Whatever the genre, however, too few of these are easy for readers to infiltrate. By force of page-count alone, too many tomes seem ready to overwhelm or intimidate—often driving away civilians who are, ironically, often considered the high-payoff targets of military writing.
Not so, however, the Veterans Writing Project's journal "O-Dark-Thirty."
Launched in 2012, the print journal is published quarterly by the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, along with occasional on-line dispatches of additional prose and poetry, essays and interviews. As the journal's mission statement reads:
In our seminars we give participants the skills and confidence they need to tell their own stories; O-Dark-Thirty is the platform to put those stories and others in front of readers. This is not a peer-reviewed professional journal, nor is it a judged literary contest. Our editorial style is more curatorial than other journals. [...]Each print edition averages less than 100 pages, and provides a brief burst of covering fire from each category of writing. It's accessible and approachable, easy-to-digest. It can also be indelible, however ... unforgettable.
In short, it's short. A quick hit of literary adrenalin. A mini-bottle of inspirational Tobasco. Each issue debuts new voices, demonstrates the versatility of each writing form, and depicts the military experience in new and provoking ways. Then, it disappears into the night.
Consider the most recent, Summer 2013 issue, for example:
- Graduate student Elizabeth Sherman writes an unflinching essay about hooking up with a combat veteran on campus.
- Paul Van Dyke writes a time-and-memory-jumping story inspired by his extended 2005-2007 tour in Iraq. Dyke deployed as part of the Minnesota National Guard's 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (1-34th BCT).
- Former combat engineer Samuel Chamberlin writes a poem that captures one of the little-explored frustrations of life on the FOB. It reads, in part:
Within the wire you can't shoot back, the
Katyushas start to mangle the CHUs carelessly
crashing within the perimeter, fists clenched
in unreciprocated rage, later, when
The smoldering fiberglass ceased to smoke [...]
you think about the bottle rocket tipping over, the
plastic bottle melted into the Virginia
crabgrass, a burnt patch forever remains.
- Jim Matthews interviews Siobhan Fallon, author of "You Know When the Men Are Gone," an interconnected collection of short stories published in 2011.
A 2012 e-mail interview with Veterans Writing Project founder Ron Capps appears here. Also, click here for additional background on the group's useful differentiation of writing-as-therapy and writing-as-expression.
For submission guidelines to "O-Dark-Thirty,"click here.
The Veterans Writing Project's Fall 2013 writing seminar is Oct. 26-27 in Washington, D.C. The seminar is free to veterans, service members, and adult military family members. Participants must provide their own transportation, lodging, and meals. See the calendar for information on how to apply.