THE WOMEN WRITERS’ BOOK GROUP: CRAZY GOOD WRITING by Chelsey Clammer
CLASS START DATE: Monday, August 20, 2018
CLASS END DATE: Sunday, September 16, 2018DURATION:
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 Madness by Marya Hornbacher. Reading the memoir as a guide, we will explore how we can write about mental illness in a way that is insanely good! It can be hard to convey an unbalanced mental state to the reader in both a clear and vibrant way. How can we describe what the lethargy and hopelessness of depression that will interest and engage the reader? How to write coherently about a psychotic state? We will look at both the larger aspects of an essay (narrative arc, structure, etc.) and the smaller mechanical aspects of writing (pace, rhythm, etc.) to discover the ways we can creatively and clearly convey what goes on in ours and others’ brains. Note: class participants DO NOT have to have a history of mental health issues to enroll.
Throughout the course, book group members will take turns posting her response to one of the weekly 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 through email and a private forum on a website. We'll be reading about 60 pages of the book per week.
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)
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.)
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)
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
WEEKS AT A GLANCE:
WEEK 1: The Body Expresses the Mind
What creates a stronger reaction: saying “I am feeling frustrated by you” or rolling your eyes and sighing loud? Sometimes consciously and sometimes not, our bodies speak for our minds. This week, we will look at how we can write about our bodies in a way that reveals our mental states.
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 Ways to Talk
Now that we have seen the ways our bodies speak, it’s time to look at how to use dialogue in creative nonfiction. As we know, dialogue in creative nonfiction is usually not what was said word-for-word, yet we need to represent it as truthfully as possible. And that’s a key word for using dialogue in essays: represent. Dialogue is an opportunity to push a story forward, but it is also a great opportunity for character development. This week, we’ll be looking at the different techniques we can use to not just relate what someone said, but to reveal something more about her.
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: Time
When you’re in an agitated or depressed mental state, the concept of time becomes a little loopy. Depression slows time down. Mania speeds it up. Psychosis shatters it into glittery bits. More than what happened when, time is important in essays as it provides a sort of guide for the reader. Yes, we can tell our stories chronologically and walk the reader straight from beginning to end, but we can also play with time and the reader&rsuqo;s experience of the story to say something about the characters’ mental states. Along with organization, this week we’ll also explore the different ways we can convey and represent time without having to tell the reader what the clock says.
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: Mental Shifts
For every positive emotion or action, an opposite exists that helps to form our sense of happiness. Likewise, we only know when something terrible happens because of how we have experienced something wonderful. For the last week of class, we’ll explore how we can write about mental instability through writing about sanity. Whether it’s by describing and representing the shifts in how a person speaks and engages with others, or using sentence structure as a tool to show a type of growth, by looking at a character’s recovery and stability we’ll show how a shift in mental states can speak to what previously challenged mental well-being.
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 Madness by Marya Hornbacher 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 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: $125, 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 with Chelsey Clammer (4 weeks, starting 8/20/2018) Limit: 12 students. Early registration is recommended.
For Class Session Starting 8/20/2018
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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