26 November 2014

Thank You, Vonnegut! Thank You, Doctrine Man!!

Photo of cover and poem recently published in third annual issue of "So It Goes: the Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library," which was organized around a theme of creative process. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing ceramics with lacquered resin mixed with metallic powders. Originating in the 15th century, the practice celebrates an object’s history and imperfections, while also keeping it in service. Ashikaga Yoshimasa and Tom Albers are each real people, but only one was a citizen-soldier in the Iowa Army National Guard.

At risk of sounding like that inscrutable "Thank U" song by Alanis Morrisette, I am thankful for a rewarding year of writing. My work continues on various research, writing, and goof-off projects related to the history of the U.S. 34th Infantry "Red Bull Division. Meanwhile, I grew more confident in my production of military-themed poetry (should that be "light verse about the light infantry"?), and more aggressive in seeking venues for its publication.

To paraphrase Alanis: "Thank you, India! Thank you, (war on?) terror! Thank you, disillusionment!"

Writing and publishing poetry probably distracted me from larger career targets, but it also provided an outlet for exploring fragments that might otherwise have ended up unexplored. Receiving a coin from a former commander, for example. Or what it felt like to work in a Tactical Operations Center. It's amazing what sticks with you. It's amazing what comes back. And, it's fun to share.

Just this year, I saw more than 12 poems published, in print and on-line.

I benefited in this effort, I know, from a 2014 boomlet of venues seeking to publish veterans' lit. At one point, I counted a dozen journals and anthologies actively soliciting military-themed fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and more. Whenever possible, I tried to pass along news of these opportunities to my fellow mil-writers via the Red Bull Rising blog. I also tried to encourage other practitioners via on-line interviews (here and here), and via workshops and presentations.

Nearly five years out of uniform, and I'm still doing lessons-learned ...

Last spring, I shared my publishing methods and insights at the Great Plains Writers' Conference, Brookings, S.D. and at Writing My Way Back Home, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I'm looking forward to other such opportunities in 2015—including the Military Experience and the Arts Symposium in Lawton, Okla., May 14-17.

Some venues for veterans' voices are well-established. Southeast Missouri State University, for example, recently published its third annual "Proud to Be" anthology. Editors have already issued a call for submissions toward a fourth volume. The dead-tree version of the Veterans Writing Project's literary journal "O-Dark-Thirty" is a joy that arrives quarterly to my mailbox (subscribe here!), although you can also read its issues free on-line here.

Other publications emerged, such as Line of Advance and The Pass In Review. Special themed issues popped up like 25-meter targets. Scintilla magazine, for example, dedicated an entire issue to veterans' writing. And The Iowa Review continues its annual (?) Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for writers who are veterans.

Of course, the literary terrain is always shifting. Publications come and go. Funding, staffing, energy, and interest quickly become obstacles to a clockwork publication schedule. The Pass In Review, for example, went on hiatus after two issues. I'm told they're refitting and cross-leveling their intellectual ammunition for 2015.

Rather than publish four separate journals, Military Experience and the Arts is consolidating its family of non-fiction, fiction, trauma-writing, and poetry journals under one cover, now titled "As You Were." The inaugural issue is here.

Some military-writing sites, like Doonesbury's "The Sandbox," live on as on-line archives. Others, such as Milblogging.com, have left the net altogether.

In this season of reflection, I am proud and humbled to have had my work appear in many of these publications. I am thankful for the hard work that writers and designers and editors invest in bringing these products to life. Moreover, I am thankful to be part of a larger community of veterans (and readers!) that seeks to encourage the expressions of others.

Thank you for your words. Thank you for reading some of mine.

In the meantime, have a safe and rewarding Thanksgiving. Remember to check on your buddies, remember to hug your kids.

Give thanks.



Here's a quick list of places in which to read some of my 2014 work, as well as that of writer-veterans. Please support these venues with your attentions and patronage, as appropriate:

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