The first Writing Seminar for veterans, military, and family members was held from September 8 to October 8, 2015, in Blackstone, Virginia. The Blackstone Conference And Retreat Center generously offered space for the five Tuesday sessions from 5:00-7:00 p.m. An outline of the workshop, which will be repeated in 2016 in different locations, is as follows:
Description: a free program for military, veterans, and family who want to write about their experience and who want their stories to be heard.
Method: participants develop individual works with guidance from the seminar director. In many cases, the piece will involve an incident related to military experience–loss of a comrade; crisis in a relationship; rejection of a veteran by an employer, an old friend, a relative; sexual assault; inability to get up and face the day. But participants may propose any topic for exploration.
Goals: the creation of a finished piece of writing with the possibility of publication in the emerging market for stories about those who have served their country. The workshop is also a chance to come to terms with sometimes difficult personal experiences through interaction with others and direction by the workshop leader.
Schedule: The Seminar proposes that a single event can be presented in five segments resembling the trajectory of a storm:
1) the calm before the storm–clear skies.
2) the rising signs of storm–wind and clouds.
3) the heart of the storm–rain, thunder, lightening.
4) the passing of storm–winds abating, clouds parting. 5) the calm after the storm–clear skies again.
Each seminar session, then, will be devoted to one of these segments of the participant’s story in whatever order the participant chooses to engage them. There will be no limits on subject, length, or style; participants choose their own approach and/or seek advice. Anyone not ready to confront a particularly emotional incident directly can pursue another moment, distant but related, as an initial step toward writing about that experience.
Participants will have one week to compose each segment, with online advice available at all times. Suggested brief readings will be posted online for each session: essays about why it’s important to write your story; sample stories from other veterans and military family members; essays about how develop your story and how to shape it for an audience.