Reflections on Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood – #atozchallenge

Reflections:  Molly’s Canopy and the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood…where my genealogy journey began.

Now that Molly’s Canopy is proudly sporting a survivor badge, it’s time to kick back and reflect on my second April 2017 Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

A new game plan

In year two, I had a better idea what to expect — and this time did a Theme Reveal.  During the challenge, I worked from an outline and photo list — but did not prepare posts in advance, so the writing was as hectic as ever! Lesson learned: write ahead!

And then there were those pesky adjustments: No linky list of participants, no code to easily identify fellow family history/ genealogy bloggers, no AZChat on Twitter (where I met several bloggers last year), and learning to hyperlink my daily posts for the AZ Blog. Sigh.

So I needed a new game plan to maximize the challenge experience as I settled in for the blogging marathon on the theme Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood.

Building my own linky list

This involved: reconnecting with AtoZers I met last year; combing through the A to Z blog daily letter list to find new kindred spirits; visiting genealogy bloggers from last year to see who was in for 2017; regularly sharing posts with my subscribers — and throwing out the welcome mat for any new visitors who showed up.

It was a bit of work building my own personal linky list — but it paid off in blog traffic this year. I spent more time discovering, visiting and commenting on other blogs, and in turn I received more visits and quality feedback on my posts. This made the 2017 A to Z Challenge particularly gratifying and empowering — and also led to new connections and subscribers for the future.

Exploring memoir

Aerial view of Whispering Chimneys (early 1950s). This upstate New York farm was the setting for Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood as I blogged about the start of my genealogy journey. Scan: Molly Charboneau

Another plus for me was exploring memoir as a potential blog subject. I generally write about my ancestral journey in longer posts or series — with links to family history research discoveries.

But last year some A to Z genealogy bloggers pointed out that we owe it to posterity to include ourselves in the mix — to leave behind an online diary in our own voice like the ones we wish our ancestors had left.

This inspired me to go back to my childhood and explore how my interest in family, ancestors and heritage took root. As I rolled out my own story from A to Z this year, I was gratified by the positive feedback — with many readers sharing tales from their own childhoods that paralleled my experiences.

Many thanks to everyone who visited, subscribed, followed and commented on Molly’s Canopy. You  made my second A to Z Challenge so rewarding!

Hey, where’s the T-shirt?

That said, here are my thoughts on this year’s A to Z changes.
  • Quantity vs. quality. Last year, there were more than 1,000 bloggers who completed the challenge, and many more who started out. This year, there seemed to be about 300 or so posting their links on the A to Z blog/Facebook. That’s a significantly lower quantity — yet the quality of comments on my blog was higher and I had more repeat visitors.
  • Bring back the codes. I think subject codes would still work in this new format — and would be easier to search for on the A to Z blog/Facebook. Not hard to do: make a list (similar to the posting schedule), post it on the blog, and let us use them if we choose. And please add a Family History/Genealogy code.
  • Hey, where’s the T-shirt? I proudly wore my 2016 A to Z Challenge Survivor T-shirt all year — including to a huge NYC WordCamp packed with bloggers. I was looking forward to buying a new one  this year– but it looks like I’ll have to find a way to print my own. For 2018, maybe the A to Z team could arrange print-on-demand T-shirts/gear for those of us who want them.

Would I do it again? You bet!

Was it worth it? Yes! Would I do it again? You bet! Like any marathon, the A to Z Challenge was not easy — it was a long, sustained trek outside the comfort zone. But it was also an instructive, energizing and affirming journey through an enchanted forest of friendly fellow bloggers — and a great way to get a block of writing done.

So I’m already working on my list of 2018 A to Z blog posts — and planning to write some of them ahead of time. Next year, I’ll be ready! Here’s hoping you’ll join me! Until then, stop by any time — Molly’s Canopy will leave the comment box open for you.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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18 thoughts on “Reflections on Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood – #atozchallenge”

  1. Well done on making it to the end of the challenge. Scheduling posts ahead of time definitely makes it easier to keep up with what’s going on during the month.

    I wonder how family history research will change in the future with our descendants having access to blogs and Twitter and Facebook. It’ll mean a whole new way of searching for information about the past!

    Cait @ Click’s Clan

    1. Thanks, Cait. Congrats to you as well, and interesting observation about family history. We genealogy bloggers know the value of online research, so we’re leaving our own trail of info for existing and future generations to find.

