27 December 2012

Blog Year-in-Review: Thanks for a Great 2012!

I figured 2012 was going to be a slow year. The big deployment story, after all, was "over" in 2011.

Boy, was I wrong!

At the risk of sounding un-humble, here are a few highlights of my 2012. Some are Big News. Others are Small and Quirky. Thanks to all of you—readers, sponsors, and fellow military writers—who helped make these and other great things happen. In the coming new year, I look forward to continuing to explore with you ways in which citizen-soldiers past and present—as well as their families—can be remembered, supported, and celebrated.

In the meantime, best wishes to you and yours for a safe and rewarding holiday season!

MARCH
Encouraged (goaded?) by fellow sarcastiste Peter Van Buren, author of "We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People," I entered and won a snarky feeding frenzy conducted by the Washington Post's "In the Loop" blog. The topic? How to repurpose the 104-acre U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad, and what to name it. One of my answers: "Turn it into the Fertile Crescent Community College. (Sports chant: 'Go Tigris!')" 
That still cracks me up. Memo to self: Bring the funny more often in 2013.
APRIL
Published somer reflections on a service-dog graduation. In January 2013, the essay will also appear in an educational text on writing and reading comprehension. Here's to hoping that it is used as an example of good writing, rather than the other kind.

Nominated as a finalist in the 2012 Milbloggie awards, sponsored by Milblogging.com. This year was in the "Reporter" category, rather than as a "Veteran." Back to my journalistic roots, or back to bad habits? You make the call!
MAY
Reviewed "Memorial Day," a movie that featured some real-life Red Bull soldiers. In addition to the emotional and thought-provoking narrative, it was good to see the patch up on the proverbial Big Screen. By comparison, PowerPoint doesn't even come close. Have decided to make watching this movie a yearly tradition.
JULY
Published an article about legal issues regarding psychiatric service animals on campus in The Journal of Military Experience, Vol. 2. Here's the skinny in 50 words or less: In the United States, there are only two questions you can legally ask of a dog handler who is attempting to access public services. Make sure that your security, admissions, faculty, and other personnel know what they are. Otherwise, you might get sued. Or, at the very least, a bad reputation.

Presented a workshop on how to write a military blog during the first Military Experience and the Arts Symposium at Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Ky. Awesome event, which brought together veterans, artists, and arts organizations. Writing, painting, dancing, reading! Looking forward to another—maybe next year?
AUGUST
Published a very short article in the July/August issue of Midwest Living magazine, about the Tactical Explosives Detection Dogs ("TEDD") and handlers deployed with the Ohio and Michigan National Guard's 37th Infantry "Buckeye" Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.). The article encouraged readers to send letters and messages of encouragement to the troops and their dogs. The editors were overwhelmed with the response. Can't wait to tell you the rest of the story ...
SEPTEMBER
Read aloud the names of 96 Iowa service members and others who have been killed since 2003. The roll call takes place before the annual 5K Iowa Remembrance Walk/Run in Central Iowa. More than 800 registrants participated at this year's event! An awesome, humbling experience.

Moderated two panel discussions about military writing at the inaugural "Sangria Summit" conference, Denver. Colo. Great information and inspiration not only on writing, but on getting published. There are two more planned for 2013!
OCTOBER
Won the first-ever Military Reporters & Editors (M.R.E.) journalism contest for independent bloggers. Ironically, given the judges' comments about not all bloggers wearing pajamas, I am writing this year-in-review post wearing exactly that.
NOVEMBER

Participated as cast-member of "Telling: Des Moines," a stage production that presented the personal stories of eight Central Iowa military service members, veterans, and families. Part of the growing number of productions nationwide facilitated by The Telling Project, Austin, Texas, the Des Moines production was underwritten by the Des Moines Area Community College ("DMACC").

Published a poem in "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors." Have never called myself a warrior. Have never called myself a poet. Am now, however, calling myself a "warrior-poet." Household-6 isn't buying it.

Attended a workshop at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C. called "Common Ground: The Media, the Military, and Post-traumatic Stress." The event was sponsored by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, and administered by the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan. Lots of insights to share!
Thanks again for reading the Red Bull Rising blog! Have a safe and happy New Year's holiday, and I'll see you "on the objective" next year!

