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 -

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