Waggener Essay Published in “Chicken Soup” Series

Congratulations to Esse Diem friend and partner Jennifer Blake Waggener for her essay’s acceptance into Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias: 101 Stories of Caregiving, Coping, and Compassion.

Jennifer’s essay, “Fade to Black,” first appeared on her own private blog in 2006. She generously shared it with Esse Diem in 2012 for the Essays on Memory and Loss effort to support the Alzheimer’s Association’s advocacy efforts.

The book may be pre-ordered now, and is available April 22, 2014. All royalties benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.

We are so very proud of you, Jennifer!

Meet the Writers | Essays on Childhood 2013

It is with great pleasure that I introduce the first class of all-repeat writers for EOC! Each has written an essay for the project before; Anne Barnhill has the unique status of writing for her third year.

Thank you for reading, and for helping to promote these fine writers. If you appreciate what we are doing, I hope you’ll share the project with your network. We plan to publish a book next year. Just discovering EOC? Catch up with the project by listening to Elizabeth Gaucher’s interview with Beth Vorhees last year for WV Public Radio.

Brent Aikman

Brent Aikman

Brent Aikman

Brent Aikman was born, raised, and now resides in Charleston, West Virginia; he lives happily with his wife and 2 dogs.  He attended Marietta College in Ohio and received a bachelor’s degree in English and then went on to complete his Masters in Business Administration at the University of Phoenix in Scottsdale, Arizona.  He enjoys all things outdoors, especially camping with his wife and riding his motorcycle.

Brent’s essay will examine his love of motorcycles — how he fell in love with them when he was young, and how they have facilitated adventure in his life.

Read Brent’s 2012 essay, “Outside.”

Anne Clinard Barnhill

Anne Clinard Barnhill

Anne Clinard Barnhill grew up in West Virginia and graduated from Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi.  Her debut novel, At the Mercy of the Queen, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2012. Her second novel, Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter, is forthcoming in 2014. She is working on a third and as-yet-untitled novel, set in West Virginia.

She is also author of At Home in the Land of Oz: Autism, My Sister and Me, a memoir about growing up in West Virginia in a time before anyone had heard the word ’autism.’ What You Long For is a short story collection published in 2009 that also contains stories set in the mountains.  Books are available from Amazon, www.jkp.comwww.mainstreetrag.com or, if you’d like a signed copy, from the author directly at acbarnhill@yahoo.com. Her first chapbook of poetry, Coal, Babyis available from Finishing Line Press.

Anne’s essay, tentatively titled “Under the Stars,” is inspired by her early experiences camping in West Virginia.

Read Anne’s 2011 essay, “Winter Solstice,” and her 2012 essay, “Melungeons and Mystery.”

Elizabeth Gaucher

Elizabeth Gaucher

Elizabeth Gaucher

Elizabeth Damewood Gaucher was born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia; she now makes her home in Middlebury, Vermont. She graduated with honors in History from Davidson College and is a degree candidate for a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Elizabeth serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Childhood and Religion, a peer-reviewed online journal.  Her essay, “Rebranding a Life: Spirituality and Chronic Illness,” was accepted for a collection,  A Spiritual Life:  Perspectives from Poets, Prophets, & Preachers (2011).  Her collaborative writing project Essays on Childhoodwas featured on West Virginia Public Radio.

Her short stories, “They Hold Down the Dead” and “Acts” are forthcoming in publications edited by Eric Douglas and Michael Knost, respectively. (She will probably pester you to read them.)

Her essay, “Small Things in My Hand,” is about rabbits. Maybe. It might be about something else, but it has rabbits in it.

Read her 2010 essay, “STOMP! go the doors.”

Margaret Ward McClain

Margaret Ward McClain

Margaret Ward McClain

Margaret was born in the miasmal swamp of Charleston, South Carolina.  She spent her childhood dividing time between the Holy City and Greenville, SC, the red dirt capital of the Upcountry, where she was raised and attended school.  She earned a B.A. in English from Davidson College and a J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law.  She says, “I’ve always been torn between wanting to save the world and wanting to write about it.”  Today she is a recovering lawyer residing in Chapel Hill with her wonderful husband and family.  She is mom to a 16-year-old son, two grown stepdaughters and three very spoiled dogs.

