19 July 2012

Veterans Writing Project Launches Journal

Here's another takeaway from this month's Military Experience and the Arts Symposium—a resolution, of sorts, regarding claims of therapeutic value to the writing-down of military narrative: Unless a writing instructor is medically or professionally qualified to deal with issues of emotional or psychological rehabilitation for veterans, it's probably best to focus solely on the craft.

Veterans Writing Project co-founder Ron Capps is on a right and righteous path when he draws a bright line between his non-profit organization's work with injured veterans at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence ("NICoE"), and more purely literary pursuits.

(Side note: That's also probably why Emma Rainey, founder of Iowa City, Iowa's "Writing My Way Back Home," thoughtfully and quietly ensures she has an on-site counselor hovering in the background during writing workshops. Think of it as emotional dust-off, there in case a workshop participant trips on a painful memory, or reopens an old wound. The counselor is there as a one-time resource, however, not as part of an ongoing, medically supervised healing process.)

Properly administered and eventually supported with research, Capps says, writing therapy will likely take its place alongside other forms of arts therapy, in both clinical and non-clinical settings.

As a bonus, avoiding use and overuse of the "therapy" word opens the door more widely to those who don't perceive of themselves as injured in any way. Not every soldier, veteran, or mil-family member needs to engage in writing as emotional or psychological rehabilitation. Some of us just want to get our stories down on the page, to make better sense of them, and to pass them on to others.

That's why the Veterans Writing Project is also launching an on-line literary journal, titled "A War Story ..." According to the journal website, the effort will comprise both curated and non-curated outlets:
Initially, we’ll have two sections. The first, Sound Off, is an open scroll of stories by our friends and readers. These works will receive only the lightest of review by our staff, mostly for content (some subject matter isn’t appropriate for all readers) but occasionally for spelling or grammar, etc.

The second is our quarterly literary Journal, called The Review. All works submitted to A War Story will be considered for publication in the journal. Works accepted for the journal will undergo a rigorous review process by our editorial board and may require some back and forth between the editors and the author. We seek work of the highest literary quality for this section.
Year-round, the project will accept submissions of previously unpublished poetry, fiction, and non-fiction (including memoir and profiles). The journal acquires first-time North American rights, which revert to the author following publication. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, provided notice is given of pending publication elsewhere.

The first edition of The Review is scheduled for release on Nov. 11, 2012, which is Veterans Day (U.S.).

Writing coaches, non-profits, editors, and others who are interested in engaging veterans through the arts would do well not only to look at the Veterans Writing Project curriculum, but also to how it is avoiding general claims of offering a therapeutic function.

After all, "Writing can be therapeutic, but it ain't a therapy." For most of us, at least.


The Veterans Writing Project is conducting a free 2-day writing seminar for veterans, service members, and mil-families Aug. 4-5 on the campus of George Washington University, Washington, D.C. Attendees are responsible for travel, food, and lodging. For details, click here.


  1. Writing, writers, and writers conferences might put me into therapy.

    1. Roger that! Still, I'm looking forward to somehow supporting / participating / attending the Sangria Summit in Denver, Colorado this Sept. 5-7. As a military-focused writing event, I think it will be a great complement to the veteran-community multiverse.

      I'm planning on posting more details on it via Red Bull Rising soon, but, for those who may not know what we're talking about, here's the website:


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

  2. Okay let's try this again I had to reset my google acc. so that I could post this to your website. When people say that writing is good therapy many of us use that term. First one has to be in good place in order to write depending on subject. One does not venture into one's mind where there are many land mines waiting for them. Opening some of those painful doors is not always the answer to those questions. There are no wright or wrong answers that one will fine on their own when one is writing about trauma. Find the help first or the therapy first explore the answers then the writing will be the therapy you seek. No not all people write for therapy and I agree the story is what is important but do not downplay the fact that for some of us it is therapy.


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