This is a guest post from National University’s MFA creative writing program student Fabricio Correa:
Military stories have engrossed readers and viewers worldwide, ranging from iconic films like A Thin Red Line to visceral books such as Black Hawk Down. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting – no matter the genre – we are shaken by the grit of reality and the hero’s quests for victory or survival.
A powerful tool in shaping the thoughts of a military fiction writer is a creative writing workshop. It provides a means to hone their writing craft and become part of a writing community.
Active-duty military and veterans can take advantage of many benefits in applying for a MFA program. National University accepts the GI Bill, the Fry Scholarship, the Spouse and Dependents Education Assistance, and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, and offers tuition reduction for active-duty military members. The MFA program has rolling admissions and is entirely online. This flexibility allows veterans as well as active duty service members to pursue a graduate degree.
Over the next several weeks, NewPages will feature three alumni who share their experiences in the military and at National University’s MFA in creative writing, a military-friendly MFA program entirely online.
Susan Caswell has been in the Army for twenty years, eighteen and a half on active duty. She was a direct commission as a chaplain. Most of her work is of a non-religious nature. She provides counseling to deal with combat and financial stress, relationship and medical issues, among other sensitive cases. Most of the service members are between the ages of 18-24, extremely young and away from the safety of their homes.
Susan is a writer of non-fiction. She says, “I write essays about experiences that haunt me. I feel some release when the experience is honored by putting it to paper.” Her short story “Three Hours and Forty-Nine Minutes” encapsulates the vulnerability of extreme situations. The story was featured in the GNU 2016 Summer Edition. “The feedback from my peers is invaluable. They help me understand what they can connect with, and what needs to be elaborated.”
The intensity of her experience can be felt in the nail-biting excerpt “A memory surfaces from my third deployment. I was in a chapel service in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2012. The sirens sounded just as the sermon started. Without missing a beat, Chaplain Vaughan reminded the congregation, ‘Lie down on the floor and protect your head with your hands.’”
As for the military writer being a powerful contributor to our society, Susan says, “I think my writing provides a window into the war. I write about the experiences that may not be reported in the press. People tell me that they have new insight into the war after reading my work.”
Just what fans of Jane Austen need: Our own society of Austen lovers!
Started by Henry G. Burke, J. David Grey, and Joan Austen-Leigh, the great-great grand niece of Jane, the Jane Austen Society of North America "is dedicated to the appreciation of Jane Austen and her writing. Join us in celebrating her life, her works, and her genius."
JASNA hosts a three-day conference each fall that includes lectures by Austen scholars and JASNA members, exhibits, workshops, and a banquet and Regency ball. Yes, a ball! Each year, the conference is themed with a reading list provided in advance.
The 2019 conference (200 Years of Northanger Abby: "Real Solemn History") will be held in Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia on October 4-6, and the 2020 conference (Jane Austen's Juvenilia: Reason, Romanticism, and Revolution) will be in Cleveland, Ohio, October 9-11.
In addition to the conference, JASNA publishes peer reviewed journals, a newsletter, book reviews, and holds an annual student essay contest. JASNA also has an International Visitor Support Program which provides a $3,250 fellowship to assist with travel and research expenses.
For more information, visit the JASNA website.
Issue 8 2018 of the West Coast Gold Man Review
Judged by Joshua Ferris
"Rules of Engagement" by Mi-Kyung Shin [pictured]
Judged by Chen Chen
“Church Board Interrogations” by Josh Tvrdy
Judged by Lacy M. Johnson
"Blessed Be the Longing that Brought You Here" by Jessie van Eerden
For a full list of honorable mentions in each category and judges' comments, click here.
The Fall/Winter 2018 issue of The Chattahoochee Review is themed on "Lost & Found." Editor Anna Schachner [pictured] writes in the editorial: "In many ways, this issue's special focus of 'Lost and Found' is an homage to the writing process itself - the many slivers of ourselves we concede when we write and the inevitable discovery via writing. That emphatic 'and' is important because it suggests an organic progression: that to lose something is to also create space to find something else, not just in writing, but in our thoughts, our expectations, our relationships. So many of the submissions we received seemed to concur, as did so many of the pieces ultimately chosen and featured herein."
