28 February 2013

Mil-blogger Surveys Iraq, Afghan Wars Through Arts

"Time Now," a military blog that reviews "The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars in Art, Film, and Literature," has been added to the Red Bull Rising blog-roll. It appears in the right-hand column of the webpage, under a new "Military Arts and Culture Blogs" category. In past posts, blogger Peter Molin has considered topics including contemporary war poetry and literature, photography and cinema, and theatrical and dance productions.

Molin, a U.S. Army officer who served on Embedded Training Team in Afghanistan's Khost and Paktiya provinces in 2008-2009, also maintains an archived of his deployment experiences at "15-month Adventure."

Red Bull Rising blog readers may remember that Paktiya Province was the area of operation of the Iowa Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Battalion, during the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division's (2-34th BCT) deployment in 2010-2011.

Unlike the standard "the views herein do not reflect those of the U.S. Army" boilerplate, Molin's disclaimer regarding his deployment is clear, conversational, and worthy of duplication by other mil-bloggers. Note how he blends both his blog's mission and intent:
I am an active-duty Army officer. I started this blog to keep friends and family informed about my deployment to Afghanistan in 2008-2009 as the leader of an "Embedded Transition Team." I have kept it going since because it gives me a chance to reflect on the experience and because at least some people say they still enjoy reading it. My intent is to write in interesting and original ways about the war without being critical of the US or the Army, without compromising security or operations, and without saying anything remotely unflattering about the great military personnel and civilians with whom I served.
Here are some of Molin's reviews of contemporary mil-poetry collections:
  • Paul Wasserman's "Say Again All." Wasserman is an Army Aviation NCO. His chapbook is available through Lulu.com here.
  • Elyse Fenton's "Clamor." Fenton is the wife of a combat medic. The 2010 collection is available on Amazon here. Another review of her work, suggested by another Red Bull Rising blog reader, appears here.

Note: 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.

26 February 2013

Free Military-Writing Workshop in Iowa April 5-7

A free writing workshop will be offered to current and former military personnel, spouses, and teen dependents April 5-7, 2013 on the campus of the University of Iowa campus, Iowa City, Iowa.

"We each have a story to tell and the 'Writing My Way Back Home' weekend workshop will help you gain the tools and confidence to craft and share yours well," reads the announcement. "Using reading and writing exercises, we will explore deployment and wartime experiences—the fear, boredom, anxieties, thrills, brutality, tears and beauty—considering ways to write a personal story and make it compelling."

The announcement continues:
By the end of the weekend, workshop participants will have had the chance to try out a range of styles and approaches to produce stories, poetry, fiction, and blogs. Opportunities to work one-on-one with professional writers during the weekend, as well as online follow-up, will help continue the writing and revision process. No writing experience is needed to attend this workshop. A public reading for course participants interested in sharing excerpts from their work will complete the weekend.
Announcement materials included the following tentative schedule:
Fri., April 5: 7 to 9 p.m.
Sat., April 6: 9 a.m. to 12 noon; 1 to 4:30 p.m.
Sun., April 7: 9 a.m. to 12 noon
Lunches will be provided. Participants must arrange their own housing and transportation. Workshop size is limited.

For an online registration form, click here.

A 2011 "Writing My Way Back Home" was featured on the Red Bull Rising blog here. Other coverage resulting from the event includeed a post regarding the University of Iowa Veterans Center.

If you are an Eastern Iowa business or organization that wishes make a donation in support of the April 2013 workshop, please contact University of Iowa Veterans Center coordinator John Mikelson at: 319.384.2020.

A Facebook page for "Writing My Way Back Home" is available here.

25 February 2013

'Boonie's Haiku Contest' to Celebrate FOB Memories

The editor of the Red Bull Rising blog has announced "Boonie's Haiku Contest," a light-hearted poetry competition commemorating the experiences of both military and civilian personnel downrange—regardless of era—and particularly those who have supported the war effort from the perceived safety of larger installations.

Entries will be judged on factors such as: originality, creativity, humor, and adherence to the specified haiku format.

"We chose the haiku not for any particular connection to Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Honduras, or any other country in which the United States has deployed the 'Forward Operating Base' ('FOB') concept," says mil-blogger Charlie Sherpa, "but for the simplicity and accessibility of the form."

"That," he says, "and it lends itself equally to both sarcasm and sincerity. I anticipate plenty of both."

Deadline is March 18, 2013. Only one submission per entrant. Entrants may, however, submit up to three haiku in a single entry. For entry methods, see below.

For the purposes of the contest, a haiku poem will:
  • Consist of three lines; each respectively comprising 5, 7, and 5 syllables each, for a total of 17.
  • Refer either to a character or characters, setting, music, and/or narrative of the TV show "China Beach," or to a similar real-life military setting, such as a Forward Operating Base ("FOB"), main operating base, Combat Outpost ("COP") or patrol base.
  • Ideally incorporate a reference to one of the four seasons, or to nature.
For example:
China Beach sunset (5)
reflections on TV waves (7)
and my Vietnam (5)
Note that the syllables of acronyms and initialisms are counted as they would be pronounced aloud. For example: "TV" is two syllables; "REMF" is one syllable.

Three prizes will be awarded:

  • Second-prize: An autographed and personalized (at prize-winner's specification) copy of David Abrams' sarcastic, surreal 2012 Iraq War novel "Fobbit."
For previous Red Bull Rising coverage of the book, click here.
  • Third-prize: A "Blue Falcon" coffee mug, from the creator of the "Doctrine Man!!" cartoon. Appearing on Facebook, the Doctrine Man!! cartoon routinely captures the absurdities,  uncertainties, and ... camaraderies (?!) ... familiar to those who have weathered staffy and stuffy deployments downrange. As Doctrine Man!! himself says: "Remember: 'Buddy' is only half the word!"
There are four ways in which to enter Boonie's Haiku Contest:

Via e-mail:
Send an e-mail to haiku AT redbullrising.com, with the poems in the body of the message. The subject line should include the words "Boonie's Haiku Contest Entry."
Via postal mail:
Send entries via postal mail to: "Boonie's Haiku Contest," c/o Red Bull Rising, P.O. Box 31099, Johnston, IA 50131-9428.
Via Facebook:
Post one to three poems as a single Facebook comment to the link dated Feb. 25, 2013 on the Red Bull Rising Facebook page, and marked "ENTER CONTEST BY POSTING BELOW IN THIS THREAD."
Via comment to this Red Bull Rising blog-post:
Please remember to sign in, however; anonymous posts will not be considered for the contest.
Other contest details include:
  • By submitting their work(s), entrants agree to allow the editor of the Red Bull Riding blog non-exclusive and perpetual rights to reprint their work(s), in any media or format, known or unknown, throughout the universe, regardless of whether or not the work(s) are recognized as contest winners.
  • All parties, regardless of military, veteran, or civilian status, are encouraged to participate. Prize-winners, however, must have a U.S. mailing address for prize delivery. APO addresses are acceptable.
  • Judges' decisions are final.
  • The judges reserve the right to substitute prizes, or to decline to name winners in one or more prize categories, should circumstances require.
  • Winners will be announced March 25, 2013.
  • Prizes will be sent to winners approximately April 25, 2013.

DISCLOSURE: The boxed set used as a prize in this competition is provided to the editor of the Red Bull Rising blog in partial consideration for otherwise unpaid technical-consulting services rendered. Red Bull Rising is the sole organizer and sponsor of this contest.

ADVERTISING LINK: Pre-order "China Beach: The Complete Series"! 62 episodes on 21 DVDs plus over 10 hours of bonus features and collector's booklet! Pre-order today for 5 easy payments of $39.99 (Price: $199.95) and get Free Shipping at TimeLife.com!

22 February 2013

Was There a 1980s Boom in Vietnam-themed Films?

While writing and musing about the television Vietnam War-drama "China Beach" earlier this week, it occurred to me that there was a bit of a box-office boomlet in the late 1980s, after Oliver Stone's first of three Vietnam movies achieved critical and box-office success. I'd christen it the "Platoon"-boom, but the whole thing could've just as easily be said to have started with "Rambo: First Blood Part II" (1985).

Regardless, at the time, it seemed that America was not only finally ready to talk about Vietnam, but to watch it on TV and on the silver screen. For entertainment purposes.

I started collecting a list of movies and television shows about war—features and fictions, not documentaries—and could use some help fleshing it out. My hypothesis is that major theatrical releases peak approximately 10 years after the "end" of a given conflict.

Because they take so long to finance, shoot, and produce, of course, the start of the presumed trend could probably can be assumed to pre-date the release by a couple of years. There's also the question of how many of these works might have been based on books, which take their own times to produce.

Either in the comments section of this post, or our the Red Bull Rising Facebook page, please feel free to add your suggestions of other titles!

War-themed Movies and TV about U.S. Involvement in Vietnam:


I guess the next step would be to brainstorm similar lists of war-themed movies telling stories of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. And maybe the Cold War. And the Global War on Terror. Here are starts on the first two:

War-themed Movies and TV about U.S. Involvement in Iraq:



War-themed Movies and TV about U.S. Involvement in Afghanistan:


20 February 2013

Reflections On ... 'China Beach'

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I developed a crush on an Army nurse stationed in Vietnam. She was a character on TV, on a show called "China Beach."

The character was Colleen McMurphy, played by actress Dana Delany. A woman in uniform with a sarcastic tone, a bobbed haircut, and Irish name. ("I got a case of unopened beer," goes one McMurphy quote. "It's all formaldehyde but totally free.")

Writing that down, I realize now that she's a partial reflection of a few real-life girlfriends. Some before McMurphy, some after.

The television show aired from 1988 to 1991, during which time I was training part-time to join the Army. I graduated from college just in time to see the bombs drop on Baghdad in January 1991, during the start of Operation Desert Storm. My girlfriend at the time got pulled out of school, and deployed as a Missouri National Guard soldier. I, on the other hand, went to school for my country, learning about Army radios and telephones. By the time I got back, the shooting was over. So was the girlfriend.

The opening credits to "China Beach" featured The Supreme's 1967 hit, "Reflections." (Click here for a YouTube snippet of the first-season opener. While you're watching it ... remember how "broadcast in stereo" was such a big deal in the 1980s?)

Through the mirror of my mind
Time after time
I see reflections of you and me [...]

Pretty girly stuff. Then again, so is quoting music lyrics in blog-posts. And, come to think of it, so was "China Beach."

"China Beach" was a character-driven drama, centered on a location based on My Khe beach, near the major port city of De Nang. Unlike "Tour of Duty" (1987-1990), which was more of an action-based TV drama, "China Beach" included a number of strong female characters. There was an equal male-female ratio, if not an outright matriarchy.

Welcome to the fictional 510th "Five and Dime" Evacuation Hospital and Rest and Relaxation facility!

The female characters included a number of archetypes Donut Dolly, a hard-charging head nurse, a hooker with a heart of gold. There was the ambitious news reporter, and a USO dancer. Cutting edge, I guess, for its times.

On the male side of the barracks, there was also a womanizing male doctor, who, like me, pined after McMurphy. And a bartender named Boonie, who had a dark secret about why he wasn't out patrolling along with his infantry buddies. And an introverted mortuary affairs soldier.

In short, and using the military slang of today, it was all pretty FOBby.

You can always tell when people have been through a traumatic or cognitive crisis when they tell you, "It was just like in the movies" or "It was just like on TV." As someone who fancies himself a word-guy, I try not to rely on such conversational crutches. Still, what's my go-to way of describing my 2003 peacekeeping deployment to Egypt's Red Sea Riveria, along with a battalion of Iowa National Guard infantry soldiers? "It was just like 'China Beach.'"

It was, too. We had a beach, and a squad soldiers trained and tasked full-time as lifeguards. I managed an outdoor movie theater, and an Armed Forces Radio and Television Service station. There were at least five official and semi-drinking establishments on our main base, plus a library, a laundry service, an education center, and a convenience store. We also flew out to our desert Observation Posts in UH-1 "Huey" helicopters, Vietnam-era machines celebrated for the distinctive chop-chop sound of their twin blades. They were purported to be the last Hueys still in the active-duty Army inventory. Other equipment may fly, the saying goes, but Hueys beat the air into submission.

The Multinational Force and Observers (M.F.O.) mission has been monitored the treaty between Egypt and Israel since 1982. Until the United States' contribution to the had been handed off to the U.S. National Guard in the early 2000s, the low-key job had always gone to active-duty Army battalions, who used the time to relax and reset.

