If you’re a regular here at Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf, you’ll know how much I love Emmy Laybourne. Not only does she have a fantastic personality…but this girl can write!! I devoured her Monument 14 series and couldn’t wait to get my hands on Sweet! I am so thrilled to welcome her back to my little home on the web:)
I’m so happy to be back here on Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf! Melissa and I are pals, and I’ve been here before on previous blog tours. It’s good to be back and actually, since I feel so comfortable here, I’d like to get real with you all and talk about issues surrounding weight and body acceptance.
I had the great pleasure of attending the Texas Librarians Association Conference in April this year. WOW, do Texas Librarians ever:
- Care deeply about the kids they serve.
- Love books.
- Know how to party.
Seriously, I am still recovering!
But something happened during a panel that has really stayed with me. I was on the panel with five other authors who’ve gotten their books on the Taysha’s Reading List.
We had been asked a question about what it’s like to write for characters with different races or sexes than our own. Meg Medina, author of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, said that when she writes a character like that, she does her best to vet it with a person of the same sex and/or race. She wants to make sure she gets the nuances right.
A short while later a woman stood and asked us a question that went more or less like this: “Have any of you ever written a fat character – like a really fat one? And did you think to vet it through a fat person?”
The room got very quiet and very still. Everyone was holding their breath, waiting to see what would happen.
I found that fascinating. We’d discussed race not moments before with no visible anxiety from the audience. But now, when the subject of fatness came up, everything got deathly serious.
I have to say that one of the reasons things got tense was that the moderator had asked the first question – while the second was being asked by an audience member who was in a slightly heightened emotional state. Her words felt a little defiant and came as a bit of a challenge.
Another reason, probably a bigger reason, is that the audience was at least 60% white. So when the race question came up, there was at least 60% of the room who could listen on, without being uncomfortably aware of being “discussed”. But when weight came up as a topic, everyone in the room was, in one way or another, being “discussed.” And boy, was it awkward.
One of the authors on the panel began to speak, but she was cut off by the audience member, who essentially said she doubted the author had ever written a really fat character.
I jumped in. The first thing I said was that this is such an important, complicated and emotional topic that I could see a whole panel being dedicated to it. There were a lot of heads nodding out in the audience.
I went on to talk about my new novel, SWEET, which has a protagonist who is a 17 year old girl who is a size 14 and accepts her body as is. She loves her body and is confident that she’ll find a guy who’ll love it, too. I spoke about how exhilarating it was to write that character.
The audience member was okay with that, but continued to push me, “But did you vet it with a fat person?”
I told her that I had, and she seemed comforted by this. In fact, I asked my dear friend, Wendy Shanker, who literally wrote a book called The Fat Girl’s Guide To Life if she would read Sweet. She did, and she gave me great notes that added tremendous depth to all the characters, fat and thin alike.
The audience was relieved that I had the “right” answer. They were relieved when the woman sat down.
What stayed with me was the realization I had, in that moment, of just how much hurt feelings there are out there around weight. I realized that the issues at the center of SWEET may strike people in very tender places. There may be a dialogue about what I’ve written. Some people may feel I’ve gone too far in support of fat acceptance. Some will no doubt feel I haven’t gone far enough. This is a very complicated and personal area to be writing about.
When the panel was finished, the woman who had asked the question handed me a folded note.
I read it later, back in my hotel room. She shared with me a touching story from her childhood, related to her weight and sternly withheld sugar cookies. She didn’t sign it with her name, so I don’t know how to find her, except to say here: Thank you. I get it.
And I want to add this: I’m happy to be talking about this stuff with you, so go ahead and bring on your hard questions. Let’s talk.
Thanks again to everyone at Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf for having me here. I can’t wait to hear what you all think about SWEET. I’m @EmmyLaybourne on Twitter and Instagram. And you can sign up for my mailing list at: http://emmylaybourne.fanbridge.com/ . Keep in touch!
About SweetTitle: Sweet
Author: Emmy Laybourne
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends, Macmillan
Publication date: June 2nd 2015
Target Audience: Young Adult
Genres: Action & Adventure, Contemporary, Horror, Romance, Social Issues
Length: 288 Pages
Find It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
Emmy Laybourne, author of the Monument 14 trilogy, takes readers on a dream vacation that goes first comically, then tragically, then horrifyinglywrong!
The luxurious celebrity cruise launching the trendy new diet sweetener Solu should be the vacation of a lifetime. But Laurel is starting to regret accepting her friend Viv’s invitation. She's already completely embarrassed herself in front of celebrity host Tom Forelli—the hottest guy ever!—and she's too sick to even try the sweetener. And that's before Viv and all the other passengers start acting really strange.
Tom knows that he should be grateful for this job and the chance to shed his former-child-star image. His publicists have even set up a 'romance' with a sexy reality star. But as things on the ship start to get wild, he finds himself drawn to a different girl. And when the hosting gig turns into an expose on the shocking side effects of Solu, it's Laurel that he's determined to save.