Explorations in Storytelling

On Writing

Writing about writing

Going viral II

Just before Thanksgiving I received a call from a Huffington Post editor, Emma Mustich, asking me if they could post my cowbird.com story, Lily. Hmmm. Let me think.

I was so thrilled. Really. I felt kid-like. Another wave of readers? Another tsunami? How cool.

And it was. A month after being featured by upworthy.com, the story was featured as you see here on Huffington Post, and another 160,000 people linked through to the cowbird version of the piece. (I don't know how many people just read the text and looked at the picture on HuffPo -- but presumably quite a few more.)

So, beyond my thoughts of the upworthy experience, I had these additional learnings:

  • Again, human selection -- by someone able to make an editing decision that something is worth reading -- rather than traffic trending algorithms resonates deeply with viewers/readers.
  • Our plan at youngwritersproject.org to rebuild the site and add a layer of mentor/curators to select and highlight great work does makes sense as a way to give kids' affirmation.
  • And that sites like upworthy.com, huffingtonpost.com, cowbird.com, etc... are becoming the new newspapers; as they build value in their name and location, partnering with them to bring students' greater audience also makes sense.
  • A lot of attention is given to Web site traffic in terms of potential monetary potential, but not enough attention is given to this traffic as a way to create community.

For those of you who have actually read/listened to the story, I have this: My daughter, Lily, now 20 and at art school, sees it all as "your story, Dad." Why? Because she doesn't remember it. "I only remember what you told me about it. That doesn't mean I don't think I said it; I'm sure I did. I just don't remember."

An important lesson to me as a parent, then; what we remember about the kids as our story is often not part of their memory identity.

That said, she thought it was kind of cool when friends sent her links and told her that they could so hear her saying what she did when she was two.

UPDATE: A year later -- around Thanksgiving of 2014 -- I received a remarkable email. A woman said that she had been so moved by that story, so moved by my daughter's spirit, that she had decided to name her new daughter Lillian. She hoped I did not mind. She hoped that her daughter would grow up to have the same strength of voice.

Geoffrey Gevalt1 Comment