Archive | September, 2013

Weekly Round-Up: Liftoff Edition

Literary Programming in the Danger Zone

The solitary life of the unmanned F-16

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: Liftoff Edition. In this space we share seven links relevant to our mission of improving the veteran-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

We’re wheels up and very happy that our first writing workshop went off without a hitch on Tuesday night. We’re certainly a little relieved too. Many thanks to instructor Matt Gallagher, to our host Mellow Pages Library, and to everyone who came out. See you next week!

That same day Executive Director and Co-founder Brandon Willitts joined a panel at Brooklyn College and wowed the crowd with his thoughts on the growing community of veteran writers and on bridging the military-civilian divide through literary programming.

You’ll be happy to learn that we have many exciting developments in the works. We get stronger every day. Contests! Panels! Business cards! Join us and help provide high-quality literary programming for veterans, their families and civilian supporters. As always, thank you for your time and support. Here we go:

1. Read veteran Phil Klay’s review of Andrew Bacevich’s Breach of Trust in The Daily Beast.

2. Funerals for Fallen Robots in The Atlantic.

3. Good news, Jonathan Lethem says creative writing can be taught, via Slate.

4. However, author Alice McDermott suggests doing anything else.

5. The VA wants vets to tell their stories on benefits.

6. Check out Essay Daily out of University of Arizona, “a space for ongoing conversation about essays & essayists of note.” Essay Daily also includes a great list of non-fiction-friendly sites and publications.

7. Listen to our friend David Abrams on Utah Public Radio. We were honored to offer a spot in David’s Brattleboro Literary Festival workshop to the winner of our first contest. We would also like to extend a hearty congratulations to contest winner Jerri Bell of Chesapeake Beach, MD, as well as a thank you to all who entered.

Bonus link: Listen to our friend and Fire and Forget contributor Mariette Kalinowski speak to Marketplace about the value and impact of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Have a great weekend.

-Mike

Questions, concerns, suggestions? We’re on the Internet. Visit our Facebook Page and follow us on Twitter.

Why I Write: Words During War, Words After War

Words After War

David Eisler

Words After War Policy Writing Fellow, David Eisler, reflects on why he writes and on the importance of bridging the military-civilian divide through writing.

My first experience with writing regularly started during my deployment to Iraq in 2008. I was young, inexperienced and following in the footsteps of so many others who had written about their time in combat. I kept a handwritten journal for personal thoughts, as well as a public blog where I wrote for family and friends. At the time, I didn’t think too much about the words themselves, but instead used the writing as a chance to escape from the daily routine.

I ended up writing far more than I’d ever anticipated, and then continued the process during my second deployment to Afghanistan. When I eventually left the Army, I had two journals collecting dust on my shelf and an online blog that served as a nostalgic reminder of my time at war. It took a long time before I was able to read it all from start to finish.

When I finally did look at it, I soon realized I wanted to transform it from simple journal entries and blog posts into a more polished product, transform it from words during war into words after war. I didn’t necessarily feel the need to tell my story, but rather use it as a medium to help bridge a psychological gap between those who have been there and those who haven’t. For me, it’s not necessarily a war diary, but the mostly coherent thoughts of a guy in a warzone. And yes, I believe there is a difference.

Putting that collection together has rekindled my interest in writing. I no longer write as a way of coming to terms with my own experiences, but rather I write to tell a much larger story, or maybe even to influence the national conversation in a meaningful way.

As veterans, we have a tendency to lament the state of the national conversation about those who have served. We sometimes rationalize our complaints by telling ourselves that “civilians don’t understand,” or other times we wonder about the disappearing social contract and fading culture of shared national responsibility.

But it’s up to us, as veterans, to take the initiative and bridge that divide, to reach out to those who might not see the common humanity that we all share. It’s up to us to reach out to those who might not see how veterans have much to offer in the way of knowledge and experience. When we block civilians from our conversations, we are only reinforcing tired stereotypes.

