anngreengables

In high school I aspired to be anorexic or bulimic, but the truth is I just wasn’t motivated enough. I would join a sport for a semester—basketball, gymnastics, soccer, track—but I’d quickly lose interest and find myself exactly where I’d begun: lying on the floor with a Smiths album on repeat while thinking about boys. It was the only activity I was able to dedicate myself to. And because my weight was really not the reason boys were not interested in me—it was likely a host of skin and personality flaws—I could safely misdirect my attention without accidentally fixing myself. I didn’t want to do the soul-searching or book-reading that would make me realize the person I really wanted to be. I just wanted to be thin. And then I wanted that to be enough.

On Health

By JoAnna Novak

Essay

JNovak

There is no clear path around the Park District. I’m one of sixty-four second graders led across busy Wolf Road in Burr Ridge, a small suburb dense with green and white ash trees. It’s 1993. Cars idle as we dawdle through the crosswalk.

I’m in the middle of the line, my last name centered in the alphabet, but I wish I could fall back. I wish I could hide in the chapter book stacks at the library or chisel out my linoleum block print in the art room. As a new kid at Pleasantdale, I don’t like gym class, where I’m reminded of my lack of friends every time we form teams. I also don’t like this walk, which means we’re running the mile.

I’m not the worst-looking girl. But I’m close: chubby plus homely. I have round cheeks. A pudgy stomach. Legs like tree trunks rather than twigs. My hair is a brown mushroom, and every girl at my new school seems smaller and blonder than the last. Even my front teeth came in too large for my mouth. Sometimes I wish I could just be fat—really fat—so I wouldn’t be stuck in the middle.

Woolf_Emma

As my second book The Ministry of Thin comes out this month, the question I keep being asked is this: what does a ‘recovered anorexic’ have to tell us about body image and feminism?

Quite a lot actually. I believe that, as women, our desire for thin is getting way out of control. I believe that many women who do not have an actual eating disorder have profoundly disordered eating; diets such as 5:2 are normalising deeply abnormal habits. You may roll your eyes (as I do) at the crazy tongue-patchers, drip dieters, intermittent fasters. You may laugh at the Werewolf or Vampire or Caveman devotees. But no matter how feisty or feminist you think you are, I bet you’d like to lose weight. 

The Ministry of Thin_FINALAlice and I are walking down the aisle marked Dairy. I take four small tubs of Total 0% Greek yogurt, a couple of raspberry-flavor Müller Lights. I add a four-pack of vanilla probiotic Activias, then a two-pint carton of skim milk. My sister grimaces at the red-top milk—“Skim? That stuff looks like dirty water.” I nod cheerfully, “I know, tastes like it too.” We turn the corner into the aisle marked Meat, where it’s Al’s turn to stock up: bacon, chicken, and some kind of fish.

At the checkout line, we look at our baskets: butter, bacon, and eggs in hers; muesli, pita bread, Greek yogurt in mine. I also have apples, broccoli, bananas; Al has sparkling water, salmon, avocado.

See what she’s doing, and see what I’m doing? Without even thinking about it, we both have our forbidden foods—or, if not entirely forbidden, substances we steer clear of. Al never buys coffee or wine, although she will have the occasional cappuccino or glass of wine when she’s out. I literally don’t go near butter, and I wouldn’t know how to cook any of the meat she buys. Odder than her wariness of caffeine, and my strict vegetarianism, is our avoidance of whole food groups. I don’t do fat; she doesn’t do carbs. A few decades ago these might have seemed strange rules to follow, but these days they’re pretty normal. In the twenty-first century most women police their diets in some way.

When I first read The New York Times write-up “Fiona Apple Faces Outwards”, I am struck by how deeply her transformation over the past seven years from big-eyed girl-woman to gaunt and isolated artist has affected me. Apple was always talented, but this write-up of The Idler Wheel encapsulates how Apple has transcended the fleeting pop stardom that is often offered to young, attractive female artists and has instead become a full-fledged musical auteur.

I’m pro-excess, especially in the arena of vice.   I think you should, at least occasionally, eat too much, smoke too much, drink too much, cheat, carouse, fuck, gamble, sleep, travel, spend, and overexert too much.   Which is why I’m in Las Vegas this week, having done my first half-marathon (speaking of excess) here on Sunday night.  I love Las Vegas.   I love everything about it.  I’ve probably been here fifteen times in the last ten years.  I revel in the mayhem and bask in the excesses.

Please explain what just happened.

I’m guessing you just clicked on The Nervous Breakdown’s Arts & Culture tab.And perhaps you had to scroll down a little.

 

What is your earliest memory?

Dressing up as Queen Esther for Purim.Which is odd, since I’m not Jewish.

 

 

Most of us are starving for success, but there are some people who take their obsessions to a whole other level. Training a carefully-honed eye on the secret world of eating disorders, author Lisa deNikolits delves into the sensitive topic of beauty in her well-received novel, THE HUNGRY MIRROR.

WordHustler sat down with deNikolits to talk fame, fashion, and being famished. This savvy South-African-turned-Canadian author has done an amazing job of churning out many projects while still maintaining her other career as an art director for top fashion magazines. Read on to find out how this talented writer is taking the fashion world- and the world at large- by storm!

