Talking to Amanda Scriver, author, lover of community and social media and foodie, is like hearing all of her thoughts said aloud in the most candid, owned way, that you crave the confidence she has developed so you too can craft your beliefs in witty, long-lasting sound bites. She owns her entire self and empowers others to do the same. She admits when she’s tired, sad or over it and she’s keen to listen and grow, just the same. A conversation with Amanda is to best memories as long walks are to good podcasts.
Amanda and I met at Reunion Island Coffee in Toronto’s west-end, where we chatted for over an hour about her experience as a woman writer in Canada and what it means to share stories as someone who calls herself a “fat, loud and shouty writer.”
Read our full interview below:
- Amanda, you are the author of The Hunt: Toronto, a writer who has been published in Canadian Living, The Globe and Mail and Daily Hive Toronto (just to name a few) and you’re a social media mastermind! What do you love about writing and sharing content?
Coming up with really interesting stories.
I’m working on a story for The Walrus right now that is about queer online dating simulations. Everyone I’ve told, they don’t understand or know what it is. To me, it doesn’t seem so foreign because I’ve played those games before, but for others, it’s a world that hasn’t been explored. I love that you can bring these stories to others who maybe haven’t discovered them and bridge the gap. You get to be a storyteller and meet other people through that and create these connections.
I am a fairly regularly contributor for Brit + Co – I write two verticals, Every Body and Ladies First. I get to highlight really bad-ass women who are doing amazing things and body positive stories. I get to write about the things that mean the most to me.
I just interviewed India’s first ever plus-size, transgender model, Mona Varona Campbell. I am just waiting for it to be posted. I get to troll the Internet and go through it and find these people who are badass and awesome and share their stories, which is really cool. Sometimes even friends of mine who are doing awesome things, I can share it with my editor and work to share their stories. I know a plus-size model named Natalie Hage from the US – she was fat-shamed on an airplane and I knew we had to write about, so I sent it to my editor. We wrote about it and our story didn’t go viral, but the entire thing went viral. It’s great to have that platform to be part of the discussion.
- What is your favourite social media platform to use and why?
I’m partial to Instagram because I really love quick snippets. I love Instagram stories because I get to share a quick insight of my life. Even last night, I got a Weedora ad to my door. I did a story this morning about finishing spin class, and not dying – achievement unlocked! A platform we can share with people – we are human just trying our best and doing what we can.
Facebook is a bit more personal. Twitter is for rants. Though, I find social media as a whole incredibly exhausting. It’s not real – so much of it is curated and it makes me sad to see people sharing beautiful flowers with glitter sparkled around there with a tea cup. How long did you spend to stage that?
I went out with a friend who went to different spots to take photos for the ‘gram and then she took 30 minutes to edit. Are we even going to hang out? At that point, it just becomes so focused on how people perceive your images as opposed to living in the moment. I love to talk to my partner about it because he says that my feed has gotten more curated lately. It’s interesting to hear his thoughts, because he’s not involved in that world, as much.
If I can’t get a photo in the first two shots, I’m not bothering with it. I want to post things that are more aesthetically pleasing, but I want to keep it real. It should be exactly the way it should have looked and if it doesn’t, you’re thinking about it too much.
- You’re also passionate about food and fashion! Where is your favourite place to eat in Toronto? To shop?
My partner and I always eat at the Purple Onion in The Junction, a greasy diner that has really good brunch. It’s not fancy, but it’s really good. You can have brunch for two for under $20. Lamesa is a really good Filipino restaurant. I love Mother India in Parkdale – it’s where my partner and I had our very first date. We’ve been together for five years. It’s not a place where you go to have a date – I knew that, he didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t tell him but we’re still here. I love Indian food and Thai food. Pai is a really good Thai restaurant. I just went to Piano Piano recently, and that was amazing.
Most of my shopping is done online. Shopping as a fat person is hard. It’s one of these things where you can find things in fat sizes in some shops, but it’s not easy. Once you start to curate the type of look that you want, that becomes even harder. I like sporty-fat-athlu-leisure-comfort – I like being comfortable.
- My mom used to tell me that I’d follow her around and write out everything she said in the air, using my finger as a mock pen. It’s fair to say that I’ve been writing ever since. When did you first realize you wanted to write?
