Essays on a West Virginia Childhood

Many thanks to Jason Keeling for his ongoing work to connect West Virginians online and to use our state’s birthday as a day to make our home a better place.

This year at A Better West Virginia the theme is Networking. I want to use this opportunity to connect with other writers in West Virginia who might be interested in collaborating with me on a series of essays about childhood in the mountain state.

The concept is to develop 15-20 personal essays (in total, as a group) about either your own childhood or observations or stories from within your own family.  They need not be all positive, but they should be sincere and honest and come from a place of story-telling and from an interest in expanding the portrait of what growing up in West Virginia is.

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.

We might consider publishing the essays online, or even find a literary journal or other entity interested in our work.  We might start drinking strong coffee and growing our hair, or even buy a farm together and go off the grid, grow our own food, and write by candlelight in the evening.

(Wait…that last part wasn’t supposed be out loud.)

How will we do it?  Why, networking of course!  And figuring it out as we go.

I hope to hear from you via comments here on Esse Diem.  Just let me know if you are interested in being part of the next step and I’ll keep you in the loop.  My plan over the coming week is to set up an email just for the blog so we can get started.  Shall we?

22 thoughts on “Essays on a West Virginia Childhood

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Essays on a West Virginia Childhood | Esse Diem -- Topsy.com

  2. Thank you, John! We could write some good stuff about the Plum Pudding Festival at Oakhurst, couldn’t we? What a great little church to grow up in. No “if’s” here, we will go forward, I am certain.

  3. I love your new blog locale!

    I think this is a great idea, and I may like to contribute myself if you’ll have me, and time permitting. 🙂

    • Janis, it would be an honor to have you contribute to the project. There are already several people interested, and I think I’ll let it run through this week and then decide how we will proceed, but at the very least we will all post a Wonderland category piece here with guest writers/bloggers on Esse Diem.

      Thank you so much….and I understand time permitting. The nice thing is, if we go small and use this blog to consolidate the first essays, we have no deadlines. So I sincerely hope you will be part of this effort, I really think you are a wonderful writer!

  4. EDG-

    Love the new blog theme. It’s smart and classy looking!

    Your project abstract caused me to have an idea for an essay. I’d love to write about the wonderful neighborhood where I grew up (in Martinsburg, WV) and our wonderful group of friends, the supportive parents, the wondeful backyard and tolerant neighbors–and what it was like to play outside all day from 9 in the morning until 9 at night, barely stopping to eat. I think we appreciated what we had, but now, as an adult, I certainly realize how blessed we were to grow up in the safe environs of WV’s Eastern Panhandle.

    >>>Let me know where you take this–and if there’s a place for me to contribute.

    • Skip, this sounds like a fantastic contribution, and one I think many people can relate to….there really was a time when our parents just turned us out to play over the hill in the creek until they just called for us at dinner time, wasn’t there? My mom actually rang a cow bell to call us home, which thanks to Will Ferrell I can’t even type with a straight face!

      I will definitely follow up. A nice and diverse group of interest is building in this.

  5. Pingback: Celebrate West Virginia’s Statehood by Helping Others Grow Network | a Better West Virginia Blog - Culture | Arts | Economy

  6. I have some awesome stories about growing up in WV and spending time in Clay County. Not all of my stories are positive or warm and fuzzy but they certainly reflect Appalachian culture.

    • Jeannie, thank you, I am very interested in your stories. I’m a big believer in what Niels Bohr said, that the opposite of trivial truth is a lie and the opposite of profound truth is often another profound truth.

      Honest and thoughtful stories need not be warm and fuzzy, and could serve very well to reflect their own truth as well as the truth that many childhoods in our region have a special magic, regardless of the tone.

    • Lisa, thank you! Please count on it. I am planning to share the “next steps” with everyone by the end of this week. I am really looking forward to reading and helping to share your stories.

  7. I could contribute a few stories about visiting my cousins at a coal camp and other trips across the state to Blackwater Falls, etc. while growing up. Let me know if you’d like for me to contribute and what you’re looking for!

  8. Pingback: Update on WV Childhood essay project | Esse Diem

  9. I would like to write an essay entitled something like “Mud-Covered Hippie Children and Brown-Skinned Filipinos: My Spencer BFFs”. It will talk about how the influx of two distinct groups into my hometown in the 70s shaped my childhood:
    1) the hippies (and their resulting children), and
    2) the Filipinos doctors (and their resulting children) who came to serve as our community’s medical providers when Roane General Hospital was opened in 1970

  10. I grew up in West Virginia from 1957-1977 and lived in Huntington and Philippi. I’m a writer and have written a memoir about that experience, AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ: AUTISM, MY SISTER AND ME. I would love to participate in your memories of West Virginia childhood. Just let me know what you might need.
    Thanks and good luck with the project.
    All Best,
    Anne Barnhill

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  13. Pingback: Essays on a West Virginia Childhood Enters New Phase | a Better West Virginia Blog - Culture | Arts | Economy

  14. Pingback: Winter Solstice | by Anne Clinard Barnhill | Essays on Childhood

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