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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

Face Your Fears

FACE YOUR FEARS II: WOMEN WRITERS ANONYMOUS by Chelsey Clammer

START DATE: Monday, January 7, 2019

END DATE: Sunday, February 17, 2019

DURATION:  6 weeks

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Face Your Fears II: Women Writers Anonymous is a 6-week online creative nonfiction class in which all of the participants are anonymous (with the exception of the instructor). Students will face the stories and situations in their lives that they swore they would NEVER write about, and then not only write them, but also receive feedback based on craft, not content. Students will read assigned essays to see how authors have written about traumatic/shameful events. By the end of the class, students will have a complete draft of their brave essay, as well as the knowledge and skills to help them revise a personal essay in a more objective way. NOTE: this is not group therapy.

This is an updated version of the original class. There will be new readings and topics explored.

Chelsey Clammer is one of the best writing teachers I’ve ever had. When I signed up for this course, I had hit a dead period in my writing, when I felt I might not be able to write another essay ever. After 20 years as a publisher of a magazine I founded and years of coming up with a personal essay and a prose poem for the cover every month, I simply hit a wall. I was convinced I’d lost my mojo, but a friend had taken the same class with Chelsey and raved about it. This course was a major breakthrough for me, and I came up with drafts for three essays over the course of the four weeks! Thank you, Chelsey, for helping me find my words and my self-confidence. ~ Nikki Hardin (Previous WOW class participant)

I have taken two of Chelsey Clammer’s classes and I cannot wait to take my third. She is a very accomplished author and is so generous about sharing her talents with her students. The materials are timely, relevant and inspirational. I have no problems balancing coursework with other commitments; in fact, the work is so much fun that I find myself easily pushing everything else out of the way to write. Thanks to Chelsey and the feedback of classmates, I have several new writing projects that I plan to submit soon for publication! ~ Ashley Memory (Previous WOW class participant)

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

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. ~ Carole M. (Previous WOW class participant)

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)

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.)

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: Writing about what You Would NEVER Write about

For this first week of the class, we will read both creative and craft essays that address how to write about the hard subjects. We will also read other writers’ thoughts on why essayists must write about what we would rather keep secret. Finally, we will also read an essay about literature and trigger warnings.

Assignment: Read the three assigned essays, respond to at least one discussion question, complete two brief writing exercises, submit one of the exercises to the instructor.

WEEK 2: Roll Up Your Sleeves and Dive In

This week we will look at the number of ways in which one story can be told, and how there is no “right” way to tell a story. From this, we will discuss the most important step in writing about something traumatic—getting the story out of the brain and onto the page.

Assignment: Read the two assigned essays, respond to at least one discussion question, complete at least one of the writing exercises in order to write out your story, submit this essay-in-progress to the instructor (700-word limit), and provide feedback on 2-3 peers’ essays.

WEEK 3: New Ways of Looking with Point of View and Tense

Often when we write about past traumatic experiences, we use the first person point of view in past tense. This week we will explore the different ways that you can approach writing about an experience from a number of perspectives and time frames. By learning about the different impacts that point of view and tense have on a piece of writing, students will expand their narrative understanding of the past and focus on new approaches to telling their stories.

Assignment: Read the five assigned essays (each one is under 800 words), respond to at least one discussion question, complete two brief writing exercises, and submit your essay-in-progress to the instructor (700-word limit), and provide feedback on 2-3 peers’ essays.

WEEK 4: Humor is the New Deep

More than comic relief, using humor in a piece that is so not funny can create different reactions and points of connection for the reader. We’ll look at how humor can bring depth to a piece of writing and explore the impact that comedic timing has on a narrative. We’ll also challenge ourselves to write about embarrassing moments this week.

Assignment: Read the four assigned essays, respond to at least one discussion question, provide feedback on peers’ essays, and continue to add to and revise your own essay-in-progress as instructed.

Week 5: Fight or Flight: Pacing and Narrative Shifts

Similar to the “fight or flight” response we have when experiencing a traumatic moment, concentrating on pacing and narrative shifts in an essay can make our actual writing reflect our reactions to past events. We’ll focus on different craft techniques to create specific and intentional types of effective pacing.

Assignment: Read the three assigned essays, respond to at least one discussion question, complete one brief writing exercise, submit essay-in-progress to the instructor (800-word limit), and provide feedback on 2-3 peers’ essays.

Week 6: Empowerment through Shaping Your Experiences

Writing about an event in which we had no control can be a type of empowerment. This week we’ll explore different elements of narrative structure and effective ways of revising and shaping our work. Through this, we’ll see how writing about trauma is our chance to not only gain back control, but also to create for the reader an engaging reading experience.

Assignment: Read the three assigned essays, respond to at least one discussion question, complete two brief writing exercises, submit final draft of essay to the instructor (700-word limit), and provide feedback on 2-3 peers’ essays.

Materials needed: All 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.

Chelsey ClammerABOUT 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. You can read more of her writing at: www.chelseyclammer.com.

COST:  $175, which includes weekly assignments, individual feedback from the instructor, and an emotionally safe space to explore your stories.

BONUS! Many students hire Chelsey as an editor after the class’s completion. All students enrolled in this course will receive a 30% discounted rate for Chelsey’s Editing Services. (Limited to one piece of writing under 2,000 words.)

BUY NOW: FACE YOUR FEARS II: WOMEN WRITERS ANONYMOUS with Chelsey Clammer (6 weeks, starting 1/7/2019) Limit: 10 students. Early registration is recommended.

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

For Class Session Starting 1/7/2019

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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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