Like the Red Bull says: "Attack! Attack! Attack!"

24 December 2012

Scenes from a Reading of Dog-eared Children's Books

Photo: Dinko Ibukic/DinkoDesign.com
Save for the promise of a babe in a barn, one would be hard-pressed to conceive a more incongruous congregation: A troupe of traveling actors, a pack of puppies, and a muttering of children who have, on this misty gray Saturday morning, in a military museum filled with guns and planes, gathered together to share stories and songs.

Making her introductions, Paws & Effect Executive Director Nicole Shumate remembers the day before, an ugly and unthinkable and nearly unspeakable day, but only in passing. "Considering yesterday's events," she says, "I can't think of a better way to spend my day today, spending a little time with some kids." Her voice cracks a little, and so do we.

Photo: Todd Cerveris
The troupers hail from the national tour of "War Horse," which is playing later that afternoon at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. It is a theatrical play that celebrates, among other themes, the connections among humans and animals. It was also a movie. Before that, it was a book for young people.

The off-duty actors have answered an early call, but gamely rouse the crowd with a boisterous tune from the show. Written by John Tams, it appears as "Wheel of Fortune" on the soundtrack. People are just likely to recognize it, however, as "(When We Go) Rolling Home." It is stirring stuff, better than coffee:
Round goes the wheel of fortune, don't be afraid to ride
There's a land of milk and honey waits on the other side
There'll be peace and there'll be plenty, you'll never need to roam
When we go rolling home, when we go rolling home
video

After the song, the performers focus on their floor-bound audience, eagerly taking turns to read aloud three children's books. At times, it is difficult to discern who is having more fun: the kids, the readers, or the occasional errant pup who crashes in among both.

Photo: Todd Cerveris
In addition to training psychiatric service animals for wounded military veterans, Paws & Effects helps train Reading Education Assistance Dog ("READ") teams—humans and animals that help with literacy efforts. Indeed, some of the children and dogs present have met before, during pre-event arts activities at the Civic Center's annual series of family-centered performances.

Appropriately, on this day, the selected books each speak to human-animal themes, against backdrops of war and sacrifice:

First, "Scuttlebutt Goes to War," a childhood favorite of mine. The 1943 picture book is the true story a dog who is wounded in World War II, and adopted by sailors and Marines. Scuttlebutt gets his name from the wheeled apparatus he uses to get around temporarily, having been injured.

Even as a kid, I apparently enjoyed military punnery. And stories about dogs in service.

Then, "Klinger: A Story of Honor and Hope," which tells how a horse from Iowa becomes a key part in honoring soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

Finally, "14 Cows for America," the story of how, following the attacks of September 11, a tribe in Kenya sought to comfort Americans with the gift of its most treasured possessions.

Between stories, more songs: "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain," then "This Land is Your Land."

Scientists grandly speak of a unified theory of forces, attractions that bind and connect all that is, from planet to particle. Some are strong forces. Some are weak. The way I understand it, some of the smallest are also the strongest, responsible for binding together such fundamental bits as protons and electrons. And, no doubt, snakes, snails, and puppy dog tails.

Even during the holidays, one need not look far to know that there is pain in the world. And hurt. And evil. But there is also peace—a peace that can be found in belly rubs and cocked ears, eager listeners and cradled babes.

Remember this, where'er the wheel of fortune takes you this holiday season: Every moment is a present. Every story, a gift.

Photo: Todd Cerveris

20 December 2012

'Consequence' Magazine Focuses on Culture of War

According to its website, Consequence literary magazine is an "independent, international literary magazine." Located in Cohasset, Mass. and published annually, the magazine accepts submissions between June 1 and October 1 each year. The magazine's content comprises short fiction, poetry, non-fiction, interviews, visual art, and reviews focused on the culture and consequences of war.

For an online copy of the Spring 2012 issue, click here. Subscriptions are available. Rates are $10 for one year, $19 for two years, $28 for three years. The publisher also welcomes donations.
  • For fiction and non-fiction: Submit one piece of no more than 5,000 words.
  • For poetry: Submit up to five poems of any length. Translations are acceptable. A $300 annual prize in poetry is offered. For details, click here.
For more details on how to submit to Consequence, click here.

