A Door Opens

 When I learned that Jim's veteran status was my eligibility, I signed up for a week-end writing seminar with the Veterans Writing Project. 

It was this past week-end and its the best thing I have done for improving and enriching my craft in a long time.  Ron Capps, founder of The Veterans Writing Project, an excellent teacher, has developed a curriculum that dissects examples of proven literary writing to teach the fundamentals that lead to more good writing. The excerpts he selected were inspiring and the instruction was dead-on. Read about Capps HERE.

This seminar is intended to encourage and help veterans to write about their military experience so the examples Capps used were written by authors who were veterans and whose writing was about their military experience.  For example: Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, English Poets of WWI Siegried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, Richard McKenna, Ernest Hemingway, Stendahl, and on and on and on. 

Rich prose, wide variety of styles, and unforgettable images. I have read most of the  works he used, and remembered many, but had ever experienced them as I did this week-end as Capps directed the group through the craft the authors used to create them.

Of-course it was writing by men - and no matter how much I admire and enjoy men's writing, that's always an itch for me. But there are many women who are writing these days about their military experience and many who come through VWP seminars across the country. I will be on the look-out to read their works hoping to find others who can bring todays women's experience to life as vividly and emotionally as Vera Brittain did in the WWI classic, "Testament of Youth."

I was introduced to the Veterans Writing Project last July by a dear friend who was in the program. She invited me to a public reading of the works of those attending and I was impressed and moved by
the depth and truth of their stories. It was raw, powerful work. Ever since I have followed information about the VWP,  heard more stories when I could and thought about it.

Then I read Ron Capps book, "Seriously Not All Right." I found it a fascinating read that I could not put down. In June my son, a Hopkins alum, dropped the Hopkins article on my dining room table, whetting my appetite to find out more. The Universe responded. I ran into Ron Capps when I appeared on the Better Said Than Done panel at George Mason University several weeks ago. He told me I was eligible to attend because of Jim's service. A door opened.

If you are wondering why this caught my attention -

My husband Jim Schoettler was an Air Force flight surgeon and psychiatrist on active duty during the Viet Nam war which was a time when military doctors both in Viet Nam and on the home front were dealing with an explosion of something that had been called many names, battle fatigue etc and today PTSD. But in the 1960s they were without defined treatment protocols so they struggled and experimented with ways to help these guys. A physician colleague came back after his year Viet Nam tour and could not rest until he went back, hoping to "help."

Two years ago a friend of mine who is very involved with Art and the Military Experience recognized my Arlington Story as connected to a wider military experience. So did
Roger Thompson (Stony Brook U.) in his review in Arts and Military Experience.

I doubt I would have recognized this connection to Jim, to Gretchen, to my past and ironically to my future without Thompson's article and insights.

Spouses have a different story - but it is surely part of military experience.

Over the week-end, talking about writing about the military experience,  I was reminded of a forgotten story that I had written with Agyle Hillis, another Air Force wife, when our husbands were stationed at the School of Aerospace Medicine, Brooks Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX. Budding writers, Argye and I interviewed the wives of the astronauts who were undergoing month long tests in the isolation chambers at the ASMS where they were gathering medical data for space flights. A New York agent took our article and there was a buyer, a national publication -- when PLOP -- they lobbed off Commander Shephard and our article about their wives hit the dust!  Even then I was interested in the woman's experience - because that's what I was living.

A good reminder to me to stick with what you know.
It was a great week-end. I hope to continue this connection. On the way home I almost got lost again but -


September Blessings - a gratitude post

September has reminded me of how much I have to be grateful for:

For my family - and the times we have together -

A week-end at Virginia Beach and Williamsburg with Jimmy, Monica and Karen - talking and laughing and enjoying being by the sea and surrounded by history and memories of other trips here.

A trip to California in September to spend time with my daughter Robin and her family.

Robin and I worked on a project together, visited UC - Chico to see her son Dan, visited with her son Jamie before he took off for business in Europe and I caught up with her son Scott and her husband Brad around the house and over meals. All good time.

Robin and I made a day trip to Jim's hometown to visit with our Schoettler family. I went to Jim's home town for the first time in 1959 - with Jimmy and Karen and pregnant with Robin while Jim went to Cape Canaveral on assignment when he was in the Air Force. He arrived two weeks later - and made sure we made time for him to take me to Yosemite National Park - with is less than 2 hours from Madera. That's when I really fell in love with California.

In my professional life:
I am grateful for storytelling - as a listener and as a storyteller. I should add that I count my blessings all the time for having this job where I can write and tell the stories I want to. How lucky I am to have found the story of the Hello Girls that I am telling
these days especially as it gives me such a good feeling to be bringing their unknown story forward.

 I can't leave out the blessing of my job at the Mongtomgery Municipal Cable Station where I can tape stories and talk with others who work in stories and tape the conversations and their tellings.
In Williamsburg we went as a family group to hear Syd Lieberman tell his Gettysburg Story: Abraham and Isaac. We loved the story and admired his telling. Twelve years ago our family bought a get-away place outside Gettysburg so we have a "thing" about that history. Lovely to share this experience and we talked about it off and on all weekend. Its pretty sure we will check out the national cemetery next time we ride into town there.

