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I am so, so excited to welcome Kathryn Holmes to the blog today! I will be reviewing her newest book, How it Feels to Fly during this event, but just so you know how I felt about it, a short story: I read it (more like devoured), fell in love, and the next day went directly to find Kathryn’s contact info, because I knew I would love for her to be a part of this. How it Feels to Fly was so true to mental health, and I felt so much of what Sam felt… well, lest I give too much of the review away, I will just hand things over to Kathryn, who graciously wrote this amazing guest post for us today!


Kathryn’s Post

A few years ago, I had to dance onstage in my underwear. I was performing in a small contemporary dance company, and late in rehearsals, the choreographer dropped a bombshell on us: during the piece, we were going to take off our long skirts and begin using them as props. We’d finish the dance wearing only prim Victorian-style blouses and lace-trimmed boy-shorts.

I’ve danced since I was three, and I have never been more nervous to go onstage than before that particular performance. I knew the choreography inside and out. I knew I danced it well. I knew my stage presence was strong. But I couldn’t imagine being that exposed onstage.

It wasn’t a modesty thing. It was a lifelong-struggle-with-body-image thing.

I’ve written before about how my ballet background contributed to poor body image as a teenager. (Here’s a post I wrote for Epic Reads in May: http://www.epicreads.com/blog/kathryn-holmes-hating-the-girl-in-the-mirror/) I was a curvy girl practicing an artform that values slender muscularity. I didn’t feel like I fit into this world that I loved, and I blamed myself.

In college, I dove deeper into modern dance, where body type is less of a factor than in classical ballet. I became an even stronger performer, broadening my skill set and my dance horizons. I also became less self-conscious about how I looked, and less anxious about whether my appearance had everyone—my peers, my teachers, the audience—judging me. But anyone who has struggled with anxiety and body image knows that the nasty inner voice that murmurs You’re fat, you’re ugly, no one wants to look at you is never completely gone. It lurks. It undermines. And when the moment is right, it strikes.

The underwear bombshell was one of those moments.

I went on a diet, despite the show date being close enough that I wouldn’t be able to change much about myself in time. I practiced the choreography alone in my bedroom, where I could stare at my bare legs and analyze every flaw without witnesses. In rehearsals, I worked hard and cracked self-deprecating jokes. Alone, I fretted. I was convinced no one would see me while I performed. They’d see my stomach, my butt, my thighs. They’d see a girl who had no business being in the spotlight.

My second YA novel, HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, follows ballerina Samantha to a therapy camp after her own body image issues lead her to start suffering panic attacks. At the camp, Perform at Your Peak, she meets other teen artists and athletes whose struggles with anxiety are affecting not only their performance at their chosen activity, but their mental and emotional health as a whole. Sam wants to learn how to control her anxiety, but it’s not going to be easy—especially with her obnoxious inner voice constantly reminding her of everything she’s doing wrong.

In writing this book, I wanted to let readers inside the head of a teen who’s her own worst enemy. I’ve been there. I know how it feels to care deeply about something, and to be good at it, but to be convinced physique will always matter more than talent. I’ve felt brittle with anxiety, like it would only take one more comment or sideways look to make me fall apart. I’ve fought to convince myself of my own worth, onstage and off.

This isn’t just a dance thing, by the way; many sports and performing arts have a focus on body type that can push practitioners to an unhealthy place. And it’s hard to be passionate about something that gives you anxiety. It’s hard to love something that’s hurting you.

So how do you push forward? That’s the other half of HOW IT FEELS TO FLY. I designed the book’s therapy camp setting (with guidance from several psychologists who work with dancers and athletes) to help Sam and her peers learn to open up about their feelings and identify their triggers. I hope readers with their own struggles will not only relate to Sam and the other characters, but also find a path of their own out of the dark hole anxiety can open up.

As for me, backstage before opening night—pacing, breathing, counting the minutes until the house lights went down—the only way forward was through.

I danced. It was terrifying and exhilarating and…surprisingly fun. When the last note faded into silence, I’ve never been more proud to take a bow.