The working title of Margaret’s essay is “The Alligator.”

Read her 2011 essay, “The Simons House.”

Susan Byrum Rountree

Susan Byrum Rountree

Susan Byrum Rountree

Susan Byrum Rountree highjacked the storyteller’s stool in kindergarten and has been telling stories ever since. Words have always held a sense of magic for her, and she has spent more than 35 years bending them this way and that to see what stories she can squeeze out. She is the author of Nags Headers, a regional history set on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and In Mother Words, a collection of essays about family life. Born and raised in Scotland Neck, N.C., a tiny town in the Tar Heel State’s northeastern corner, she studied journalism at UNC Chapel Hill and has written for a number of national and regional newspapers and magazines. She is now Director of Communications for St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, in Raleigh, N.C. The mother of two grown children who have found themselves writing in their careers though they swore to her they would never become writers themselves, Susan these days bends words this way and that on her blog, Write Much.

Her essay will reflect on millions of birds that roosted in her town in the early 1970s. They were just birds. Or were they?

Read her 2012 essay, “Pick a Little Talk a Little.”

Esse. DIEM. Synchronicity.

Copyright Paul Corbit Brown 2013

Copyright Paul Corbit Brown 2013

“Syncronicity is: I was reading your blog the other evening when I was in Rome, and a few hours later, I decided to take a walk thru the streets (actually it was the wee hours of the morning) and I found this…”

– Paul Corbit Brown, May 14, 2013

From www.paulcorbitbrown.com:

Paul Corbit Brown has been photographing since he was twelve years old.  His work has carried him throughout the United States, Mexico, Jamaica,  Russia, Israel, Palestine, Kurdistan (Northern Iraq), Kenya, Rwanda, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia,  and most recently Haiti. Brown has a gift for simultaneously accepting the humanity of each person he depicts and unsentimentally sizing them up.  His photographs are clear-eyed looks at the difficult situations the individuals portrayed live in, but because of their directness and compassion they are hauntingly beautiful. 

Essays on Childhood: Wild Things

Over the past year, I’ve become fascinated with stories about childhood encounters with animals. It started with Julian Martin’s description of his grandmother clubbing, skinning, and cooking a groundhog; since then, it seems everywhere I turn I hear great stories about courage, life and death, love and affection, loyalty and hearbreak connected to children and animals.

What’s your story?

I hope you’ll consider being a writer this year for the Essays on Childhood project. (Click the link to see deadlines.) I am working on an essay right now that I plan to share via EOC, and I leave you with a little portion of the story to, hopefully, inspire you to jump in!

Some months after Peter’s death, a black snake took up residence around the brick patio in our back yard. It was the perfect situation for him. The bricks heated up to a glorious baking warmth under the summer sun, and he could bask all forty inches of himself for hours undisturbed. My mother knew black snake in the garden was a good thing. Black snakes, or “rat snakes,” have no venom and are not aggressive toward humans. Shy and retiring, all they really want are three things. They want to lie on a rock in the sun. They want to be left alone. They want to eat small mammals.

This snake was doing well for himself on our property, and he no doubt was benefitting us as he ingested pests like mice, moles, and shrews that otherwise might have overrun our shared environment. Every now and then we would find one of his shed skins, long and lacy, lying on the patio. My mother named him “Oscar,” and she took a special pride in allowing him to co-exist with us.  When other neighborhood mothers would shudder and say, “Betty, I just don’t know why you haven’t killed that snake. It’s hideous. Aren’t you scared he’ll bite the children?” she would laugh and present a lecture on the nature of black snakes and the long list of good things they bring to any house fortunate enough to attract them. My mother was loyal to Oscar, and he was constant and true to his nature, as we all expected he would be.

Then came the day when the nature of a black snake challenged mom’s allegiance.

Your World in a Bathtub: 2012

I like to do a little recap at the end of the calendar year. This year, I am paring it down to two stats: The day with most views and the post new in that the year authored by me with most views. This year they are 2 different posts.