The publication has demonstrated a willingness to creatively engage the veterans community. In October 2012, for example, the magazine conducted a two-session poetry workshop for veterans, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.

For a Facebook page, click here.

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Disclaimer: This content regarding military writing is underwritten by Victor Ian LLC, a military media and gaming business. The business publishes Lanterloon, an eclectic lifestyle, technology, and military blog; has a physical retail storefront called "Dragons and Dragoons" located in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and hosts military-writing workshops and other events under the "Sangria Summit" brand name. 

16 December 2012

Low-Res MFA Program Sponsors Red Bull Rising

The Red Earth Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in creative writing program, a low-residency course of study located at Oklahoma City University, is the second official sponsor of the Red Bull Rising blog. The school is approved for post-9/11 funding, and appears on Victory Media's 2013 list of Military Friendly Schools

"The low-residency model is suitable for both traditional and non-traditional students: You can keep your job and keep up with your family responsibilities while studying for your MFA," says Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, acting director of the Red Earth MFA program.

Notably, the program bills itself with the tagline: "Write in the middle of it all."

Red Earth MFA students attend classes at the university twice each year, during 10-day residencies in January and July. Between sessions, students work from home, reading and writing toward their respective research objectives. They also participate in online workshops. The MFA program can be tailored to fit most any genre of interest, Mish says, including fiction, creative non-fiction, screenwriting, and more. It can also be targeted toward either the teaching or practice of writing.

Students complete 12 hours of course work each fall and spring semester for two years, for a total of 48 hours. During a final, fifth residency, students present a thesis project—a manuscript-length creative work in a genre of their choice. An MFA is considered a terminal degree.

For a helpful article regarding the utility of low-residency MFA programs, click here.

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Disclaimer: This Red Bull Rising blog-post about military writing is sponsored by the Red Earth MFA program at Oklahoma City University. This Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program requires 10-day residencies twice a year, in January and July. The program encourages explorations in all forms of creative non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting, and literary and genre fiction. The program has been approved for post-9/11 G.I. Bill funding, and Oklahoma City University appears on Victory Media's 2013 list of Military Friendly Schools.

13 December 2012

Flash-Priority for Flash-Fiction Contest Deadline!

An annual fiction contest for works written with fewer than 1,000 words is accepting e-mailed submissions until Dec. 31, 2012. The Sixth Annual Micro Awards will recognize stories that have been published in print or electronically in 2012. Self-published materials are acceptable. For full contest rules, click here.

The contest website lists materials that will NOT be considered eligible:
  • Poetry
  • Performance scripts
  • Non-fiction
  • Translated fiction
  • Excerpts from longer works of fiction
  • Visual art with literary texts
Winners and finalists will be announced in March 2013. The author of the winning story will be awarded $500.

To get more of a feel for the competition, be sure to check out the administrators' comments about each previous year's winners and finalists, from 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008.

Shout-out to the Warrior Writers blog for the tip!

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Disclaimer: This content regarding military writing is underwritten by Victor Ian LLC, a military media and gaming business. The business publishes Lanterloon, an eclectic lifestyle, technology, and military blog; has a physical retail storefront called "Dragons and Dragoons" located in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and hosts military-writing workshops and other events under the "Sangria Summit" brand name.

11 December 2012

Gift Ideas: Buy Military Writers, For Military Writers

Still wondering what to requisition from Santa for Christmas? You have only 14 days and a wake-up left. Here are some ideas:

A decade of war has finally delivered a few noble attempts at capturing Iraq Freedom in fiction. Last year's "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" was published in paperback earlier this fall. Think of it as a modern update to the themes of military sacrifice and media celebrity you saw in the movie version of "Flags of Our Fathers" (2006).

