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Not What, But How: Improving Essays with a Focus on Craft, Not Content - 4 week writing workshop with Chelsey Clammer


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Featured Online Essay Writing Class

Chelsey Clammer

WHEN LIFE FISSURES: WRITING ABOUT GRIEF IN FRAGMENTS by Chelsey Clammer

START DATE: Monday, March 5, 2018

END DATE: Sunday, April 11, 2018

DURATION:  4 weeks

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Grief is an experience that never feels complete. Yes, you can explain the chronology of what led to someone’s death and its aftermath, but the way that we experience grief is both cyclical and fragmented. How could it not be? There is something missing from our lives now, and so it makes sense to write about grief in a way that reflects our experience of it. In this course, we will read Bluets by Maggie Nelson and a handful of craft and other literary essays that explore different ways to write about grief. We'll look at the impact that metaphors and imagery have on grief narratives, and also focus on the importance of rhythm and pace to reflect our experience.

Throughout the course, participants will take turns giving and receiving feedback on each other’s writing, and each participant will receive line edits on her own writing from the instructor every week. Members will also engage in discussions online through the course’s website. The group will be coordinated through email and a private forum.

In May, I took Chelsey Clammer’s course on writing memoir based on the empathic writings of Leslie Jamison. Discussion and analysis of Jamison’s essays, formed the backdrop for our approaches to our essays. I worried; I’d been writing only poetry for the past five years. Would I have enough ideas and skills to shape a coherent essay for feedback from the mentor and classmates? Ms. Clammer taught me that, whether published or not, all of my writings are important. She showed me how rewarding it is to investigate a portion of one’s life and share it with an audience. I discovered I could write about a tiny segment of my past. The resultant essay gave information and a degree of entertainment to my readers. Two of the essays completed during the four-week course are now under consideration by editors: one at an essay contest at Under the Gum Tree and the other at Mom Egg Review. ~ Carole Mertz (Full review at 1888 Center.)

Having Chelsey for a writing teacher happily exceeded my expectations. She a gifted and accomplished writer, fully dedicated to the writing life and to sharing her talent and knowledge with others, and it felt to me she was a much a member of our class as she was the instructor, which allowed me to trust her and take risks with my writing. ~ Patricia Heim

Chelsey’s class has been absolutely amazing. I have produced three refined and excellent pieces—one has already been pubbed by The Nervous Breakdown, and I just got an acceptance from Hippocampus for the second! The third is still out there, submitted to three places. Chelsey provided me excellent edits and emailed back quickly when I had questions. The class was fun, I learned a lot and was inspired to continue writing after it ends using the prompts she gave. She was even generous enough to answer questions I had about MFA programs. I am thankful that I ended up in her class. ~ Sarah W. (Previous WOW class participant)

This past August I signed up for Chelsey Clammer’s four-week WOW! course, The Women Writers’ Book Group: Furiously Happy. Not only have I never participated in an online book club or writing class, but I have never tried my hand at flash/short fiction or humorous fiction. But I can read, and thought it would be fun to dissect the book with an instructor and other writers. And laugh a little along the way. I was blown away. Not only was the online class a lot of fun and very informative, but Chelsey’s exceptional insights into the book combined with her weekly exercises and feedback gave me some confidence and inspiration to try my hand at writing humor. She kept the pace and energy level of the class high, not easy to do online. Chelsey also expertly guided me with her edits and encouragement. She suggested I submit a couple of my pieces that came out of her exercises. I was so new to all this, I didn’t even know where to begin to submit. Chelsey walked me through that process, too! I thought you’d like to know that one was published online. I couldn’t have been published without Chelsey and the WOW! classroom. Thank you so much for offering the opportunity to grow as a writer! ~ Kate Bradley-Ferrall (Previous WOW class participant)

Chelsey is a careful and thoughtful editor who let’s other writers’ voices stand out while at the same time helping them clarify and distill their words. ~ David Olimpio

