04 May 2016

Winners Announced in Veterans' Writing Contest

Editors at the Chicago-based literary journal "Line of Advance" have announced the inaugural slate of Col. Darron L. Wright Memorial Writing Award winners. Underwritten by the Blake & Bailey Foundation, the contest was established in memory of U.S. Army Col. Darron L. Wright.

More background on "Line of Advance" previously appeared on the Red Bull Rising blog here.

"Thanks to all the writers who submitted for the Darron L. Wright Award," the editors wrote earlier this week. "We loved reading your work and are inspired by the creativity and ingenuity it took to write these pieces."


Retooled as a free website in 2015, the Line of Advance will publish one or two waves of submissions annually. Content published in four previous issues of the Line of Advance e-magazine will be anthologized and re-published on the website.

A Facebook page for "Line of Advance" is here.

27 April 2016

Iowa Review's Final Veterans-Lit Contest Opens May 1

Jeff Sharlet during service in Vietnam
The submissions window for a third and reportedly final Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans writing contest opens Sun., May 1, 2016 and closes June 15. The contest is open to any service member or veteran writing in any genre, about any subject matter. (Current students, faculty, or staff of the University of Iowa, however, are not eligible to enter the contest.)

The contest is hosted by The Iowa Review and made possible by the family of Jeff Sharlet (1942–1969), a Vietnam veteran and anti-war writer and activist. The 2016 contest is underwritten by an Art Works Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

In past iterations of the contest, entry fee has been $15, with a limited number of fee-waivers available for entrants with financial need. Current website information regarding the 2016 contest, however, does not mention entry fees.

Prizes may also have changed: This year, first place is $1,000 plus publication in the Spring 2017 issue of The Iowa Review. Second place is $750. Finally, three runners-up will receive $500 each.

Entrants should submit an original double-spaced manuscript in any genre (poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction) of up to 20 pages. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, although the editors request timely notification if the work is later accepted elsewhere.

Submissions may be made either on-line or via postal mail. Full contest rules and details here.

A Submittable page for on-line submissions is here.

The contest and publication have previously been mentioned on the Red Bull Rising blog here and here.

Finalists will be selected by the editors of The Iowa Review. A winner will be selected by the guest judge. This year's guest judge is Phil Klay (rhymes with "fly"), a former U.S. Marine officer and recipient of the National Book Award for fiction in 2014.

A Facebook page for The Iowa Review is here.

20 April 2016

Women Veterans are Focus of New 'O-Dark-Thirty'

COVER: "Twoface," photo by
U.S. Marine veteran Magdalena Green
Always a good source for intelligence and trends in today's military writing, editors of the literary journal "O-Dark-Thirty" focused on the contributions of women veterans in their Winter 2016 issue.

The resulting 180-page issue surveys new non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and interviews written by women veterans. The print edition is available for a $40 yearly subscription, or $12 single-copy. The journal, published quarterly by the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Veterans Writing Project, is also available to read FREE on-line as a PDF here.

In her introduction to the issue, Managing Editor Jerri Bell writes:
We weren't sure what kind of submissions we'd get, or how many. Since we began publishing, we'd only received a few submissions from women veterans. I could count then my digits and have a couple of toes left over. But the response was overwhelming. Not only did we have several times the usual number of submissions to consider, the variety and quality were unusually high. We decided to accept as many pieces as we could possibly print and run online in the month of February, and we still had to decline a great deal of excellent work.
Despite the exclusive theme, the journal delivers its usual high quality and wide variety of voices. Stand-outs are by personal preference—readers will no doubt find one or two particularly resonant, but I will leave that selection to each reader's own tastes. I will, however, share a couple that have stuck with me. One favorite, for example, is the poetry of Anna Weaver. A former U.S. Army parachute rigger, Weaver pulls the cord on some particularly punchy lines in "jokes with civilians":
[…] Our stories have sound effects—engine, rotor, shockwave,
unfolding canopy,
the soft exhale before firing.

Our memories have cadence and caliber, sector and arc,
drill and ceremony.
We cannot sanitize or explain.

Our jargon has no synonyms. Our alphabet
isn't made of letters. There is no signal
to tell you when it's safe to laugh. […]
In her non-fiction story "Wind and Waves," former U.S. Coast Guard officer and diver Tenley Lozano bookends a bracing story of sea duty aboard the sailing barque Eagle with quiet reflections of time spent hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with her husky mix, Elu. Under the surface lies more than a reflection on waves and hills, however. Instead, Lozano expertly tethers her tale to symbolism and tradition and technical details, providing readers not only with scenes, but lessons-learned. For example, she writes regarding a 2005 incident that caused injury to five cadets aboard Eagle:
[I]f the lifeline had been made of half-inch thick double-braid nylon rope and attached with a bowline knot to the bolt, the knot would have been able to withstand the stress of those cadets falling and simultaneously pulling on the rope. The point of failure was the metal clip, but the officers in charge of Eagle had forgotten their background as sailors and relied on metal clips and cables rather than rope or knots.
That is a wonderfully intricate paragraph to loosen, much less to untie. I have come back to it often.

In her short fictional story "How to make Bosnian chicken salad," former Army public affairs soldier Susanne Aspley offers a primer in what can only be described as lemonade journalism. Out of the mouth of a character lieutenant, Aspley offers the following editorial advice, and captures the reality of the job to a T-and-dotted-I:
Let's say you have to do a story on, well, a promotion ceremony, or, say, a bunch of guys pulling guard duty and all they're doing is complaining and moping around and they don't want to be photographed. No problem. Find a story. Everyone has a story. Even the pimply E2 with buck teeth who only joined for the free dental care. You don't have to be a combat vet with PTSD to have a story. They all do. We all do. So get them to talk, and find out what the story is.
The issue ends with a Q&A-style interview between editor Bell and Tracy Crow, the latter a former Marine officer and author of memoir, genre fiction, and non-fiction books. The 11-page conversation feels like eavesdropping on two writer friends having coffee, and is full of inspiring and insightful observations about writing. One example, from Crow:
I'm encouraged by the workshops I lead from time to time that so many women veterans are willing and eager to write about their experiences. Some are turning their experiences into short stories and novels, and that's fine. Others such as Kayla Williams, Miyoko Hikiji, and Jane Blair have produced what I consider to be important memoirs. Some critics, however, will philosophize that all the stories that could have been told have already been told. For example, how many war stories do we need?

As many as can artfully and authentically rendered, I'd say. Because every writer's voice is unique and reveals through the writer's choice of conflicts for her characters to her sentence variations to the formatting of her paragraphs. Every writer approaches a story through a personal lens of perception that's unique to that writer and based on that writer's life experiences.