Iraq veteran Kevin Powers wrote "The Yellow Birds," a fictional tale of two buddies struggling to survive the distance between Basic Training and Al Tafar. The book takes its title from the cadence you probably learned at Boot Camp. Finally, Iraq veteran David Abrams wrote "Fobbit," which is purported to be in the absurdist vein of Catch-22 and M*A*S*H. (A Red Bull Rising review of the latter is forthcoming, but unfortunately not in time for Christmas.)

As noted previously in the Red Bull Rising blog, 2012 was also a great year for anthologies of military fiction, non-fiction, poetry and essay. In addition to mainstays such as The Journal of Military Experience, there was "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors", "Remembrances of Wars Past: A War Veterans Anthology", and "How to Not Tell a War Story." The latter, much like memoirist Dale Keuter's chapter on peacetime service, explores what it means to be a veteran who did not go to war. Or, at least, went to war but returned without stories to tell.

The Veterans Writing Project published its inaugural issue of "O-Dark-Thirty," a literary journal of military fiction, non-fiction, and more. Individual issues are $10; give a year's subscription (5 issues) for $30. Click here for details.

If you want to expand someone's desert-sand horizons beyond the dusty and prosaic, give them "Red Fields," Iraq veteran Jason Poudrier's collection of poetry. Given his occasional cartoon allusions, I'll leave it at that. 'Nuff said.

Speaking of cartoons, a few military-themed comic series are now available as trade paperbacks, including Top Cow's "Think Tank" Vol. 1Image Comics' "The Activity" Vol. 1; and the now-defunct series "Men of War" Vol. 1 from DC Comics.

Red Bull Rising readers will remember my penchant for pithy and punchy military epigrams. I'm pleased to report that Howard Tayler has delivered a second set of his "70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries" in the form of a 2013 calendar featuring characters from his Schlock Mercenary universe. The calendar comes with a download code, so that you can plaster each month's maxim on your computer. You can also order PDFs alone, so that you can wallpaper your work cubicle, sleeping bay, or Tactical Operations Center. For the 2012 set of maxims Nos. 1-12, click here. For the 2013 set of Nos. 13-24, click here. Remember Maxim No. 13 and the Golden Rule of Firepower: "Do unto others ..."

There's even a Schlock Mercenary board game called "Capital Offensive." Order on or before Dec. 31, 2012, and receive free a $10 set of Tagon's Toughs and Partnership Collective dice! (Click here for details.)

Finally, looking for some stocking stuffers? How about a Doctrine Man!! mug, calendar, coin, or matching Reflective Safety Belt and shower shoes?

Or a CD-ROM full of PowerPoint Ranger goodness that's sure to shake up your next briefing marathon?

07 December 2012

Only 25 Writing Days Left Until JME 3 Deadline ...

The Journal of Military Experience, published on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kent., is currently accepting submissions for its third volume of creative fiction, non-fiction, scholarly writing, poetry, and visual arts.

Deadline for submissions is Dec. 31, 2012. Publication will take place in November 2013.

The mission statement of the journal reads:
Our goal in pairing scholarship, art, activism, and academic research is to encourage readers to reflect critically on both their own experiences as well as those shared in the journal; we hope to do that by providing our readership with essays which articulate provocative and useful theories and research for an audience as diverse as JME’s readership is: academics, soldiers, families of soldiers, and those affiliated with neither academia nor the military. 
Publishing all of this information in one place fulfills the practical purpose of allowing scholars to interact directly with the selfsame subjects they’re writing about, to allow a more transparent flow of communication among scholars, soldiers, veterans, and academics. This assures that veterans and soldiers have a say in the scholarship being written about them.
Selections from the first and second issues of The Journal of Military Experience are available free of charge at the EKU Encompass website.

Print back-issues are also available here and here.

Managing Editor Travis Martin recently offered writing insights on the Red Bull Rising blog here.

05 December 2012

Contest for Veterans: Celebrate Public Lands by Dec. 6


The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (B.L.M.) and Sierra Club are co-sponsoring a writing and visual arts contest that calls for military service members, veterans, and immediate family members to express their appreciation for public land. Original photography, videography, creative writing and essays should be submitted on the theme of "What my public lands mean to me."

This land is your land, these words are your words. Unfortunately, the deadline on this opportunity is also danger-close: 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Dec. 6, 2012.

