mental illnesses. He has named his OCD Steve and his depression goes by the name of Malachi. He is the author of the memoir Baggage: Confessions of a Globetrotting Hypochondriac.

As a journalist, Jeremy is passionate about wildlife conservation, climate change, forests, animal behavior, and indigenous people and many other topics. His work has appeared in Mongabay, the Guardian, HuffPost, Ensia, YaleE360, Sydney Morning Herald and others. His story on the Sumatran rhino was chosen for the 2019 edition of the Best American Science and Nature Writing.

Jeremy has traveled to over 30 countries on five continents and considers himself ridiculously lucky to have spent time with singing rhinos, dinosaur mammals, and angry clown fish. He is graduate of Macalester College with a major in English and minor in History as well as the Great Books Master’s Degree program at St. John’s College. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife, daughter, and pooch. When he’s not writing, he enjoys time with friends, cups of tea, long hikes, longer naps, even longer novels, and playing Dungeons and Dragons.

In this episode Jeremy and I discuss:

  • How he juggled writing about travel, mental illness, and nature in one book.
  • Why he chose to write his memoir thematically as opposed to chronologically.
  • What myths he hoped to dispel by writing so openly about his mental illness.

Plus, his #1 tip for writers.

About Jeremy Hance

Jeremy Hance is writer and freelance environmental journalist, who also happens to cohabitate with mental illnesses. He has named his OCD Steve and his depression goes by the name of Malachi. He is the author of the memoir Baggage: Confessions of a Globetrotting Hypochondriac. As a journalist, Hance cut his teeth at Mongabay, beginning in 2009 and working as a lead writer and editor for six years. For over three years he wrote the blog Radical Conservation on the Guardian. Today, he is a columnist for Mongabay, writing monthly articles under the banner Saving Life on Earth: Words on the Wild.

As a journalist he is passionate about wildlife conservation, climate change, forests, animal behavior, and indigenous people and many other topics. His works has appeared in Mongabay, the Guardian, HuffPost, Ensia, YaleE360, Sydney Morning Herald among others. A story on the Sumatran rhino was chosen for the 2019 edition of the Best American Science and Nature Writing.

In pursuit of stories, Hance has traveled to over 30 countries on five continents. He considers himself ridiculously lucked to have spent time with singing rhinos, dinosaur mammals, and angry clown fish.

Hance is a 2002 graduate of Macalester College with a major in English and minor in History as well as a 2009 graduate of St. John’s College’s Great Books Master’s Degree program. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife, daughter, and pooch. When not writing, he enjoys time with friends, cups of tea, long hikes, longer naps, even longer novels, and playing Dungeons and Dragons.

You can follow Jeremy on Twitter.

Baggage: Confessions of a Globe-Trotting Hypochondriac

An award-winning journalist’s eco-adventures across the globe with his three traveling companions: his fiancée, his OCD, and his chronic anxiety—a hilarious, wild jaunt that will inspire travelers, environmentalists, and anyone with mental illness.

Most travel narratives are written by superb travelers: people who crave adventure, laugh in the face of danger, and rapidly integrate into foreign cultures. But what about someone who is paranoid about traveler’s diarrhea, incapable of speaking a foreign tongue, and hates not only flying but driving, cycling, motor-biking, and sometimes walking in the full sun?

In Baggage: Confessions of a Globe-Trotting Hypochondriac, award-winning writer Jeremy Hance chronicles his hilarious and inspiring adventures as he reconciles his traveling career as an environmental journalist with his severe OCD and anxiety.

At the age of twenty-six—after months of visiting doctors, convinced he was dying from whatever disease his brain dreamed up the night before—Hance was diagnosed with OCD. The good news was that he wasn’t dying; the bad news was that OCD made him a really bad traveler—sometimes just making it to baggage claim was a win.

Yet Hance hauls his baggage from the airport and beyond. He takes readers on an armchair trek to some of the most remote corners of the world, from Kenya, where hippos clip the grass and baboons steal film, to Borneo, where macaques raid balconies and the last male Bornean rhino sings, to Guyana, where bats dive-bomb his head as he eats dinner with his partner and flesh-eating ants hide in their pants and their drunk guide leaves them stranded in the rainforest canopy.

As he and his partner soldier through the highs and the lows—of altitudes and their relationship—Hance discovers the importance of resilience, the many ways to manage (or not!) mental illness when in stressful situations, how nature can improve your mental health, and why it is so important to push yourself to live a life packed with experiences, even if you struggle daily with a mental health issue.

With mental illness impacting the lives of millions of people, this timely book will inspire people to step out of their comfort zones and take the road meant to be traveled. Hance proves that we all have baggage–the question is, do we leave it dusty in a closet or do we take it out in full view for others to see?

If you decide to check out the book, we hope you’ll do so via this Amazon affiliate link, where if you choose to purchase via the link DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!

Link to Episode 349

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