A Veracity of Voices: New Anthology Features Essays by Local Women Writers
By Richard Gaw
At its highest calling, the gift of one’s abilities is best when it becomes transferable to others.
Seventeen years ago, when Dida Gazoli of Kennett Square began her “Motherhood Concessions” blog after the birth of her daughter, she knew that eventually she wanted to give other women that same gift of being able to tell their stories in the form of personal essays and memoirs.
For Gazoli, whose essays and editorials have appeared in the Washington Post, MSN, and on the NPR show “Tales from the South,” entering the world of creative nonfiction gave her the key to discover herself in the context of being a mother, as well as the freedom to write about it.
“I used to think, ‘Who cares about my goofy mistakes as a parent?’” she said. “What I found as a memoirist was that braving veracity – having the courage to admit both my mistakes and my epiphanies – was actually inspiring other people. I began to understand that my writing became much more powerful when it inspired others who were going through the same experiences.”
Now, 17 years after she began her blog, the realization of inspiring others to tell their stories has become a reality. Gazoli recently completed her editing work on BravingVeracity, a new 65-page literary anthology that features personal essays and memoirs written by eight women authors from Chester County and the Brandywine Valley. Now available for purchase on Amazon and Kindle, each essay captures the voices of women who have revealed poignant truths about themselves, their families and their personal lives.
The proceeds from the sale of the anthology will go towards supporting the authors’ work, their exploration of memoir and their future creative efforts.
The essays contained in the anthology Braving Veracity are categorized in the genre of “creative nonfiction,” a term coined by writer and editor Lee Gutkind to describe personal, first-person essays that are crafted using literary techniques.
Gazoli was inspired to begin work on Braving Veracity after teaching a memoir writing workshop to a group of women writers at the Kennett Library last year. One of her students was the writer and artist Carrie Barcomb, a professional artist, who wrote an essay for the workshop that evoked Hecate, a goddess in ancient Greek religion and mythology, who was often depicted holding a pair of torches or a key necklace, and is often seen as a symbol of personal freedom.
Barcomb’s essay is included in Braving Veracity, and her illustration graces the cover of the first edition of the anthology.
“When I read her piece – after she’d decided to reveal what had happened to her -- the goddess representation became Carrie’s ticket to a new life, and it gave her the ability to find her voice and tell reveal her own truth,” Gazoli said.
Like Barcomb, most of the authors in Braving Veracity write about their difficult experiences related to loss, abuse, mental illness, Alzheimer’s, cancer, guilt and self-forgiveness.
The anthology’s youngest writer is a rising senior at Kennett High School, whom Gazoli worked with to help sharpen her essay for publication.
“She told me, ‘There’s so much to tell or show that I don’t know where to begin,’” Gazoli said. “I coached her to write down the first thing she saw, and go from there. She already has the gift of being a visual storyteller, so she saw the scene, and was able to immediately get there and write about it.
“It’s not necessarily easy to reveal this as a first-time author, and sometimes facing the veracity of the truth really takes courage.”
For Kennett Square writer Eve Fisher, whose essay “A Sibling Alone” appears in the first edition of Braving Veracity, writing about the loss of her brother gave her the opportunity to give him the honor he deserved.
“The essay is about a devastating experience in my life, and I wanted to be true to what I felt was my brother’s perspective,” Fisher said. “I saw him as my sibling, but he was his own person. It was a fine line to be responsible to his memory and writing something that other family members who knew him will eventually read.”
Fisher said that her essay centers on a topic that’s often overlooked: the loss of a sibling.
“There isn’t much written about mental illness that isn’t clinical, and losing a sibling is kind of a neglected area of grief and bereavement,” she said. “I hope that those who struggle with mental illness or who have a family member who struggles with it, will get some sense of relief or understanding from reading the essay.”
Gazoli sees the anthology as evolving into a twice-a-year or even a quarterly publication, issued in conjunction with “Rhythm & Words,” a series of live performances of essays performed by local memoirists, poets and writers that is being planned for a later date. She said she also wants to help women of color develop their writing voices.
“Everyone has a story waiting to be told, but often, it becomes difficult to illustrate it on the page,” she said. “It’s an emotional process, and sometimes it’s painful, because emotionally, many are not ready to tell their story. I hope to continue encouraging women to keep going, to unlock their voice, and trust the writing process until they have a story that they feel helps them and will help others.
“That’s the power of storytelling.”
Braving Veracity is now available for preorder on Amazon.com for $14.95 (paperback) and $4.95 (Kindle eBook). For more information about the anthology and how to submit an essay for possible inclusion in a future edition, email Dida Gazoli at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.didaink.com.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email email@example.com.