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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fat Nude Writing contest (Show us your stuff!)


Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in the West Houston RWA Emily Meeting -- a full day of writerly camaraderie, awards, and way too much food. In the afternoon, Colleen and I did a Boxing the Octopus session on challenges of the writing life. The AM session was my workshop on "Fat Nude Writing", which was actually Colleen's idea, inspired by a post I did about a year ago.

The gist of Fat Nude Writing or “The Lord never gives us more than we can bare.”:
One of the few genuine regrets I have about my youth is that I turned down a role in the musical Hair, singing “My Body is Walking in Space”, one of my all-time favorite songs, in the nude. I didn’t turn it down out of modesty; I turned it down out of shame, which was stupid. I thought my body was just too, too mortifyingly awful. I was young, six feet tall, a size nine! I had an awesome body! The director tried to tell me that it was my vocal and physical uniqueness that made him want to cast me. But my tall, flat-chested body was not like other girls’ petite, busty little cheerleader bodies. And different equals wrong. Right? Different is bad. Ugly. He ended up casting a coloratura soprano who weighed about 250 lbs, and the song was one of the most stunningly beautiful moments of theatre I’ve ever witnessed. That fat nude chick blew the doors off the place. The song soared; her fearlessness was mesmerizing. I have mourned missing out on that moment of tastefully lit abandon onstage, and I try to avoid that chicken-livered mistake as a writer. Different art form. Same dynamic.

An older, wiser, more zaftig woman now, I doubt that I will ever have the courage to visit the nude beach, but I aspire to bare my soul through my work. For any artist, fear is a weakness. Uniqueness – abnormality, even – is a strength. And so is regret, I suppose, because at the core of good writing – plump, juicy, fat nude writing – is the torn and mended heart of the writer. Ungirdled, unbridled, unadorned.

During the workshop, I challenged participants to write a paragraph or two on a fat, nude moment from their own life -- a moment that was not particularly earth-shattering or news-making but life-changing in an intensely personal way -- and submit it to us here at Boxing the Octopus. I'd like to expand that and invite any and all Box Octo visitors to submit a Fat Nude Writing sample. Let's use the "comment" section here to post entries (500 words or less, please). I'll snag a few highlights, do a Fat Nude-a-palooza post on Saturday, and send our favorite Fat Nude Writer a signed copy of my memoir, Bald in the Land of Big Hair (definitely the fattest, nudest writing I've done in my career thus far.)

(Above: "La Grande Odalisque" painted in 1814 by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.)

13 comments:

patty@pattyhenderson.com said...

if we bought that book can we win the dirty dildo book??? PattyH

Joni Rodgers said...

Sure! I'll even make it a hardcover. (Makes it seem a little less tawdry.)

sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sarah said...

okay... here goes...

Its 6:30 at night. The pavement of Hwy 6 is slick, but I don't care. I drive more safely than the people around me. I'm tired, my throat's scratchy, my chest aches, my lungs burn. I have been singing in my car for over an hour to a non-existent audience on my way home. It is the same show every month. Good thing that they are tone deaf – my voice can barely carry a tune.

The encore is always the Indigo Girls – Galileo – sung several times in an attempt to get the words right. The song always accompanies me in my last leg from
Navasota to College Station. (Such a change from the grinding guitar and harsh voice of AC/DC that accompanies me while driving in Houston.)

Two lines in the song hit a cord for me. One – “How long till my soul gets it right”. According to a random psychic reading I had a several years ago – I’ve lived at least three other lives . I was told a couple of details of those lives. Were they true? I don’t know. Do I dream of past lives? I don’t think I do – and nothing struck a cord – but for all I know there person was just trying to play to the twenty year old sitting in front of them.
But it made me wonder what I was missing out on, and I sometimes wonder if I should seek out those answers - those past lives and find out what happened… what went wrong… what happened to the talents that were there. Where they stripped from me? Is it karma? It would be easy if I had been someone famous in history – but from what I was told, the legacy of those lives didn’t pass into the history.

The other… “in my lifetime I'm still not right“. Truly, I have never felt right. Something feels out of place, and I have never been able to put my finger on it. Maybe it is the mistakes of the long lost past haunting me.

Is it strange that the lines of a song could affect me so? Maybe the voices of the Indigo Girls is speaking to my soul, reminding me that there is more to what I see in me. Then I start second guessing myself… my life… my choices… what if my next life suffers for a simple decision… like putting myself out there with this writing.

Colleen Thompson said...

I come from a very close family - especially geographically. All the generations have stuck tight to the same little town in Southern NJ.

