Moving the Blog to

After posting on the Words After War blog for over a year, we’re now migrating the blog to Going forward, you’ll be able to read the blog archive on the website, but all the new content — round-ups, stories, and events — will be posted on our page. We are excited for the opportunity to reacher a larger audience with this new platform and we believe the design is simply phenomenal.

By the way, we’re always looking for great stories. So if you have something you would like to publish with us, please send it our way. Be sure to check the website for updates on our various programs, as we plan to continue to update the website.

Thanks for all the loyal readers of this page.


Words After War

Weekly Round-Up: Last Exit to Bushwick

brooklyn bridge

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “Last Exit to Bushwick” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

It’s about time for us to offer another session of our popular Brooklyn writing workshop. Through the continued gracious support of Mellow Pages Library, a library and reading room located on the Morgan L stop in West Bushwick, we are able to serve the growing population of writers in NYC. Beginning September 17th and ending on November 19th, the writing workshop begins at 7:30pm and is open to all, veteran and civilian alike.

Once again, Matt Gallagher – veteran, writer and educator – will be head instructor. Matt is a former Army captain and author of the Iraq War memoir Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War, as well as co-editor of, and contributor to, Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War, both published by Da Capo Press.

If you cannot make this workshop, please consider passing along the opportunity to another writer. We look forward to seeing folks in Bushwick next week.

Also, big news: We are co-producing the September edition of WORD bookstore’s monthly series of writing workshops, Writecraft, focused on paying it forward to aspiring writers. The workshop includes a craft-focused talk from an author, followed by an hour of writing. The September guest is Max Neely-Cohen, author of Echo of the Boom. The workshop is Sunday, September 21st at 7pm. Facebook RSVP is encouraged but not required. WORD is a neighborhood independent bookstores in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Here we go.

  1. For The New Yorker, Dexter Filkins examines the murderous strategy of  ISIS after the senseless and tragic deaths of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
  2. For the The New Yorker, Nicholas Schmidle takes us inside the failed raid to save James Foley and other hostages.
  3. If you are as just as confused by the direction of professional football as I am, then you should read Matt Ufford’s profound reflection on football, fandom, fatherhood, and the price we pay for all of it.
  4. The New York Times produced an exceptional story on women cadets at West Point during a time of historic transition.
  5. Nate Bethea, a recent Brooklyn transplant by way of South Korea, had an excellent short story published in The Daily Beast, which examines the impossible choices that can arise during wartime.
  6. Powerful images from Gaza in The New York Times Magazine from dual photographers, Paulo Pellegrin and Peter Van Agtmael.
  7. In honor of the Wilderness Act’s 50th anniversary, the Wilderness Society published an insightful essay on their blog about Howard Zahniser, unsung architect and author of the Wilderness Act.

Have a great week.


Weekly Round-Up: Summer’s End

Let us have peace

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “Summer’s End” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

And we are back. After taking some much-needed time away from the blog, we are now ready for the final weeks of summer and the beginning of the fall season of our literary programming, with such events as Brian Castner’s workshop in Buffalo, NY and Matt Gallagher’s workshop in Brooklyn, NY scheduled to begin in September. Despite being ‘offline’ for a bit, we didn’t take any time away from producing some really amazing literary events. As many of you probably saw through our social media channels, we partnered with Marlboro College to bring more than 20 writers up to Vermont for a week of writing workshops, literary seminars, readings, and author Q&A’s.

The Summer Writing Intensive was a major success, for sure. But we could not have accomplished such an amazing week without the tremendous support of the Marlboro staff and faculty, every single one of the participants, and the generous time and knowledge of our talented guest lecturers. To everyone who made this year’s Summer Writing Intensive possible: we extend our most sincere and humble, thank you.

