Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “Cabin Fever” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming.
It’s winter and if most of us haven’t lived through a polar vortex yet, then one’s surely headed our way. As much time as I spend outdoors in all manner of weather conditions, I still seem to get cabin fever by February. Common side effects include thinking in feedback loops (ex. 6mins14secs into this TED talk), excessive reading, and deeply metaphysical conversations with dogs (recommended). But everything in moderation, right? Or not. There’s an allure to obsession and it’s not unusual for it to feel like a writer’s best friend. As author Jeff Vandermeer puts it:
What is obsession but curiosity and passion taken to an extreme?…Obsession is an essential part of creating an enduring work of art.
And with that, 5 links in the name of cabin fever, with full permission to get completely lost down the rabbit hole of any of these links. Who knows, you just might stumble across something to obsess about:
1. Sketching Guantanamo by Janet Hamlin with a forward by Carol Rosenberg: I’m already on my second go-round with this ground-breaking, only-one-of-its-kind in recent history book that includes sketches and commentary by the sole courtroom artist allowed to document the military trials at Guantanamo for the past eight years. The link will take you to an 18-page excerpt as a free download.
2. Ben Fountain on Aspen’s First Draft radio show: As a fellow civilian war-lit author, I found Ben’s interview relatable, precise, and insightful. Wise words about writing the “other” and the slow-slog of the writing life from the ground up. Plus, he’s got a wicked sense of humor.
3. Outside Magazine reports on Marines and elite adventure racers who showed higher activation in the insular cortex of the brain just moments before being subjected to “aversive stimulus” (ex. restricted airflow).
4. Marines also logged stellar performances in mental resilience in another study, this one funded by a $1.7 million four-year grant from the Department of Defense to study the impact of meditation practice incorporated into training.
5. Jeff Vandermeer, quoted above, has written a book about writing that I can’t recommend enough. Genre fiction skeptics (and I used to be one) be damned, Wonderbook is for every writer and teacher of any kind of writing. Not your average how-to nor your schmarmy beat-the-block approach—this book stretches the limits of imagination in ways sometimes dark, other times corny, and always original. More importantly, it challenges parts of the creative writing canon with highly compelling, innovative alternatives. Vandermeer put it best when he wrote of the writing life, “So the question is: How can you position yourself to dream well?” And dream we do…
Stay warm out there.
–Katey Schultz, Flashes of War
6. In Salon this week, you can read an excerpt from Kayla Williams’ upcoming memoir, Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War. She writes movingly about her family’s struggle to care for her husband, who was severely wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq.