Meet the Writer is a feature for which I interview authors who identify as women. We talk less about a single book or work and more about where they’ve been and how their lives affect their writing. Today, please welcome Kathy Barron. Most recently, she is a contributor to Fat Poets Speak 3: FatDance Flying, published in 2020 with Pearlsong Press.
Grab the Lapels: What was the first piece of writing you did that you remember being happy with?
Kat Barron: LOL I’ve always been happy with my writing. I still have little books that I wrote in the first grade! I wrote stories in high school that I was supremely happy with. I cringe now when I read them — which, you know, haunts me when I write anything — in the future, will this make me cringe? I’ve come to a sort of peace around that it may lose its luster in the future, but I’ll enjoy it now. And who knows? Maybe some of it will stand the test of time! I do pull out things I’ve written years ago, and think, dayum! That’s good!
GTL: What did you want to be when you grew up, and does this choice influence your writing today?
KB: I wanted to be a psychologist or social worker — basically, I wanted to help people. I was a very shy young woman and didn’t realize that when I couldn’t get the classes I needed to proceed with my Psych major, I needed to go to the department and get some help. So, I switched my major to English, my second love. Part of me always wanted to be a writer as well — I’d pictured myself doing that in my “spare time” — which is basically what I’ve done. I ended up opening up a health food store, then becoming a massage therapist. A few years ago, I fell and broke both arms, so I did a stint as a social media manager, then a couple of years as a high school English teacher. During all of that time, I’ve written regularly. I have at least 50 journals filled with my thoughts on life and countless documents I’ve written on various computers over the years.
When I write, it’s usually observations about life — and ways to make life better, kinder, gentler for myself and others. I’ve written a lot about self-love, self-acceptance, and body image. I’ve written quite a bit about sexuality and sexual relationships — and the impact that fat-shaming and fat phobia can have on people and our relationships. I’ve recently published a book that I wrote 20 years ago, The Sexuality Reclamation Project for Women. It explores being at choice in our bodies and relationships — and asks questions to consider how/why we make the choices that we do. Are we living what is true for us — or just living out our programming? My main goal in life has been to help people to feel included, valued, and loved. I try to create space that allows for people to express themselves in whatever ways are meaningful to them in their lives.
In addition to the original book, I also wrote a companion workbook that asks a lot of questions to help the reader to discover what is true and meaningful for them. There is also a journal, The Relationship Red Flag Assessment Journal, which invites readers to make lists of their priorities in relationship/s and then offers scales upon which to assess where their relationship falls in a variety of different categories. I also write a couple of blogs and three Instagram pages that deal with topics of interest to me – body positivity, sexuality and relationships, spirituality and metaphysics, and whatever topic du jour captures my attention. On my personal blog, I have talked a bit about the benefits of nudism, and shared some of what’s been happening in my life. On my professional blog, I talk about healing and other observations about being human and spiritual — and how our paths can be super challenging, yet we can find meaning and personal growth even so. On Instagram, I talk about Fierce Self Love, Red Flags in Relationships, and just me. So, yes. That initial desire does fuel my writing.
GTL: Are there aspects of your writing that readers might find challenging to them?
KB: LOL, totally! If you’ve read my poems in the Fat Poets Speak series, you know that I tend to be fairly outspoken and forthright. I’m fiercely protective of people and our right to exist in our bodies and lives. I’m very open about topics that a lot of people are uncomfortable with. I don’t buy into shame — I fight hard against it. I don’t believe that we should feel ashamed to be in our bodies, or to enjoy all kinds of pleasure and happiness, including sex, sexuality, and sexual relationships, on our own terms. I challenge people to question their own belief systems — and not everyone appreciates that. I express anger and rage at times — and that can be challenging for people. We’re taught that those are “bad” things. I disagree. I think they show where our boundaries are, what is important to us, and the love and passion that we carry to defend what matters.
I would add that some people are offended by open talk about pleasure, particularly sexual pleasure. I find that so sad. In this society, we are constantly exposed to images of violence, but any form of naked bodies or sexual connection is considered “pornographic” (evil, bad, wrong) — rather than healthy, beautiful, natural, and intimately connecting. I understand the roots of that. I will never understand how so many people buy into it. Violence, not love or carnal pleasure, is the true obscenity.
