Up Close and Personal with Kelsey Timmerman

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BY LOGAN CAMPBELL AND WILLIAM KEMPER

On September 8th, avid traveler and writer Kelsey Timmerman visited Mariemont High School to tell students about the stories behind his writing. 

Students and faculty at Mariemont High School reacted to Timmerman’s visit.

Timmerman spent an hour in the gym discussing his experiences in writing Where Am I Wearing? with the MHS community. (PHOTO BY WISEMAN)

Senior Cole Harden enjoyed Timmerman’s visit. Harden said, “He’s not too good at basketball, but he has big guts. I wouldn’t be able to do what he does.”

Similar to Harden, Junior Sinclaire Dorsten appreciated Timmerman’s time at Mariemont.“He was kind of an odd guy, but all of his work and trips were for good reasons,” said Dorsten. “The story that impacted me the most was the one about Solo. It shows that slavery is still relevant today,” Dorsten adds.

One of the drastic experiences Timmerman went through was meeting Solo, a man from Ivory Coast, who was enslaved and separated from his family in Ghana. Because he was enslaved, he could not see his family.

Despite the mixed opinions expressed by some students, Mrs. Colpi, who had the opportunity to talk to Timmerman throughout the day, could relate to him.

“I expected him to be like my people,” Colpi says. Both Mrs. Colpi and Mr. Timmerman grew up in rural parts of the Midwest. “He seemed really familiar, like somebody I grew up with–but he has gone through more drastic experiences.”

After the school wide assembly, Timmerman broke off into smaller groups to talk more about his life as a traveling writer and journalist.

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Q&A Session with Timmerman:

Did you ever have any issues including people in the book with whom you stayed?

I always tell people what I am there for. It’s not like I have a permission slip for them to sign for them to allow me to put them in my book. People always know why I’m there–my intentions are known.

Of all the people you’ve interacted with in your books, who had the biggest impact on you?

Solo and his reality really led to me wanting to live Where I Am I Giving. I realized “Oh my gosh, I have so many opportunities in my life, what am I doing with them?” I feel compelled to do more, always feeling like I am not doing enough. I think he really lit the fire for me in wanting to do more.

Do you consider yourself a muckraker?

I hate when I have to be, right? I hate when I find myself asking questions that I find easy for someone to answer or an organization to answer, and all of a sudden, awkward things come up. At the same time, I think it is my responsibility to pursue those questions.

Have you ever looked back on one of your experiences, wishing you would have done something differently?

All the time. I look back at the Solo experience–I would’ve done nothing, or I would’ve helped him out more.

Do you think you will continue writing for the rest of your life?

I would love to keep writing. My books are so much of a personal journey for me, too. They are always challenging, and it is always changing me, so I think that they are great experiences to live. I love to write, I love to tell stories, and I love to introduce people to people they would never meet.

Have you ever thought about making your stories into a documentary?

I’ve explored it, but no one has ever had the resources to do it. It is a lot more expensive to have a crew go with really expensive equipment. I can just show up to a place tomorrow; I’ve got my plane ticket, my notebook, my phone–show up and start talking to people. It’s easy.

Did you find it easy at first to just show up to a place?

I feel like I am more efficient now. There is always a sense of hesitation– like holy crap, why am I here? I still feel that. It takes a while to acclimate to new places and it is tough being a child to these cultures.