The infantry guys went a little stir-crazy. After all, there was a perfectly good war on, only a couple of countries over. When U.S. troops found Saddam Hussein hiding in a spider hole in Iraq, we were kicked back on a beach in B.F. Egypt.

Reflections of ...
The way life used to be

Of course, I encountered the Mother of All "China Beach" Lookalikes when I traveled to Bagram Airfield ("BAF") in 2011. I flew in some Hueys there, too—contract birds that ferried personnel and equipment around Afghanistan.

Coincidentally, a couple of years ago, there was an attempt a "China Beach"-style prime-time drama about Afghanistan, but "Combat Hospital" lasted only one season. You can special-order it
on DVD. Click here for an musical excerpt from that show.

For the first time, "China Beach" will soon be available on DVD. More on that in a minute. Also, for now, I'll save telling the story about a minor part I recently played in the product launch.

Like "Tour of Duty" and other Vietnam-themed programs of its era, the original producers of "China Beach" reportedly didn't lock down the music rights, making producing a DVD after-the-fact very difficult. Time-Life Books, however, has apparently cracked the code. According to press materials, the complete series will be available in boxed sets—and will feature most of the original music.

Using a different strategy a few years ago, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released "Tour of Duty" on DVD
with knock-offs of its original music, including its trademark theme—the Rolling Stones 1966 hit "Paint It, Black." The soundalike soundtrack didn't go over well with online commenters.

Click here for a YouTube snippet of the "Tour of Duty" opening credits, with the original song.

A mil-blogger friend of mine zapped me the good news, however, that the complete "China Beach" series—complete with original music—will soon be available from Time-Life Books, the same people who brought you the boxed DVD sets of "Six-Million Dollar Man" and the "The Carol Burnett Show." Click here for details on "China Beach" DVD sets, or read the advertising link below.

To this day, I can't hear a Huey without humming along with The Supremes.

Or thinking of Vietnam, although I've never been there. Or Egypt, where I have. Or Afghanistan.

The American way of war, after all—the one I finally encountered, with its coffee shops and casualty collection points and modern inconveniences—was just like on TV.


ADVERTISING LINK: Pre-order "China Beach: The Complete Series"! 62 episodes on 21 DVDs plus over 10 hours of bonus features and collector's booklet! Pre-order today for 5 easy payments of $39.99 (Price: $199.95) and get Free Shipping at TimeLife.com!

18 February 2013

Air Force Academy Lit-Pub Targets War in First-Person

Founded in 1990, the War, Literature & the Arts is an international journal of the humanities published by the Department of English and Fine Arts at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo. The annual journal is published both in print and online.

"From time out of mind, and in all cultures, war and art have reflected one another," its mission statement reads. "WLA seeks to illuminate this intersection. We publish short fiction, poetry, personal essay/memoir, visuals, and scholarly essays for a general audience."

The editors continue:
If it seems to fall to the historian to make distinctions among wars, each war’s larger means and ends, the trajectory for the artist, regardless of culture or time, seems to fall towards an individual’s disillusionment, the means and ends of war played out in the personal. For the individual soldier, the sweeping facts of history are accurately written not in the omniscient, third-person plural, but in the singular first. We live in a culture that values the individual. Our works of art about war mirror this welcome bias.
For the current (2012) issue, visit here. An online archive back to Winter 1999 appears here.

Submissions are welcomed year-round via on-line portal here. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable; materials previously published in other venues are not.

The journal also maintains a Facebook page here.

There is also an occasional but heavy-lifting blog here.


Note: 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 February 2013

Military Poets Let Slip the Doggerel of War

In a recent guest-post on Tom Ricks' "The Best Defense" blog, military writer and U.S. Army officer Jason Dempsey laments that, unlike his poet-heroes of the Lost Generation of World War I, writers and artists no longer serve to help us make sense of the senselessness of war. The essay is headlined "Where are the poems that could help us grasp the meaning of our post-9/11 wars?"

"Today, art on war is stuck in a proverbial no-man's land," Dempsey writes. "On one side are the soldiers, a self-selected class with a corresponding lack of interest in questioning the assumptions upon which we build our rationale for fighting, and often without the tools to readily contribute on the rare chance they do. On the other side of the trenches are the professional artists. Relying on field phones and distant observation, their resulting interpretations of war are best understood as personal introspection, or navel-gazing through the barrel of a gun."