By coming together in a creative environment, such as a writing workshop, where we can find common ground through narrative and character development, we are closing the gap between all of us, both vet and civilian. We are letting go of tired stereotypes – one story at a time.

–David Eisler

 

 

Weekly Round-Up: Brooklyn Book Festival Edition

Brooklyn Book Festival

No Sleep ’til Brooklyn (Book Festival)

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: Brooklyn Book Festival Edition. In this space we share seven links relevant to our mission of improving the veteran-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

Big things poppin over here at Words After War. We’re very excited for the Brooklyn Book Festival this weekend, followed by the debut of our inaugural workshop, led by the excellent Matt Gallagher and generously hosted by Mellow Pages Library in Bushwick. And our first contest closes at midnight on September 23rd. Winner snags a spot in David Abrams’ Brattleboro Literary Festival workshop.

As always, thank you for your time and support. Here we go:

1. As fellow literary buskers we stand with C.D. Hermelin, the author of this bittersweet piece from The Awl.

2. We’re not only a Brooklyn-based organization, but this piece on Brooklyn writers feels timely considering the upcoming Words After War events.

3. A Navy veteran enrolls in the Harvard Extension School (though I would argue the real “back door” is the infamous “Z-list”).

4. A conversation with Words After War supporter Katey Schultz, author of Flashes of War.

5. Stephen Colbert and Vietnam vet Tobias Wolff debate the merits and enduring legacy of The Catcher in the Rye.

6. Two new books delve into the hardships facing veterans today, via Bookforum.

7. Getting ready to submit your work? Here are some things to think about before you lick the envelope.

Alright, that’s enough out of us. Have a great weekend.

-Mike

P.S. Just a friendly reminder that we are now accepting tax-deductible donations! Help us provide high-quality literary programming to veterans, their families and civilian supporters. More information HERE.

Questions, concerns, suggestions? We’re on the Internet.

Essay Contest: Win a Spot in a Writing Workshop Taught by David Abrams

Words After War Essay Contest

DEADLINE: Midnight. September 23, 2013.

Info on workshop: 10/4/2013. 1PM @ the Marlboro Graduate Center in Brattleboro, VT.

Send entries to: Brandon@wordsafterwar.org

Lookout essay contest

We want know what this picture says to you, what it makes you think, how it makes you feel. Be imaginative. If we like your essay, you win the spot. Be creative. Be honest. Be brief. Write an essay up to 500 words around this picture, around this place. The winner receives a full tuition award ($75 dollar value).

David Abrams is the author of Fobbit, a comedy about the Iraq War which was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2012. He earned a BA in English from the University of Oregon and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. He retired from active-duty after serving in the U.S. Army for 20 years. He now lives in Butte, Montana with his wife.

Words After War is an emerging literary organization with a mission to offer fully-funded opportunities for veterans, their families and civilian supporters to share their stories. Words After War aims to build a supportive creative community through writing workshops, studio retreats and literary mentorships. The organization was co-founded by writers Brandon Willitts (Marlboro ’12) and Mike McGrath, who aim to change the national conversation around veteran issues by including civilians in that conversation.

Disclaimer: This contest is open to anybody, both veterans and civilians. We only ask that contestants be mindful of the workshop’s location (Brattleboro, Vermont). Since the tuition award does not include transportation costs, please consider your schedule, budget and geography when applying.

Good luck.

– Brandon and Mike

 

Weekly Round-up: Full Swing Edition

friday afternoon couch

Welcome to the fourth Words After War Weekly Round-Up: Full Swing Edition. In this space we share 7 links relevant to our mission of improving the veteran-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

Big week here at Words After War. Instructor Matt Gallagher posted this piece in the Times At War blog; we filled our inaugural workshop (and started a wait list); we hit 500 Facebook “likes” (editor’s note: 550); we wrote our first ad copy AND we secured our fiscal sponsorship, allowing us to begin thinking about fundraising. Of course, none of this would be possible without your continued support, so thank you.

