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A Story About O-Dark-Thirty from The Writer Magazine

Here’s an article about our literary journal, O-Dark-Thirty, from The Writer Magazine.

LITERARY SPOTLIGHT: O-Dark-Thirty

A literary project features the stories of veterans, their families and friends.
BY MELISSA HART

Author Beth Garland had heard of the Veterans Writing Project – a nonprofit offering no-cost writing seminars for veterans and family members – so when she saw that VWP planned to launch a literary journal, she sent in her short story Reintegration. “I wanted very much to convey the incredible dignity and bravery that real soldiers and their spouses who are coping with PTSD or severe injuries demonstrate every day,” she says, “while at the same time revealing how human they are.”

Garland is married to a member of 20th Special Forces Group. She believes American pop culture has romanticized the concept of a soldier’s homecoming. As her narrator in Reintegration observes, “You imagined that after he’d grabbed you up in his arms like Richard Gere did Debra Winger in the end scene of An Officer and a Gentleman, you two would speed to the closest motel and rip each other’s clothes off.”

Readers responded to her story, which appeared in the inaugural issue of the journal O-Dark-Thirty, with gratitude. They were “moved by the fact that reunions aren’t always those lovely images of soldiers hugging their families that we often see in the last twenty seconds of the evening news,” Garland says, “that there’s a lot more to it than that, especially for soldiers who are physically and/or emotionally wounded.”

Editor Ron Capps – a soldier for 25 years – launched

O-Dark-Thirty on Veteran’s Day 2012.

“I think it’s critically important to both integrate the writing by our veterans and their family members into the broader stream of American literature,” Capps says, “and to highlight that it is somewhat separate in that it has influences that other works simply don’t.”

Tone, editorial content

Readers will find humor in the pages of O-Dark-Thirty, along with sorrow and pain, trauma and rage. “There is work in our journal that was written by service members who are recovering from posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain Injury and pretty grievous physical injuries, too,” Capps says. “We also have some work from their caregivers, and you can only imagine what they feel.”

Contributors

The writers in O-Dark-Thirty range from World War II veterans to soldiers on active duty and to support communities around them. One served in Iraq as an Army Scout medic and now works as an actor in Los Angeles. Another, a clinical therapist, is the daughter of a World War II Army veteran.

“We’ve had a few pieces come over the transom that sort of rang all the bells,” Capps says. He offers Jason Davis’s raw and courageous essay, Brian and Me, as an example. “Our nonfiction editor is a former Marine who fought in Fallujah,” Capps says, “and he wrote on Jason’s piece, ‘Please, please, please publish this.’”

He also points to Grady Smith’s short story Al Gomez. “Grady’s story is so subtle and disarming,” Capps says, “you don’t notice what’s happening until you’re thigh deep in it and past the point of no return. It’s masterful.”

Advice for newcomers

Capps seeks submissions that have nothing to do with the military experience. “The broader the range of topics we can present,” he says, “the better.”

He’d also like to see more writing from family members: “If you’re a military family member – spouse, partner, sister, brother, daughter, son, mother, father, grammy, grampa, grandchild – send us your stuff.”

“A journal of writing by veterans, service members and military family members. We seek quality, literary writing on any topic.” Quarterly, $30. Types of work accepted: Poetry, fiction, nonfiction. Reading period: Year-round. Submission format: Mail or submission manager on website. Contact: Ron Capps, Editor. Veterans Writing Project, 6508 Barnaby St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20015. ron@veteranswriting.org. http://o-dark-thirty.org/

Melissa Hart is the author of the memoir Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood. She teaches at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon.

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