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Danger Close: Writing War in the Workshop

Danger Close: Writing War in the Workshop


Words After War, in partnership with the New York Public Library, is pleased to present “Danger Close: Writing War in the Workshop.” At 6:30 PM on Thursday, November 21, novelist and journalist Helen Benedict will moderate a panel to include Matt Gallagher, Phil Klay, Maurice Decaul and Mariette Kalinowski. The panelists will share personal stories of documenting and researching war, as well as the particular challenges and complications of writing about war in the 21st century. We hope to see you there! Tickets and further information can be found HERE.

A bit more about the (very talented and generous) panelists and moderator:

Matt Gallagher

Matt Gallagher is the author of the memoir Kaboom and the co-editor of Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War. A graduate of Wake Forest University and Columbia University, Matt leads the Words After War workshop at Mellow Pages Library in Brooklyn.

Phil Klay

Phil Klay is a Dartmouth grad and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. He served in Iraq during the Surge and subsequently received an MFA from Hunter College. His first published story, “Redeployment,” appeared in Granta’s Summer 2011 issue. That story led to the sale of his forthcoming collection, which will be published in seven countries. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the New York Daily NewsTin House, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012.

Maurice Decaul

Maurice Decaul is a former Marine and Iraq war veteran. He studied poetry at Columbia University, where he founded the Columbia University Veterans Writing Workshop. Maurice has been a contributor to the New York Times and has had work featured on and in Sierra Magazine.

Mariette Kalinowksi

Mariette Kalinowksi served in the United States Marine Corps from 2002-10, and was deployed twice to Al Taqaddum, Iraq. She is a contributor to Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War.

Helen Benedict

Helen Benedict is the author of six novels and five books of nonfiction. Her latest novel, Sand Queen, set in the Iraq War, is now out in paperback from Soho Press. Benedict’s Sand Queen and The Lonely Soldier, along with her articles about sexual assault in the military, inspired the award-winning documentary The Invisible War.


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Words After War Reading Series “Danger Close: Writers on War”


Our first public event, “Danger Close: Writers on War” will begin at 4 PM on November 2 at ACME Studio, 63 N. 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY. Tickets–which you can purchase HERE–are $10. If you can’t make it to the event, please consider purchasing a ticket for somebody who can, or make a ticket-sized donation!

We are very excited and a little bit nervous. We have somehow managed to land a trio of excellent writers and an extremely accomplished moderator:

Brian Castner

After leaving the active military, Brian became a consultant and contractor, training Army and Marine Corps units prior to their tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His writing has appeared in a number of national and regional publications, including The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Foreign Policy, Publisher’s Weekly, and Garry Trudeau’s The Sandbox anthology. Brian lives outside of Buffalo, New York with his wife and four sons. ”The Long Walk” is his first book.

Katey Schultz

Katey Schultz grew up in Portland, Oregon, and is most recently from Celo, North Carolina. She is a graduate of the Pacific University MFA in Writing Program and recipient of the Linda Flowers Literary Award from the North Carolina Humanities Council. “Flashes of War: Short Stories” is her first book.

Matt Gallagher

Matt Gallagher joined the U.S. Army in 2005 and received a commission in the armored cavalry. Following a fifteen-month deployment in Iraq, Gallagher left the army in 2009. He is the author of “Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War” and the co-editor of “Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War.”

Moderator, Quil Lawrence

Quil Lawrence is an award-winning correspondent for NPR News, covering the millions of Americans who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as they transition to life back at home.

“Danger Close: Writers on War” is the first of an ongoing reading series that will include both veterans and civilians whose work engages with war and its aftermath. Lawrence, Gallagher, Castner, and Schultz will share personal stories of documenting and researching war, as well as the complications of writing war in the 21st century.

We sincerely hope to see you there!


Brandon and Mike

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Unquiet Memories: A Reading of Phil Klay’s Short Story Redeployment


Released March 6, 2014

Executive Director Brandon Willitts reviews Phil Klay’s short story, “Redeployment,” and draws a connection between the story and his own homecoming.

Phil Klay’s short story “Redeployment,” which is featured in both Fire and Forget and Granta, as well as in his forthcoming collection Redeployment, begins with one of the finest first lines I have ever read: “We shot dogs.” This line is like a jab to the face, putting the reader on notice that whatever happens next, his or her complete and undivided attention will be required.

As far as war stories go, it’s on par with the best. “Redeployment” skillfully examines the complexities of military service by describing organized violence and war without glorifying either. At the same time, the story balances the emotions of a returned service member – anger, confusion, and heartbreak – without leaning on oversimplification or cliché.

Klay’s prose is clear and concise, giving the story a very measured pace. And the most honest, human moments come not through Klay’s descriptions of the chaos of battle, but instead through the descriptions of those quiet moments of domestic life.

At times, we come to better understand war and it’s aftereffects through the many unspoken words that stand between a husband and wife; other times, it comes through the narrator’s use of understatement:

And that was my homecoming. It was fine, I guess. Getting back feels like your first breath after nearly drowning. Even if it hurts, it’s good.

Those few sentences are all rather subtle phrases, but they become the entry into this marine’s thoughts and emotions. Because he has just returned from his deployment, he hasn’t had the necessary time to process his wartime experience. These lines are as honest as he can be at the time, and that’s what makes them so uncomfortable. And the analogy he draws between drowning and his deployment becomes telling of the difficulty of turning ‘it off’ once he’s back stateside.

In early 2013, I was sitting in an audience, where I was listening to a panel of veteran authors discuss war writing. When it came time for the questions and answers segment, an audience member asked the panel why there weren’t more battle scenes in their works. As soon as the question was asked, every veteran in the room looked at one another and just sort of shrugged. I can’t remember how the panel responded, because honestly I didn’t listen for their response. I didn’t have to – I already knew why.

When people ask me about the war, I have two options, two stories to tell: I can tell a story about the missions where we captured terrorists in Afghanistan, or I can tell a story about the night I sat alone on the curb of Hickam Air Force Base after seven months in the Middle East with no one to pick me up. I don’t think too often about those missions in Afghanistan. But I think nearly every day about that night I came home.

And maybe it’s just me, but stories like “Redeployment” are the types of stories I need to read now. They are the stories that have helped me through the confusion and frustration of sitting on that curb. They are the types of stories I want to read, the types of stories I want to tell. It’s stories like this, and authors like Phil Klay, that have allowed me to better understand and process the “unquiet memories” of my life after I came home.

Listen to Phil Klay talk about his forthcoming collection, Redeployment, published by Penguin Press.