Archive | April, 2014

Weekly Round-Up: “Art Monster” Edition

DeptOfSpeculation_AF

 

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

The narrator of Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation is a fact-checker of “fun facts” at a science magazine. The novel, split into fragments, is peppered with these facts. Some are more fun than others. The narrator applies the same discipline to her own story–we are granted small glimpses into her life, her family, her neuroses and ambitions. Some of these ambitions grind against one another. Art and family is the defining conflict of Dept. of Speculation. Here is a representative fragment:

For years, I kept a Post-it note above my desk. WORK NOT LOVE! was what it said. It seemed a sturdier kind of happiness.

Of course many artists manage to love their families and produce meaningful, satisfying work. But they aren’t usually lauded for this act of sustained balance. We prefer stories about madmen and madwomen scribbling away in some hole and leaving a wake of familial destruction in their pursuit of artistic immortality. This is why reading biographies of writers you admire is so dangerous. It often seems they produced the art you so strongly identified with–those words that made you feel less alone–despite themselves. Their work is a shield, a way to demonstrate their understanding of humanity while embodying many of our species’ worst qualities. These are not your friends.

The balance between art and life is a shifting ground of boredom and compromise. For one thing, many of us need to eat and warm our modest shelters. Benefactors are hard to come by. Despite the expanding market for online content there are few paying jobs for literary writers. The marketplace has produced a wave of freelancers with expensive degrees who cobble together a few bucks here and there pitching ideas to over-worked editors, blogging and posting, oversharing in the name of recognition.

It’s a spectacularly unprofitable hobby.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been pruning grape vines at a vineyard. I wear pink gardening gloves. I had a professor who said menial labor was the best work for a writer. He recommended farming in the morning and writing in the afternoon. I’ve tried to keep his words and eventual success in mind while clipping the canes.

For the vast majority of writers life consists of doing one thing while a voice in your head insists you should be doing something else. We hate the voice but fear the day it packs up and leaves in search of a better vessel. If the voice abandoned us we’d be left with just the menial labor. Just the life.

Your 7 links:

1. If you have the means and opportunity to attend the PEN World Voices Festival, writers Geoff Dyer, Justin Go, Liesl Schillinger and Janne Teller will “explore the influence of WWI literature on writers working today.”

2. Read the fiction debut of Words After War Policy Fellow David Eisler!

3. David Foster Wallace’s estate is not happy with The End of the Tour.

4. This excellent piece in The Awl explores the murkiness of Faulkner scholarship.

5. Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner goes By the Book.

6. Mary Gaitskill on coolness and Celine Dion.

7. Arresting visuals perfect for writing prompts: LAPD photo archive.

Have a great week.

–Mike

Weekly Round-Up: Interlochen

Peter van Agtmael

Photo Credit: Peter van Agtmael

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

Big news this week: I drank my first iced coffee of the year. I’m going to enjoy every bit of these warmer days, and ready myself for the endless days of summer.

Speaking of summer, we are planning some amazing programs in a few different places. In NYC, there will be a June workshop for women – both vets and civilians – taught by Jen Percy and Mariette Kalinowski. Stay tuned for more info on that. In Vermont, we are in the planning stages of our most ambitious venture yet: a weeklong writing seminar during the first week of August. Details are still being finalized, but there’s much more to come on this soon.

In Michigan, join Words After War instructor Matt Gallagher at the Interlochen Writers Retreat during the second week of June. The esteemed Interlochen Center for the Arts was founded in 1928 and is located in northwest Michigan. Spend four days writing new material, attending craft talks by award-winning faculty, and enjoying lakeside lunches and evening readings, all while making connections in the literary world that will last for years to come.

Matt will be teaching “From Blog to Book,” a course designed to help students develop their blogging voice and sense of unified narrative, expanding their writing skill-set with the long-term purpose of turning their blog entries into book-length manuscripts.

The Writers Retreat runs from Monday, June 16 to Thursday, June 19, 2014. Registration information can be found here.

Jen Percy and Katey Schultz have both previously taught at Interlochen, so there’s a nice lineage of sorts for Words After War. If you have the vacation time available, you should spend it writing with Gallagher in Michigan.

Here we go.

  1. A decade after Pat Tillman’s death, many questions still remain unanswered. In this two-part video series for ESPN’s Outside the Lines, two of the soldiers present that day speak about the friendly fire incident that led to one of the most controversial moments in the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
  2. Stars and Stripes reported this week that special ops troops are committing suicide at a record pace. Adm. William McRaven, commander U.S. Special Operations Command, has stated that he’s making this his number one priority.
  3. In The Daily Beast, you can read an excerpt from the talented Jess Ruliffson’s “Invisible Wounds,” a graphic novel of illustrated first-person accounts from wounded veterans.
  4. The last few weeks have been an exercise in restraint, as more than a few articles were published that painted veterans with rather broad and inaccurate brushstrokes. As a response, the New York Daily News did a pretty good job at trying to undo the smear campaign brought on by the opinion pages of Guernica, The Nation, New York Times, and many others.
  5. For The Daily Beast, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, marine vet and writer, examines why the PTSD media narrative after Fort Hood has only divided us as a nation.
  6. For The New Yorker’s “Page-Turner” blog, James Salter remembers Peter Matthiessen.
  7. Syria is the most dangerous place in the world for journalists. In the May edition of Vanity Fair, James Harkin reports on the disappearance of journalists – Austin Tice and Jim Foley – who went missing in 2012 while reporting in Syria.