Here we go:

1. A great interview with the veterans who climbed Yosemite peaks on September 11th.

2. A look at The O. Henry Prize Stories 2013.

3. A quick tour of the “online writing universe” via The Daily Dot.

4. We’re a bit late to this, but Are Novelists Too Wary of Criticizing Other Novelists? A conversation between Zoe Heller (bonus: read her evisceration of Salman Rushdie in The New York Review of Books here) and Adam Kirsh.

5. The National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honorees were announced.

6. The mystery and debate surrounding the death of Chris McCandless has persisted for over twenty years. Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild, finds some closure.

7. Finally, two opportunities to share your work. Military Experience and the Arts is currently seeking submissions. And check out Dreams of the Fallen, an exciting multimedia project featuring the poet Brian Turner.

Have a great weekend.

-Mike

The inaugural Words After War Writing Workshop, led by veteran and writer Matt Gallagher, will begin Sept. 24 at Mellow Pages Library in Brooklyn, NY. More details can be found here. The workshop is open to veterans and civilians alike. Join the waitlist or spread the word!

Questions, concerns, suggestions? Visit our Facebook Page and follow us on Twitter.

 

How to Run a Writing Workshop for Veterans

Writing Workshop for Veterans

How to bridge the civilian-military divide

For veteran writing workshops to flourish, I found, they needed to stress the writing part over the veteran part, and they needed to focus on improving students’ work over making students feel good about themselves. Like anyone else, battle-hardened Iraq and Afghanistan veterans appreciate positive reinforcement, but in a society with a civilian-military divide as wide as ours, blanket positivity can often come across as condescending. Further, even vets at workshops predominantly for healing purposes sought to improve their work. Sometimes that required a suggestion to pick up classics like Isaac Babel’s “Red Cavalry.” Other times it required a quick lesson on the importance of active verbs. And still other times it required a frank discussion about rising above tired military tropes and clichés, or not including confusing details in order to ‘stay true to life,’ as if writing itself wasn’t already artifice. – Matt Gallagher

I couldn’t be more excited to share a new article by Words After War writing instructor Matt Gallagher. His essay, “How to Run a Successful Writing Workshop for Veterans,” appears in the New York Times: At War Blog.

From the beginning, Matt has been one of the biggest supporters of the Words After War vision: to change the national conversation around veteran issues by including civilians in that conversation.

Before Matt and I were friends, I was a devoted reader of his work. Matt’s writing and his willingness to put himself out there made my move to NYC considerably easier. Whenever I read his work I saw a vet who was making it as a writer, and from his example I took much confidence.

For many years, I found myself desperate for a community of veterans who were also writing, talking, and thinking seriously about the craft of writing. And, along the way, I learned to make due with what I had, and learned to appreciate and respect the perspective of my civilian peers.

After I moved to NYC, I finally found that community of veteran writers. At the same time, I was still very much connected to a community of civilian writers. The only logical thing, due mostly to what I saw as obvious similarities, was to find a way to bridge the overwhelming gap that existed between these two groups. For instance, on an average week, I’d find myself writing alongside a former stock trader with an MFA from Iowa, and then later I’d be having a conversation with a vet writer with a few publications in Granta. I saw only similarities. I still do.

Words After War is a community of writers, first and foremost. But it just so happens that some of us are also veterans. Some of us live in NYC, while many of us don’t. We all care about vets, just as we all care about writing. More than that, though, we all care about building bridges between the two.

Thanks for your time.

Keep writing.

-Brandon

 

The inaugural Words After War Writing Workshop, led by veteran and writer Matt Gallagher, will begin Sept. 24 at Mellow Pages Library in Brooklyn, NY. More details can be found here. The workshop is open to veterans and civilians alike. No spots remain but we have a waitlist. Join us and spread the word!

Questions, concerns, suggestions? We’re on the Internet.