Nice metaphor, but I'm not sure of his battlefield analysis. I'm not even sure I'm looking at the same figurative piece of ground.

When I started writing a military blog in 2009, I wrote to communicate my experiences as a citizen-soldier preparing to deploy to Eastern Afghanistan. Then, I went to Afghanistan as a civilian journalist. After I returned, I've increasingly found myself writing about military writing: Encouraging writers of all ages and abilities to get their stories down on paper, and to share them with others.

Reports of the death of the warrior-poet are very much exaggerated. In fact, given an anecdotal explosion of contemporary war-literature in 2012 and 2013, the warrior-poet shouldn't even be listed as missing in action. Rather, veterans of recent conflicts seem to be engaging a target-rich environment: The academy, patrons of the arts, even a book-buying public.

If you're not stuck in the trenches, there's plenty of good and compelling war-writing out there: poems, essays, creative non-fiction, short stories, even comic books.

Some of it is painfully confessional. Some of it is cool, calculated, and military-grade. Some of it is joy-filled and humorous. Much of it is worth your time, and easily accessible.

For example:

The Journal of Military Experience, a literary and scholarly publication launched in 2011, is based on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kent. Submissions to the publication far exceeded capacity, so much that the editors have announced plans to spin off both a fiction publication (tentatively and cheekily to be called "The Blue Falcon"), and one devoted to poetry. The third volume of the main journal is slated for publication in November 2013.

Iraq war veteran and poet Travis Martin, one of the founders of The Journal of Military Experience, was recently featured in a New York Times round-up of "Warrior Voices." His "A Little Boy with Bananas" accurately captures every deployed father's heartbreak, seeking to win the hearts and minds of children not our own, while all-around bad things happen.

Also featured was Ron Capps, founder of the Veterans Writing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that publishes "O-Dark-Thirty," a quarterly literary magazine. Submissions are accepted here year-round. In a wholly separate effort from its literary pursuits, through the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, the organization also helps conduct research into writing as a therapeutic intervention for wounded warriors.

The Missouri-based Warriors Arts Alliance published its first anthology of poetry, prose, and creative nonfiction in November 2012. Submissions are being accepted here for a second volume, due July 3.

The War, Literature & the Arts journal is based at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo. You can submit visual art, prose, poetry, essay and creative nonfiction here year-round.

There are other military writing opportunities, other targets. New ones seem to pop up every week.

Need further inspiration? Seek out these 21st century military poets (for full texts, follow the links from each poem's title):

There's Brian Turner's celebrated "Here, Bullet", from the 2005 collection of the same name:
If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. [...]
There's the armored efficiency of Jason Poudrier's "Baghdad International," a poem published in his 2012 collection "Red Fields":
The ninety-four left
of 3-13 Field Artillery,
Red Dragon Battalion,
drove over
bumps by night,
bodies by day;
then in the afternoons, they bagged
the scrunched, scorched remains
from yesterday's artillery fires,
clearing their claim
of the Baghdad airport. [...]
Finally, there is Gerardo Mena's ode to a fallen friend, "So I Was a Coffin":
[...] I walked around Iraq upright and tall, but the wind blew and I began to lean.
I leaned into a man, who leaned into a child, who leaned into a city.
I walked back to them and neatly presented a city of bodies packaged in rows. [...]
The journalistic rule of thumb is "three times makes a trend." From where I stand, both aspiring and working military writers seem to be advancing on their objectives. More importantly, they seem to be kicking butt and making names.

Call it a renaissance. Call it an insurgency. Just don't call it a no-man's-land.


As "Charlie Sherpa," freelancer and U.S. Army veteran Randy Brown writes ways in which citizen-soldiers past and present—as well as their families—can be remembered, supported, and celebrated at www.redbullrising.com.

13 February 2013

Places Downrange Where Everyone Knows Your Name

Unless you're regularly danger-close to bad guys and mortar rounds, life downrange is like a combination of high-school and medium-security prison. People make jokes about getting institutionalized: Wake, chow, work, gym, sleep, wash, rinse, repeat.