I appreciate working with Better Said That Done - to tell stories and meet new people and to receive a video of the telling - now how lucky is that???? Thanks to Bart and Jessica Robinson .

Well not as lucky as 57 years being married to Jim Schoettler.

September is not fully over and there are a few more things coming before October 1.

Yesterday I received a letter from the Montgomery County Chapter of Business and Professional Women informing me that I had been selected as their Woman of Achievement for 2014 - WOW!
I am very honored and grateful for the award particularly as I have admired BPW for many years for their work for women's issues and toward improving the status of women in the work world.

Tomorrow I am attending the Veterans Writing Project Seminar - two days of intense writing instruction with veterans who are writing about their experience in the military. I have wanted to do this. Never expected it would be possible. But you see, I am the spouse of a Veteran - and that's my ticket in. Thank you, Jim.

One large over-sight. FRIENDS. There are wonderful and good friends in my life and I am deeply grateful for their presence and their caring - and I feel much warmth from the cyber community - people who encouraged me during the past two years after Jim's death - your virtual hugs and encouragement have been a buoy through the worst time in my life. Thank you.

And last but by now means least - my sisters. I have three from my family - and more that God has sent to my life many years ago and lately. I love you all.


Writing in Your Books

Better Said Than Done storytelling event during the Fall For the Book Festival at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA   Took the opportunity to tell this story - which shows it can take years to reconnect with something you learned when you were in the 4th grade.  Yes, aberrations are strong memories.


A two-in-one gift.

There are days when you really need a hug aren't there?
Today was one of those for me.

A little blue  - just in general and feeling a bit over-whelmed by all I have said I would do
and now the deadlines are riding in
like a sunami  - of get it done's.

When I heard the clanking of the mail slot in the front door and a slap as a bunch of stuff hit the floor I pushed out the air of a big sigh - "more bills probably," I thought.

Instead - a card with a surprise gift for me from my dear friend Kay.

Now this is a hug if I ever felt one.

The necklace is the hug - the message it carries as it rides around my neck is the encouragement any performer sometimes needs.

Why that sounds like a two-fer!



Looking back to look ahead

Over The Back Fence, collage, e. schoettler

Is that really true?
A month since I have written on this blog?
Hard to believe.

I used to write here every day
and if I did not write something my conscience pricked me.
I felt like I had fallen down at the switch.
Times do change, don't they?

So, I am back.
Trying again.
That is the song I sing, the story of my life.
I will see how it goes.

Catch up:

Sisters: Ellouise, Kathy and Ollie
Promo Card from Capital Fringe 2011
I did go to Georgia.  Spent a week with my sister, told Finding Gus at a local library, presented an all-day workshop at the same library and told The Hello Girls at a House Concert. That was great for the storyteller in me - making some money and telling lots of stories to very lovely people who enjoyed what I brought. Now who could ask for more?  Plus, lots of conversation with my sister. Catching up with her and sharing from my world. She has an unflinching eye on the world and her advice is good.

Jim: Pier near San Simeon, CA
Two days after I came home from Georgia I flew to California to visit my daughter and her family, friends, and to make a visit to Jim's home town and his family. All good. Rich time. Tinged with melancholy and tears without Jim there to share it.

But I realized
he is there. For more than 50 years he and I visited California together up and down Highway 99 from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Even though things have changed over time, a familiar landmark on the road is missing or a whole new development fills in the expanse of wide open space - Jim is there.

Jim loved California. As he left the hospital the last time I heard him tell someone that one thing he would like to do was "go to California". That did not work out. Instead he went further on his own.  Funny, the things I remember. So, when I go to California I feel that I am going for him too.

While I was in SF with Robin we worked research about The Hello Girls and it was so such fun to work with her although its hard to keep up. She processes stuff so fast, sees possiblities and zooms ahead. Hope we continue opportunities to explore avenues together.

On the flight home I sat with an interesting young guy who is a post-doc scientist at a CA university. We did not talk until the plane began to rock and roll and I said, "I hate this", he nodded, "I don't like it either." Then we dropped into an easy, friendly conversation that was really surprising - this guy is a genius, who along with several others like him, had invented a computer app which became a company which when sold padded their bank accounts. Shades of Facebook and other hot internet companies. But I tell you what really impressed me - when he opened his computer he took out a small folded paper and put it on the seat between us. (We were lucky - sitting in a three seat row with an empty seat). I could see it was a to do list "for the plane." with a box drawn next to each item. Once he turned on his computer he began to tackle those things one at a time and he did not waver until the flight attendant announced "prepare for landing several hours later." Total concentration.
I wish I had asked him what music he was listening to that helped his keep his train of thought.

Yesterday when I heard an interview about post-doc scientists on NPR, I thought of my seat mate on Virgin America.  The talk was about how this group is under-the-radar cheap labor in scientific labs across the country - working and doing excellent work for those who have snagged a tenured academic position - that this is the way progress takes place in their research fields. When I thought of him I was glad he had a well-padded bank account to see him through the excessively lean years ahead for him as a research scientist.

Nice to have a bit of insight into the interview -

My favorite ink pens: love the way they feel as they mark paper.

and more.....

Back home now and happy to be here.
I have lots of work lined up
so I am thinking about my seatmate last week and making a determined list
with boxes drawn next to each item .

Travel is good!!!