According to a contest website, photos and videos should depict "depict land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, or other Federal agency."

Blog-editor's note: I'm pretty sure that Fort Irwin, Calif., is land managed by a Federal agency. Someone out there might appreciate that.

Other random details follow:

  • Photos must be 300 dpi and between 3 and 5 MB, and in TIFF or JPEG format.
  • Videos should be between 30 seconds and 3 minutes in length.
  • Essays may include photography.

For complete rules, click here.

Entries will be judged by a panel of BLM and Sierra Club employees, on criteria including creativity, passion, technical ability, and public vote.

Winners will be announced Dec. 21, 2012. Winning entries will be featured on BLM and Sierra Club websites and social media. Winners will receive "outdoor support kits."

One caveat or quibble: Why specify "active-duty service member," given that so much of today's U.S. military capability comes from the Reserve Component? Of course, if you're a reservist who has previously deployed for a period of longer than 6 months, you're arguably a veteran. And, if you're a reservist currently downrange serving on active-duty, well ... there you go. This contest was made for you and me.

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Disclaimer: This content regarding military writing is underwritten by Victor Ian LLC, a military media and gaming business. The business publishes Lanterloon, an eclectic lifestyle, technology, and military blog; has a physical retail storefront called "Dragons and Dragoons" located in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and hosts military-writing workshops and other events under the "Sangria Summit" brand name.

28 November 2012

A Post-Thanksgiving Situation Report

There are plenty of leftover blog-blessings to count in this post-Thanksgiving haze. Forgive the short-hand, but I've been told that brevity is the soul of wit. Besides, I miss the push-to-talk button on my old Army radio.

Performed in the days leading up to Veterans Day, the first run of "Telling: Des Moines" went very well. It was a lot of work at the last minute, it was a great and humbling experience, and I was blessed to share the stage with a number of friends, both old and new. We hope to re-stage the work in Central Iowa sometime in spring or summer 2013. People laughed, they cried, it was better than "Cats."

Also in November, I was invited to participate in a Washington, D.C. conference titled "Common Ground: The Media, the Military, and P.T.S.D." Underwritten by The Robert R. McCormick Foundation; facilitated by the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan.; and held at the National Press Club. There were lots of insights and ideas bounced around the room.

During a quick lunch at the conference, I got to stop by the nearby Medill News Service offices, introduced myself to a few Military Reporters & Editors members there, and collected a handsome plaque.

More news: I have recently taken a full-time military-writing position with an undisclosed firm. I continue to wear Hawaiian shirts on a daily basis, although I am holding off on growing the required graybeard. One may be issued to me at a later date.

I don't plan to write about the mil-contracting gig here on the Red Bull Rising blog, but I can say it's nice to see some familiar faces on a more regular basis. I have officially returned to the ranks of the CAC-holders, and it's proving an opportunity to expand my writing skills into new territory. Nothing too sexy or strategic, mind you, but I am enjoying the new intellectual challenge.

Time, energy, and eyesight, on the other hand, are increasingly low in supply. The blog will have to find a new frequency, a new normal, a new battle rhythm.

Finally, I am pleased to report that an additional sponsor of the Red Bull Rising blog is pending announcement in December. Remembering, supporting, and celebrating our soldiers, veterans, and families—whether in writing or other ways—continues to attract fellow travelers, supporters, and practitioners.

Thank you for your continued readership. It looks to be a rather eventful 2013.

19 November 2012

Editor's Advice to Mil-Writers: Be Flexible, Be Engaged

In terms of military writing, November 2012 exploded with the publication of multiple anthologies focused on themes of war, peace, service, and remembrance. Many of these journals have open calls for submission, and an eye toward publishing new volumes in 2013.

These include:

Despite looming deadlines, the editors of these publications recently offered Red Bull Rising readers their insights into writing for, submitting to, and getting published in journals and anthologies.

This is Part III of a 3-part series of blog-posts resulting from those on-line interviews.


