05 October 2020

FREE Mil-Writers' Event includes 'Get Published' Seminar

The writer of the Red Bull Rising blog will be one of six speakers featured at this year's Norwich Military Writers' Symposium, Oct. 7-8, 2020.

Hosted by the Norwich University centers for Peace & War Studies and Global Resilience & Security, and underwritten by the Pritzker Military Museum & Library Partnership, this year's event is being conducted entirely on-line due to concerns related to COVID-19.

Attendance is FREE and open to the public, with registration. (NOTE: Use browsers Chrome, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge for registration page; Internet Explorer is not supported.) (NOTE: All times are Eastern DAYLIGHT Time.)

Poet, journalist, book editor, and Military Writers Guild board member Randy Brown, who often blogs under the pseudonym "Charlie Sherpa," will speak on the topic of "Aiming to Publish: Military-themed Writing Tips, Techniques, and Markets." The talk is targeted to writing practitioners of all genres and media formats.

"I'm thrilled to be in conversation with present and future leaders, about how they can engage in professional discourse, not only through written argumentation and analysis, but also through literary and speculative fiction, creative non-fiction, and even poetry and comic books," says Brown.

Established in 1996, the Norwich Military Writers' Symposium annually gathers writers, historians, journalists and biographers to the campus of Norwich University, located in Northfield, Vermont.

One of six senior military colleges, the U.S. Department of Defense recognizes Norwich University as "the birthplace of Reserve Officers' Training Corps." The private institution serves more than 2,100 undergraduates and 1,300 graduate students via on-campus and on-line classes.

Past Norwich Military Writers' Symposia have covered topics ranging from "Future Battlefields," "Endless War," and "Cyberwarfare and Privacy." The theme of this year's event is "Weaponizing Water: Ancient Tactic, New Implications." For a teaser video, click here.

"Water and warfare share a long history, and today’s implications are equally strategic and tactical," organizers write. "From the power struggle in the Arctic, to the war over water in the Middle East, to conflicts in Africa from depleted water resources, the intersection of the environment and security is an issue that will shape the twenty-first century."

The annual symposium also highlights the William E. Colby Military Writers' Award, which recognizes "a first work of fiction or non-fiction that has made a major contribution to the understanding of intelligence operations, military history, or international affairs."

The 2020 event will feature six speakers using the GoToMeeting web application. 2 ​ 3 All times are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (UTC-4):

9 a.m.—10 a.m., Wed., Oct. 7, 2020:
Nadhir Al-Ansari, Globally Recognized Engineer and Author 
Topic: "Analyzing the Complexities of Hydro-politics and Conflict of Tigris and Euphrates Rivers"

11 a.m.—12 Noon, Wed., Oct. 7, 2020:
David Kilcullen, Leading Global Security Expert, Thought Leader
Topic: "COVID, Conflict and Water: Lessons from the Arab Spring"

12 Noon—1 p.m., Wed., Oct. 7, 2020:
Adam Higginbotham, 4 2020 Colby Award Winner

2 p.m.—3 p.m. Wed., Oct. 7, 2020:
Sherri Goodman, Leading Environmental Security Expert
Topic: "Water and Climate Security in an Age of Global Disruption"

4 p.m.—5 p.m., Wed., Oct. 7, 2020:
Randy Brown, Author and Journalist
Topic: "Aiming to Publish: Military-themed Writing Tips, Techniques, and Markets"

6 p.m.—7 p.m., Wed., Oct. 7, 2020 (Via Facebook Live here.)
Nicole Navarro, Norwich University Class of 2021, 2020 Schultz Fellow
Topic: "How the People’s Republic of China is Weaponizing Water Ports to Control Business, Politics, Perspective and Trade in Tanzania."

12 noon—1 p.m., Thurs., Oct. 8, 2020 (View on Norwich Writers' Symposium website here.)
Panel discussion moderated by William Lyons

    18 August 2020

    'Red Bull' Featured in 'True War Stories' Anthology

    Fifteen captivating tales of humor, horror, and other wartime experiences are presented in the forthcoming 250-page comics anthology "True War Stories." The 250-page hardcover, co-edited by Alex de Campi and Iraq War veteran Khai Krumbhaar, will be published by Z2 Comics in November 2020. However, a 30-day Kickstarter campaign launches today, Tues., Aug. 18, 2020. Through the crowd-funding effort, readers may preview and pre-order the book.

    One of the featured "True War Stories" is related to the 2010-2011 deployment of the Iowa National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division.

    Written by former Iowa National Guard citizen-soldier Randy Brown, "In the Valley of Lions" originally appeared as an essay in Volume 2 of "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors." As "Charlie Sherpa," Brown writes about citizen-soldier culture at the Red Bull Rising blog; about modern war poetry at FOBhaiku.com, and about military writing at The Aiming Circle. He also edited a 2015 collection of U.S. Army public affairs journalism about the Iowa brigade's deployment, "Reporting for Duty: U.S. Citizen-Soldier Journalism from the Afghan Surge, 2010-2011."

    "As far as I can tell, the last time the 'Red Bull' unit patch showed up in a comic book was in 'Combat Kelly' No. 21, published in 1954," says Brown. "Unlike that story, however, this 'Red Bull' tale is the non-fiction—the real deal. I hope it adequately portrays some of the strange context and significant sacrifices our citizen-soldier neighbors made for the United States, for the people of Panjshir Province, and for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA).'"

    Art on the 13-page comics story "In the Valley of Lions" is by Ryan Howe. Colors are by Kelly Fitzpatrick.

    Brown's original essay contrasts a 2-day U.S. Department of State-sponsored "tourism conference" held in Pansjhir Province in June 2011, with a July 2011 insider attack that resulted in the deaths of Sgt. 1st Class Terryl Pasker, 39, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and civilian law enforcement advisor Paul Protzenko, 46, of Enfield, Mass. Also injured in the attack was Master Sgt. Todd Eipperle, 46, of Marshalltown, Iowa. Eipperle was recognized for his response to the attack.

    Later in 2011, the Red Bull Rising blog posted additional information about the attack here.

    Published annually published by Southeast Missouri State University Press, Cape Girardeau, Mo., the "Proud to Be" series is an anthology of military non-fiction, fiction, poetry, photography, and more. For a Red Bull Rising review of the 2013 volume in which "In the Valley of Lions" first appeared, click here.

    For more information about "True War Stories," and to pre-order one or more copies—including editions autographed by the co-editors—visit the Kickstarter campaign here.

    01 April 2020

    Listen Up, Maggots! It's National Poetry Month!

    PHOTO BY: U.S. Army Sgt. Ken Scar
    This post, written by the author of FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire, originally appeared on the Red Bull Rising blog April 6, 2016. It also was featured in the recent Military Writers Guild anthology Why We Write: Craft Essays on Writing War.

    When packing for one of my first training experiences with the U.S. Army, back in the late 1980s, I knew that free time and footlocker space would be at a premium. I could live without luxuries like my Walkman cassette player for a few months. I also wanted to avoid avoid too much gruff from drill sergeants. So I stuffed a paperback copy of Shakespeare's "Henry V" into my left cargo pocket, wrapped in a plastic sandwich bag, as my sole entertainment.

    If nothing else, I thought, I'd work on my memorization skills. ("Oh, for a muse of fire-guard duty …") Little did I realize that so much of my brain would already be filled, starting those summer months at Fort Knox, Ky., with the nursery rhymes of Uncle Sam. Training was full of poetry. Sometimes, it was profane. "This is my rifle, this is my gun!" Sometimes, it was pedagogical. "I will turn the tourniquet / to stop the flow / of the bright red blood." There were even times that it was nearly pathological. "What is the spirit of the bayonet?! / Kill! Kill! Kill!"

    These basic phrases connected us new recruits to the yellow footprints of those who had stood here before, marched in our boots, squared the same corners, weathered the same abuses. Every time we moved, we were serenaded by sergeants. Counting cadence, calling cadence, bemoaning that Jody was back home, dating our women, drinking our beer. We learned our lines, our ranks, our patches, our places as much by tribal story-telling than by reading the effing field manual. Even our soldier humor was hand-me-down wisdom, tossed off like singsong hand grenades. Phrases like, "Don't call me 'sir' / I work for a living!" and "You were bet-ter off when you left! / You're right!"

    Nobody's quite sure why April got the nod as National Poetry Month. I like to think that it's because of that line from T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland": "April is the cruelest month." Because that sounds like the Army. Besides, in springtime, the thoughts of every warrior-poet lightly turns to baseball; showers that bring flowers ("If it ain't raining / it ain't training!"); and the start of fighting season in Afghanistan.

