Chelsey Clammer, SU ’05, Releases New Book, Circadian, Winner of the Red Hen Press Nonfiction Manuscript Award
“I take a different approach to storytelling, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the critical thinking skills I learned at Southwestern.”
Southwestern alumna Chelsey Clammer’s second book, Circadian, came out on Tuesday to rave reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and other literary publications. In fact, before it was even released, Circadian won the Red Hen Press Nonfiction Manuscript Award. For Chelsey, the book is a culmination of years of work and has deep personal meaning.
Chelsey describes Circadian as “a collection of essays that uses interesting forms and different sets of knowledge to look at trauma, mental illness, the body, alcoholism and grief.” Publisher’s Weekly describes Chelsey as “a compassionate and self-reflective narrator, weaving the personal into experiments with form…Clammer has successfully bridged genres here while exploring difficult subjects.”
Chelsey has always loved to write. She kept diaries from the time she was a young kid, and still has those old notebooks filled with her childhood and teenage thoughts. She instinctively knew it was therapeutic for her to record her feelings. However, despite her early love of words, Chelsey initially came to Southwestern as a pre-med major.
She loved biology and science, but the beauty of being at a school like Southwestern is that students are encouraged to take multiple electives outside their major. Chelsey branched out, taking courses in English and Feminist Studies. She loved them, and after some soul-searching realized that she simply couldn’t ignore her calling. She switched from pre-med to a double major in English and Feminist Studies her junior year.
The two subjects blended together nicely. As Chelsey explains it, Feminist Studies helped to take “my personal experiences and apply it to my writing. I often write about my own life, and I do so by considering a number of perspectives and types of knowledge to think differently about how I fit into the world.”
Chelsey knows that her writing is, well “different.” She tells powerful stories, and incorporates visuals and diagrams to further develop her point. Her biology background is evident is the essays and graphics throughout many of her works. She knows that her writing is “sometimes considered taboo, because I don’t hold back.” But that’s what makes it so impactful.
Chelsey covers important, personal topics such as alcoholism, mental illness identity, and sexual violence. She uses personal experiences to “create art out of trauma” and hopes that by writing about these things she can help others. “I want them to know that they’re not alone, and encourage them to write about and share their feelings,” Chelsey says. “I hope my writing can help people who are suffering to find their voice and begin to heal.”
Southwestern was instrumental in giving Chelsey the tools, as well as the confidence, to pursue her passion. “Southwestern taught me how to think differently. I learned to look at things, including my writing, from a number of perspectives.” She realized that “there doesn’t always have to be the traditional beginning, middle, and end of a story. I take a different approach to storytelling, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the critical thinking skills I learned at Southwestern.”
Chelsey graduated with a BA in English and Feminist Studies from Southwestern in 2005, and an MA in Women’s Studies from Loyola University Chicago in 2009. She recently received her MFA In Creative Writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.
She’s now back in the Central Texas area, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. Chelsey also teaches online writing courses though WOW Women on Writing. One of her classes is an anonymous class, where students write and share their personal essays and stories without anyone but Chelsey knowing their identity. “It’s amazing. The group has become so close, even though they don’t even know each other’s names. Writing is a powerful way to bring people together.”
Chelsey celebrated Circadian’s release at Book Woman last week, and will read and sign copies at Book People on Saturday October 14 at 6 p.m.
For more information about Chelsey and her work visit www.chelseyclammer.com