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Travis L. Martin is a baritone-voiced evangelist and advocate, a standard-bearer for changing the ways in which veterans issues are framed and discussed on campuses naionwide. The Iraq War veteran is the founder and managing editor The Journal of Military Experience, published for the first time in 2011 on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kent. In July 2012, the publication's second volume was published in conjunction with the inaugural Military Experience and the Arts Symposium, a national-level arts and learning event that brought together veterans, arts practitioners, and educators on the EKU campus.

While a graduate student of English at EKU, he helped create a multi-disciplinary Veterans Studies Program that offers an academic minor or certificate. He continues to teach while also pursuing his doctoral research at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kent., regarding 19th and 20th century war memoirs.

In parts literary, arts, and academic journal, The Journal of Military Experience publishes selected works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and the graphic arts. The journal's third issue is scheduled for publication in November 2013. Deadline for submissions is Dec. 31, 2012. Click here for guidelines.

Selections from the first and second issues of The Journal of Military Experience are available free of charge at the EKU Encompass website.

Print back-issues are also available here and here.

As managing editor, Martin attempts to make The Journal of Military Experience a venue in which veterans can explore old stories in new ways. He encourages experimentation, and instills a collaborative approach to crafting and curating the publication. "My goal with the JME is to help authors craft the best story possible through one-on-one workshopping and mentorship," he says:
I want our authors to use publishing with the JME as a resource to improve both their works and their overall skills. I sincerely hope that the works we help out with end up in larger bodies of writing. That said, I find myself trying to balance this 'idealism' with rigor and quality. We expect the author to hold up his or her end of the bargain and give it 100 percent. I think anyone with the guts to write their story probably has a good one to tell. We just want to help.
Martin advises aspiring writers and artists to aggressively research the journals, contests, or anthologies to which they're submitting:
Think about where you are with your work before submitting to a journal; think about what kind of conversation you want to enter into and what kind of audience you want to reach. [...]

When in doubt, read. Get copies of the journals and previous editions that you are considering submitting to. What are the common themes in their stories? Do they go for the 'guts and glory' stories? Do they attract both female and male authors? Put yourself at an objective remove, and ask yourself where your writing fits or stacks up. If you want more info, just ask.
More than anything else, Martin relishes the engagement, the collaboration, the conversation. "If other editors are anything like me, they probably have no life and live vicariously through the works of their authors," he jokes. "Because of this, they love making new friends. Write up a brief synopsis of what your work is about and get the conversation going before sending in your work." He continues:
My ambition to be a source of support and growth contrasts greatly with journals that reject works outright. I don’t mean to disparage those different approaches. If a journal attracts extremely experienced and accomplished authors, odds are they have earned a reputation that helps them do so. You might think brushing elbows with the greats is a good idea from the get-go. However, you might find that the reviewer weighs your portfolio of publications and affiliations at a proportion inappropriate to the quality of your work. You might also find that the audience for a journal is not the one you want to address. The JME is engaged mostly with returning veterans and those active in the veteran support communities. Other journals might be looking to start a conversation with someone totally different.
Like any veteran editor, however, Martin is also always on the lookout for conversational danger signs and tripwires. "I’m of the belief that no piece of writing is ever complete," he advises:
When someone attaches a story along with a note that says they have written the perfect piece, I get a little weary; I know this person is going to have a tough time taking criticism because they don’t see room for improvement. It’s just not a realistic approach to take. Be humble. Be flexible. These things are not at odds with being a great writer.
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Disclaimer: This content regarding military writing is underwritten by Victor Ian LLC, a military media and gaming business. The business publishes Lanterloon, an eclectic lifestyle, technology, and military blog; has a physical retail storefront called "Dragons and Dragoons" located in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and hosts military-writing workshops and other events under the "Sangria Summit" brand name. 

15 November 2012

Q&A with Ron Capps, Veterans Writing Project

In terms of military writing, November 2012 exploded with the publication of multiple anthologies focused on themes of war, peace, service, and remembrance. Many of these journals have open calls for submission, and are working toward publishing new volumes in 2013.

These include:
Despite looming deadlines, the editors of these respective publications recently offered Red Bull Rising readers their insights into writing for, submitting to, and getting published in journals and anthologies.

This is Part II of a 3-part series of blog-posts resulting from those on-line interviews.

