Colleen Oakes says she’ll never forget the day she read Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner.

elly_300x350I picked up that candy colored cover and dove into a lush story with a killer hook. Not only was it one of the best chick-lit novels I ever read, but it featured a heroine who seemed more like a woman I knew than a fairy-tale. It was as if I was looking in the mirror. There I am! Cannie was a size that I have seen, known, understood. It awakened something deep within me, and I began searching for books that featured a more relatable heroine. Thousand of books later, particularly when life isn’t going for me as planned, I unconsciously find myself seeking out literature that features curvy women.

Not that I’m against a skinny chick lit character. Some of my most favorite characters in chick lit are gorgeous, stick thin women who I desperately wish to befriend or become: Rebecca Bloomwood, Andrea Sachs, Nan, Alex Garrett, Maggie Feller, Darcy Rhone – these are all gorgeously written, hilarious and excellent girls to join for a beach read. I have wanted to be their best friends, their confidants, and loved joining their chaotic lives. Curvy women sometimes can fall too easily into the trap of hating skinny women with the same vemenoth judgments that we so desperately wish to escape. And the size must be right for the character. Right now I’m finishing a fairy-tale retelling called Queen of Hearts and my heroine is lean and petite. The size must fit the story, and the story must fit the character.

With that being said, there was always a part of me that thought “When I write a novel someday, it’s going to be about a woman of average size. Someone who feels those same things, who has walked in my shoes.” (That’s another Jennifer Weiner reference. She’s sort of my hero.) Elly, my heroine, is absolutely an embodiment of my own heart, my own insecurities, and a colorful collage of several extraordinary women in my life. Her struggles with weight, food and men is very personal to me. She’s not a carbon copy in any sense of the word, but those fears that she overcomes are all something that I, or those I know, have conquered in their own life. She’s not perfect. She’s not always pretty and she can be a little snarky. She doesn’t know how to dress, and she definitely prefers a scone over a salad. Elly doesn’t see herself as beautiful, those around her surely do, and that too is a part of her emotional journey on her way to acceptance.

I know the future of chick lit books isn’t littered with curvy women strolling around in bikinis. I’m not sure I would want it to be – that would be a strange place indeed. What I would love to see, on the other hand, is a large variety of sizes represented on this metaphorical beach. 0s, 2s, 4s, 12s, 18s, 22s, all together, all represented as lovely, neurotic, and flawed women who come with a good yarn behind them. Now THAT is a beach that I would feel comfortable laying out on, daiquiri in hand, curled up with a good chick lit book.

I would love if you would join me. And bring Elly in Bloom. It’s perfect for a sunny read.

elly-in-bloomSurrounded by lush flowers and neurotic brides, chubby 32-year-old Elly Jordan has carved out a sweet little life for herself as the owner of Posies, a boutique wedding florist in St. Louis. It’s not bad for a woman who drove away from her entire life just two years ago when she found her husband entwined with a red-headed artist. Sure, Elly has an embarrassingly beautiful best friend, a terribly behaved sheepdog and a sarcastic assistant who she simply calls “Snarky Teenager”, but overall her days are pleasantly uneventful. As a bonus, her new next-door neighbor just happens to be an unnervingly handsome musician who has an eye for curvy Elly. Just when she feels that she is finally moving on from her past, she discovers that an extravagant wedding contract, one that could change her financial future, is more than she bargained for. With the help of her friends, staff and the occasional well-made sandwich, Elly bravely agrees to take on the event that threatens to merge her painful history with her bright new life, and finds herself blooming in a direction she never imagined.

Colleen Oakes is a die-hard Colorado native who really enjoys living in other places. She attended college in Bronxville, NY where she received her degree in Creative Writing. After college, she opened up a successful wedding florist before the writing urge came knocking. Colleen enjoys swimming, reading, and immersing herself in nerdy pop culture. She lives with her husband in North Denver, where they are awaiting their first child through adoption. Colleen blogs about life (good, bad, and awkward) over at The Ranunculus Adventures. She is currently at work on the sequel to Elly in Bloom.

3 comments on “Curvy Women and Chick Lit: Why All Sizes Matter”

  1. You’re right, Colleen, all sizes do matter. When I was going through edits for The Wisdom of Hair, one of the main characters, Sara Jane, is drop dead gorgeous and was 80-90 pounds overweight. My editor,who is the size of a small pencil, said,”that’s really obese, how about 20 or 30 pounds?” I told her to think of a gorgeous Melissa McCarthy, but we ended up splitting the difference at 50-60. Why is a big and beautiful such a hard concept for the editors of the world?

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