My fat, nude moment came when I graduated college and accepted a recruiters offer of a teaching job 2,500 miles away. Without knowing a soul or much of anything about the southwest corner of Arizona (except that it didn't snow, which was a big plus at the moment) I packed my belongings in a car that wasn't long for the world and did the whole "Go West, Young Woman" thing. Because I wanted to claim an adventure for myself while I had that opportunity.

It was probably the gutsiest thing I've ever done, and it totally changed the course of my life.

It was very tough on my folks, though, which I can understand a little better as a parent. :)

Dorothy Hagan said...

Delusions of Grandeur

Age 34. Remarried. Pregnant. Really feeling like it’s time to write that novel. Terrified to start because…Fame and Fortune. A virtual certainty my name will become the household word I’ve always known it would be. With certainty. Because I survived a crazy childhood. Because I had my 19th birthday in Alexandria, Egypt where I sailed as a merchant marine. Because I was destined to be remembered throughout the ages.

Go to therapy. Pay good money to explain that I can’t write the book, because I am scared of New York, claustrophobic, hate tall buildings, Katie Couric makes me nervous…Therapist looks at me and says Maybe you should write the book first before you worry about all this, it could take a while to get published…I look at him like he’s the crazy one and declare, with certainty, Oh, there’s no question it would be published. I mean, please!

Fourteen years and four novels later, Katie changed jobs and hasn’t called. Son of a bitch.

Vicky said...

My Fat Nude Writing Experience

I had been writing for 6 months. I entered 5 contests because I wanted critiques from published authors. To my utter astonishment, the book finaled in all but one. When I got a call from the Maggie coordinator, she suggested I come to the conference because "editors and agents will pay attention to you." So I went.

I signed up to pitch my fledgling manuscript. Unfortunately I didn't know how to pitch. It was a group appointment with 12 authors. I sat at the table so nervous I considered running out of the room. The first author gave a professional, short pitch. Then it was my turn. I couldn't look at the editor. So I started reading from the scribbled 2 pages of notes. I prayed for a natural disaster - anything to divert attention away from my disastrous pitch. The editor stopped me and said, "Wait a minute. I know this book." I thought, OMG somebody already wrote it. Then I thought, nobody but you is crazy enough to write this crazy book.

The editor asked me, "Is this the one where the guy is really hung over?" I said, "Yes, but I promise he's gettting reformed." Everybody cracked up. The editor had to shush them. Then we started exchanging snippets from the book. I was so nervous I didn't stop to think how she could possibly know about my book.

Then she asked me if I'd entered it in another contest. I knew there was only one left. So I meekly asked, "The Orange Rose?" She nodded. "I gave you first place. I guess you won it." Gasps erupted. Then she asked me the million dollar question. "Is it finished?" So I rambled about how I was really new at this and planned to enter the Golden Heart to give me a deadline to finish. She said, "Forget the damn contest. Finish the book and send it to me." Everyone clapped.

After 10 more pitches, the editor got up and everyone else politely waited. I thought, I'm walking down the hall with that editor. And I did. My head was spinning as she told me how much she liked my voice. I wasn't even sure what that meant, but it sounded good. When we reached the elevator banks, she said, "Just remember who gave you that great score in another contest when you win the award tonight." My jaw dropped as I watched her get on the elevator.

Then I got on the other elevator with the other authors from the pitch session. As soon as the doors closed, they erupted about what had happened to me. My head hit the wall and my knees buckled. I said, "OMG, I can't believe I said all that stuff."

That night, I did win the Maggie and not long after the Orange Rose. And many months later, the editor called asking me to do massive revisions. The revised book didn't sell, but I learned a lot from the experience. Most of all, I learned to take risks.

PattyHenderson said...

The Fat Nude Eye to the Sky

Not one to learn the easy way, having a male nurse mere inches from my face as my left eye continued to blossom to a royal blue with a tint of purple and shades of pink etched in a bloody crust I found the words "you need to file charges," a rude and abrupt reality.

The chill of the examination room was warm in comparison to the sadness that ran through my veins. However, as I turned for the photographs the deputy needed, the stark reality was I was on the way back. My spirit had risen and it would no longer be beaten down. The limit of defeat of my soul had been touched upon and no longer would the man who'd driven me to this exhaustive, stark awakening ever take me here again.

To say the departure was immediate would be misleading. I stood steadfast, determined to give it my all. The last call, if you will. But that preverbial straw came and the door didn't hit me. There was little drama left. The woman I'd always been capable of being was fully present, not to be engaged, bent or torn.

With God, my guides and the angels who watch over me, I moved gently, but steadily, making constant headway, never looking back. It was and will always be about looking forward. It is not where I was nor what happened, but how blessed I am and how far I have come.

The journey is tender, earthy and reverant. I realized my soul is precious and I have gifts to nurture, share and treasure. My children and I have found what we lost and the peace I'd thought forever missing, is found.