This summer has brought a series of tragic events around the globe. Because we are living through such turbulent times, I often feel little in the way of certainty. The only thing I know for certain is this summer – unlike the many other summers I have known before it – has served as further evidence to the increased need for those who strive to make sense of all this madness. If this summer’s global tragedies have taught me anything it is that we must continue to write. We must continue to share our stories. We must continue to observe. We must continue to search for meaning within all of this madness. Perhaps, even more than all of that, we simply must continue.

Here we go.

  1. Considering recent events, I feel compelled to share a piece that was published in May’s Vanity Fair on the disappearances of Austin Tice and James Foley.
  2. Lea Carpenter has an excellent short story in The Daily Beast, which is both magnificently structured and an intimate exploration of the untold consequences of love during wartime.
  3. For The New York Times, Rivka Galchen and Zoe Heller weigh in the somewhat exhausted debate of whether or not writing can be taught. And on the opposite side, maybe even an often-neglected side of that tired argument, writer Nick Ripatrazone published a timely article in The Millions on the need for teaching the business side of creative writing.
  4. Elliot Ackerman explained to NPR what being a man means to him: It’s protecting what you love, even though that notion is often at odds with the work of being a servicemember.
  5. For Vanity Fair, a combat veteran examines the dramatic events that took place in Ferguson, MO.
  6. Michael Pitre’s debut novel, Fives and Twenty-Fives, received a rather positive review this weekend in The New York Times. Well worth the read.
  7. For The Washington Post, Matt Gallagher reviewed Robert Timberg’s Blue-Eyed Boy: A Memoir.

Have a great week.


Weekly Round-Up: Independence Day

Happy Birthday America!

Happy Birthday America

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “Independence Day” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

Happy Independence Day. We hope that everyone spent the long weekend with friends and family, and kept all those deployed front of mind.

Again, thanks to all that came out last weekend – it was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday. If you missed Pete Molin’s summary of the event, be sure to check it out on his Time Now blog. For those of you who couldn’t make it, I’ve included my introduction to the event as this week’s post. Thanks for reading.

Danger Close is part of an ongoing discussion series where we bring veterans and civilians together to discuss how war and conflict have changed our lives. So when thinking about a panel on 9/11, it made sense to bring together a group of individuals with diverse experiences – military, NGO, private sector and media. For me, as an 18-year old at the time, I couldn’t have comprehended just how much my life was about to change. And that’s true for everyone in this room, because our nation was radically changed on the morning of September 11th, 2001, in ways that we probably haven’t yet fully realized.

As a military veteran, I have focused heavily on how the wars have directly impacted the lives of the men and women I served with. And, yes, it’s true what they say, when talking about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: a few have carried the burden of the many. Yet, that doesn’t tell the whole story of how our nation has changed, as there was a small rip in the fabric of every thing we knew.

Growing up in the suburbs of DC, then joining the military and now working in NYC, it’s clear to me that 9/11 is a thread that runs through everything I know, personally and professionally. But I have often wondered what the impact has been on all of our citizens. I recently heard the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald speak about that morning, and he talked about how a choice to take his child to kindergarten saved his life. 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees were killed that day, including the CEO’s own brother.

Thinking beyond counter-terrorism, beyond New York, beyond the Pentagon and the fields of Pennsylvania, the very fact that we have been at war for nearly 13 years is unprecedented in our nation’s history. And despite it all, at least on the surface of things, it seems like not a lot has really change, especially now that advisors are once again in Iraq.

If the gravity of our times weren’t so real, it would be more amusing to me that my Twitter feed over the last few weeks has been a flood of conversations on Iraq, Dick Cheney, and maybe most bizarrely the early-2000s metal band Linkin Park (who is hosting a veteran-friendly summer concert series).

In a strange way, with so much talk of Iraq, the Bush administration and bad rock music, it’s like the year is still 2002, and somehow, despite all that has happened, we are all stuck in time.

Here we go.