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Ron Capps is a 25-year Army veteran and founder of the Veterans Writing Project. The Washington, D.C. based non-profit offers writing workshops for soldiers, veterans, and military families; helps research the use of writing as medically effective therapy for patients diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I.); and publishes both online and print literary journals.

Capps is also author of "Writing War," a portable curriculum for teaching creative writing techniques to military audiences.

Why should writers consider submitting their works to journals and/or anthologies? How does it potentially benefit their output, development, and/or marketability?
Primarily, the value to submitting to and publishing in journals is in developing a portfolio of work. Very few writers get a book deal with their first work. Publishers love to see that a writer has been previously published, especially in established literary journals or magazines. It does a couple things for the editor or publisher: It shows that the writer has established a readership—this leads to increased sales—and it means that other editors have already seen the work, helped the writer get it ready for publication, and in a way validated the choice the publisher is making to purchase a collection of stories, poems, or essays, or a book-length work.

And writers who are trying to develop a deeper portfolio should probably not publish multiple pieces in the same journal—I mean, unless it’s The New Yorker or some place like that. Try to publish your work in as many different journals and on as many different platforms as possible.
What roles do journals/anthologies play in communicating military experiences to audiences? What types of audiences do they reach?
This varies wildly. Narrowly focused journals tend to have a narrowly focused readership. If a journal only publishes military-history essays for example, readers who want science fiction or fantasy are unlikely to subscribe. Even journals that publish a broad range of works can sometimes be too narrowly focused in their targeting of readers. If an editor or publisher is trying to help bridge the divide between the military and civilian communities, it’s important to put the journal into the hands of both groups. We give copies of our journal away to military units, ships, hospitals and veterans service organizations, but we also put copies in front of civilian readers, too, through book fairs, writers’ conferences and online marketing.
As both a writer and an editor, what success strategies would you suggest toward getting published in journals/anthologies? How do you select/craft works to submit? How do you choose markets to which to submit work?
From the writer’s standpoint there are two things that are critical first steps: Fit the conventions, and stand out from the crowd. This sounds a little contrary, but it’s not. You have to fit the conventions in that you have to submit to the journal in the format they expect and demand. You can’t just drop something over the transom in a manila envelope and expect to be published. You have to use the journal’s preferred method of submissions, put things into the proper format, attach an effective cover letter, and get it to the editors in the format they demand.

Plus, you have to make sure the manuscript is in the best possible condition. Spelling, grammar, and formatting errors are killers. But you also have to stand out from the crowd. Your writing has to be fresh and interesting. Don’t use stale metaphors or too much jargon. Make sure your characters’ dialogue sounds realistic and their actions are believable.

Once you’ve reached that point in developing your manuscript and are ready to submit, think a bit strategically. Go to the library or bookstore, or online, and read through copies of journals to make sure that what you’re submitting is what the editors want. Don’t submit a story about zombies to a journal that focuses on unicorns. Make a list of 10 journals that publish works like yours. Start by submitting to three. When you hear back from those three—either way—move to the next three and so on. It’s helpful to make a matrix to help you track this stuff, too. I have specifically and successfully targeted stories to journals just because I thought the story might be of interest to the editor. So make sure you read the editors’ bios, too.

And there is some etiquette here. Once you’ve submitted, be patient. Most journals will tell you right on their submissions page how long you should expect to wait. Part of your submissions matrix should a column that lists a date when you feel you should query. And if they’ve got one of your pieces, don’t send more until you’ve heard back about that one.
Capps was recently interviewed by National Public Radio here.

To be published four times annually, "O-Dark-Thirty" is available for $10 PayPal purchase here, and $30 annual subscription here. Gift subscriptions may also be funded for wounded and deployed service members.

For submissions guidelines, click here.

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Disclaimer: This content regarding military writing is underwritten by Victor Ian LLC, a military media and gaming business. The business publishes Lanterloon, an eclectic lifestyle, technology, and military blog; has a physical retail storefront called "Dragons and Dragoons" located in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and hosts military-writing workshops and other events under the "Sangria Summit" brand name.

