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What We Do

Photo: C130 on the airfield in Mazar i Sharif Afghanistan, 2003.  Credit: Ron Capps

At the Veterans Writing Project we believe that every veteran has a story. But we know that some of us need a little help telling that story. So we provide no-cost writing seminars and workshops for veterans, service members, and their adult family members. We’re also building an archive of writing by members of the military community. We publish a quarterly literary review and an ongoing scroll of writing by our friends on our sister site, O-Dark-Thirty.

We approach our work with three goals in mind. The first is literary. We believe there is a new wave of great literature coming and that much of that will be written by veterans and their families. The next is social. We have in the United States right now the smallest ever proportion of our population in service during a time of war. Less than 1% of Americans have taken part in these most recent wars. Our WWII veterans are dying off at a rate of nearly 900 per day. We want to put as many of these stories in front of as many readers as we can. Finally, writing is therapeutic. Returning warriors have known for centuries the healing power of narrative. We give veterans the skills they need to capture their stories and do so in an environment of mutual trust and respect.

Our seminars are led by working writers who hold MA or MFA writing degrees and who are, perhaps most importantly, themselves veterans. We have a number of different models including a two-day intensive seminar, a six- or fourteen-week workshop, and customizable workshops for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or playwriting. To that end, we seek to bring our program to more places where veterans are, from military bases to universities with significant numbers of servicemen and women.

Our core curriculum is Writing War: A Guide to Telling Your Own Story. Written by a veteran for veterans, it details the elements of craft involved in writing fiction, non-fiction, poetry or plays. Beginning with the basic questions, “Why do we write?” and “What’s different about writing the military experience?”, the book includes chapters on scene, setting, dialogue, narrative structure, character motivation and development, point of view, and more. Writing War includes detailed examples demonstrating each element of craft. All examples used in the book were written by writers who are also veterans. It is written to be accessible to beginning and more experienced writers. To purchase a copy of Writing War, click here.

The Veterans Writing Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Washington DC founded by veterans and family members.

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