 

About Kathryn Holmes

Kathryn Holmes grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, where she was an avid reader and an aspiring writer from an early age. She now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and piles upon piles of books. A graduate of The New School’s MFA in Creative Writing program, Kathryn works as a freelance dance journalist, among other writing gigs. She is the author of The Distance Between Lost and Found and How It Feels to Fly

Kathryn is represented by Alyssa Eisner Henkin of Trident Media Group.

Find Kathryn’s Books:

23603597

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Have you had a moment like Kathryn’s? I certainly have, especially as a swimmer. Let’s talk about it! 

And a huge, huge thank you to Kathryn for sharing this with us! Show her some love! 

Posted August 16, 2016 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in #ShatteringStigmas, Giveaway, Guest Post, Mental Health / 9 Comments


9 responses to “#ShatteringStigmas: Dancing Through It with Kathryn Holmes

  1. *runs straight to goodreads to add book* This was an amazing post omg I loved reading it! I have thankfully never had an experience like this but I can definitely imagine how hard it would’ve been.😳 or impossible. I’m fairly certain I would never have gotten through the levels of anxiety of that. ANYWAY. Definitely want to read How It Feels To Fly now!!

  2. I have never had an experience like this because honestly I was too scared to join anything – sports, dance, really anything group related. I wish I would have pushed past my own anxieties about everything. I am so glad you went through with the dance and it would up being fun. Can’t wait to read How it Feels to Fly!

  3. Fabulous post. I know how it feels to be held back by anxiety. Whenever I push through the fear, it’s a reminder that I’m stronger than I think. But, I could never dance in my underwear in front of people. That takes real bravery. 🙂

  4. I adored this book so much! Unfortunately, I still struggle sometimes with that inner voice and it absolutely sucks. I just end up crying because that voice sounds so real. When I read How It Feels to Fly, I could relate to Sam with her body issues and the inner voice. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never struggled with my weight at all (I actually want just a few more pounds in me) but just how I would look, my face mostly. I still struggle with it and it’s hard to deal with. But like Kathryn said, you only move forward.

  5. ♥ that you are doing this again Shannon! It’s so freaking important and I love this post, especially! I can totally relate and I think we all have that inner voice that can be our own worst enemy. It’s so refreshing to share these experiences!

  6. I can really identify with body image issues. I have been overweight practically my whole life, and it has really affected my mental health. Not only that, but I am the ONLY person in my family that is overweight. My whole family, both sides. And it was never from lack of trying to be healthier. I’ve had depression and anxiety since I was a teenager, but I find that it has only gotten worse with age and as new responsibilities were added to my plate. I really need to read this book. Thanks so much for the post!

  7. This post is really lovely, and I loved reading How It Feels To Fly. No wonder it felt so real.

    I wish I could comment and relate to this post more, but all I can say is that I’m so glad that you’re pushing through!

  8. Wow- thanks so much for this! I wanted to be a ballerina like my aunt for a long, long time, but (thankfully, in hindsight) my dad absolutely forbade it. I have a large frame, and have been overweight since age 13 or so- I think I would have ended up at this therapy camp, or worse, had I jumped into that world. It’s so sad to think of talented people who have found a passion they are dedicated to, and good at, and inspired by, being held back because of toxic beliefs about body image. Kind of heartbreaking, really. I wouldn’t have picked up this book before reason this post, but now I want to read it!

  9. I was a theater major in college so I can relate to this in a lot of ways. I didn’t have weight issues, but I just never felt pretty enough. I was aware that I wasn’t leading lady/ingenue material – I was destined to be the sort of un-memorable best friend. Just sort of plain – the girl who faded into the background. It doesn’t help that we see the women on TV and in the movies all looking svelte and amazing (professional makeup artists are a wonder). My good friend from school was cast as Michael J. Fox’s wife in his recent show – He’s 55 and she’s my age, and they were both cast as the parents of a college-aged kid. Sigh. We all compare ourselves to these crazy standards and then wonder why we feel we don’t measure up!

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