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What Our Bodies Have to Say: Writing About, Writing With the Body, 4-week workshop with Chelsey Clammer

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Featured Online Writing Class

The Empathy Exams

THE WOMEN WRITERS’ BOOK GROUP: How to Write an Essay that Reaches Beyond Personal Experience by Chelsey Clammer

START DATE: This class is currently closed.


DURATION:  4 weeks

LOCATION:  Private Website

FEEDBACK:  Weekly instructor feedback and edits with weekly or bi-weekly peer feedback

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 The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison and engage in an online discussion about different craft elements of the book. The book will help to guide our discussions on how to write an essay that reaches beyond personal experience and brings the larger world into our personal writing. Other aspects that we will look at are the use of description, narrative voice, structure, and even grammar and punctuation!

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 website so that group members, if they choose to, can further engage with their peers in a social way.


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 class participant)

I’ve taken two of Chelsey’s classes and signed up for her submission consultation services. I’m excited to share that all three of the essays we worked on have been accepted for publication! The first class I took with Chelsey is her fantastic Not What But How: Improving Essays with a Focus on Craft, Not Content where I worked on an essay I had been struggling with. Chelsey helped find the direction I needed, and I’m happy to say that essay is upcoming in Empty Mirror. Utilizing Chelsey’s editorial skills on an essay that had received personal rejections and come close, but not close enough, to receiving an acceptance, resulted in Under the Sun saying yes and is forthcoming spring of 2020. The essay I wrote in Chelsey’s When Life Fissures: Writing About Grief in Fragments class was picked up by Mojave Heart Review just weeks after the class ended. Whether you are new to writing, or need a refresher, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for with Chelsey. Chelsey has an innate and amazing ability to see your vision, even when you can’t. With her close reading, eye for detail, helpful feedback, friendly personality, she’ll get your words singing on the page. Chelsey is the writer/editor/teacher muse you didn’t know you needed. I can’t rave enough about what I’m a big fan of Chelsey’s writing, and an equally big fan of Chelsey’s editing/teaching. ~ Cindy Bradley (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)

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)


Week 1: Reporting with “I”

We will read two essays this week to explore how we can bring larger societal events and issues into our personal essays.

Assignment: Read the two assigned essays, 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: Welcome the Reader into Your Literary Life

How do we get a reader to care enough about our lives so that she continues to read our personal essays? There are many aspects of writing that can help to persuade the reader to keep reading. This week we will look at voice, tone, pace, and structure to see if your essay is opening its doors and welcoming the reader to not just come inside, but to stay for a little while, too.

Assignment: Read the two assigned essays, 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: Metaphor and the Sentimental

Sappy. Lovey-dovey. Roses are red. That kind of thing. We all have so much to say about love, but how can we write about it and not sound so grossly sentimental? This week we’ll look at how we write about emotions and how we can use metaphors in such a way that the driving force of our essays are not the emotions behind them, but rather the ways in which we write about those feelings.

Assignment: Read the two assigned essays, 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: Finding the “I” in Nonfiction

Sometimes there’s an event that we really want to write about, but aren’t quite sure how to fit ourselves into that story. How do we position ourselves as the narrator in an essay that might not directly be about us? In week 1, we looked at how to write a larger story into our personal essays, and this week we’ll go in the opposite direction—we’ll look at how we write the “I” into an essay about a larger topic.

Assignment: Read the two assigned essays, 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.

Sample Lesson: Click to view a sample lesson from Chelsey Clammer’s course The Empathy Exams: Week I.

Materials needed: Please purchase your own copy of The Empathy Exams in preparation for the first week of the course.

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 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:

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: How to Write an Essay that Reaches Beyond Personal Experience with Chelsey Clammer (4 weeks, starting 3/30/2020) Limit: 10 students. Early registration is recommended.

This class is now closed. Please check out Chelsey’s upcoming classes here.

For Class Session Starting 3/30/2020


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.


Additional Testimonials for Chelsey Clammer:

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)

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

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


Questions? Email Marcia & Angela at:

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