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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.

–Brandon

Weekly Round-Up: Pink Mist Edition

Pink Mist

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

Please join us tonight, 2.1.14, at Hill & Dale bar for another installment of our Danger Close Reading Series – Danger Close: Pink Mist. Tonight we will feature our fist international writer, Owen Sheers, a Welsh poet, author and scriptwriter. Owen has published two poetry collections, one of which won a Somerset Maugham Award. His debut prose work, The Dust Diaries, was the 2005 Welsh Book of the Year. His first novel, Resistance, has been translated into ten languages. Pink Mist was commissioned by BBC Radio 4 and published by Faber in June 2013. In 2012, Owen was the Artist in Residence for the Welsh Rugby Union. We’re excited to bring this interesting and talented voice to our NYC supporters. See you there!

Here we go.

  1. An economics professor at Princeton takes on the moral hazard of an all-volunteer military in the New York Times.
  2. Check out this interview in The Awl with Adam Klein, the editor of an exciting new collection The Gifts of the State and Other Stories: New Writing from Afghanistan
  3. Elliot Ackerman wrote a smart review in the Daily Beast of the new novel, Carthage, from the insanely prolific author Joyce Carol Oates.
  4. The BBC gets into the weeds with a wonky look at the mammoth task for the military as they prepare to exit Afghanistan.
  5. A beautiful story from NPR of a soldier receiving a Silver Star for valor 30 years after a fire fight during the Cold War.
  6. The New York Times has a story on how some writers are now monetizing their appearances by charging fees to appear at their own books clubs.
  7. David Remnick has penned an in-depth and revealing article for the New Yorker on the Obama Presidency and the limitations of executive power.

Enjoy the weekend.

–Brandon

 

Helen Benedict: Why I Wrote a War Novel

Photo courtesy of Richard Wolinsky

Photo courtesy of Richard Wolinsky

 

Words After War, in partnership with the New York Public Library, presents “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. Tickets and further information can be found HERE.

We are excited to share an essay written by Helen that first appeared in On The Issues Magazine. Read an excerpt below and follow the link to read the piece in its entirety.

In 2006, when I discovered that more women were serving and fighting in the Iraq War than in all past American wars put together, I wanted to know why: why they had joined, why they went to war, and what was it like to be a woman in combat.

To find out, I traveled the United States for roughly three years interviewing women veterans. Some I spoke to for an hour or two by phone, others I talked with for many months, visiting their homes, touring their towns, seeing their high schools, and meeting their families. In the end, I interviewed some 40 women from the Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force, most of whom had served in Iraq, although a few had served in Afghanistan, Korea, or Vietnam.

These women opened their hearts to me in ways I found extraordinarily courageous and moving. Some were proud of their service, others loved the military but opposed the war, and yet others had turned against both the military and the war – but they all wanted to be heard. I wrote my nonfiction book, The Lonely Soldier, based on those interviews, and a nonfiction play of the same name.

Yet, I knew there was more to say.

Read the rest HERE. Hope to see everyone tomorrow evening.

-Mike

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 Newsweek.com 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”

DSC_0724

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!

Best,

Brandon and Mike

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Danger Close: The Long Walk and the Loss of a Fallen Friend

The Long Walk

EOD1 Sean Carson

Brandon Willitts writes about how Brian Castner’s memoir The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows helped him through the loss of his friend, EOD1 Sean Carson.

Shortly after I moved to New York City, news came that an old Navy buddy, Sean Carson, was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. The loss of Sean seemed to rip a hole right through me, for a lot of reasons really, but mostly because it felt like no matter how far I traveled away from Afghanistan, or how long ago I left that war, it might never leave me.

Sometimes a book comes along at exactly the right moment you most need to read it. I found solace in Brian Castner’s extraordinary memoir, The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows.

Brian Castner is a former Air Force EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) officer – Sean was a Navy EOD technician – and his memoir is a magnificent portrayal of his experiences dealing with the confusion of war, struggles with coming home, and learning how to manage his difficult post-war emotions. The real power of Castner’s writing comes from the raw honesty of his struggles with PTSD – his frustration and confusion were palpable and real for me.

Through his writing, I felt like someone was throwing me a lifeline: the pain he described felt like my own pain, the confusion he described felt like my own confusion. It has become one of the most difficult reads of my life, while also being the most necessary.

After I finished The Long Walk the hole in my heart felt smaller. The loss of every one of my brothers now hurts a little less sharply than before. I might never completely put my war behind me, but somehow knowing that someone else has also struggled with such similar emotions, allows me to feel much less alone.

–Brandon

Will you be in NYC on 11/2? Come to our first public event, “Danger Close: Writers on War” featuring Brian Castner and some of our favorite writers! Information and tickets HERE. Can’t attend but interested in getting involved? Make a tax-deductible donation HERE.

 

 

“Danger Close: Writers on War” – Katey Schultz and Flashes of War

Flashes of War

The Airstream

Over the next few weeks we are going to be using the blog to shine a spotlight on the participants of the first installment of “Danger Close: Writers on War,” a series held at Brooklyn’s ACME Studio on November 2, 2013. This week is Katey Schultz, civilian author of Flashes of War.

The panel will include both veterans and civilians whose work engages with war and its aftermath. Award-winning NPR News correspondent Quil Lawrence will serve as moderator for a panel of veteran and civilian authors that will include Matt Gallagher, Brian Castner, Lea Carpenter and Katey Schultz. We hope to see you there!

Allow us to introduce Katey Schultz. Katey’s Flashes of War: Short Stories (Loyola University Maryland, 2013) recently won the Military Writers Society of America’s Gold Medal Award. Read what Duff Brenna of The Los Angeles Review of Books had to say about Katey’s debut collection:

Heartbreaking one moment, triumph the next. Stories filled with an immense humanity, all, together, detailing the trivia, the nonsense, the rudiments and the essentials. The nuts and bolts of war, its lifeblood, its jargon, its maddening absurdities and heroisms and senseless deaths and maimings are laid out in a clear, clean, rhythmic tessellation, united with a deceptively minimalist style that out-Carvers Carver and exposes the traumas of war without any breast-beating outrage. But outrage is what one feels. Outrage and exasperation, as well as a sense of satisfaction at Schultz’s adept achievement.

Katey holds an MFA from Pacific University and is a recipient of the Linda Flowers Literary Award from the North Carolina Humanities Council. She lives in a sweet 1970 Airstream trailer bordering the Pisgah National Forest. Katey’s work illustrates the power of civilian war writing and we are honored that she agreed to be included in this event. Buy her book HERE or buy a copy at the event!

Have a great week.

-Mike

As always, we thank you for your time and support. Want to help us provide no-cost, high-quality literary programming for veterans, their families and civilian supporters? Make a tax-deductible donation HERE.

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