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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: “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

Weekly Round-Up: Yule Slog Edition

creepy

creepy

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.

-Mike

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.

-Mike

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Weekly Round-Up: Rabbit Rabbit Edition

today is...today is...

today is…today is…

 

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

It’s the first of the month, the day after Halloween and the night before our first public event, “Danger Close: Writers on War” (info and tickets HERE). The sugar rush subsides, masks are removed, the pumpkins are burned out, squishy or smashed and discarded costumes grow funky in the corner. Ratty playoff beards get shaved or trimmed.

My grandmother used to say “rabbit rabbit” as soon as she woke up on the first day of every month. For a while I tried, but I’m not really a morning person and I never know the date, so hopefully whatever luck I’m running on comes from somewhere else.

We sincerely hope to see any and all at tomorrow’s event and we’d like to thank everyone who has helped us spread the word through press, retweets, Telephone, etc. Here we go with the links:

1. Veterans and Hurricane Sandy, via The Daily Beast.

2. Beautiful new drawings by Jess Ruliffson, “Invisible Wounds.”

3. A multimedia report on toxic burn pits, via The Verge.

4. Read “Danger Close: Writers on War” participant Brian Castner on the Boston Bomb Squad in the current issue of Wired.

5. The AIT AF’s Veterans Day Performance is just around the corner. Find more info HERE.

6. The state of the American War Novel, via Los Angeles Review of Books.

7. The New York Times “Home Fires” section seeks submissions for Veterans Day.

Have a great weekend.

-Mike

Follow us on Twitter and “like” us on Facebook.

Weekly Round-Up: First Prize Edition

prize

Words After War workshop hosted by Mellow Pages Library and led by Matt Gallagher.

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

For the most part, being a writer is a pretty thankless job filled with long, solitary spells of slippery inspiration and storm clouds of self-doubt. But sometimes, if you grind it out for a very long time (or if you’re a genius), you’ll see some recognition. In the literary world, this recognition usually takes the form of one of a few well-known awards. Because most of these books don’t move huge numbers or make a mass cultural impression, these prize committees hold great power. And sometimes they mess up! There was no Pulitzer for fiction last year. The three-person panel made their recommendations (The Pale King, Train Dreams and Swamplandia!) and then…nothing. Now, some would say those were three odd, imperfect choices: an unfinished novel published posthumously, a novella that first appeared in The Paris Review some years earlier and a charming yet flawed first novel. But most agree that any winner would’ve been better than none at all. Plenty of prize-winning books have dropped in esteem over the years. No reason to spin thumbs.

Here we go with the links:

1. An interview with Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, via Mental Floss.

2. Writers reflect on Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize in The New Yorker.

3. Feeling old and/or unaccomplished? The winner of this year’s Man Booker Prize is 28.

4. Here are the finalists for the National Book Award, including Navy veteran Thomas Pynchon. Who do you like? (BONUS LINK: Michael Chabon on Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge).

5. Read Words After War instructor Matt Gallagher on William Swenson’s Medal of Honor in The Daily Beast.

6. Maurice Decaul talks war poetry and jazz with MacArthur Fellow Vijay Iyer on NPR.

7. Former Navy EOD John Ismay explains chemical weapons.

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

Have a great weekend.

-Mike

Questions? Concerns? Need to get in contact? Follow us on Twitter and “like” us on Facebook.

 

Words After War Weekly Round-Up

Round-up

Final Days of Summer Round-Up

Weekly Round-Up No. 2

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the second installment of the Words After War Weekly Round-Up. In this space we share 7 links relevant to our mission of improving the veteran-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming. Thanks for your time and continued support. Here we go:

1. The life and influences of mysterious literary heavyweight and Navy veteran Thomas Pynchon is the subject of this long, knotty profile from New York Magazine.

2. Explore the continuing relationship between Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg and President Obama as Remsburg recovers from severe injuries sustained in Afghanistan.

3. Watch Air Force veteran and celebrated author James Salter on Charlie Rose, along with Paris Review editor Lorin Stein, novelist Mona Simpson and essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan.

4. Visit the work spaces of several prominent authors, including Jonathan Lethem, Julian Barnes and Jesymn Ward.

5. Read Air Force EOD veteran and author Brian Castner’s excellent piece in the New York Times.

6. The challenge of capturing a complex subject in a single sentence: War in six words.

7. Looking for a creative jump start? These writing prompts might help. What’s that? You need a little ambient noise to really get the job done? Bring the din of a busy coffee house to any writing table.

And a very special End of Summer bonus link: Please visit our brand new Writing Community Page, filled with amazing resources and interesting reading material.

Have a great Labor Day weekend.

-Mike

The inaugural Words After War Writing Workshop, led by veteran and writer Matt Gallagher, will begin Sept. 23 at Mellow Pages Library in Brooklyn, NY. More details can be found here. The workshop is open to veterans and civilians alike. Chairs are filling fast. Join us and spread the word!

Questions, concerns, suggestions? Visit our Facebook Page and follow us on Twitter.

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