As with any game that half-mental, people quickly start devising their own mental-wellness strategies. Some people hit the weight rooms twice a day. Some people fall pray (you heard me) to magical thinking: "If we wave this ladle over the convoy, we won't get hit." Still others take up one the few vices they still have available, such video games or fine cigars, and pursue it to passionate excess.

One soldier's war zone, after all, is another's designated smoking area.

On my own 2003 deployment, with the Iowa Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment (1-133rd Inf.), we gathered together to drink with the representatives of our allied nations on so-called "Whiskey Wednesdays." (General Order No. 1 was decidedly not in effect—as we liked to say, we were on a ... diplomatic mission.) The evenings started in a back-patio area of one of our decades-old temporary trailers. We called it the "Bull Pen," and painted our beloved bovine patch on practically every available surface. Beer lamp went on at 1700 hours, and was doused (soused?) by about 2100.

When a Michigan Army National Guard unit moved in after us, the "Vikings" quickly rechristened the Bull Pen as "Vahalla."

Regardless of the choice of one's poisons, or the name of one's dive, the point is to have an excuse—an excuse to get together, to shuck and jive, and complain and make fun, and pretend that being away from home and blowing stuff up is a normal state of affairs.

When I try to remember my buddies at our happiest, I always return to these ritualized bull-sessions, wearing funny hats and issuing silly proclamations and telling stories that were All True and Really Happened.

I count myself lucky to have revisited that magic during my brief Afghan sojourn in 2011.

Mil-blogger and citizen-soldier-journalist Mike Tomberlin was recently elected president of the "Tiki Hut," as well as the Camp Phoenix Chapter of the Tali-banned Cigar Aficionado Club. He also recently pinned on a Combat Action Badge ("CAB"), taking enough time and Internet-ink to make this punny headline: "Catching a CAB in Afghanistan." While holding court, he wears a custom Alabama Pakol hat.

In a recent blog post, Tobmerlin writes:
[The Tiki Hut] has have provided stress relief, an escape, a pick-me-up and a hideout all in one for many of us here. Friendships have been formed there and camaraderie reigns on any given night. All ranks, a variety of nationalities and a cast of characters count themselves among regulars there.

It is truly a special place. Think about the bar from the T.V. show "Cheers" and put that in a war zone, replacing the booze with cigars.
With a little help from the creator of the Doctrine Man!! cartoon, I sent a couple of collector "Baghdad Cigar Club" poker chips to Tomberlin last year. The cartoonist was downrange himself at the time, but in Iraq. On his Facebook page earlier this week, Doctrine Man!! put in a tobacco plug for Cigars for Warriors, an outfit that sends care packages to troops downrange.

(Bonus tip: Doctrine Man!! "Blue Falcon," "Bright Idea Fairy," and "Baghdad Cigar Club" mugs are currently 25 percent off at his "Lair of Mystery" Zazzle store. Use code "LOVEMESALE25.")

If you're giving up smoking for Lent—or even if you're not—you can donate any cigars, cigar-related items (cutters, lighters, humidors), or money to the address below. You can also donate via PayPal via the organization's website.
Cigars For Warriors
115 Daisy Street
Inglis, Fla. 34449-9563
From ashes we come, and from ashes we shall return. It's up to us to live and be well in the spaces in between.

11 February 2013

Classified: 'March Hare Press' Seeks Military Poets

The March Hare Press sends into the void these cryptic lines, telegraphed into a few lines of fine print. Think of it as verse, in the terse style of a newspaper advertisement:
"MARCH HARE PRESS seeks poetry from enlisted military personnel or veterans for an anthology. Looking for authentic voices. Three poems, 40 lines or less. Include contact info. Reading period ends April 30. No fee."
Send submissions to:
Editor, March Hare Press
200 Norfolk St.
Cambridge, Mass. 02139
Or e-mail: editor.marchhare@gmail.com

Thanks to the Veterans Writing Collective for the tip!


Note: 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.

08 February 2013

Beat Your Words into Ploughshares' Writing Contest

The editors of Ploughshares magazine have announced they are accepting poetry, prose, and non-fiction submissions to an annual "Emerging Writer's Contest" until Apr. 2, 2013.

While the contest is not specially targeted at military writers, one would hope that some soldier-writer could beat their warrior words into ... well, you know the well-worn phrase to which we refer.

