06/22/2015 05:20 pm ET Updated Jun 19, 2016

Amye Archer Turns Weight Into Words

Amye Archer is a writer and teacher living and working in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She holds an MFA from Wilkes University, and is a recipient of the Beverly Hiscox Scholarship. Her writing has been published in Nailed Magazine, PANK, PMS: Poem Memoir Story, Hippocampus Magazine, Boston Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the author of two chapbooks, No One Ever Looks Up, published by Puddinghouse Press, and A Shotgun Life published by Big Table Publishing. Her full-length collection of poems, BANGS, was released by Big Table Publishing in August of 2014. Her one-act play,Surviving, was produced locally in 2012. She has read for various magazines including PANK, Quiddity, and Hippocampus. Amye is a Libra, a lover of cats, a devout follower of politics, mommy to Samantha and Penelope, and a partner-in-all-things to Tim.

Loren Kleinman (LK): Talk about the women of Weight Watchers and the role they play in your book Fat Girl Skinny. How much is the book about weight? How much about loving yourself?

Amye Archer (AA): The women of Weight Watchers represent every woman I have known: friends, cousins, and coworkers, who have struggled with weight. I wanted to represent those struggles in a realistic way, and I tried to do that by assigning real stories to these women.

The book is less about weight than it is about coming to terms with who you are. Fat Girl, Skinny is based on a true story, my story, and it was very difficult for me to accept the fact that after losing a hundred pounds, I felt worse about myself, and not better. It wasn't a matter of fixing something that was broken, it was a matter of finding something that had been lost. Without my constant struggle with weight to define me, I had no idea who I really was.

LK: You also run the blog, The Fat Girl Blog. Can you talk about the crossover from blog to novel? Can you talk about how the blog helped you write a full-length book?

AA: The Fat Girl Blog has been a testing ground for material. When I write something I'm not sure of, I will test it out there. I try to write new material as much as I can, but I usually end up putting it in a book if I do, or turning it into a poem, or a screenplay, or some other form of something else.

LK: What did you learn while writing Fat Girl Skinny? What were the challenges? Did it ever hit home too much? Explain.

AA: There were many challenges. It's hard to write about yourself as a vulnerable, insecure person. It's hard to admit that you have no self-control, that you have an addiction, and that you have let people mistreat you. I think that was the hardest part: realizing how much of my own life I gave away to other people. There were times I would sob while I was writing.

But, writing Fat Girl, Skinny was therapy. As you will read in the book, I spent the better part of my young adulthood in a very unhealthy relationship, and I spent a long time blaming that person for my unhappiness. Writing this book helped me to see my role in that relationship, but more importantly it helped me find my own inner strength. I would not be the strong, independent person I am today had I not written this book.

LK: Why did you write the book? How is it different from any other girl's experiences with weight?

AA: I had to write the book, I just had too. I knew that what I had gone through-marrying too young, allowing my weight to balloon out of control (I was 275 at my heaviest), being left for another woman, and trying to find some shred of self-respect afterwards, was the story of so many women. The plotlines might vary, but the narrative is the same: we give up ourselves to the world. My story is not different, and that's the point. I want readers to say "Yep, I know exactly how she feels as she's shoving that Twix down her throat in the parking lot of the Weight Watcher's meeting." Plus, I couldn't afford therapy, so I really had to write this book.

LK: What do you love about your body now that you struggled with in the past? How can we overcome our insecurities and grow to love our bodies?

AA: This is hard to answer, because I've had twins since I wrote the book, so my body has changed so much due to that pregnancy. I still struggle with weight, but not in the same way. I look at weight as health now, and not vanity. I want to be strong and healthy for my daughters, not for some hot guy at the end of the bar. I really don't know if the struggle will ever be over, but as I've aged, it has lessened. I think the biggest thing I would want people to take away from Fat Girl, Skinny, is that you will never feel better about your life until you are the one in control of it. I wish I could tell every young girl how important it is for her to be the captain of her own vessel. It was a hard-fought lesson, but I've finally learned it.

LK: What's next for Amye Archer?

AA: I'm working on a book about panic disorder, infertility, and death. Sounds fun, right?

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