01 August 2012

Why We Write about Writing

In the past few weeks, the Red Bull Rising blog has been focused on resources for writers of all interests and abilities, encouraging them to explore their military experiences: Writing contests. Anthologies. Websites. Some readers have expressed great delight. Others have expressed a little confusion. Is the purpose of the blog changed?

Where's the snark and remark about developments in the U.S. National Guard or Afghanistan? Where's the surprisingly heartfelt war-stories from the front lines of parenting during the Global War on Terror? Where are the book and film reviews? Most importantly, where's the funny?

Not to worry, dear reader, they're still being written. Behind the blog-scenes, I'm currently packing and repacking words into longer forms. Because some editors won't consider previously published works, however, I've had to hold back some copy from the Internet. Just as I appreciate your continued readership, I also appreciate your patience.

The long-standing missions of the Red Bull Rising blog are:
  • To illuminate ways in which citizen-soldiers past and present—as well as their families—can be remembered, supported, and celebrated.
One of the ways people can "remember, support, and celebrate" is to record and share their experiences with the military through the written or spoken word. You don't need to be an seasoned writer or story-teller. You don't need to have done heroic things, or to have witnessed the horrors of war.

You don't even need to be a soldier or a veteran. That's why I prefer to ask people about their "connections with the military." It seems to open up the door to more people, memories, family ties and histories. We all have stories about the military. Some, we gather first-hand. Some, we have passed to us, generation to generation. A few, we piece together from observing ripples and shadows, and finding fragments and artifacts that others have left behind.

All you need to do is to take the time to put your thoughts together. Take as long as you like—minutes, months, or years. But be prepared to surprise yourself along the way.


Here are a few coming attractions to the Red Bull Rising blog. In the meantime, don't forget to monitor the net by "liking" the Red Bull Rising page on Facebook:
  • A static web page devoted to resources for aspiring and perspiring citizen-soldier-writer-veterans, and those who love them!
  • A list of recommended up-and-coming blogs from those with eyes and boots still in Afghanistan!
  • Book reviews! Lots of book reviews!
  • Continued coverage leading up to the inaugural Sangria Summit in Denver, Colo., a Sept. 12-14 conference for writers of military-themed fiction and non-fiction!


  1. A little late with this, but I must say I really love the direction your blog has taken--not that I didn't fancy it before. It's just that, like, before I would have given it an A only because I didn't give out plus grades, but now I have to change how I grade because you’ve totally raised the bar, if that makes sense.

    When I met with Kanani a while back I told her I wished there was a larger community of us mil-bloggers who cared just as much about our writing as we did our subjects, like a mil/lit-blogging community. She agreed that one didn't really exist and that you and America's Sergeant Major are among the few we knew of who would fit into the category. Surely there are many more out there. I've since found Dario DiBattista's blog and others, thanks to links you've posted here.

    In the past I’ve felt torn between the two largest groups of returning visitors to my blog (which are both small in numbers, but still)--those who read my stuff because they enjoy reading, and those who read because of their military interests. Not being able to satisfy the tastes of both without also turning many readers away, I've taken down more posts than are left in my archive. Well, that and realizing a lot of what I write is just plain ol’ shit! It happens.

    I always write for myself first, but I share my stories because I want to do for readers what so many writers have done for me. The info in your Contests & Anthologies link tells me the audience for our stories is growing and that the political interests of readers are becoming more irrelevant in their search for good reading and wanting to learn from and connect with our sub-culture. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m just seeing things differently. Either way, I like where things are going. And I think now is a good time to end this and get back to working on my craft…

    1. Christina:

      Thanks for the good words. I'm glad you've found some of my recent writings-about-writing helpful. There's more on the way.

      In the meantime, I hope you'll allow me some off-the-top-of-my-head conversation this morning:

      As you know, I've always been more comfortable in the role of memoirist than of polemicist. Or of a journalist, as long as one is careful to include in that concept not only the stereotype of a magazine-and-newspaper gumshoe, but the sense of "one who writes a journal." Blogging is journalism. Or, rather, it can be.

      Not everyone needs to aspire to write for publication. But everyone has a story to share.

      I've personally found it rewarding and magical when I've found scraps of my parents or grandparents. Words and pictures. Artifacts and talismans. They've left clues as to who they were, and the times in which they've lived. Often, I've wished that they'd been more explicit. I wish they'd left me a legend so that I could better understand their maps.

      Last night, I listened to this week's "This American Life," which gave tribute to the life and work of writer David Rakoff, 47, who recently died due to cancer. Host Ira Glass quoted someone--perhaps himself--when he noted that Rakoff often wrote about surprisingly very tiny and normal topics. "Great stories happen to those who can tell them," Glass said.

      I never heard gunshots fired in anger, nor did I go out my way to search out such experiences. But I'd like to think I've got some stories to tell.

      When I started this endeavor, I wanted to be able to one day tell my kids what was so gosh-darned important that Daddy left them for a year of their small childhoods. Later, I realized I needed to do that for other citizen-soldier families as well.

      So ... here we are. Maybe we can inspire others to put their stories down on tape or paper. Maybe we can work with them to share their stories online or in print. Maybe we can finally get our own stories into final drafts. Maybe other people will read them.

      Have I told you that I recently found that old term paper I've mentioned before, the one on which my instructor wrote in red pen: "Keep writing"? Thousands of tuition dollars, a couple of sheepskins, and a few decades later, I've decided that may be the best piece of education or advice I've ever received.

      Of course, as a certified cynic, I suppose it's equally possible he was just being critical. "All glory is fleeting."

      So: Keep writing. Keep exploring and polishing and crafting and blogging. Keep pursuing quality, and let me know how I can help. And, when you find something that works for you--a writing seminar, a technique, an event, a possible venue or market--make sure to let me know. I'll be sure to do likewise.

      Thanks for the opportunity to muse. Time to work on my craft, too. Time to keep writing.


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