There is a $1,000 prize in each category. Affiliated with Emerson College in Boston, Mass., Ploughshares is published in April, August, and December. Winners are notified in the fall, and their works appear in the winter issue. The contest began in 2011. Click for a short history of the literary magazine. Or, if you prefer, here is a longer one.

The contest defines "emerging writer" as "someone who has yet to publish a book, including chapbooks, eBooks, and self-published works, in any of the content genres: creative nonfiction, poetry, or fiction. No book should be forthcoming before April 15th, 2014, the date when the Winter issue will be off the stands." Persons with current affiliations with Emerson College should also not submit.

Further contest rules include:
  • Submitted work must be original and previously unpublished in any form.
  • Fiction and non-fiction entries should be under 6,000 words.
  • Poetry entries should contain 3-5 pages of poetry. For poetry, editors will be reading both for the strongest individual poem and the general level of work, and may choose to publish only some of the winner's submitted poems.
  • Writers are allowed to submit only one entry to the contest, per year.
A list and samples of past winners is available here. Still other selections offer further sense of Ploughshare's editorial spirit and character. The publication's pedigree is both varied and vaunted:
Each issue is guest-edited by a prominent writer who explores personal visions, aesthetics, and literary circles. Over the years, guest editors of Ploughshares have included Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, Rosellen Brown, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, Sherman Alexie, Russell Banks, Lorrie Moore, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Richard Ford. Guest editors have been the recipients of Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, National Book Awards, MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, and numerous other honors.
Past issues of the magazine, such as the Fall 2012 issue, are available on Amazon Kindle format. The $24 contest entry fee includes options for either a one-year print or online subscription.

Submissions must be made through the magazine's designated web-based portal. E-mail and hardcopy submissions are not accepted.

You can submit to the contest here, and sign up for news alerts and notices here.


Note: 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.

06 February 2013

The New York Times Seeks 'Warrior Voices'

In recent print and online coverage, The New York Times called for military service members and veterans to share their experiences in prose, poetry, and essay. There was also a special solicitation to student-veterans.

Authors and editors such as Travis Martin and Ron Capps were interviewed as part of the inaugural feature, which appeared in the Fri., Feb. 1 edition.

Martin, the managing editor of The Journal of Military Experience at Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kent., has previously offered advice regarding military writing to Red Bull Rising blog readers here. He was also mentioned in a blog-post earlier this week, regarding his participation in the blog "PTSD: A Soldier's Perspective."

Two of Martin's poems, "A Little Boy with Bananas" and "The Writing on the Wall," now appear under the New York Times' "In Their Own Voices" header.

Veterans Writing Project founder Ron Capps has also previously offered his military-writing insights to Red Bull Rising readers here. The New York Times has reprinted an essay regarding his experiences in 1998 Kosovo.

Mil-blogger Alex Horton started writing "Army of Dude" in 2006 and continues the mission as a staff writer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' VAntage Point" blog. The New York Times has republished "Metal Memorials," his remembrance of a fallen buddy.

Journal of Military Experience alumnus Micah Owen is also featured under "In Their Own Voices," in which he relates a combat narrative from 2003 Iraq.

To submit your words to The New York Times, click here.

04 February 2013

Mil-blogger Adds New Voices to PTSD Site

A former M2 "Bradley" driver, Kentuckian Scott Lee is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, an associate editor with The Journal of Military Experience, and founder of the blog "PTSD: A Soldier's Perspective," which he has written since 2007. After years of writing about his own experiences with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.), Lee says, the blog hit a something of a sweet spot. He realized he'd helped establish a community of people asking similar questions about everyday life with PTSD.

Lee describes how his blog has evolved from a mission of personal discovery, to one of mutual support, peer-mentorship, and even healing:
In the beginning, my blog was anything but healing, a lot of venting of anger and triggering others. I was all about shocking people by revealing my inner self. I still do that in some form, the graphic nature of our condition needs a similar style to make others understand through the use of metaphors. It wasn't until 2009 that it began to take on a healing message. It was in 2010 that I really started to notice the natural development of a mentoring system through working with other writers and caregivers on expressing themselves through blogging.
The blog's formal mission statement now reads: "to educate, support and engage Veterans and Caregivers."

