Patricia Leavy, Ph.D. is an independent sociologist. She is widely considered an international leader in the fields of arts-based research and women’s relationships, and has earned critical and commercial success in both nonfiction and fiction. Her twenty published books include Method Meets Art: Arts-Based Research Practice, The Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research, Fiction as Research Practice, Essentials of Transdisciplinary Research and the women’s empowerment novels Low-Fat Love, American Circumstance and, Blue. She is series creator and editor of seven book series with Oxford University Press and Sense Publishers, including the ground-breaking Social Fictions series.
She has received numerous career and in 2016 Mogul, a global women’s empowerment network, named Leavy an “Influencer” along with Chelsea Clinton, Melissa Etheridge, Nina Garcia, and other notable women.
What are your personal or professional goals?
Professionally, I have a few goals. I’m a proponent of arts-based research which involves researchers in any discipline adapting the tenets of the creative arts in research projects. Arts-based research has the potential to make research more accessible to nonacademic audiences and to tap into issues that the arts are uniquely suited for.
While this field has grown enormously over the past two decades, there is still a long way to go until arts-based research is taught as widely, published as much, and validated as much as other forms of scholarly knowledge. I hope to continue to work with others to expand the field and its legitimacy. I’ve also been fortunate to have a beautiful career as an author and I’d like to help others have the same. I’ve created and serve as editor for seven book series, each committed to new approaches to knowledge and social justice issues. I hope to continue to grow these platforms for the benefit of others. I’m also committed to my own growth as a writer.
In addition to many works of nonfiction, I’ve published several novels based on interview research with women, primarily, about their identities and relationships. I want to continue to push myself as a writer and scholar and see what other forms my “social fiction” might take. Of course I also hope to continue, through my writing and other means, to share what I‘ve learned about carving an identity for oneself, rejecting degrading relationships, and always betting on yourself. I’ve heard hundreds of women’s stories over the years of what I call “low-fat love” which is a lite, unsatisfying version of love. It’s about settling for less than we really want and trying to pretend what we have is better than it is. I hope to continue to use my writing to share what I have learned and encourage women, as well as men, to reflect seriously on their choices and work toward self-empowerment.
Personally, I have one goal: to sculpt my life with intention. Life is short and precious. Time is an incredible but fleeting gift. I don’t want my life to just happen randomly, but rather, I want to sculpt my life with intention each day. To do so, I think about the relationships that are important to me and I invest in them, and I do the same in the other areas of life that are important to me.
What’s your offering to the world?
Storytelling. Whether it’s telling the stories of others in my novels, sharing my own experiences in my blogs or on social media, or writing textbooks that can help guide others as they chart their own paths, it’s all really about storytelling. I’m a writer at heart. I hope my work inspires others toward self and social reflection.
Tell us about your latest book.
Low-Fat Love Stories is a really special project. It’s my first collaboration with a visual artist, Victoria Scotti. Victoria is a deeply talented visual artist and collaborating with her was a magical process. I need to share a little about the origins of the project. My debut novel, Low-Fat Love, was released in 2011. It hit a nerve with readers and I was suddenly inundated with emails from women, and men as well, telling me about their stories of low-fat love. People lined hallways at book talks and conferences to whisper their most intimate stories to me. It was a very humbling experience.
I wanted to honor the stories people were sharing with me so I decided to collect new, formal interviews and directly ask people about a dissatisfying relationship with a romantic partner, family member, or their own body image. Each one focuses on a woman’s experience with what I call “low-fat love.” That was the impetus for Low-Fat Love Stories which is a collection of sixteen short stories and visual portraits that my co-author and I call “textual-visual snapshots.” I conducted interview research with women ranging in age from their twenties to seventies who come from all different kinds of backgrounds and circumstances.
The stories focus on settling in relationships, the gap between fantasies and realities, relationship patterns, divorce, abuse, childhood pain, spirituality, feeling like a fraud, growing older, and daily struggles looking in the mirror. They are written in the first-person with language directly taken from each woman’s interview. They are quite raw, and I think will prompt visceral responses. As a collection, the stories and arts set you on an emotional rollercoaster and illustrate the different forms “low-fat love” may take, and the quest for self-worth in the context of toxic popular culture. I hope people read it themselves and also give it to their loved ones because the messages of self-love, seeking internal validation instead of external approval, and valuing self are so strong and something we all need. It’s meant to validate peoples’ experiences, often those we are too afraid or embarrassed to share, and to empower readers in their own lives. I hope readers get one simple message: you are enough.
Who/what inspires you?
I’m deeply inspired by the arts and artists. I’m inspired by arts across mediums. When you look at a painting or listen to music it can open up a new space for you, a new way of thinking or feeling. As a writer, although there are many writers I admire, I mostly turn to other creative forms for inspiration. I know many artists who do that. You look outside of your own form. My office is filled with art books and I never work without music. I’m especially inspired by female musicians, those who compose in a way that they are building new structures, like Tori Amos and Bjork as examples. While working on Low-Fat Love Stories I turned to singer-songwriters quite a bit, women like Jewel and Paula Cole.
There is something about the way they create an entire narrative in a short span that’s really inspiring to the storyteller in me. People who stand up for social justice issues, those who speak out against inequality and oppression, even when it’s hard to do so, those people push me to be better. I’m also inspired by my friends, colleagues, and chosen family. I watch the way they handle challenges in their life, how they treat others with kindness, pursue their dreams and ambitions, and how they focus on solutions instead of problems. I’m endlessly inspired by those around me.
And I know it may sound silly to say, but I spend a great deal of time each day with my dog Daisy and she inspires me because she is always totally in the moment, present in the here and now. I learn a lot from her too, about how to live and sculpt my life.
What’s your mantra?
Always bet on yourself.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Maya Angelou
Online and Social Sites:
Website URL: http://www.patricialeavy.com/
Links to books:
Low-Fat Love Stories: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/9463008160