I want to thank Essays on Childhood writer Jeremy Paden for the busiest day of the year, June 13th. The most popular post that day was This World Is Not My Home by Jeremy Paden (part 4). If you love good writing and powerful stories, you owe it to yourself to read Jeremy’s essay from the beginning.

Turning Point Images: The Girl in the Bathtub was my own 2012 post with the most views. I didn’t expect that, and yet I am moved to know it. That was an important piece for me.

Thank you for reading Esse Diem! I wish you a very happy New Year.

Elizabeth

Drum Roll, Please! The Meme Winners Are…

Yes, I sound a lot like your grandmother when I say this, but it is true: I am honored to have had each of the 17 submitted photographs in this little gavotte into sharing favorite books and poking some well-deserved fun at my own blogger image. Each one is unique, and witty, and well done. You make me proud!

To see all the entries, visit http://essediem.tumblr.com/.

There are two winners.

The first is the top prize for Reader’s Choice, and it goes to Jean Hanna Davis for her self-portrait with Kindle:

Voters in an online poll awarded her a staggering 40% of the votes cast. Congratulations, Jean! On its way to you is a copy of the book in my own self-portrait, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. Naturally, you will receive the Kindle edition!

I am awarding an Editor’s Pick prize as well. This prize is based solely on my own gut reaction to how well a photograph mimics my own. My choice is the entry by Teresa McGlothlin Wissen for her self-portrait with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest:

The black and white choice, the oddly unsettling (yet not unpleasant) expression over the book, and the facial proportions to the cover all made this photo stand out from the beginning. It also has a je ne sais quoi quality that haunts me. Teresa will receive a photographic print of the original book cover by Paul Bacon.

Truly, thank you to everyone who took the time to join in the fun of this project, and special thanks to Doug Imbrogno who invented it! You all are the best.

Just for Fun: The Esse Diem Meme!

My friend Doug Imbrogno is wicked smart, talented, and musical to boot. When he speaks, I listen.

The other day he made the off-hand suggestion that I put together an “Esse Diem meme” – because it would be fun and because he likes the way it sounds when he says it out loud. That’s good enough for me!

So here’s the deal: If you have ever written for, commented on, or are a reader of Esse Diem bloG, pick up one of your favorite books and recreate this picture in a self-portrait if you can (you can have someone else take it if it’s not working out the other way). Be sure to tell me what book you are holding and why it’s a favorite.

Esse Diem meme

Post it to your own website and I’ll link to you, or send me the digital photo at edg@longridgeeditors.com. I’ll post the collection here the first week of September, and “Storify” it, too. I’ll cook up a prize for the Reader’s Choice award, as well as an Editor’s Pick. In the meantime, you can follow the fun at http://essediem.tumblr.com/.

(It’s not all God and essays over here, you know. Sometimes we just are goofy. But we try to be goofy in an intelligent manner. Ahem.)

Esse-a-Go-Go: The Live Chat!

I hope you enjoyed last week’s blog posts, where I traded stories with my friend and fellow writer Karan Ireland.  This week we are at it again, with Karan writing on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I will write this week on Tuesday and Thursday.

If you missed Karan’s posts, you can click here: A Hard Day’s Write and Ash Wednesday

Tonight, Karan and I will both be online starting at 8 PM EST to talk about writing, blogging, and life.  That covers a lot of territory, so we hope you will jump in and have some fun with us!  To join the chat, simply click on the link for Esse-a-Go-Go under Daily Mail Live Chat at the top of the left hand menu on the home page here.

If for some reason that doesn’t work when the time comes, you can go to http://blogs.dailymail.com/mommyhood/2012/02/27/live-chat-esse-a-go-go/ and you should be able to connect with the chat from there as well. Logging in with a Twitter or Facebook account is one of the easiest ways to participate.

Please share this with writing and blogging friends, we would love to have a good turn out for the conversation.

Special thanks to Charleston Daily Mail’s managing editor, Brad McElhinny, for supporting writers in our community, and for consistently encouraging both digital-first journalism and creative initiatives in Charleston.

Hope to “see” you tonight!

Image credit: Marketing, Coffee & Pretzels

2 Women. 1 Town. 10 Stories.

If you love to write, then you know how it goes.