Contacted by those caring for loved ones diagnosed with PTSD, Lee says, he was able to tell strangers what he'd previously forgotten or failed to tell his own friends and family. "It allowed me to say to them what I failed to tell my ex-wives and caregivers in the past," he says. "The insights drawn from my experience of two messy divorces offers help to others in navigating obstacle courses that derailed my life. Often I find myself in discussions [with caregivers and veterans] about why and how we think, feel, and act."

After a recent site redesign, Lee has been joined by a cadre of contributors, each offering his or her own voice and perspective regarding PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I.), and Military Sexual Trauma (M.S.T.).

Those contributing to Lee's blog include other alumni from The Journal of Military Experience and the 2012 Military Experience and Arts Symposium, including Travis Martin, Michelle Monte, and Angela Peacock, as well as others.

While the events they describe may have happened years ago, some of the featured personal narratives are immediate, brutal, and raw. These are stories of military service, sacrifice, and struggle, but they are the kind that too often remain untold. The public needs to see and hear the realities of these stories, just as much as those who face such challenges every day.

Lee's plain-spoken disclaimer, found on the front-page of his blog, attempts to put the truth-telling into context: "This site contains emotionally charged and graphic accounts of experiences concerning Military PTSD," it reads. "You may be triggered if suffering from a psychological injury and others may equally be affected!"

In addition to blogging, Lee pursues other writing interests in both fiction and non-fiction. In 2012, he assisted Heroes Fallen Studios' Clayton Murwin in interviewing Korean War veterans for an upcoming two-volume graphic novel, underwritten by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Lee also maintains a Facebook fan page for his PTSD-themed blog. Click here for more information.


Note: 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.

01 February 2013

What We Are Talking About When We Talk about Comics

Sometimes, we don't realize what we're thinking about until we say things out loud. Sometimes, we don't realize the questions we're asking until we write down some of the answers. For example, I spent more than a year listening to podcasts about the craft and performance of comedy, before I realized that I was really learning about a different approach to writing. Stand-up comics often develop new material by workshopping it in front of audiences, seeking out where the laughs are, bit by bit. They also interpret their stories through the presentation of an onstage persona, a dramatic mask, a narrative filter.

Sounds a little like blogging.

Back in 2011, during a "Writing My Way Back Home" workshop in Iowa City, Iowa, playwright Jennifer Fawcett described a writing exercise in which she was required to stand 10 or 20 minutes in front of her classmates. Talk about anything, do anything, but stand in front of the audience. She started talking about her family's experiences owning a goat farm. Twenty minutes later, people told her she needed to hurry up write that all down. A few years later, she had a play.

Stand-up comedy. Playwriting. Storytelling. Blogging. All, apparently, various versions of the talking cure. And ways to generate writing.

So, what about the comic-book musings on this week's Red Bull Rising blog? (See here, here, here, and here.)

Sure, sequential art is yet another way to tell stories of military service and sacrifice. Finding ways to make such stories more immediate or accessible to wider audiences continues to be an interest of mine. Beyond that, however, is my growing awareness of comic-books as modern-day mythologies, or shared narratives.

The Iliad and the Odyssey were not fundamental documents, after all, divinely inspired in the distant past. As part of an oral tradition, they changed with every telling and retelling, passed from performer to performer. Ancient history continues to change with every modern literary translation and cinematic reinterpretation. What do Odysseus and Lizzie Bennet and Superman all have in common? Each has evolved, and continues to evolve, with the times. That is the collective work of authors and editors, marketers and toymakers. That's how gods stay relevant. And heroes.

There's that word again.

I joined the military in the late 1980s, and I remember discussions of what Vietnam meant. New to the uniform, I naively thought that war had ended. The discussions continued, however, driven as much by mass-market products such as Oliver Stone's "Platoon" (1986) and Sylvester Stallone's "Rambo: First Blood, Part II" (1985) than by academic study and political debate. Even now, you can start barroom fights over whether Vietnam was the war we shouldn't have fought, or the one were weren't allowed to win.

You can start similar debates over the Cold War, of course. Or Iraq. Or Afghanistan. "All this has happened before, all this will happen again." We tell our stories, our fictions and our non-fictions and our comic books, and our stories change. Some parts may be lost. Some may join with those of others, gaining in both quality and volume, trickling as tributaries toward a larger river.