Last word: If you are looking for a great new book to buy, check out Peter van Agtmael’s Disco Night Sept 11, a powerful book of photographs and vignettes detailing the human cost of war. And if you are in Brooklyn this Thursday, 4/24/2014, check out “Women and War: Helen Benedict, Cara Hoffman, and Katey Schultz,” a discussion at WORD bookstore.

Enjoy your week.

–Brandon

Weekly Round-Up: CONSEQUENCE Magazine

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

In a week filled with misguided reporting on veterans, I want to focus on one publication that’s getting it right. Founded by Vietnam war veteran and writer Greg Kovach, CONSEQUENCE magazine is a literary journal based in Massachusetts with an international focus on literary work that examines the culture and consequences of war.

Volume 6 is set to be released on 4/22/2014, and will be accompanied by a round table discussion on American culture and militarism, featuring panelists Lea Carpenter, Tony Schwalm and Bob Shacochis. The panel’s focus will be on the burden of an all-volunteer force, and how that burden, among other things, has formed a divide in our society between those who have served and those who have not. Volume 6 features writing by Phil Klay, William Snyder, Peter Dale Scott, Susan McCallum-Smith, and many others. 

CONSEQUENCE is an important addition to the canon of contemporary war literature, and it’s by far the best literary journal focusing on war and its aftereffects. If you are in Boston on 4/22/14, I highly recommend you attend the round table discussion, if only to hear two of the smartest writers today – Lea Carpenter and Bob Shacochis – discussing the topic of war. It’s guaranteed to be a very interesting panel.

Here we go.

  1. The recent passing of literary giant Peter Matthiessen was a truly sad day for the world. Matthiessen, a former agent with the CIA, was not only an excellent fiction and nonfiction writer, but he was also one of our greatest environmental advocates. A recent New York Times Magazine profile of him ran just a day after his passing. Within Matthiessen’s work, you’ll find a real energy, curiosity and compassion that belong to one of our great searchers. His influence on the literary world was profound, especially given his hand in the founding of the Paris Review. Through his words, we’ll continue the journey.
  2. Stars and Stripes published a moving story about an Iraqi boy’s struggle to provide for his family before and during the war, as well as his eventual road to American citizenship, manhood, and the United States Marine Corps.
  3. On his Foreign Policy blog, Tom Ricks featured an extensive military reading list from the Australian army. After having read through most of the list, I believe it might be one of the most comprehensive lists ever compiled on the profession of arms.
  4. Longreads has a rather interesting reading list on the business of books.
  5. In The Wall Street Journal, reporter Julian Barnes features the reading habits of General Martin Dempsey, which range from Shakespeare to World War Z.
  6. Even though this should seem self-evident to our population, The Atlantic still must make the case for the importance of studying and teaching poetry.
  7. And when faced with stupidity in the media, sometimes, humor is the best response. Thank you Duffel Blog for the sanity check.

Have a great week.

–Brandon

Weekly Round-Up: “End of Semester” Edition

Author Jen Percy speaks with workshop attendees at Mellow Pages Library.

Author Jen Percy speaks with workshop attendees at Mellow Pages Library.

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

The Words After War Writing Workshop’s spring semester came to a close this week with a visit from Jen Percy, author of the acclaimed Demon Camp. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Jen and all of our visiting writers for sharing their hard-earned wisdom. And thanks to instructor Matt Gallagher, our talented students and Mellow Pages Library for hosting. Stay tuned for info on next semester’s workshop.

In other news, we ran our first contest, a benchmark for any literary organization. Congratulations to Robert Stuart (@rjstuart) (#FF!!) for his winning “tweet story” submission and our heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated, fav’d and RT’d. Here’s to many more contests with ever-expanding character limits and ever-juicier prizes.

Without further ado, here are your 7 links:

1. RIP photojournalist Anja Niedringhaus. View some of her work here.

2. I had the “opportunity” to spend some time in storage units this week. I’d love to see a breakdown of storage units per capita, by state or county. Do we accumulate junk when we flock to a new place or when we leave? If I had a couple hundred grand I’d build a storage empire in the North Dakota fracking belt. Of course Vice found an art gallery in a Manhattan storage unit.

3. The “Rambo narrative” doesn’t help anyone.

4. “I’m going to Afghanistan again. The long war is almost over and I’ll be part of how it ends. This time I’ll write about it.”

5. The New York Times wonders if artists have a special obligation to address injustice.

6. Kayla Williams explores women at war.

7. Meanwhile, George W. Bush keeps painting, with a focus on portraits, landscapes and his pets. Is he America’s most prominent (insider) “outsider” artist?

Have a great weekend.

-Mike