 

Words After War Weekly Round-Up – Back to School Edition

Round-Up: Back to School

Miss the bus? Read the round-up while you wait.

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up. In this space we share 7 links relevant to our mission of improving the veteran-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.

Dear Friends,

Change is in the air. Parking lots once clogged with surly teens are now empty but for a scattering of fallen leaves. Also, I joined a gym. Well, rejoined a gym. And the Internet was busy as usual, churning out complimentary reading material left and right. As always, we’d like to thank you for your time and continued support. Here we go:

1. The venerable Bob Shacochis returns with The Woman Who Lost Her Soul. Read a conversation with the author here, via the Los Angeles Review of Books.

2. While the big story going into the Salinger documentary (out today) was the impending release of five new works, another aspect of the project seems to be gaining prominence in the public’s imagination: the writer’s horrific WWII experiences. Among other details: Salinger carried six chapters of The Catcher in the Rye with him on D-Day.

3. The MacArthur Foundation has increased the size of its “genius grant.” Now there are 125,000 more reasons to wait by the phone and hope they give you a call. It should hit a cool million by the time I’m on their radar, which is fine by me.

4. The Daily Beast’s The Hero Project presents an excerpt from Jake Tapper’s The Outpost, chronicling Medal of Honor recipient Ty Carter’s heroic actions, with an introduction by Army vet (and Words After War’s first literary protégé) David Eisler.

5. Writing a book? Make sure somebody hasn’t already beaten you to it. A funny, rueful look at every novelist’s nightmare, via The Awl.

6. Rachel Maddow’s review of Andrew J. Bacevich’s Breach of Trust.

7. A new Granta series asks writers to revisit their opening sentences.

Have a great weekend.

-Mike

The inaugural Words After War Writing Workshop, led by veteran and writer Matt Gallagher, will begin Sept. 24 at Mellow Pages Library in Brooklyn, NY. More details can be found here. The workshop is open to veterans and civilians alike. Only 1 spot remains. Join us and spread the word!

Questions, concerns, suggestions? Visit our Facebook Page and follow us on Twitter.

 

A Writer Retreats to Yaddo

writing retreats and tiny homes

A Tiny Retreat on Wheels

A writer meditates on walks though Yaddo, designing a writing retreat, the overlooked beauty of tiny homes, and how seeing your literary idols drinking martinis can make one a more productive writer.

I lived in Saratoga Springs for a year after college. In between working the copy desk at the newspaper and befriending bartenders along Caroline Street, I spent a lot of time at Yaddo, a residential retreat for artists and writers. I’d walk past the horse track, through the rusty gate, and down the long driveway, glimpsing the massive stone mansion through the trees. A small chunk of the property was open to the public. There was a fountain, a bench, and the Yaddo Gardens. The place would be imposing even if you were unaware of its role in American Letters, a sort of literary Hogwarts. I was never completely comfortable there, but I was an intruder, a potential distraction, a tourist, a pilgrim.

I have no way of knowing which writers were there during the year I spent wandering the grounds, but I certainly spent a lot of time wondering and imagining chance encounters. I asked along Caroline Street, but those conversations must have been protected by writer-bartender privilege. I did once see an author I greatly admire at a local martini bar, chatting with two beautiful women, which didn’t make my approach any easier. I let them finish their drinks and watched them leave with flushed cheeks.

I resolved to go straight home and get cracking on whatever creative project was most likely to result in threesomes and prestigious residencies. Until then, though, I have to be content with insider articles and novels like Jonathan Ames’ Wake Up, Sir!.

In many ways, those walks through Yaddo were an inspiration for Words After War. A very early vision of our organization involved a cluster of cabins in the woods behind my parents’ house. That plan is on hold (for now).

The genesis of our idea remains the same: provide writers with the time, space, and support they need to tell their stories most effectively. We just call it something else. It is our hope that Words After War will become a stepping stone to places like Yaddo, a key to all the mysteries and opportunities they contain.

–Mike