WordHustler: You have an amazing and eclectic background from growing up in multiple countries, working as a writer and an art director in the fashion magazine world…what do you consider your first big break, writing-wise?

Lisa deNikolits: My first big break came, oddly enough, in the form of a rejection letter from Carolyn Jackson, the managing editor of a publishing house in Toronto. With characteristic generosity of spirit, she pointed me in the direction of Inanna, and The Hungry Mirror came to be as a result. My second big break would of course be the offer by Luciana Ricciutelli and Inanna to publish the book.

WH: You’ve written a few short story collections and some other novels- what made you decide you HAD to write this book in particular?

LD: If anything, it was The Hungry Mirror who made the decision for me! The Hungry Mirror wanted to be written and it was insistent. There were times when I wished it hadn’t “chosen” me as its conduit, because it was a tough book to write and the writing spanned a very long time. But I feel the book explores a number of important and controversial social and mental  health issues, and I am very pleased to be the author.

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WH: When drawing from your experiences in the fashion world, do you find it difficult to disguise people you actually know? Or do you make the characters amalgams of many people?

LD: All amalgams, absolutely! I borrow bits and pieces shamelessly from everywhere, from everyone and I create character collages. And in return, I am quite happy for anyone to borrow anything from me! The only real difficulty I have encountered so far is when people misinterpreting themselves to be the basis for a fictional character. Then it’s awkward to have to say well actually that character originated from my imaginings – meanwhile a lot has been revealed that might better have been left unsaid.

WH: What for you is the most challenging part of writing? Realistic-sounding dialogue? Educating/getting your message across without sacrificing story?

LD: I struggle with tenses. I start off writing in the past tense, I swing into the present, then veer into the future. When I go back and tackle a first draft, I am dismayed by the mess I have created. It can be hard to untangle mixed up tenses, like trying to fix bad knitting. I also need to learn more about the intricacies and rules of punctuation.

WH: You are doing a fantastic job of marketing yourself and your book. What advice can you give other writers looking to promote and market themselves?

LD: Thank you for the kind words! Yes, the marketing is going very well and while I would love to take credit, all kudos go to my publisher, friends and family. The support and generosity of their time, their enthusiasm, their help and encouragement have just been incredible.

For my part, I worked hard to set up a number of social networking infrastructures but that was really just like mailing out a lot of invites; the party is a great success because people show up and bring their passion and energy.

Other key points to successful marketing would be; start thinking about this early on in the process, leave no stone unturned, do a lot of research, make a lot of lists, keep knocking on doors.

WH: What are a few of your favorite books out there today (besides your own, of course! 😉 )?

LD: Two of my favourite women authors are Edeet Ravel: Your Sad Eyes and Unforgettable Mouth, Ten Thousand Lovers, Wall of Light, Look for Me, and Annie Proulx: Close Range: Wyoming Stories, Bad Dirt, and of course, The Shipping News.

I love Harry Crews: Body, The Gospel Singer, Feast of Snakes. In terms of recently published books, I’ve been enjoying a number of Inanna’s books – Butterfly Tears by Zoë S Roy, Women’s Spirituality by Johanna S. Stuckey, First Voices (An Aboriginal Womens’ Reader), edited by Patricia A. Monture and Patricia D. McGuire, Truth and Other Fictions by Eva Tihanyi. I thoroughly enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and I am halfway through Linden MacIntyre’s The Bishop’s Man.

WH: What is your preferred writing method? Do you have a certain writing spot/technique?

LD: I used to write longhand but then I got tired of inputting all the copy. So I switched to writing on my iMac, and I sit at my Hungarian grandfather’s old dining table which is set high on wooden blocks, to accommodate my red retro step chair stool with polished red vinyl seat. It is an unusual setup but one that works for me! It’s all quite elevated and precarious!

WH: How do you best balance your fiction writing with your art direction commitments?

LD: I squeeze time! I can fit a lot into a day! And when I feel start to feel a bit sorry for myself, trying to do all these things, I remind myself of all the mothers out there who have to juggle more than I could even imagine, and it’s not like they can take a break whenever they feel like it. So, it’s all a matter of perspective.

WH: What are three things you’d advise aspiring writers to do?

LD: Read style manuals. Attend writing workshops. Print your work out and read it a aloud.

WH: What are three things you’d advise aspiring writers to NEVER do?

LD: Never give up.  Never stop reading with the intent to learn. Never write an entire 220,000 word manuscript as internal narrative (I learned this one the hard way!).

WH: Do you think WordHustler is a valuable resource in helping writers successfully get their work out there, professionally and effectively?

LD: Yes I do think WordHustler is a valuable resource. Finding one’s way through the maze of agents and publishers can be much more daunting than writing the book. So when you say: “Bottom line: you’re a writer. You should be spending your time writing.” Well, I just love that!

She’s a savvy writer, indeed. Saving time with all the paperwork so you can get back to writing is WordHustler‘s goal for you. Use our helpful Advanced Search Wizard in the Markets section to help you target the perfect agents, publications, and publishers for your work, or submit your wonderful writing to any of our thousands of writing contests!

WordHustler wants to help you get your work out to the world quickly, efficiently, and successfully. So what are you waiting for! Destiny is only a click away!