What We Do
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 creative writing seminars and (beginning in 2019) songwriting workshops for veterans, service members, and their adult family members. 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 creative writing 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 creative writing 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 programs to places where veterans are, and particularly to underserved areas around the country.
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.
Our songwriting curriculum focuses on the elements of the craft as well. We look at song structure, developing lyrics, prosody, and more. Our instructors and mentors will be a mix of veterans and non-veterans but all are experienced songwriters, professional musicians, and teachers. Our curriculum developer is a veteran who studied songwriting at the Berklee College of Music.
We invite veterans, serving members of the armed forces (active or reserve), and military or veterans’ family members to participate in our seminars and workshops. We don’t care if the veteran served in combat or never left stateside. It doesn’t matter when the veteran served. In fact, we want older veterans to come tell their stories alongside younger veterans. Family members of veterans, whether they are spouses, parents or adult children are welcome, too. All we ask is that participants want to learn about writing in order to tell stories. If those stories are relevant to serving in the armed forces or being part of a military family, so much the better. Occasionally, our sponsoring partners will limit workshop or seminar attendance to a specific group — some organizations can only serve veterans, and some can only provide support to disabled veterans, some to spouses, etc. In these cases, we have to follow their rules.
The Veterans Writing Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Washington DC founded by veterans and family members.