NMU Alumni Releases Debut Novel “Ski Bum”


Photo courtesy of Colin Clancy

NMU ALUMNI – Colin Clancy (above) sits at a bench, enjoying the scenic area around him. Clancy graduated from Northern with a Master’s in English in 2010, and has released his debut novel, “Ski Bum” this year.

Harry Stine

The novel “Ski Bum” began in Copper Mountain, 2004, with journal entries written here and there. But for NMU alumni Colin Clancy, in some ways it started much earlier. 

Clancy graduated from NMU in 2010, with a master’s degree in English. Today, he works as a freelance writer in Utah specializing in outdoor writing, with work featured in The Ski Journal and The Flyfish Journal. He lives with his wife and his son, Jackson, and is in the process of working on a children’s book dedicated to the latter.

Clancy said that when he came to Marquette in 2008, after finishing his bachelor’s at Western Michigan University, he meshed with the town quickly. He noted that his love of writing about nature got on well with living in a place where he could “drive 10 minutes and just be in the woods somewhere.”

Through college, especially when working towards his bachelor’s, it wasn’t uncommon for Clancy to take a couple winters off, to, in his words, “do the ski bum thing in Colorado.” He credits the time off from college with allowing him to get away from the pressures of life and focus on something he loved. While Clancy is quick to note that the book is fiction, he said that this detail aligned with the main character in the book.

“I think the things [in the book] that are from my own life, are the love of skiing and just trying to get down in writing what it feels like to be a skier and … what ski culture feels like,” Clancy said. “That part is definitely semi-autobiographical.”

After taking pieces from his journal, Clancy started writing the novel. There were multiple drafts, each made over the years with tweaks and revisions. In 2020, he looked at everything and realized he wasn’t a fan of what was written. So, he opened a Word document and started completely over, writing the whole novel out from scratch.

“I think my ability as a writer over the years has really improved sometimes,” Clancy said. “I took elements of those early drafts that I feel like were pure and strong … rewrote it with the skills I’ve developed over the years as a writer.”

He described the feeling of the novel being released to the public as “a little surreal,” but also very exciting, with people sending him texts about certain characters and parts of the book. 

Clancy reflected on his college years, marked by uncertainty and finding his niche. 

“You need to write a lot every day,” Clancy said. “And I know that’s tough, sometimes. It can be a grind, but really, I would force myself to every single day. Even if I didn’t feel like it, even if I didn’t really have any installations, but just having that momentum is huge.”