    Poetry, I recognize, isn't every soldier's three cups of tea. Ever since I entertained my platoon mates with Prince Harry's inspiring St. Crispin's Day speech, however, I've enjoyed sneaking poetry into the conversation. Perhaps more soldiers would appreciate poetry, were they to realize the inherent poetics of military life:

    Every time you go to war, you are engaged in a battle for narrative. Every deployment—individually as a soldier, or collectively as an Army or nation—is a story. Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Every story is subject to vision, and revision. History isn't always written by the victors, but it is re-written by poets. Treat them well. Otherwise, they will cut you.

    Every time you eat soup with a knife, you are wielding a metaphor. Every "boots on the ground," every "line in the sand," every Hollywood-style named operation ("Desert Shield"! "Desert Storm"! "Enduring Freedom"!) is a metaphor that shapes our understanding of a war and its objectives. If you don't understand the dangerous end of a metaphor, you shouldn't be issued one.

    (There's also a corollary, and a warning: As missions change, so do metaphors. In other words, when a politician trots out a new metaphor for war, better check your six.)

    Every poem is a fragment of intelligence, a piece in the puzzle. A poem can slow down time, describe a moment in lush and flushed detail. It can transport the reader to a different time, a different battlefield. Most importantly, a poem can describe the experience of military life and death through someone else's eyes—a spouse, a villager, a soldier, a journalist. Poetry, in short, is a training opportunity for empathy.

    Soldiers like to say that the enemy gets a vote, so it's worth noting that the enemy writes poetry, too. Like reading doctrine and monitoring propaganda, reading an enemy's verse reveals motivations and values. Sun Tzu writes:
    If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
    Every time you quote a master, from Sun Tzu to Schwarzkopf, you are delivering aphorism. I liken the aphorism—a quotable-quote or maxim—to be akin to concise forms of poetry, such as haiku. In fact, in my expansive view, I think aphorisms should count as poetry. In the world of word craft, it can take as much effort to hone an effective aphorism than it does to write a 1,000-word essay. Aphorisms are laser-guided missiles, rather than carpet bombs. We should all spend our words more wisely.

    Reading a few lines connects us to the thin red line of soldiers past, present, and future. Poetry puts us in the boots of those who have served before, hooks our chutes to a larger history and experience of war. The likes of Shakespeare's "band of brothers" speech, John McRae's "In Flanders Fields," and Rudyard Kipling's poem "Tommy" continue to speak to the experiences and sentiments of modern soldiers.

    I am happy to report that more-contemporary war poets have continued the march.

    Here's a quick list to probe the front lines of modern war poetry: From World War II, seek out Henry Reed's "The Naming of Parts." For a jolt of Vietnam Era parody, read Alan Farrell's "The Blaming of Parts." From the Iraq War, Brian Turner's "Here, Bullet." In this tight shot group, modern soldiers will no doubt recognize themselves, their tools, and their times. Here is industrial-grade boredom, an assembly line of war, punctuated with humor and grit, gunpowder and lead.

    Want more? Check out print and on-line literary offerings from Veterans Writing Project's "O-Dark-Thirty" quarterly literary journal; Military Experience & the Arts' twice-annual "As You Were"; the "Line of Advance" journal; and Southeast Missouri State University's "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors" annual anthology series.

    Finally, you can buy an pocket anthology of poetry, such as the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets edition of "War Poems" from Knopf, or Ebury's "Heroes: 100 Poems from the New Generation of War Poets." Stuff it in your left cargo pocket. Read a page a day as a secular devotional, a meditation on war. Or, pick a favorite poem, print it out, and post it on the wall of your fighting position or office cube. Read the same poem, over and over again, during the course of a few weeks. See how it changes. See how it changes in you.

    Remember: It's National Poetry Month. And every time you read a war poem, an angel gets its Airborne wings.


    Randy Brown embedded with his former Iowa Army National Guard unit as a civilian journalist in Afghanistan, May-June 2011. He authored the poetry collection Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire. Recently, he co-edited the Military Writers Guild anthology Why We Write: Craft Essays on Writing War. He is the current poetry editor of Military Experience and the Arts' "As You Were" literary journal, and a member of the Military Writers Guild. As "Charlie Sherpa," he blogs about citizen-soldier culture at www.redbullrising.com and military writing at www.aimingcircle.com.