  1. Elliot Ackerman wrote for The New Yorker about his experience marching in the Pride Festival along the streets of Istanbul as ISIS continues to terrorize Iraq and Syria.
  2. The Virginian-Pilot produced an excellent profile of our friends at the Veterans Writing Project, who are doing great work with writing, trauma, and PTSD.
  3. Ted Thompson had some rather revealing things to say to Salon about the finances of publishing his first novel.
  4. In its first foray into fiction, The Daily Beast chose Elliot Ackerman’s “Four Hundred Grand.”
  5. We published our summer reading list last week, so this week you can see what the folks at Politico Magazine and Council on Foreign Relations will be reading this summer.
  6. Matthew Brandon Wolfson wrote an exceptional essay/book review for Los Angeles Review of Books on the two biggest political memoirs of the year: Robert Gates’ Duty and Hilary Clinton’s Hard Choices.
  7. The Daily Beast asked a few vets, who are all writers, to recommend a couple of books that help to teach us about Iraq.

Have a great week.


Weekly Round-Up: Summer Reading List

AMERICA AFTER 9-11 flyer

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “Summer Reading List” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

The first week of summer is in the books, and it’s time to share my summer reading list. Before I get too far along, here’s my opportunity to remind you about today’s event, which is detailed in the flyer above.

For me, once summer has finally arrived, I like to mark my long summer days by the books I complete. Whether I’m headed to the beach or the mountains, I keep a few good books stashed in a bag or stacked on the nightstand. Here are a few selections from my own summer reading list that will be keeping me busy until autumn.

  1. Fourth of July Creek: A Novel, Smith Henderson
  2. Wynne’s War, Aaron Gwyn
  3. Fives and Twenty-Fives, Michael Pitre
  4. No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes, Anand Gopal
  5. Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order, Charles Hill
  6. The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames, Kai Bird
  7. Preparation for the Next Life, Atticus Lish
  8. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, Evan Osnos
  9. Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years, Ron Capps
  10. Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, Steve Coll
  11. To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan, Nicholas Schmidle
  12. The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014, Carlotta Gall
  13. The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth, Mark Mazzetti
  14. My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir, Brian Turner

Here we go.

  1. Iraq has been in the news quite a bit over the last few weeks. As we have all heard, and depending on who was talking at the time, there’s much blame to be laid at the feet of both administrations, the Iraqi government, and the increasingly unstable security situation throughout the entire Middle East region. I’ll leave talk of victory and/or defeat to the historians, and instead posit that Brian Caster, Phil Klay and Elliot Ackerman have had some rather thoughtful things to say about it all in outlets such as NewsweekNew York Times, and The New Yorker. Beyond smart vet commentary, no one gets it more right than Dexter Filkins, who has had some really good short pieces for The New Yorker over the last couple of weeks, along with a longer piece he wrote a few months back about Iraq.
  2. My heart nearly stopped when I saw that Marilynne Robison’s upcoming novel, Lila, is excerpted on the FSG blog. If you are anything of a super-fan like me, you will read the excerpt multiple times hoping that somehow the brief passage would magically turn itself into the book.
  3. If you were wondering what Gordon Lish is up to these days, you should read this interesting Newsweek profile of the once iconic literary editor to several great short story writers.
  4. For-profit colleges have been ripping off veterans – and the US government – for years. Despite this, and despite the fact that VSOs and elected officials have turned a blind eye, The Center for Investigative Reporting and The Daily Beast have teamed up to take a comprehensive look at how these school are preying on student veterans and straddling vets with worthless college degrees and large amounts of debt. Also, if you are a vet who used your GI Bill, The Center for Investigative Reporting wants to hear from you.
  5. There are times when a writer gets it right; there are times when a writer gets it wrong. And unfortunately for Dave Eggers, he gets it totally wrong in his new book. Read Phil Klay’s super-smart New York Times Sunday Book Review of what “has gone terribly wrong” in Eggers’s new novel.
  6. War on the Rocks posted their summer reading list. After you have read through that, you should then check out Peter Munson’s commentary on Iraq.
  7. This article in The Guardian on ghost writing for powerful politicians and non-disclosure agreements makes the 2010 Roman Polanski film, The Ghostwriter, all the more unsettling.

