THE WOMEN WRITERS’ BOOK GROUP: IT’S OKAY, YOU CAN LAUGH by Chelsey Clammer
How to Write a Hilarious Truth-Telling Essay
START DATE: Monday, November 9, 2020
END DATE: Sunday, December 6, 2020
DURATION: 4 weeks
COURSE DESCRIPTION: The purpose of this group is to act as a writer’s book group. What that means is that we will read a book together and learn different writing craft techniques from it. This month we will be reading Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson and engage in an online discussion about different craft elements of the book, what works and what doesn’t. The book will help to guide our discussions on how we can take a not-so-funny situation or experience (say, mental illness or bad relationships), and approach writing it in a hilarious way. This isn’t to belittle or undercut the challenging aspects of life, but rather to conceive of them differently—something that can bring even more readers to your work! We’ll look at how structure, word choice, organization, and narrative voice can help readers relate to our struggles through a spot-on, call-it-like-it-is, hilarious truth-telling essay.
Each week, book group members will have the option to post her response to one of the writing exercises and/or the latest draft of the essay she started at the beginning of the course. Members will give brief feedback on every person’s work, and the instructor will provide thorough comments and revision suggestions each week. The group will be coordinated using a private forum on a website.
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’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 (pub in January)! 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)
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)
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
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 (Previous WOW 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)
WEEKS AT A GLANCE:
WEEK 1: Writing Yourself in Circles
We will read the first 70 pages (don’t worry—it’s a quick read!) to explore how to end an essay in a particularly clever way—by circling back to something stated in the beginning of the essay. We will look at how this technique can create a successful and hilarious ending. We’ll also discuss how circling back can at times feel gimmicky and what you can do to avoid that from happening.
Assignment: Read the assigned pages, and complete at least one of the writing exercises. Post your exercise to the course’s page to receive feedback from your peers (700-word limit). Comment on your peers’ essays.
WEEK 2: The Body as Comedy
If you really think about it, our bodies are these strange things that just kind of do what they need to do regardless if we want them to do so or not—especially a woman’s body. Because of this, the body is an endless source of comedic situations. This week we’ll focus on how language and metaphors can bring your body more to life on the page with a touch of humor.
Assignment: Read the assigned pages, and complete at least one of the writing exercises. Post your exercise or the essay you are working on to the course’s page to receive feedback from your peers (700-word limit). Comment on your peers’ essays.
WEEK 3: The Spectacle of the Hot Mess Girl
We all have that friend who’s a little bit crazy and dramatic, who can at times be kind of annoying, but ultimately her insanities are funny. Sometimes we are that Hot Mess Girl! This week we will look at the different extremes you can take your essay to, in order to make it a riot to read, while also not going too far with situation/spectacle. We’ll also look at how to discuss mental illness in a way that isn’t stigmatizing or oppressive, but funny in all of its raw honesty.
Assignment: Read the assigned pages, and complete at least one of the writing exercises. Post your exercise or the essay you are working on to the course’s page to receive feedback from your peers (1000-word limit). Comment on your peers’ essays.
WEEK 4: Oh Dang! Things Are About to Get Real
There are moments in any piece of humor writing when the author has to switch from funny to serious (or at least speaking of a topic in a less-humorous way). Why? Well, we wouldn’t know what’s funny if we didn’t know what’s not-funny. Joy does not exist without sorrow. Taking brief pauses in your humor writing to discuss a serious element of your story can help to make the next humorous thing you say be even funnier. This week we’ll look at how to balance the different types of tones you can create in an essay so that the funny and the serious complement each other well—which makes for a stunning essay.
Assignment: Read the assigned pages, and complete at least one of the writing exercises. Post your exercise or the essay you are working on to the course’s page to receive feedback from your peers (1000-word limit). Comment on your peers’ essays
Materials needed: Please purchase your own copy of Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson in preparation for the first week of the course.
Sample Lesson: Click to view a sample lesson from one of Chelsey Clammer’s similar courses, The Empathy Exams.
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 Salon, Brevity, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Normal School, Hobart, The Rumpus, Essay Daily, and Black Warrior Review, among many others. Her third collection of essays, Human Heartbeat Detected, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. You can read more of her writing at: www.chelseyclammer.com.
COST: $150, which includes weekly assignments and individual feedback from the instructor. You will also be invited to a private group for student interaction and discussion.
BUY NOW: THE WOMEN WRITERS’ BOOK GROUP: IT’S OKAY, YOU CAN LAUGH with Chelsey Clammer (4 weeks, starting 11/9/2020) Limit: 10 students. Early registration is recommended.
For Class Session Starting 11/9/2020
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:
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