Contributors include Cooper Casale, Margaret Diehl, John Hart, Lindsay Stuart Hill, Raina Joines, Timothy Krcmarik, David Rock, Sophia Stid, Brian Phillip Whalen, Jennifer Wheelock, Erica S. Arkin, John Brandon, Kieran Wray Kramer, Michele Ruby, Kevin Wilson, Ginger Eager, Jennifer Key, Caitlin McGill, Marilyn F. Moriarty, Raul Palma, and Rachel H. Palmer.
Again with the Concho River Review (Fall/Winter 2018) because, again, the cover image is gorgeous, while at the same time, a reminder of the dangerous power of nature. Tim L. Vasquez of Untamed Photography is becoming the most regularly featured artist for this column, and rightly so.
The Nov-Dec 2018 issue of Ragazine.CC online features Mariana Yampolsky's "Caress," a photo from the TIME OF CHANGE November exhibit at Throckmorton Fine Art. Ragazine.CC published the essay from the show guide along with several photos and an interview with Gallerist and Collector Spencer Throckmorton by Graciela Kartofel. See it all here.
Art Editor Andrew Marshall is the photographer who captured this chilly but beautiful image on the cover of the December 2018 online issue of Junto Magazine.
About Place Journal Editors Lauren Camp and Melissa Tuckey write in their introduction to the October 2018 issue themed "Root and Resistance":
"As artists and writers, part of our task is to pay attention to and distill what is happening around us. In witnessing, we’re called to both lift what is beautiful and name what is unjust, to reclaim language from the powerful and give it back its humanity. For this issue, we were interested in works that get at the root of our current political disaster. We also wanted work that explored and reveled in our sources of support, interconnection, solace, and strength. We wanted work that could be useful to those of us engaged in this challenge who, on many days, feel exhausted, overwhelmed and disheartened. We wanted work that would challenge us to learn from perspectives outside of our own, that would help us understand history and how we arrived at this moment."
Ultimately, they write, "The work we have received reminds us that we all need to nurture ourselves as much as we need to resist the threats to our culture. We need to hold to our strong communities, and also build new ones. Part of our efforts must be a turning back to ancestry and history, to see the germ of a struggle and the start of our futures. We need to look to the past to find the roots of the efforts to amend the present."
A good way to start the new year.
"Alabama for Beginners," Jean Ryan's featured essay in a recent issue of bioStories caught my attention; as the editor describes it, "a love letter to her new home and the unexpected welcome she has found there."
Ryan moved from San Francisco to Lilian, Alabama where she hopes her "modest savings will last longer" and she and her wife will "unearth the gay community—there must be one, some brave little enclave waiting for reinforcements." But then, "On deeper reflection," she continues, "maybe there is no enclave here, no separate community at all. Maybe these pockets are going the way of gay bars, no longer needed in this age of sexual fluidity, borders and labels all slipping away—now there’s a happy thought." (I'm hoping those happy thoughts with you!)
As I age, I also consider other places to resettle, and for anyone who is contemplating a move, this essay of discovering a new place - especially one so different in so many ways - was a nudge of encouragement. Learning the people, the places, the flora and the fauna, and, most essentially, the rediscovery of your own being amid a new environment:
"Each morning my wife and I have coffee on the back patio and watch the sun come up through the pines. As we often come out before dawn, I sweep a flashlight beam across the cement, making sure we don’t step on something that, like us, is not looking for any trouble, just a place to call home. The other day I saw a black wasp fly out of a small hole in the frame of my deck chair, reminding me of the swallows next door that made a nest in the open sewer pipe of the home under construction. You can find at least three wide-eyed frogs perched inside my hose reel box any time you lift the lid. Not for a minute does even the smallest crevice go to waste. There is panic in the air, the hum of a million creatures trying to stay alive."
bioStories is an online pubiication of nonfiction that publishes a new feature every week then collects them into two semiannual issues.