Have a great week.


Weekly Round-Up: “Class Dismissed” Edition

d day

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “Class Dismissed” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

Summer has arrived in Maine. Lobsters, black flies, swaths and rolls of freshly burnt flesh. The state bird is the black-capped chickadee, but it should be a wiry guy with a black-capped chickadee tattoo on his prematurely wrinkled bicep, smoking a Red at the beach.

‘Tis the season for home improvements. Weedwhackers, window boxes, rubbing rust off the barbecue. Last week I built a desk. Well, I bought two paint splattered sawhorses at a yard sale and a door at the Habitat for Humanity store. My laptop power cord and a lamp’s wire snake through the hole where the doorknob should go.

Recent reading includes Edward St. Aubyn’s new novel, Lost for Words, a satirical look at literary society. The release has been marked by significant media attention, including a profile in The New Yorker and a Fresh Air interview. The Patrick Melrose series, Aubyn’s cycle of five autobiographical novels, has been my go-to recommendation for the past year or so. I describe it as “evil Wodehouse.” Reductive, but it usually piques an interest. Aubyn’s sentences are chewy. The language is elegant and sharp, like the Dowager Countess if the Dowager Countess was a former heroin addict.

Americans don’t like to write about class, even after the economic upheaval of ’08 and the subsequent lopsided recovery. It can be jarring and off-putting to encounter a writer who does tackle this subject matter and in a way that doesn’t always garner sympathy.

Here’s to a summer of writing bouts marked by exorcised personal and societal demons.

Your seven links:

1. Eliot Ackerman on Bowe Bergdahl for The New Republic.

2. Finishing a story? A poem? A collection? Here are a few places to submit.

3. This week the nation was reminded of the inspiring heroics and selfless acts of those who landed in Normandy 70 years ago. Here is video of General Eisenhower’s D-Day message.

4. The expansive William T. Vollman on recent war fiction.

5. Ernest Hemingway’s son spent a good chunk of his turbulent life living in a Missoula, MO motel.

6. What would you pay for a postcard from David Foster Wallace?

7. A graphic review of Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams in The Daily Beast.

Have a great week.


Weekly Round-Up: Danger Close: America after 9/11

Photo Credit: ACME Studio

Photo Credit: ACME Studio

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “Danger Close” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

We are excited to invite you to our first event of the summer: “Danger Close: America after 9/11,” a conversation between writers on how 9/11 and the years that followed have shaped their lives and writing. The event will begin at 3 PM on June 29th at ACME Studio, 63 N. 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY. Tickets will be available online this week. If you can’t make it to the event, please consider purchasing a ticket for somebody who can, or you can make a donation!

Masha Hamilton, Phil Klay, and Max Neely-Cohen will join me in conversation. The discussion will focus on how the domestic and international policies during the Global War on Terror uniquely impacted the way we consume media, understand war, and communicate those experiences. The discussion will also place a particular emphasis on the wartime experience of journalists, contractors, civilians, government officials, and veterans.

“Danger Close: America after 9/11” is part of an ongoing reading and discussion series that includes both veterans and civilians whose work engages with war and its aftermath.

Masha Hamilton

Masha Hamilton is the author of five acclaimed novels, most recently What Changes Everything and 31 Hours. In October 2013, she finished 16 months working in Afghanistan as Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy at the US Embassy. She is currently working as Communications Director for Concern Worldwide. She also founded two world literacy projects, the Camel Book Drive and the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. She began her career as a journalist, working in Maine, Indiana and New York City before being sent by the Associated Press to the Middle East, where she was news editor for five years, including the period of the first intefadeh, and then moving to Moscow, where she worked for five years during the collapse of Communism. She also reported from Kenya in 2006, and from Afghanistan in 2004 and 2008.

Phil Klay

Phil Klay is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer. After being discharged he went to Hunter College and received an MFA. His story “Redeployment” was originally published in Granta and is included in Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, the New York Daily News, Tin House, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. His debut collection Redeployment was published in 2014 to wide critical acclaim.

