Archive | Veterans

Weekly Round-Up: Yule Slog Edition



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

What is the optimal caffeine level for creative work? One mug of black tea? Bottomless Ventis? 5 Hour Energy shots? A 16-ounce Red Bull looks like a torpedo. Last time I chugged an “energy drink” looking for inspiration I wound up gagging through a highly pixelated panic attack. What I’m saying is, sometimes you can’t force it.

Hear back from any writing contests this week? I received two polite notifications (everyone’s whipping through the slush in order to return to a clean desk in the New Year) and, well, congratulations to the winners. Some fine day I will write a post all about the contests I haven’t won, the idea that rejection is the defining force of the writing life, but not today. Because it’s almost Christmas and we here at Words After War like to focus on the positive whenever possible. Would you like to get involved? Here are three quick ways to do so: DonateWrite for us! Follow us on Twitter and “like” us on Facebook!

Without further ado, here are the links for the week.

1. Ten great essays on writing, from Flavorwire.

2. Writers take a stand against the surveillance state, via The Rumpus.

3. Jerry Stahl on drug lit for Buzzfeed.

4. Largehearted Boy is painstakingly compiling all of this year’s “Best Of” lists.

5. This week the good people of Detroit’s Write A House gained some Internet attention. Read about their mission here.

6. Here’s a new trailer for David Abrams’ novel Fobbit.

7. A harrowing, starkly realized piece on lobotomized WWII veterans.

Have a great weekend and happy holidays.


Guest Post: “Kill Anything that Moves”

Kill Anything that Moves

The blog will now feature guest posts from our talented community of writers. This week we feature David Chrisinger’s review of Kill Anything that Moves. We are excited to bring you these new and exciting voices.

“Let Veterans Say What They Need to Say”

The men of my grandfather’s generation, who fought the Second World War, are famous for their stoicism regarding the horrors of combat and the struggles of coming home. “The war was in the past. Nobody wanted to hear about those things,” my grandmother told me after my grandfather passed away in 2000.

This sort of silence was even more pronounced for the combat veterans of my father’s generation–those who fought in Vietnam. “In terms of a supportive community in which to digest their experiences,” Dr. Jonathan Shay writes, “the situation for them was worse than it had been for their fathers.”

The danger in not knowing the true costs of war is that, “A society ‘protected’ from the reality of war,” according to author Kevin Sites, “can rewrite the narrative, shaping and forming it into something less terrible and costly by emphasizing only the heroism and triumphs rather than the dark, ugly deeds that occur with much greater frequency than we care to imagine or discuss.”

My own understanding of the Vietnam War changed abruptly a few months ago, after I finished reading Kill Anything That Moves by Nick Turse.

Based on files of the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group, Turse argues that, “Murder, torture, rape, abuse, forced displacement, home burnings, specious arrests, and imprisonment without due process” were “virtually a daily fact of life throughout the years of the American presence in Vietnam” and that they were “the inevitable outcome of deliberate policies, dictated at the highest levels of the military.”

Turse ultimately blames part of the problem on the fact that we as a country never really discussed the true nature of war when our troops came home from from the Second World War.

“Many had gone to Vietnam with their heads filled by visions of their fathers’ war,” Turse writes, “as seen through the prism of the John Wayne movies of their childhoods. The war they would fight, however, proved to be nothing like it had been on the silver screen.”

We do a great disservice if we prevent the sorts of stories Turse uncovered from being told. Not only does doing so unjustifiably absolve the country as a whole from its own responsibility for sending its young men to war, but it also prevents veterans from making peace with themselves.

After more than 12 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, let’s make sure we give our veterans the chance to tell us what they need to say.

David Chrisinger works to close the divide between veterans and civilians by helping post-9/11 veterans tell their stories of war. This past October, he ran a 50-mile ultramarathon to raise money for The Mission Continues.

Want to write for Words After War? Send submissions (500 word maximum) to MIKE at WORDSAFTERWAR dot ORG. Thanks!

Weekly Round-Up: “This is a Call” Edition


all of the lights all of the lights

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

In between endless Home Alone showings, pointless Love, Actually debates and carols on the dial (these Xmas stations are the costume shops of the airwaves) the holiday season is officially in full swing. But never fear, the content mill cranked along and churned out some links.

Before we get to those, a question: Would you like to write for us? We are soliciting submissions to the Words After War blog from veterans and civilian-supporters alike. To be considered please send any work (essay, fiction, poetry, cultural criticism, humor, etc) in the body of an email (no attachments, please) to MIKE at WORDSAFTERWAR dot ORG. Try to stay under 400 words and include a brief bio. It’s that easy! We look forward to reading your work and hosting a diverse collection of voices on the blog!

To the links:

1. A wild list of all the books alt king Blake Butler read in 2013.

2. Mother Jones on class and the military-civilian divide.

3. A Q&A with WAW friend and author Katey Schultz!

4. Editors of The Atlantic on their favorite books of the year.

5. The New York Times looks back on the year in literature.

6. Quil Lawrence on one Marine’s discharge upgrade.

7. Nobel-winner Alice Munro accepts the award from her living room.

Have a great weekend.


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Weekly Round-Up: “Leaked” Salinger Edition


Credit: Flickr/Contemplicity

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

I read one of the “leaked” Salinger stories that oozed online last week and have been mulling the moral implications ever since. The story, “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls,” was an enjoyable read, but it’s a minor work. Maybe if I had first encountered “Bowling Balls” in an old paperback one pre-teen summer it would have packed more of a punch. Instead I read the scanned pages on Imgur after falling down a few Reddit-poked rabbit holes.