One day you’re writing, drinking French wine and smoking imported tobacco in a garret, showering the village with sheets of your glorious thoughts and tales.

The next thing you know, Old Jed’s a Millionaire is about the most brilliant thing you can think of and you find yourself hiding from your own blog and taking pictures around town of things like this:

What to do….what to do….you love to write. You love your blog. You need inspiration.

I say try what my friend Karan and I just did. Go to lunch, talk about everything under the sun, maybe even talk about writing, but don’t over-analyze it.  Then drive home from lunch while the sun shines, listen to some music, blur the mind’s eye and – ta da! Receive a gift of energy and inspiration.

Karan and I both cherish writing, and we both find ourselves thinking and talking about writing a whole lot more than we are actually WRITING.

So here’s the deal: Starting on Monday, we will trade stories about life in Charleston, West Virginia. Our writing prompts to ourselves will be simply our experiences around town. Those experiences may be sad, happy, funny, enraging, or anything at all.  What they have to have in common is that they are real.  One of us will post, then punt to the other writer. We will share each other’s stories with our networks and encourage your thoughts on our posts.

We are going to tell you some real stories, and we hope you will come along for the ride.  We call it Esse-a-Go-Go.

Are you ready?

Let’s go!

Lies, Darn Lies, & Statistics – Esse Diem in 2011

“The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.”  – WordPress

I’ve developed an annual tradition of mentioning a “Top 10″ list of Esse Diem posts at the end of the year.  I started with the most viewed, but quickly learned that post views provide limited information about how good anything actually is, and almost no information about how a piece of writing influenced anyone’s thinking.

SO….here is my new annual evaluation.  It starts with the 5 most-viewed posts according to WordPress:

These are the posts that got the most views in 2011.

Saving Everyone’s Baby was the runaway hit as far as national attention, conversation, and comments.  As pleased as I am that the post got so much play, it was far from my favorite piece of writing in 2011, and it led to some real disappointment for me when all of the talk about follow-up guest posts went exactly nowhere, despite my best efforts to encourage contributing writers.

Blogging is a fascinating lens into human behavior and motivations, but I’ll save my musings about that for another day.

This year, I want to mirror the WordPress stats with my own evaluation of the real “Top 5.”  The real Top 5 posts made the cut each for its own reasons.  I figure a giant computer program with WordPress only knows numbers, whereas I know the nuances of my own blog better than anyone else.

  • And I Thought Heresy Was So Last Century – I like this post because it was such a relief to express my feelings about the issue, and also because it drew me much closer to a long-term reader who told me what he was going through after being accused of heresy himself.  After reading the post, he wrote to me and we discussed online some layers of life-changing experience he had when he was “discovered” as someone who does not believe in hell.
  • The Simons House by Margaret Ward McClain — Each of this year’s Essays on Childhood was outstanding in its own way.  McClain’s 3-part essay was technically brilliant, beautifully written, and the one essay that after 20 readings still makes me cry.
  • This Ain’t No Foolin’ Around – This post didn’t sweep the nation, but it did have an exciting life in West Virginia.  It was retweeted, reposted, and used in talking points to young professionals.  It was one of those truth-to-power pieces of writing that makes me nervous to post, but that was well worth the risk.
  • “Divorce,” and Other Words I Wasn’t Allowed to Say by Jennifer Kayrouz — Another piece of writing for the Essays on Childhood project, this essay’s final public status hides a long road to completion.  Kayrouz and I emailed, met in person, and emailed some more.  She had a serious story to tell, not just for the world but for herself and her family, but the classic writer’s fears of “going there” were holding her back.  I will forever be moved by and proud of her courage in writing the truth of this essay.
  • Check Your Bags. And I Love You. – This one was just a pure personal joy to write, and it resonated with many readers. A friend from college asked if he could use it in preparation for his 25th high school reunion in another state.  Friends from my own school sent me messages and commented online about how much it meant to them, and how well they thought it summarizes a complex emotional and psychological experience.  WordPress stats monkeys have no way of knowing all of the non-WordPress ways I know this was a great post this year.

Happy New Year, dear readers!  Thanks for all of your inspiration, challenge, and sharing in 2011. I hope to hear a lot from you in 2012.