Chelsey Clammer — The TNB Self-InterviewBy Chelsey Clammer
February 25, 2015
So what, exactly, does “BodyHome” mean?
BodyHome means that our bodies are a type of home—that safe space we return to again and again in order to know who we are and who we have been. I’ve moved around a lot in my life and don’t have a “childhood home” to return to, so I look for my home in my body. It’s like if you can feel at home in your body, then you can feel at home wherever you are. Also, in the same way that an actual house can hold all of those memories, the body’s doing that, too. Right now. You’re breathing and it’s moving and when things happen to you—good or bad—your body will remember them and eventually start to talk about the memories through movements and gestures. In my writing, I’m always questioning “Where is the body in this essay?” It’s like our bodies are a great foundation and structure for spiritual and narrative growth—even if we’re just a little weed pushing itself up between a crack in a sidewalk in order to get some necessary sun, we’re keeping at it. Also, fun metaphors/comparisons: skeleton (of body, of house—our structure), insulation (does that word make me look fat?), plumbing (I almost pissed myself!).
What influenced your brain to think in this way?
I’ve been obsessed with the body for, well, for forever. I started out pre-med in college because I liked thinking about the body. I had to take Chemistry, though, and I don’t like chemistry (perhaps hate is the better word to use here. Or despise? Makes me want to perform a successful suicide, because ohgodkillmbeforethenexttest) I switched my major to English. Within the next semester, I realized that every lit class I was taking was cross-referenced with Feminist Studies. Hello major #2. Through my degrees in Feminist Studies and Women’s Studies (yes, there’s a difference), I was able to really look at the body—not the gooey stuff inside us, but the visible skin and our movements that convey the ways in which we live and relate to the world. I always loved the body, but it took me a few years to realize it wasn’t the anatomical body I was intrigued by, but what those bodies meant in our society. Also, after I was assaulted in my mid-twenties I felt my body shut down. Withdraw from the world. It felt like a type of silence, and the comfort of my bodyhome felt torn out of me. And yet I proceeded with life because I didn’t know what else to do. I needed to re-build. Eventually, I started to learn how to listen to my body in order to see how I felt in the world. It’s about survival, it’s about how there’s always a conversation going on even when everyone is silent. I read your body, you read mine, and we become acquainted with the sheaves of each other’s skins. Our stories.
What’s with all the lists in it?
-Getting to the point
-As in, succinct
-Letting words stand on their own
-Move the reader along
-Think about the different and inventive ways we can tell and listen to a narrative
-I like lists. They’re easy to understand
Some of the essays are wicked funny and some are terribly sad (in a good way). How many writing voices do you have and which one feels most natural?
Oh damn—I’m about to get multi-personality-ed on myself. Here we go: I find myself going back and forth between two different voices because that’s how my brain works. Bitchy yet caring. Sarcastic yet compassionate. Just funny and weird. I can throw down some sass when you piss me off, or I can give off some high, exuberant attitude when you crack me up, or if I come up with an excellent line, too. That’s all giddy, all the time. For instance, one of the youth I used to work with said the following line, which I have now used as the first line of an essay I’m working on about social roles and how we can react to any bullshit should there be bullshit thrown upon us: People ain’t going to be getting their hair did when the economy goes to shit. Word, old wise owl. Word. That’s just a damn good first line! Right? So when I get a good line, I get all giddy and fly through my notebook, scratching down any thought I can grasp before it all zooms past me. So that’s where that energy comes from. Then for the “sad” stuff, well, it actually feels kind of meditative to me. Like, how I can take these emotions and turn them into something beautiful. I get my inner poet going and while I don’t write poetry, she helps to guide me through that softer, more relaxed feel of an essay. She shows me beauty where I thought all that was left were razor blades and Band Aids.
Would you rather spend thirty minutes free-flow writing or editing one sentence?
Give me the edits! Love doin’ them edits. It’s like this awesome science to me where I get to figure out what’s the best combination of these words that I can place in a particular order to get at what I’m saying. Free-flow is how I get the thoughts out of me, and editing is how I make sense of them—which, for me, is more thrilling than making the words in the first place, unless I get a really good flow going on—and that’s the sweet spot.
You have some mighty revealing sex scenes and a whole essay on masturbation in this book. Has your mom read it? What does she think about it?
What do you do for a living?
Write and edit. But if you’re talking day job stuff, then I’d still answer write and edit. Which is another way of saying that writing is what I do and that’s what keeps me sane and alive regardless if it pays or not.
How many journals do you edit and/or write for?
The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review + The Nervous Breakdown + Pithead Chapel + Soundings + MsFit magazine + The Review Review + Electric Lit = 7
Whatchya working on now?
1.) A collection of essays, titled Circadian that weaves scientific facts with personal stories in order to look at the poetics of the body. (See? I can’t get away from the body! Duh.)
2.) A memoir about mental illness and sexuality
3.) A chapbook of flash essays about different relationships I’ve been in and each essay is presented within the context of some of the huge, influential theories humans have created in order to understand the world and what the hell we’re doing here (like gravity, relativity, atomic, etc)
4.) A handbook of sorts for how to become a hasbian!
Oh! Chelsey! Wait! This is the perfect opportunity to do some shameless self-promotion about your new editing services. Yo, reader, check it out HERE.
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