Friday, January 15, 2010

Writing It Out

Riding out the storms of life can be rough. Sometimes it helps to write it out, when the world around you seems as unsettling as a ship in a hurricane—or a small boat chugging up a jungle river full of startling surprises.

I began jotting random thoughts on scraps of paper during an Army tour in Vietnam and graduated to pocket notebooks that I’ve filled with scribbling ever since. They are logbooks of discoveries, including titles of books to read, web sites to check out, snippets of conversation (real and imaginary), fragments of what might become poetry, ideas for an essay or a book.

“My poetry is mostly dealing with emotional turmoil,” I noted one day amid the latest upheaval in my life. “I’ll be working Xmas. So here’s a toast to the working stiffs who keep things humming on holidays,” I jotted on another occasion, setting the tone for a Happy Holidays letter folded into Christmas cards to family and friends.

As my life has migrated to constant use of computers, I also peck out and rewrite detailed drafts for blogs, journalism pieces, book projects. And I look for clues or encouragement in handling life by reading other folks’ writings.

Looking to share what I’ve found helpful, I’ve teamed up with other scribblers to offer writing workshops. Two upcoming events I’m participating in are open to the public. They are a Warrior Writers Retreat in Philadelphia, PA and a writing workshop for veterans and family members being held at the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Nyack, NY. Here’re the details:

Northeast Warrior Writers Retreat

Who: Veterans, supporters, artists, healers
What: Gather for a healing and learning weekend of arts and wellness
Where: Studio 34, 4522 Baltimore Ave., Philadelphia, PA
When: February 26-28, 2010
Why: Because our society needs to heal and we can be a part of that
How: Writing, art, yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture, training, etc.

The Retreat will feature writing and art-making workshops, trainings in running workshops, meetings to discuss local support for veterans, an art show and performance and sessions in massage, yoga, reiki and acupuncture.

Financial assistance, such as “sponsor a vet” to attend, is welcome. The Warrior Writers Project is sponsored by IVAW, 630 9th Ave, Suite 807, New York, NY 10036. For more information:

Write It Out Workshop

A free Writing Workshop for Military Veterans and Family Members

First workshop Feb. 2nd, 2010 @ 8 pm
Ongoing schedule, Tuesdays at 8 pm (frequency per month to be determined by participants)
Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR)
521 N. Broadway, Upper Nyack, NY

Workshop leaders: Gerald McCarthy, Jan Barry, Michael Gillen.
Poets and writers whose perspectives were shaped by military service in Vietnam, McCarthy is a professor of English at St. Thomas Aquinas College; Barry teaches journalism at St. Thomas Aquinas College and at Ramapo College of New Jersey; Gillen teaches Asian history at Pace University in Pleasantville, NY and a course on the Vietnam War at Purchase College, State University of New York..
For further information, contact: Gerry at or 845-570-1410, cell. Office: 845-398-4134.

Jan Barry served in Vietnam with the US Army. A poet, author and retired newspaper reporter, he teaches environmental writing at Ramapo College of NJ and journalism at St. Thomas Aquinas College. His poems on the war appeared in diverse publications, from the Chicago Tribune and New York Times to A People and A Nation: A History of the United States. He coedited Winning Hearts and Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans, published by 1st Casualty Press, founded by Jan Barry and fellow veterans Larry Rottmann and Basil T. Paquet. With W.D. Ehrhart, he compiled a sequel, Demilitarized Zones: Veterans After Vietnam. He also edited Peace Is Our Profession: Poems and Passages of War Protest. He lives in South Bound Brook, NJ.

Michael Gillen served in Vietnam with the Merchant Marine. He teaches Asian History at Pace University in Pleasantville, NY, and a course on the Vietnam War at Purchase College, State University of New York. His poetry and prose have appeared in The Veteran, Post Traumatic Press 2007, and elsewhere. He is formerly editor of the Master, Mate and Pilot and an assistant editor of the Seafarers Log. He lives in White Plains, NY.

Gerald McCarthy is a USMC veteran with service in Vietnam. He is a member of Veterans For Peace Chapter 60, Tappan Zee Brigade and Vietnam Veterans Against the War. His poems have been selected for inclusion in Hawaii Pacific Review’s Best of the Decade issue and in Twenty Years of Writing from Italian Americana. New poems also appear in The North American Review, War Literature & the Arts, etc. Trouble Light, a new full–length collection of his poetry, was published by West End Press/ University of New Mexico Press (2008). He lives in Nyack, NY and teaches writing at St. Thomas Aquinas College.

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