  2. Well said Molly. This is the first time I’ve commented after A-Z. I wrote a draft of my reflections post but haven’t posted it yet. You had a solid approach to your process, and congratulations on finishing. I didn’t have the energy to post my link on FB each day, much less even check all the comments. I think making the effort to reach out to other genealogy bloggers was a great idea. Yes, where’s the T-shirt?

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I hope you do post your Reflections post as I’d be interested to read your observations. I didn’t bother with FB either — just posted on the A to Z letter post every day. I did NaBloPoMo last November, which was all done on FB, and visits/comments were few. I did much better with visits/comments posting on the A to Z blog — perhaps because it’s part of the A to Z culture 🙂

  3. I didn’t get an A-Z shirt last year! I now feel left-out :). Not really, but I am intrigued about how you managed to visit others. I struggled for some days I had time to visit a dozen or more blogs and others I was barely about to visit five (a minimum number I set for myself). On those 5 days, I’m sure my comments weren’t very in depth.

    1. Good news, Sage, you can still get a 2016 A to Z Survivor T-shirt via a link on the blog! Maybe that’s why there’s no shirt this year. My commenting plan was pretty straightforward: place my daily post on the A to Z blog list, then visit, read and comment on as many blogs from my list as I could — repeating this again later if needed. But yes, it was hectic. It took me a week after A to Z ended to stop rushing to the computer the minute the alarm went off 🙂

  4. That’s awesome that the quality of your comments increased. I didn’t participate this year because last year, few people visited mine, even though I commented on hundreds throughout the course of the challenge. It just seemed like a waste! It sounds like people are actually reading other blogs now, though?

    1. I had the same issue last year — there were so many blogs that I just randomly commented quite a bit, and got random comments back. This year, I decided on a more dedicated approach: find writing and family history bloggers as best I could and visit, read and comment on their posts. That, and the smaller scale of A to Z this year, helped me find a kindred community of bloggers that stuck together throughout the challenge.

  5. AS this was my first time participating in the A to Z Challenge I can’t do any comparisons with last year and I don’t quite know what the codes are although it does sound something like hashtags but you’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong. I loved you small memoir stories during the challenge – I hope you don’t stop now that the challenge is over.

    1. Thanks, Sandra. Enjoyed your visits/comments throughout the challenge. The codes were letters (like FHG for Family History/Genealogy) that you could put next to your blog title when you put up your daily posts. They didn’t have them this year, which made it harder to search the list. That said, I am thinking of continuing the memoir posts at some point — possibly for next year’s A to Z.

  6. Glad you had such a positive experience with the challenge, despite the changes, and I think venturing into memoir sounds like a splendid idea. Writing posts ahead of time definitely helps. I started writing/researching mine in Jan., and had half of them written by the time the challenge started. It’s the most prepared I’ve been for a challenge so far, but I’m sure I can do better. I’m chuckling that there were t-shirts last year. I didn’t participate, so of course that’s the year they have t-shirts. 😉 Congrats on finishing, and well done!

    1. Thanks, Sara. Congrats to you as well! And appreciate your support for the memoir idea. A to Z is pretty relentless. I’d forgotten until I started into in this year. Lesson learned. Already starting to expand on my outline for next year 🙂

  7. Maybe the leaders are just tuckered out. I was disappointed that there was no reflections logo so made my own, which I am very happy to see you liked enough to use!

    I’m glad I found your blog and maybe next year those of us who do family history/genealogy can let each other know we will be doing a to z so we can find each other more easily.

    Finding Eliza

    1. I wondered where that Reflections logo came from…thanks! I agree we family history/genealogy bloggers should touch base before the next A to Z. It makes the journey that much more fun when you have readers who appreciate your work and subject. Thanks for your visits and comments throughout the challenge!

  8. What a great point Molly about how important your own memoir is within the field. I certainly enjoyed your personal reflections.

  9. I enjoyed your thoughtful reflections, Mollie. Like you, it was only when I started blogging, that I came to realise I was part of my family history, and I should record my own memories. I feel my posts last year on the theme “I Remember……” were the most successful in the times I had taken part in the A-Z Challenge. I was impressed with the no. of blogs you managed to follow. I did feel there were far fewer FH contributions in 2017, and did not realise there was no linky list, nor subject coding. I hope I can be better organised next year and have a topic in mind.

    1. Thanks so much! Yes, this year was a total change from years past. A smaller turnout, it seems, but a more connected one. Hope you come up with a topic for next year! I’m considering continuing my theme into my elementary-school years in the suburbs. Meanwhile, adding you to my blog feed for the coming year.

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