13 November 2012

Editor: Military-Writing Anthologies Are a 'Triple-Win'

In terms of military writing, November 2012 exploded with the publication of multiple anthologies focused on themes of war, peace, service, and remembrance. Many of these journals have open calls for submission, and are working toward publishing new volumes in 2013.

These include:

Despite looming deadlines, the editors of these respective publications recently offered Red Bull Rising readers their insights into writing for, submitting to, and getting published in journals and anthologies.

This is Part I of a 3-part series of blog-posts resulting from those on-line interviews.


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Susan Swartwout is the editor of "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors," a 255-page anthology of veterans' fiction, non-fiction, and poetry published earlier this month by the Southeast Missouri State University Press. (In the interest of full disclosure: The author of the Red Bull Rising blog has a poem that appears in this work.)

The project was undertaken with assistance from the Missouri Humanities Council (M.H.C.) and the Warriors Arts Alliance, the latter a non-profit organization dedicated to building communication and understanding between veterans, families, and communities through creative writing and visual arts.

Swartwout calls anthologies a potential "triple-win" for military writers, families, and members of the public:
[T]he soldier-writer is the expert voice here. Without those voices, the general American citizen remains hugely uninformed about the daily events and the ground-level opinions of our soldiers involved in conflicts. We only hear the news media’s coverage, maybe a few oral stories from friends and family. But little else is actually crafted by the soldiers into a permanent piece of written communication that is published in a professional volume to help inform the public.

The anthology format preserves not only the individual pieces of writing, but also the multiple opinions and viewpoints of involved human beings, all in one artifact. The printed anthology informs the public, allows the soldiers’ and their families’ voices to be heard, and preserves their writing. Triple win.
Swartwout also notes the utility of published credits in marketing oneself or one's work: "For the soldier, or any writer, it never hurts to have a publication credit or two! When one enters the job market—or reenters—publication credits can help make the difference between [one] writer's application and all the others. Businesses like employees who can communicate well in writing."

According to a news release, the road to achieving the final "Proud to Be" product was long and twisted:
The warriors writing project began with Geoff Giglierano, executive director of the Missouri Humanities Council, and Deb Marshall, president of The Missouri Writers’ Guild, who paired up to launch a pilot program: The Missouri Warrior Writers Project. The project featured creative writing workshops in veterans hospitals to promote self-expression and confidence, with laptops provided by Missouri Humanities Council and writing instruction by Deb Marshall.

The workshops metamorphosed into the Warriors Arts Alliance and a new project: an annual anthology funded by the Missouri Humanities Council. The Missouri Humanities Council and Warriors Arts Alliance extended their partnership to include Southeast Missouri State University Press and its director Dr. Susan Swartwout, who edited the anthology. The project grew to include a writing contest, judged by stellar writers Mark Bowden (“Black Hawk Down”), William Trent Pancoast (“WILDCAT”), and veteran/poet Brian Turner (“Here, Bullet” and “Phantom Noise”). The title of the anthology emerged from veterans’ comments about the pride they feel in serving their country [...]
The $15 book is available via Amazon as well as directly from the university press.

To help celebrate the anthology's publication, an evening of readings from the book will hosted by the St. Louis Poetry Center Nov. 27, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., The Focal Point events center, 2720 Sutton, Maplewood, Mo. 63143.

Submissions guidelines for the next volume will be published later this month.

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Disclaimer: This content regarding military writing is underwritten by Victor Ian LLC, a military media and gaming business. The business publishes Lanterloon, an eclectic lifestyle, technology, and military blog; has a physical retail storefront called "Dragons and Dragoons" located in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and hosts military-writing workshops and other events under the "Sangria Summit" brand name.

11 November 2012

A Class Act on Veterans Day

The past week has been a busy one. Helping to organize, publicize, and perform in "Telling: Des Moines" has taken a lot of personal brain-power and bandwidth. Remembering old times, while furiously memorizing my lines. To top it all off, I've been eating poorly, and sleeping worse.

Against that backdrop, on Friday, my kids surprised me with a 3x2-foot "Veterans Day Card," made of poster board, signed by all the children in each of their respective grade-school classes.

Best. Veterans Day. Ever.