Ever since I was probably in middle school, so that’s 12-ish. I was always really good at reading and I wanted to be a librarian and I loved writing. So it started out as wanting to be a librarian and then it morphed into wanting to be a journalist. I did some research into how careers were going and I noticed that careers in journalism, for lack of a better word, were tanking. I suspected that going to school for journalism would not be the best idea, so, I applied for Public Relations and Journalism – if I got into school for PR, which was similar, I could still do writing on the side. I remember the program director for PR asking me, how I would make my decision between PR and Journalism if I got into both. And then I got into both. I decided on the PR program, where we still learned writing skills. We had writing classes and we had to take grammar and editing classes, too. I went to school in 2006 and since, everything that I have had to learn has been on my own. The Internet obviously existed when I graduated then but it wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. I just had to learn everything as I’ve been going along, at conferences and learning from other people. I’ve considered going back to school, but I seem to be doing okay.
- On all of your social channels and your website, you talk about body image, and your body, in such a positive, real way. Why is this so important to you?
Talking about it in a real way is important because all too often in all forms of media, we are given these images and fed these lines that tell us it’s not okay to not be okay. Whether that is with your mental health, self-image or whatever it may be. Sometimes, if you have the strength to share that with others, some people don’t have the strength and they need to read about that from someone else, so they can have the strength to carry on. I’m not saying I’m the be all and end all, but I want people to resonate and feel comfortable. It’s a cycle. The media that you intake can help you carry on and move forward.
Two years ago, I left my full time job to explore being a freelancer, but it had a lot do with working full time, which wore me down to a place that wasn’t great. It felt like I was having a nervous breakdown. I had to go and take care of myself, because if I didn’t, who else was going to take care of me? Being vulnerable and putting yourself out there and saying, “This is how i’m feeling, sometimes I need help,” is critical. We build these walls sometimes and we’re too afraid to ask for help, then we look in and see that there are other people like us all around us, thinking and feeling.
- I’ve had my fair share of moments when I have hated my body. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is learn how to love the skin I’m in (as cliché as it sounds), and even now, there’s still work to be done. What’s your personal connection to body-hate?
In terms of body-hate, I’ve come to a really big place where I don’t feel so much hatred towards myself. I look at myself in the mirror and see things I dislike and those things are normal, but I don’t hate them. Years ago, I was constantly being fed messages within my family that I needed to go on a diet and the only way that I would be loved would be if I was a skinny person. I would keep a journal of everything I ate. Every time I weighed myself, I noticed I wasn’t losing weight and I was told that it was my fault that I wasn’t thin or valued or loved.
After a while, you begin this cycle of realizing that you hate yourself and it wasn’t until one day when body positivity was bubbling over on the Internet and on Tumblr, did I begin to discover it. I realized that I didn’t need to be on a diet or workout every day or restrict myself if I just wanted to be valid and loved and enjoy myself as a person. Cutting out all those things didn’t make sense to me anymore. Once I stopped doing that and dwelling, I started feeling so much better about myself. There are days when I have those negative thoughts, but I don’t weigh myself anymore, I workout when I can, but I don’t beat myself up about it when I can’t.
There are people who message me online to tell me I have diabetes and that I’m going to die because I’m overweight and that I should kill myself because I’m taking up so much space in the world. I realize that this hate they express is really towards themselves. They may be at a point in their body journey where they aren’t comfortable with themselves. For me, I just think that that person is an idiot and I don’t care. I’ve come to realize that people who take the time to message you and share those things, attack you online or scream at you on the street, it’s their issues that are at the front of it. Live your live, take up space and don’t apologize about it at all, ever.
- There is so much social media content about self-love being simple and easy. But, it can often be pretty hard, as there is no manual to follow (just heavily edited Instagram posts) and everyone’s experiences are completely different! What has one of the toughest parts about learning how to self-love been for you?
When I had my blog, Fat Girl Food Squad, the biggest thing that I had a hard time with was letting go, and letting go can mean so much. I’ve had to learn how to let go in order to really understand how to love myself.
Letting go is letting go of stupid shit that people will say to you. Letting go of the annoying stuff that happens at home or at work, of the things that may not go your way. When you’re able to let go, it’s about honouring yourself and making sure you are placing boundaries for yourself and making sure your self is always put first. It has been difficult and interesting to learn how to let go, but also how to set boundaries – that has been the journey to self-love for me, but for someone else it can be totally different.