Max Neely-Cohen

Maxwell Neely-Cohen’s debut novel Echo of the Boom is a narrative investigation into coming of age in the shadow of 9/11 and the War On Terror. He is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where he studied military history and theory. You can find his shorter work at The New Inquiry, The Millions, and This Recording. Before his writing career he worked as a defense analyst and consultant for NGOs, defense contractors, and private companies. He lives in New York City.

Brandon Willitts, Moderator

Brandon Willitts is Executive Director and Co-founder of Words After War. Brandon joined the U.S. Navy after 9/11, where he served as an intelligence analyst on the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the early months of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan between 2004 and 2005. In addition to his responsibilities with Words After War, Brandon works in the financial industry where he supports the military and veterans initiatives and communication strategy for a large financial firm. He is graduate of Marlboro College, and lives on New York City’s Upper West Side.

Join us on 6/29 at the one-of-a-kind ACME Studio for cold drinks and a fantastic discussion!

Here we go.

  1. Former Prisoner of War Bowe Berghdal is coming home. It’ll be a long time before we know, if we ever do, the full story of what happened during the prisoner exchange as well as the details around what led Berghdal to walk off his base. In Time Magazine, Alex Horton and Ronn Capps were interviewed and gave some much needed context to Berghdal’s release. Also, you should read Michael Hasting’s article from 2012 for Rolling Stone.
  2. I have stayed quiet on the VA scandal, but I’ll say this: All partisan politics aside, I believe America lost a great leader in Shinseki. And, in my opinion, I believe those in the VSO community, especially those who called for his resignation, are neither qualified to run the VA nor are they fully aware of the complexity and bureaucracy of the VA. Shinseki’s resignation proved, at least to me, to be another slight against a Vietnam generation that gave far more than they have ever received. It was a sad day for vets. Jake Siegel produced some smart coverage of the scandal for The Daily Beast.
  3. Check out the first 1000 words of Max Neely-Cohen’s Echo of the Boom.
  4. If the heat and humidity get you down this summer, hop on a quick flight to Syria. The New Republic reports that despite its civil war, the Syrian government is launching a tourism campaign (yes, seriously).
  5. The New Yorker has been publishing some rather fascinating espionage reportage as of late. Check out how the F.B.I. managed to crack a Chinese spy ring.
  6. The Los Angeles Times has the skinny on the growing rift between Amazon and book publisher Hachette. Convenience be damned, I am beginning to think twice about where I buy my books, even if it’s not always the lowest price point.
  7. For The New York Times, Colum McCann writes about the fragile nature of peace in Northern Ireland.

Have a good week.


Weekly Round-Up: Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Photo Credit: Carry The Load

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “Memorial Day” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

This week, for Memorial Day, a number of moving essays were written that honored the sacrifice of our nation’s fallen. Let us read these essays and pause for a moment to honor all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service of our nation. Let us also honor the sacrifice of those families who will never again be whole. And tomorrow, as we continue on with our day-to-day, let us not forget that we are a country still at war.

Here we go.

  1. Alex Horton has penned an excellent piece for The Daily Beast on the kinds of lives his fallen friends might have lived.
  2. The Los Angeles Review of Books marks Memorial Day with a special series on war literature.
  3. For the New Republic, Elliot Ackerman writes about the “Extraordinary Bravery on the Streets of Fallujah.”
  4. The Washington Post ran a thought-provoking story about three wounded vets who found closure in Afghanistan.
  5. Buzzfeed’s Steve Kandell wrote a poignant essay on his visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, nearly thirteen years after his sister’s death.
  6. In The Daily Beast, vet writer Kate Hoit brings attention to the sacrifice of the nearly 200 women service members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  7. For The Wall Street Journal, Phil Klay wrote an op-ed on why the nation needs to treat veterans with respect, not pity.

Have a good week.