Chelsey Clammer is professional and prompt, with a keen eye for detail. I trust her editorial advice absolutely. ~ Jen Palmares Meadow

Working with Chelsey I feel I’m in a rich partnership that as much about preparing essay drafts for publication as it is about growth, discovery, and the joy that comes from telling the stories that matter to me. ~ Kineret Yardena

WEEKS AT A GLANCE:

WEEK 1: The (Fragmented) Cycle of Grief

For this first week of the class, we will dive into Maggie Nelson’s book, Bluets, and read a craft essay about different aspects of using a fragmented structure to tell our stories. We will also focus on exploring how to engage readers with our grief narratives right from the very first word, and what to do to encourage those opening thoughts to ripple out through the rest of our writing.

Assignment: Read the assigned reading, and complete at least one of the writing exercises on your own. Post your response to one of the discussion questions online. Email the instructor your writing-in-progress for the week (1000-word limit). Comment on your peers’ essays as assigned.

WEEK 2: I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues

This week we will continue to read Bluets and discuss the different ways we can approach our grief narratives to create a deeper story, specifically through researching other concepts that we may relate to our experience of grief to then create a telling metaphor. Through this, we will look at how digressions can bring power and meaning to a story.

Assignment: Read the assigned reading, and complete at least one of the writing exercises on your own. Post your response to one of the discussion questions online. Email the instructor your writing-in-progress for the week (1000-word limit). Comment on your peers’ essays as assigned.

WEEK 3: When it Rains...

The process of grieving does not have a steady pace. Sometimes it can feel as if grief just rushes over us, completely drowning our sense of being. Other times, it can feel like a slow drip that won’t ever stop. This week, we will finish reading Bluets and will look at how the pace of the book (as well as each fragment) creates the overall tone of the text, and how we can use pacing to perfectly reflect our experience and guide the reader through it.

Assignment: Read the assigned reading, and complete at least one of the writing exercises on your own. Post your response to one of the discussion questions online. Email the instructor your writing-in-progress for the week (1000-word limit). Comment on your peers’ essays as assigned.

WEEK 4: Sutures

For the last week of class, we will focus on how different kinds of endings impact the reader’s overall sense of the story. Because grief is never-ending, it can be difficult to figure out when/where to end your narrative, as well as if you should include anything about the concept of “healing” in it. We’ll also explore how an author can write towards her story’s end right from the very beginning.

Assignment: Read the assigned reading, and complete at least one of the writing exercises on your own. Post your response to one of the discussion questions online. Email the instructor your writing-in-progress for the week (1000-word limit). Comment on your peers’ essays as assigned.

Materials needed: Bluets by Maggie Nelson. All other readings will be provided by the instructor.

Sample Lesson from one of Chelsey’s Classes: The Women Writers’ Book Group: The Empathy Exams: Week I.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR: Chelsey Clammer is the award-winning author of Circadian (Red Hen Press, 2017) and BodyHome (Hopewell Publications, 2015). A Pushcart Prize-nominated essayist, she has been published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Normal School, Hobart, The Rumpus, Essay Daily, The Water~Stone Review and Black Warrior Review, among many others. She is the Essays Editor for The Nervous Breakdown and a voluntary reader for Creative Nonfiction magazine. You can read more of her writing at: www.chelseyclammer.com.

COST:  $125, which includes weekly assignments, individual feedback from the instructor, and an emotionally safe space to explore your stories.

BUY NOW: When Life Fissures: Writing About Grief in Fragments with Chelsey Clammer (4 weeks, starting 3/5/2018) Limit: 10 students. Early registration is recommended.

This class is now closed. Please check here for our current schedule.

For Class Session Starting 3/5/2018

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Notes: Upon successful completion of payment, your name, email address, and contact info will be submitted to your instructor. Just before class begins, she will e-mail you with instructions on how to get started.

Questions? Email Marcia & Angela at:
classroom[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com

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