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What is Fat Nude Writing all about?

When I was 18, I was offered a chorus role in a summer stock production of Hair. They wanted me to do the song “My Body is Walking in Space”—one of my all time favorite songs—but there was a catch: I’d have to perform it nude.

 

Six feet tall, pear-shaped, with a flat chest and long, thick legs, I wasn’t living in a standard beauty queen body. I lived in a body that was, according to all the magazines, different and therefore wrong. The director tried to tell me that the pairing of my androgynous body and archangel belter voice was perfect for the moment, but I just couldn’t do it.

 

They ended up casting a short, curvy coloratura soprano who weighed about 300 pounds. I was in the front row on opening night when she strode to the front of the stage and delivered one of the most transcendently beautiful moments of theater I’ve ever witnessed. That fat nude soprano didn't just sing, she soared. She stunned. Her fearlessness was mesmerizing. She left the audience in tears, everyone on their feet, and I was close enough to see that she was weeping, too. Her face was a study in pure, transcendent joy.

Plot twist: That happened.

Fourteen years later, at age 32, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a virulent blood cancer that presented with tumors in my neck and chest, leaving me unable to sing. Chemo beat me down hard, but in that crucible, I found my real voice: I started writing. My only writing education came from being a voracious reader. I had no expectation of publishing. I just embraced the words that came to me and climbed aboard my first novel the way you would claw your way onto a life raft

 

As I got sicker, I started wondering: How do you live a full life if the possibility of a long life is probably off the table? My subconscious already knew the answer; the fat nude soprano started showing up in my dreams. She came to teach me what it means to create outside the expected boundaries, free of self-judgment, fully inhabiting myself as an artist. 

I was still bald when my first novel was picked up by a small but prestigious literary press. To this day, in my heart of hearts, I know: that book saved my life.

Spoiler alert: I lived!

Thirty years later, I'm not cancer-free, but I'm free in all the ways that matter. So far, so good. As a solo author and high end ghostwriter specializing in memoirs and literary fiction, I've written more than three dozen books, most of them NYT and/or international bestsellers. I'm an EGOT collaborator; my client list includes Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony winners, style icons, political change agents, and ordinary people living extraordinary lives. 

Over the years, I received my next-level writing education from a parade of brilliantly brutal editors and copy editors, from readers who never mince words, from reviewers who both loved and hated my work, from critique partners and peers, and from a steady diet of extension courses. I developed my own process and discovered a few secret weapons. And I kept reading: for joy, research, market awareness, and because reading is the unshakable foundation of every solid writing career.

 

My Fat Nude Mission Statement

I plan to spend however many or few years I have left writing with all the valor, self-ownership, and generosity of that fat nude soprano. Ungirdled, unbridled, unadorned. I strive to expose my soul and embrace my fear, weakness, uniqueness, and even my regrets, because at the core of good writing – plump, juicy, fat nude writing – is the torn and mended heart of the writer laid bare. 

As a reader, you can feel it when a writer is costumed to deflect criticism or trying to disguise a flabby plot with an empire waistline of clever prose. But hiding and posing are a waste of creative energy; authenticity, not perfection, is the quality that makes fiction and memoir writing rich and resonant. A stretch-marked mother. A gut-shot thug. A tree struck by lightning. An angry God. Star-crossed lovers holding hands at the precipice of disaster. Stories are made interesting by trouble. Characters are made beautiful by scars. 

 

Fat nude writing requires that we fully inhabit and celebrate who we are as creators in this moment. Yes, we remain committed to lifelong learning, but at this moment right now, I am the writer I am, and I dare not write from any lesser self.

How may I help you?

I don't believe in rules that tell writers what they can't do; I believe in reasons for writers to do what they're meant to do. My writing and publishing schedule is intense, but I try to offer 12 office hours per month and three small group craft intensives per year.

 

I mentor individual writers at all stages of the book process, from exploration to development to publication. Ghostwriting and memoir masterclasses are geared toward publication and career-building. I limit the number of writers in each group so everyone gets a chance to ask questions and receive feedback

 

Whatever your creative goals are, I'd love to help you if I can. I look forward to meeting you and exploring the fat nude possibilities.

Peace and grooviness ~

Joni

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