I’m sure these stories are still available for those who know their way around the shadier corners of the web. I’d encourage anyone interested to try and track them down. I don’t think these materials should be available solely to those who can afford to visit Princeton University. But the underwhelming material makes me wonder whether Salinger wasn’t some sort of privacy zealot, rather a writer who took quality control (very) seriously.

I have stories that I reread now and I think to myself, thank God nobody published these, I’d be ruined. If my life unfolds perfectly from here on out and I die a widely respected author/cultural figure, will my legacy be tarnished by the posthumous publication of these off-key ditties? I’ll be dead. Hopefully by then I’ll have other things to worry about.

To the links:

1. Service dogs for veterans.

2. Discover what writers read this year in The Millions.

3. Donation allows Florida’s Mission United to upgrade services, facility.

4. All the benefits of a Syracuse MFA without leaving the couch. Here’s Video Office Hours with George Saunders.

5. A great piece on literary self-loathing.

6. RIP legendary editor Peter Kaplan.

7. The 2014 Pushcart Prize winners.

Have a great weekend.


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Weekly Round-Up: Thanksgiven Edition

trot this way

trot this way

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

Trip the fan, it’s the tryptophan! Turkey nachos, anyone? What’s that? You were looking forward to a few juicy, succulent hours of silence away from the generally well-meaning family members who happen to be slam dancing on your remaining nerve? Take to the attic, flex those last ribbons of wifi and settle into a dusty armchair with these hearty links.

But first, we would like to thank everyone for their support of our LITERARY MENTORSHIP program. If you or someone you know is seeking assistance in realizing their literary ambitions or searching for a receptive vessel to fill with hard-won knowledge, please contact DAVID via INFO at WORDSAFTERWAR dot ORG.

Yes, we here at Words After War have much to be thankful for this year. A hopping workshop, two great NYC events, a successful contest, donations, glowing media coverage, a growing network of engaged writers, the list goes on. Here’s to many more opportunities to provide veterans and civilian supporters with the tools they need to tell their stories. And now, the links.

1. The New York Times Notable Books for 2013 (including David Finkel’s excellent THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE).

2. Need more recommendations? Writer Elliott Holt’s list of 2013 reads can be found HERE.

3. Need even MORE recommendations? Tis the season for year’s end “Best of” lists, and this one from The Guardian packs an impressive crew of contributors.

3. “New” Salinger stories leaked online.

4. Check out the new online home of our workshop host, Mellow Pages Library.

6. An impressive presentation via Wired and Longreads on polio in Afghanistan.

7. “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.” Thanks Oscar Wilde! We’re doing our best. Here are a few other Thanksgiving quotes.

Have a great weekend.


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Wanted: Literary Mentees

You're the man now, dog.

You’re the man now, dog.

Are you a veteran embarking on a creative project? Maybe you are applying to college or graduate school and need somebody to edit your application essays. Maybe you are outlining a memoir or mulling a novel or just trying to jot down some thoughts. We want to help. Let us match you with a mentor to serve as a sounding board, supporter and independent advisor.

One of the hardest things about writing is finding a reader you trust. It can be difficult to part with early drafts. They are frequently raw with emotion. It’s a vulnerable time. But it is also a crucial part of the process. Finding a good reader can be the difference between publishing your work and storing it on your hard drive. Writers need guidance, they need deadlines and structure. These are some of the more contradictory bits of the creative life. This is why we want to give everyone time to stew in the woods, but we also want to grill them in the workshop. Crank the wheel, turn the scraps into sausage.

Here’s how the Words After War Literary Mentorship Program cranks: You contact us and briefly explain your hopes/dreams/current creative projects. We match you with an experienced volunteer. What happens after we make the introduction is largely up to you. Ideally we would like there to be at least THREE conversations between mentors and mentees, either online or in person, but if you two hit it off we have no problem with more than that. Get an apartment together for all we care. It’s a cold world out there, especially for fledgling artists.

What happens if the chemistry isn’t right? What if your mentor doesn’t GET you? We try again. The mentors are showing up in full force. People want to share their experience and expertise. Let them. Benefit from their knowledge. Learn from their mistakes. Obviously we hope this will be a two-way street. Three-way, if you count us over on the administrative end.

Interested in being a mentee (or mentor)? Contact DAVID via INFO at WORDSAFTERWAR dot ORG. Let’s build.

Weekly Round-Up: Dollar Short Edition


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

After all the big city bustle surrounding our “Danger Close: Writing War in the Workshop” event in NYC this week it was a humbling downshift when I found myself unable to hack into our website in order to post this week’s round-up. Apologies to all those readers out there stumbling about, grasping for guidance and links.

But before we get into those, Brandon and I would like to extend our sincere thanks once again to the Hudson Park Library, moderator Helen Benedict, panelists Matt Gallagher, Phil Klay, Maurice Decaul and Mariette Kalinowski and the attentive, book-purchasing “Danger Close” audience. We look forward to more events and further opportunities to bridge the veteran-civilian divide.

And here we go with the links:

1. 50 years later, here are 5 novels about the JFK assassination, via Book Riot.

2. Here is a Flavorwire list of 50 books that define the last 5 years of literature.

3. Writing and distraction in the Internet Age.

4. Writing crime fiction in a safe country, via Los Angeles Review of Books.

5. Collecting and preserving the stories of Vietnam veterans.

6. Why aren’t more veterans enrolled at our most prestigious colleges? Slate investigates.

7. The NFL and veterans, via Business Insider.

As always, thanks for your time and support.


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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.