Last year blogger Elizabeth Gaucher originated an online writing project that encouraged others to connect by recounting their childhoods. She believes reflecting on and articulating childhood experiences can help the individual writer and reader to interpret life more clearly.
When she first conceived the idea, here were a few of her initial thoughts:
“When you Google “West Virginia childhood” or “Appalachian children,” let’s just say it’s not exactly a joy-fest. I’m interested in bringing diversity to the equation through a combination of elements: the eras of childhood, the age and gender of the children in the stories, humor and seriousness, economic circumstances, surrounding characters, setting, and theme.”
Hence, the Essays on a West Virginia Childhood collaboration was formed, and Gaucher unexpectedly began connecting with people like Anne Clinard Barnhill, a published author raised in the Mountain State. Her Winter Solstice essay drew the attention of several other professional writers to Gaucher’s blog, Esse Diem.
Interestingly, Gaucher reports all of the essays in the series were viewed and shared almost equally from a statistical perspective, and she credits the writers’ own networks for driving interest in the project. ”Networking with social media truly is a snowball,” she says. ”It takes some time to gain momentum, but when it does, stand back!”
The Power of Experiences
Essays to date have dealt with ethnic diversity, coming to grips with personal sexual orientation, mentoring by a beloved grandparent, and negotiating adolescent drama. Gaucher is already rolling into a new phase of the project, Essays on Childhood: A Sense of Place, which expands the theme beyond West Virginia experiences to connect with childhood in any place.
She writes: ”Being honest with ourselves, being vulnerable, and being real is important. As we go, not all essays will be about the beauty of childhood. I think one of the most valuable things that can happen in the project’s development is to provide a place to reflect on parts of childhood that are not easy or kind. Either way, I know the project will keep moving forward, and only grow in its mission to reveal the influence and power of our experiences as children on who we are today.”
This material is reposted with permission from A Better West Virginia, and originally appeared there on February 22, 2011. Image credit: E. Gaucher