It took a man to point to another man and say this is wrong for me to believe.

Now I am a woman, whole, powerful, enlightened, strengthened by pain, done with thinking I was less instead of more, now looking at goals and life plans when there were, at one time, no dreams or prayers I could hear in my heart.

I will not look back. My eyes will be to the sky and my soul will do a tantric dance.

It took the spastic journey to the bottom to propel me to bliss.

Colleen Thompson said...

Wow. These stories are amazing. Thanks so much for being courageous enough to share, Sarah, Patty, and Dorothy, and Vicky!

Let's keep 'em coming, folks!

Lark said...

It was love at first sight the first day of my sophomore year in college. On my part, not his. He was a basketball superstar, tall blond, gorgeous, but what I fell in love with was his laugh. He seemed sure everyone liked him and he liked everyone in return. He was the most self confident person I’d ever met. We couldn’t have been more different. Except for a couple smiles and a “hi” or two as he took the seat behind me next to his teammates, he barely noticed me that first semester. But I was in love so I put myself in his path as often as I could over the next year and eventually we became friends of sorts.

College ended. Life happened. I got married and divorced, moved to the Virgin Islands then to Houston. Through mutual friends I kept track of him—where he was and what he was doing—still in love with him in spite of the years and thousands of miles between us.

One day my flight out of L.A. was delayed. I’d heard he was coaching at USC so I called information and got his work number. It had been twelve years since I’d seen him. He might not even remember me. I began dialing three times before I mustered the courage to let the call go through. It took an eternity for him to pick up. When he answered, I thought my heart was going to stop. “Hi, David,” was all I said. To my astonishment he recognized my voice immediately and we talked and laughed until my flight was called. I fell in love with him all over again.

In the long run, things didn’t work out for us, but over the next five years we gave it a hell of a good shot. Best of all, we’re still friends and I’ve never had to wonder what might have been.

Joni Rodgers said...

These are great! Thanks so much for posting, you fabulous women!

Jo Anne said...

I’m a big woman – and have been from the beginning of this life. At eleven pounds, four ounces and twenty-four inches long, I was the “biggest baby ever born” at Tahlequah General Hospital back in December 1946. In the second grade, I was the tallest in my class and by the time I was twelve, I tipped the scales at over two hundred.

It’s not only my size that’s big, either. I have this big, bullhorn voice that amplifies into the next county. Quite a legacy for “Daddy’s Little Girl,” growing up in a world where ladies were petite, dainty and soft-spoken. I so wanted to fit in, to be like everyone else. My childhood mantra: head down, eyes averted, mouth shut and knees together. Trying to be less than I was.

In the seventh grade, some of the future movers and shakers of the class were forming a non-official cheerleading squad for the junior football league. They asked me to join in. “No, thank you,” I said. “I don’t want to.” After all, I was a monster-sized kid who would look stupid jumping around and cheering and having fun.

I’d never wanted anything so much in my entire life. I craved the experience, the sharing, the bonding – the fun.

But I was afraid.

Immediately, I knew I’d made a mistake. But I was too, what – embarrassed, ashamed, self-conscious (fill in the blank) – to ask if I could change my mind and participate. Then the opportunity was gone.

I’ve often wondered how different my life might have been had I not caved into my fear that day. Perhaps the exercise, the sheer physicality of it would have created a healthier lifestyle for me and my weight would not have been such a battle this lifetime. Perhaps by developing those friendships, I might have avoided other more treacherous relationships that later led me astray. Perhaps I could have sidestepped some future life lessons that were much harder to survive.

Perhaps I might have realized sooner that being big and strong is not a bad thing. Even now, I believe that one fear-based, lack-of-self-esteem-driven choice changed my path of destiny. Who knows?

What I do know is that through a lifetime of other ‘choices’ – many foolish, some wise, I’ve found that it’s not only my body and my mouth that are big.

I mentioned to my ex-husband a while back that I was in trouble once again for over-extending myself because I lack boundaries. He told me that I do have boundaries – but that my idea of a boundary is to fence the Universe. Big boundaries.

I’m not a head-down, eyes-averted, knees-together person. I’m a throw-my-arms-wide-open, open-my-mind, open-my-life-to-people soul. I’ve got a big smile. I’ve got big energy. I have a big personality and a big heart filled with the capacity for big love.

So I come to you today. A big woman of sixty-two, with a big, booming voice. I’m out of shape, and I have bad knees. I’ve got gray hair and arthritis. But by God, I’m fearless.

Yes, I’m big. Big, bold and beautiful. :-)

Colleen Thompson said...

These are all incredibly gutsy posts. And beautifully written, too.

. Thanks so much for sharing, ladies.