So, I speak the truth about what I perceive and how I feel in the moment. I have also grown and developed over time. That was a big hurdle for me to get over. Part of the reason I published my book 20 years after I wrote it was because I wasn’t sure I’d keep agreeing with myself in what I wrote — in fact, I often argue with myself in my book, changing my mind on some issues repeatedly. I think it’s important to hold space for complicated and mixed feelings. I struggle — and I think that is normal and part of growth. As I’ve aged, I’ve realized that’s okay — there’s never going to be a static me that isn’t evolving and changing. I can do the best I can in each moment, sharing my most authentic self — and still not be constrained by what I’ve publicly said or written. Like Maya Angelou famously said, “When you know better, you do better.” We all need to give ourselves some grace — and be willing to “fail” (whatever that means to us).
GTL: What is your writing process like? Which do you favor, starting or revising?
KB: I like it all. I write every day, mostly in the form of journals. I take some of those ideas sometimes and write poems or blog posts, depending on inspirations. I almost never force myself to write (which is why I only erratically post on my blogs, etc.). I write when I have something that I feel like I need to say. I like playing with ideas and words. I fall in love with a lot of what I write, so editing can be challenging for me because if you cut some of it, you cut out the nuance, and for me, the nuances are everything. Sometimes I suppose I can beat a topic to death, but for me, all of it matters.
Over the years, I’ve worked on and off on a couple of romance novels with protagonists who are fat women. I feel like it is so essential to have more representation of fat women enjoying romance, sex, and loving relationships. I struggle to complete them because sometimes I consider romance to be an enemy that gaslights us into a lot of codependent, self-negating, and even self-harming behavior. I’m still trying to figure out how to write a healthy relationship that isn’t steeped in the typical harmful stereotypes of most romance novels. You see, the problem isn’t just with the “slender,” “waif-like” protagonists who never eat (looking at you, Nora Roberts, but also in good company in almost every romance novel) — but it’s also with the whole “love at first sight” and the romantic BS that programs girls and women to believe that if we just achieve a certain level of beauty, the perfect man will find us irresistible and we’ll live happily ever after, blah, blah, blah. I know how much damage that belief system did in my young life — and how the roots of that still cause damage to this day for many of us. So, maybe one day I’ll get it figured out and written in a way that I can live with and share with the world.
GTL: How has your writing process evolved?
KB: I’d say I’ve gotten a lot more confident in my voice. I used to use a lot of qualifiers: “please don’t be mad, please don’t be offended,” that sort of thing. A good friend of mine once pointed out that by doing that, I wasn’t truly owning my own voice/words, and also, I was giving away my power. I’m also a lot less afraid to be “wrong” — I’m willing to put my ideas out there and truly hear feedback and admit if I need to adjust or change this aspect of what I’m saying/thinking/feeling. With age, too, I care significantly less about what people think of me or whether or not they agree with me.
One thing I have worked on is editing — not being so attached to ALL of my words. LOL. In the age of memes, I am starting to get the “less is more” concept, and I’m becoming better at cutting out the fluff when appropriate. Get to the heart of the matter. Although, sometimes, I still like to take the meandering path and catch nuances along the way.
GTL: What would you like readers to know about your recent publication from Pearlsong Press, Fat Poets Speak 3: FatDance Flying?
KB: Fat women have a great variety of important stories to tell. We remain assaulted by negative messages in the media and in society to the tune of around 386,170 small and large cuts a year, according to Ragen Chastain of Dances With Fat, which is an incredible blog that I highly encourage everyone to read. We need fat positive representation and messaging. The Fat Poets Speak series is a beautiful and powerful voice of empowerment for fat people and the lives we lead. Full lives, by the way, include pain, struggle, and challenge, as well as the “good” stuff: pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment. It’s all there. I hope you enjoy it! And I hope you feel inspired/empowered in some way to live your own life more authentically and powerfully from our speaking out and sharing our stories, thoughts, and feelings.