We are lucky to speak with the editors today, Loren Kleinman and Amye Archer. Loren's non-fiction has appeared in The New York Times, Ploughshares, ROAR, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Seventeen Magazine, USA Today, Redbook, Woman’s Day, BUST, and more. Amye's memoir, Fat Girl, Skinny, was named runner-up for the Red Hen Press Nonfiction Manuscript Award and was released in April, 2016, by Big Table Publishing Company. She is a regular contributor to Feminine Collective and is the creator of The Fat Girl Blog.
WOW: We are so excited to get a chance to chat with you on The Muffin today! And we are so excited about your new anthology, My Body, My Words, (MBMW) too! So let’s start off with this: What will readers gain from the stories and poems in this book?
Loren and Amye: We expected weight to be the most prominent (topic), so we were very surprised when it wasn't. We received many weight submissions, but we received an overwhelming amount of essays on aging, illness, mental health, and more. I think we were surprised by the spectrum of pain and pride people feel for their bodies. We’ve said this before, but when you struggle most of your life with weight, your perception of body image is focused solely on fat vs. not fat. This book opened our eyes to the shared burden of being human.
WOW: What an amazing experience for you and for readers! Why are the themes you explore--chronic illness, depression, age, weight, sexual identity, and more—so important to address in today’s society?
Loren: To expand on what Amye has said, I think how men and women accept their bodies starts from the top. Our models, including the American media, politicians, and businessmen and women, promote excessive lifestyles filled with violence, power, and over the top sexuality. Like Amye said, this extreme living has affected our bodies in ways that we are aware of and ways we are not.
For instance, research is continuing to prove the effects of social media on our body image and self worth. In a 2016 Time article called "How Social Media Is a Toxic Mirror" by Rachel Simmons, the study, "Contingencies of Self-Worth and Social-Networking-Site Behavior" is referenced. Simmons notes: “Visual platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat deliver the tools that allow teens to earn approval for their appearance and compare themselves to others. The most vulnerable users, researchers say, are the ones who spend most of their time posting, commenting on and comparing themselves to photos.” The study she references revealed “female college students who did this on Facebook were more likely to link their self-worth to their looks.”
WOW: Everything you are saying is so true. It would be great if we could grow as a society and learn to see past how someone looks. How did you go about collecting and choosing the pieces for this anthology?
Loren and Amye: We both write a lot about our relationships with and to our bodies. We had read a few times together and discovered that we really had a literary kinship. We knew we wanted to work together, so it seemed natural to focus on the body since that is something we are both so passionate about.
We started with a simple idea: if you could talk to your body (and if your body could hear you), what would you say? From there, the idea just grew and grew.
WOW: We are sure that you love each and every selection because as editors, you have worked with these writers and chosen them for your beautiful book. But can you each highlight one or two titles that really hit home for you and tell us why?
Loren and Amye: We feel incredibly honored to be allowed entry into so many writers’ lives. Among the many vulnerable and authentic pieces, we loved Kathleen McKitty Harris’s piece, "A Timeline of Human Female Development". Kathleen actually came to us by way of Martha Frankel, and we fell in love with her essay on first read.
We also loved Ryan Sallans’ "Long Trek," which highlighted the mind-body connection through his transition. Sallans is an American LGBT rights advocate and out trans man. Sallans began his transition in 2005.
Wynn Chapman’s "The Fat Filly" and Jennifer Morgan’s "Fifty to Eight Pounds of Shame": both stories deal with shame--whether self-inflicted or embedded from those around them. These writers, like the other writers in the collection, are sharing the raw parts of themselves with readers.
Some other amazing moments include working with Abigail Thomas and Beverly Donofrio. We both read Abigail Thomas's Safekeeping when we were students, and it changed the way we thought about being a woman. Then, we had the pleasure working with Beverly Donofrio who wrote Riding in Cars with Boys, another book that changed our lives.
WOW: Thank you for sharing those highlights with us! What has the reader response been like for My Body, My Words?
Loren and Amye: So far we’ve received so many beautiful emails and feedback via social media about how the book really showcased a variety of body image conversations, such as eating disorders, amputation, illness, pregnancy, etc. Readers have been enjoying the breadth of offerings this book shares.
WOW: If someone is interested in learning more about the book and then purchasing it also, what is the next step?
Loren and Amye: My Body, My Words is available on Amazon. (Download the Kindle at here . Buy the hardback book at: this link. UK versions available here: http://bit.ly/MBMWUK)
For more about our books, to sign up for the newsletter, or invitations to speak, run workshops, visit us at www.mybodymywords.com or email us at info (at) mybodymywords.com.
WOW: Great! I'm sure many of our readers are already clicking over there to check this all out. Any parting words?
Loren and Amye: If you read the book, we’d love it if you sent us feedback, notes, stories, left reviews on Amazon, and spread the love. Please feel free to email us at info(at)mybodymywords.com.
Follow us on Twitter at @MyBodyMyWords
WOW: Again, thank you for your time today, and readers, remember to check out this anthology at the links above!