We all come to it from different ways, but for me, it has been approaching it from a mental health perspective and realizing how my actions impact others and how I let others’ actions impact me, what I need in my life and what I can do without and the input and output of both of those things.
- What do you hope body-shamers and haters learn from the content you produce and share?
I don’t think they will learn anything, to be honest.
I recently tweeted out about a clothing line and I had to lock all my social media down because all of these people were harassing me for 48-hours. They lost it. They fucking lost it. Sometimes you can be fat, invisible and in the world and they won’t even have any of it. I’m not saying that some people won’t take something from what I share – some will – but then there are other people who are just trolls – their number one job is to try and fuck with you. I hope they take something from it, but I’m not counting my chickens any time soon.
- What do you think is one of the biggest myths about health in relation to body weight? How do you hope your personal brand debunks it?
No matter who you are or your size or your age, you should be able to put whatever you want into your body without judgement and without fear of repercussions. That is what I do through my writing, through my advocating and through the people I surround myself with. These are the messages that I send out to the world and I hope that this is what people intake. I really don’t want people to feel restricted or to feel like they should fit in a specific type of mold or adhere to western beauty standards in any type of way. But, if you want to go to the gym and lose five pounds, go ahead, that is your body – do whatever the fuck you want to do with it…as long as you’re doing what you want to do with your body, not because you’re influenced by others telling you what to do with your body.
I went to the gym this morning because I felt like I wanted to go spinning, not because I feel like I want to lose weight. I want everyone, no matter who you are, to have autonomy over their body, no matter what that is.
- What is one of the most challenging parts about being a woman writer in Canada?
It has been more difficult to obtain bylines in specific places because there is always a man on staff to write a thing, which is great and I’m happy for them, but what about us? I pitched a story to a publication for 4/20 and it was about the cannabis industry, a niche industry that I write about. I saw the same story with two of the sources I suggested, and there was a man freelancer that they always use, who did the story with my sources.
Women, we talk to each other through forums and social media, to chat about editors who are shitty and not okay. I have had to work outside of Canada because I have more opportunities in the US and they pay me more. If I can get more writing gigs outside of Canada, then obviously I’m going to take those.
Then, there is the harassment that women face all the time, for having an opinion, for being outspoken. On my website, it says I am fat, loud and shouty – for any woman who is loud and shouty on the Internet, there is a man who comes and swoops in and asks why we are being loud and shouty. Thankfully, so many of us come together. There is a freelance journalism meetup that happens every month or two where we can talk about things that happen in the industry and different freelancing groups online where we can talk about pitches and editors. There is a support system out there.
I love to see just all of us shine, rise up and do amazing things. That is what I want to see – all the ladies doing all the bad ass things. Not just women, but trans writers and non-binary writers, too! We forget that there is a subset of queer, gender non-conforming trans and non binary writers who are left out and it’s even harder for them as well, then you add in being a person of colour and it gets harder, or being an indigenous writer. It is why I work with Shameless Magazine, I’m their event coordinator. I organize the Shamie Awards – it’s a roast and award show of the problematic things in pop culture. It’s the best and it makes me sad that more people don’t come because one,it’s our biggest fundraiser and two, it’s hilarious.
- Who is one writer that continues to inspire you in your work and in life?
In the last few years, I have really minimized the amount of authors that I’m reading and take in more women of colour. At first, I didn’t even notice it and now it’s becoming more prevalent to me. It wasn’t a choice that I made because I had to, but I knew that I should be doing it and amplifying those voices.
- What advice do you have for other young Canadian writers, working to get their names recognized?
Start a blog. Everyone asks me how I got started and I say – I started writing for a blog and then I started my own. Don’t give up. Once you start your own blog, write, be consistent, don’t give up and try pitching to different outlets. You have to build a very thick skin because the reality of the situation is that sometimes I pitch editors and I don’t hear back. I have a spreadsheet and there is one pitch I sent out to eight different places and two people said no and the rest didn’t say anything at all. When you craft these pitches, you feel so attached to them, they are your babies. It’s not you if you don’t hear back. It’s the industry. You’re probably so amazing, you can’t take it personally. Just keep sending your ideas, because there is an editor out there who believes in you and your ideas and your voice. You will find that person and do amazing, wonderful things.
Thank you Amanda for meeting with me and for sharing your story with A Quarter Young. We can’t wait to read more of your work!! Keep on empowering and amplifying.