Local author releases Fat Girl, Skinny
An old piece of advice for writers sounds both obvious and trite: ‘write what you know.’
Sometimes, that basic mantra is simpler to repeat than follow. Amye Archer, author of the memoir Fat Girl, Skinny, spent nearly six years bringing her work about struggles with marriage, weight loss and self-discovery to the public. On Sunday, March 6, Archer celebrates a book launch party at Bar Hill, 1431 Ash St., in Scranton beginning at 4 p.m.
Archer said the book reflects themes that many people might recognize.
“It was difficult, because it was memoir and very, very personal,” Archer said. “I felt like my story had to be told because it’s the story of so many women in my position. It’s universal; it’s not just about weight, even though it’s called Fat Girl, Skinny. It follows the progression of my weight loss, it’s about self-esteem, it’s about being stuck in a place that you don’t want to be in. Whether that place is fat or a bad marriage, or a dead-end job — it’s just about being stuck and how we crawl our way out of that. I felt like people could relate to it.”
While working in grad school at the Wilkes University Creative Writing MFA program, Archer struggled to produce a memoir that was topical and relevant.
“I had written a whole other book about my first marriage,” Archer said. “The last two chapters were about the divorce and my beginning to lose weight and find myself. I worked with [Riding in Cars with Boys author] Beverly Donofrio and she read the first draft of the book. She said, ‘Your whole story is these last two chapters.’ So we cut off the first part of the book, and we started from there and that became Fat Girl, Skinny.”
With a finished product in hand, however, the path to publication was just beginning.
“I was with an agent and I had a good bite from a pretty big publisher,” Archer said. “They wanted to see it as fiction, so I was fictionalizing it and then they passed on it. The book’s strength is that it’s honest, it’s a memoir. It didn’t work as fiction, so I said to myself ‘I have to be true to this book.’ I got out of that and I went with an independent press and made it a memoir and published it how I wanted to. It’s been a long five years to get this book out and have it how I wanted it to be.”
Although Archer’s memoir hits home on a personal level of a woman struggling with weight loss, she says she found the subject connected with different readers on multiple levels.
“I’m pretty excited, I’ve gotten a ton of positive feedback from readers and that’s what’s important to me,” Archer said. “You know what’s interesting, one of the first people who read it was a man. And I wasn’t sure that it would translate well across the sexes, but he really, really loved it. I think it could apply to everyone regardless of your life situation. I think as humans, we just know what it’s like to be stuck somewhere. I don’t think that’s gender-specific.”
Sunday’s book release will feature Archer presenting excerpts from Fat Girl, Skinny as well as two special guests to help celebrate the book’s themes and creation.
“I chose Rachael Hughes, who was in the MFA program with me,” said Archer. “She’s going to read from her brilliant memoir, which hasn’t been published yet. A former student of mine, Tiffany Hadley, who was out of one of the first creative writing classes I ever taught, is going to read as well. I chose those two women specifically because they represent the two sides of me: the student and the teacher. Rachel was a fellow student with me, and Tiffany was in one of the first classes I ever taught. I’m very excited to have them.”
Archer says the process of writing and publishing Fat Girl, Skinny was challenging and personally fulfilling in different ways.
“Living the book helped me build the confidence to write the book,” Archer said. “It went hand in hand together, I have a lot of confidence in this book. I know it’s good, I have faith in it. I believe that it will either rise or fall on its own. Any writer has to have faith in their project. If I were to give any writer advice, I would say keep writing for yourself and not for an editor, not for the idea of being published. You have to trust that the art will be good enough to stand on its own, and that’s for any medium, really.”
Although she said it’s a relief to be done with the publication of her debut, the real rewards are only just beginning.
“Writing this was so personal,” Archer said. “A lot of people who have read it so far ask me how I could put this out there. My stock answer to that is very true, and I want to get this across: I wrote this for the 21 year old version of me. The one who was heavy and didn’t think she had any options and that her life was going nowhere. I wish somebody had said to me, ‘You deserve better.’ I hope that’s what this book says to young people in that position. Or older people — that’s the one thing I want to get across. We deserve a lot better than we think we do.”