Today, we welcome Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner-Up Leisa Greene, with her essay titled, "Weightless." Click here to read it. In thie essay, she shares personal details about riding on an airplane before she had gastric bypass surgery. In this interview below, she is very straightforward, honest, and open about her struggle with her body image and losing weight and writing a memoir about her life. This is an interview NOT TO MISS--no matter what your body image struggles are or where you are in your writing career.
Here's a bit more about Leisa:
Leisa Greene has numerous quirks. Her degree is in English, but her day job is in the School of Speech, Language, Hearing & Occupational Sciences where she is the School & Finance Manager crunching numbers and setting up contracts. She built a website for Indie Artists, and taught herself Photoshop, but when she touches computer hardware, it crashes. She refers to TV remotes by using the high-tech term ‘clicker’. She recently started reading her own tarot cards, but still stands by sage advice like ‘get your poop in a group’. The Donny and Marie Osmond concert was the first live concert she ever attended, but well over a decade ago she moved away from easy listening and now joins her husband at rock and metal concerts.
She loves her husband and adult children fiercely and empty nesting allows her alone time writing, thinking about writing, dreaming about writing, Instagramming about writing, and summoning her muse, although she’s not quite sure who, or what, that is yet. Writing came late for Leisa as a non-traditional college student. She didn’t think she could write until she submitted an essay about her childrens’ father to her instructor. After her face-to-face review of her essay, where he told her that the lens she used to describe her ex-husband was strong and riveting, she hiked up a mountain with her family and friends proclaiming in shock that she could write! Life has never been the same.
Leisa is currently on the fourth edit of her memoir, Early Out—a story of a mother’s coming-of-age as her two gay sons come out in a conservative Mormon community. Her other writing consists of: “Making the Men” featured in We Leave The Flowers Where They Are, an anthology of 41 brave Montana women’s true stories; “Windshield” featured in Bright Bones: Contemporary Montana Writing; the short online essays “Brother Townsend” and “A Jamboree Family”; and The Beckett Syndrome a one act play. Leisa was born in Butte, lives in Missoula, Montana, and holds a BA in creative writing from University of Montana that she earned in 2011 at the young age of 45. She’s very practical! You can get in touch with her at: LeisaGreene.com, or on Instagram @leisa_greene.
WOW: Congratulations, Leisa, on placing in the top ten of our creative nonfiction writing contest with your essay, "Weightless." Why did you choose this as your title?
Leisa: Thank you! I'm honored to be selected! The title came to me because of my need to feel weightless physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Weighing 369 pounds was burdening me not just physically, but in so many other ways. I couldn't ride a bicycle beside my children, and I couldn't play with them without being winded; but the larger I became, the more I was fading away inside my head and my heart. I started to become larger than my friends at ten years old. At that early age, it became a dream of mine to be accepted for my size because that is who I am. Unfortunately, I couldn't accept myself. I needed that burden lifted from me- I needed to be weightless.
WOW: Thank you for sharing so many personal details with us. I'm sure there are some readers here who can relate to you, with whatever body image they also have. Women often have trouble with the self-image inside their own heads, and it can be a constant battle we have to fight. Your essay sheds light on this.
You started with a medical procedure, gastric bypass surgery, and then went into the time you rode on an airplane with your mom, which is what the essay was mostly about. What made you choose to start how you did? (So many writers have trouble figuring out "how to start." We love your beginning! Teach us! :) )
Leisa: Going under the knife to have a gastric bypass for weight loss is drastic. It's desperate. Some people might call it dramatic. The desperate surgery juxtaposes my obesity with the desire to be thin for social reasons. It seems superficial and unrealistic, yet the feelings and observations made on the airplane are real to anyone who can't fit in an airplane seat. Fitting in society, so to speak, wasn't the only reason I wanted the surgery. There are many other reasons that play out in my memoir. However, for this chapter, it felt right to take something so drastic and have a moment of weightlessness prior to actually losing weight. All of that being said, the story line of my life falls in that order. Prior to my surgery, my mother had the surgery. I watched her shrink in size for a year before I decided to have the same procedure. So, the two of us decided to take a trip prior to my operation. It was the natural order of things. I was lucky in that it worked for this piece.
WOW: Yes, it certainly did. We read in your bio that you have a BA in creative writing that you completed a few years ago at the age of 45. What made you go back to school and get a creative writing degree? Do you feel it helps you in pursuing your writing dreams now?
Leisa: In my opinion, you don't need to have a creative writing degree to be a writer. You need to read. You need to write. I do feel it helps for me to have the degree, but not for the reasons some might think. I needed to return to school and complete a degree, to prove to myself that I could do it no matter my age, my size, my gender. Yes, I said gender. I grew up in a religion that focused on men having a career and women being mothers. That is where I came from. I wasn't encouraged to do things of an intellectual nature. I was encouraged to cook, bake, and make a beautiful home. I read voraciously; but for many years, I felt I was not as smart as other people. I was fun. I was the life of the party. I was a good mom, yet I felt people treated me like I was stupid which is also a stereotype of obese people. I proved to myself I could get a degree, and that is what mattered to me. I needed to know I was capable, in order to pursue my writing dreams. It amazes me how much yuck I carried around in my head. I had to dispel that thought of being stupid. Proving this to myself was another way for me to be weightless.
WOW: That's amazing. Thank you for being so open and honest about your decisions. Shedding light on these stereotypes and self-image issues really helps your readers. We also read that you are writing a memoir with the title, Early Out, and you are on your fourth edit. What has that process been like for you? Any publication date on the horizon?
Leisa: I don't have a publication date on the near horizon. My goal is to have a book deal within the next year. I've been working on Early Out since my last semester of college in 2011. That's nine years! It's arduous; and often times, I wonder if I should even be writing this memoir. I just need to get this story out of me; yet I struggle with the gut wrenching parts of it. It needs to be honest and real. In order to do that, I have to open up the wounds again. It's sometimes devastating to continue to look back on a time that was tumultuous, when I was more like an antihero, than a hero.
WOW: Yes, battling normal writing block is one thing, but memoirist often have to re-live painful moments to get them on paper for readers. We wish you the bravery to do so, and we definitely want to hear from you when you get it finished and published! How are your writing days spent these days? What are you working on? Do you work on marketing, too? Do you have a routine?
Leisa: I don't have a routine. I should be better about it, but I'm not. That's the truth. I'm lucky when I have a full day to write. Juggling a day job, family, and my health is at times daunting. I've cherished the moments when I can focus on writing. They are rare. I don't believe that many writers have the privilege of just writing. I need to be better about allowing myself the time to create every single day. We all do because we are worth it, and writers write. As far as marketing, I love my Instagram account and spend time on there sharing things that are important to me and talking with other writers. The writers on IG are a solid group of wonderfully varied, creative people. That is my marketing. A few years ago, I was so focused on Twitter and building a platform that my writing got lost in the process. Right now, I stick to one platform that I enjoy. I'll probably be asked to up my marketing skills and my time on social media, but for now, I'm taking the foot off of my social media neck.
WOW: Thank you, Leisa, for taking the time to answer all of our questions. Best of luck to you with everything you are working on!