Chelsey Clammer

Hello lovely RWWers,

As I write this on Halloween, I see kiddos in their snappy little robot/animal/Disney character costumes walking down the street outside of my favorite coffee shop. I hear giggles from behind their masks, and I remember dressing up as someone else for a night and getting rewarded in candy currency. It’s been years since I’ve stood on a stranger’s porch and said nothing more but “trick or treat” to score some chocolate, but the memory of walking around my neighborhood wearing a mask is vivid. It makes me wonder about the masks I still wear today.

In his morning craft talk this past residency, Oliver de la Paz discussed the mask of the writer. Those masks we wear to hide or protect who we really are. The masks we exchange for our different roles as people vs. writers. As I read the essays included in this Fall/Winter issue of Soundings, I noticed a theme emerging—the concept of the “core.” Who are we at our core? Who are we when we shed our masks?

Life is hard. We know this. As David Allan Cates says in his essay, “Where’s the Love?,” that hard stuff is the core of who we are as writers. We may put on masks to get through our day, but when we write we have to reach for what’s underneath the surface layers of our lives.

In Sydney Elliott’s essay on her post-MFA life, she discovers the writer in her under the surface of her daily struggle. The writing is always there, waiting, no, nagging at her to keep going. To keep writing. When we write, we surge past that superficial stratum and reach down into our core.

Tammy Robacker testifies to that same core in her essay about her Outside Experience, “At-Risk Poetry.” Teaching disadvantaged youth how to tell the stories of their troubled pasts through poetry connected Robacker to her own core, her own hard stuff, while connecting her to those young writers, as the masks of teacher and student faded away.

We’ve all been through the hard stuff. And we all wear masks every day to keep going. Underneath, though, sits a writer, waiting perhaps not-too-patiently, to pick up the pen and go after that passion and pain living deep inside all of us. Yes, masks serve a purpose, but at some point we have to take them off, so we can eat the candy.

-Chelsey Clammer

October 2015



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