Writing Life: Year in Review

I’m not usually inclined to write a “year in review,” even in my journal, but I ended up with so many projects about women veterans and writing that a recap seems to be in order – especially since I got pulled away from my original intent for this blog for several months.

I started 2015 refining some short stories about women in or on the fringes of the Navy, applying to a residency where I hoped to finish enough of the stories to work on a collection (wasn’t accepted, but will try again soon), and taking a class on “social media for writers,” which led to the creation of this blog.

Then in April, the Veterans Writing Project sent me to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference (AWP 2015) in Minneapolis. I roomed with memoirist Kayla Williams; met Vietnam War veteran writer Susan O’Neill and Vietnam-era veteran writer Deborah Fries, and O-Dark-Thirty contributor Sylvia Bowersox, and renewed a too-brief acquaintance with Air Force veteran Lauren Halloran. Many “war writers” of both genders, most military but some family members and civilians, attended a dinner where I had the pleasure of sitting with poet/memoirist Brian Turner and fellow Vassar grad, writer, actor, and former Marine Benjamin Busch.

FullSizeRenderUnfortunately, the panel on “women writing war” – to which I had been looking forward – did not include any women veterans who write among the panelists, all of whom were military spouses or civilians. I wasn’t the only woman veteran writer put off by this. Unfortunately, my blog post about it was written when I was still pissed off (and was also emotional from watching my father-in-law die slowly in the hospital). I ended up deleting the post and apologizing to the panelists. However, I stand by my assertion that the exclusion of women writers who had actually been to war from a panel on “women writing war” was short-sighted and insulting. It did open the door for further discussion, though. Kayla Williams, Lauren Halloran & I proposed a panel on women veterans’  writing for AWP 2016 to rectify the omission. In July, we were pleased to learn that our proposal was accepted. Kayla is contributing to two other panels – AWP’s limit – so I’ll take her place (but cannot fill her boots) as moderator on the panel “Unsung Epics: Women Veterans’ Voices” on Saturday, April 2, 2016. LA, here we come!

In May I went to Lawton, Oklahoma for the second Military Experience and the Arts Symposium. Things I learned in classes taught by Elizabeth Heaney and Suzanne Rancourt will be added to the toolbox for the next Veterans Writing Project women veterans’ writing seminar. We’d hoped to offer it in 2015, but due to a funding glitch at the VA, it was rescheduled for 2016.

FullSizeRenderAlso in May, I had lunch with former Marine and author/editor Tracy Crow, who has published a memoir, a military thriller (under the pen name Carver Greene), and a writing guide, and edited the anthology Red, White, & True: Stories from Veterans and Families, World War II to Present. Our discussion quickly turned into a partnership, the rapid creation of a book proposal, and a contract with the University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books for a book on women veterans – forthcoming in spring 2017. Tracy is an ideal collaborator, and has become a close personal friend as well. During our research we’ve raged, laughed, shed many tears, and once brought the staff of a rather sedate and sleepy archive running to see if we were okay when we shouted “Yes!” and began fist-pumping and cheering at something we discovered in their collection. We can’t wait to share more about our project.

This was the call for submissions, printed on our cover art - the photograph that inspired our choice of theme.

This was the call for submissions, printed on the photograph that inspired our choice of theme. The photo will also be the cover art for the issue.

In the summer the editorial board of O-Dark-Thirty selected women veterans’ writing as the theme of our February 2016 print issue. The response to our call for submissions has been overwhelming and gratifying. The work submitted was just phenomenal – deeply personal as well: I cried when I sent some of the inevitable “decline” (rejection) letters. All of the O-Dark-Thirty editors put a staggering number of hours into reviewing the submissions; we’re editing the final copy for the print issue this week.

Early in the fall, Ron Capps suggested that I propose an academic paper for a panel on women veterans in fiction for the MLA-Northeast Convention in March 2016. Thanks to  Pete Molin’s help with the abstract, my proposal to discuss representations of women veterans’ trauma in fiction by women vets and civilians was accepted. Now I just have to figure out how to write the damn thing – I have no background in academic lit-crit. Should be fun.

Most of the fall season was taken up with reading, research, grant proposal writing, and collaboration with Tracy for our book. I managed to squeeze in a couple of writing classes through The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland – trying to hang onto my fiction writing, but all the other writing commitments have made it tough. After multiple rejections, two of the short-short stories I wrote in November 2014 in Katey Schultz’s “Weekly Flashes” online course were accepted for publication. “Her Husband’s Stars” will appear in CONSEQUENCE Magazine this winter, and Pleiades accepted “Duty Rack” for publication in a veterans’  issue, forthcoming in the summer of 2016. I’m honored to have placed fiction in these two publications.

Spring of 2016 is going to be extremely busy. In February O-Dark-Thirty will not only launch our women veterans’ themed print issue; we’re going to post new work by women veterans to our online journal, The Report, almost every day in February. And on February 19th, The Writer’s Center will be hosting a reading of work from the issue. In March I’ll present that academic paper; the AWP panel is at the end of March/early April; the Veterans Writing Project is partnering with the VA Medical Center in Washington, DC, to offer the women veterans’ writing seminar on April 30-May 1; and our book manuscript is  due to the publisher in June. Oh: and I’m planning a series of new posts for this blog.

Thanks for reading. I hope to bring you some good reviews and good news about women veterans who write in the coming year.

About readersquest

I'm a retired naval officer and writer. I live with my husband, two sons, and several family pets in a house in the woods.
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