National Endowment for the Arts Helps U.S. Troops Write About Their Wartime Experiences
April 20, 2004
Arlington, Va. - U.S. troops returning from duty will be encouraged to write about their wartime experiences through a new National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) program, called Operation Homecoming. NEA Chairman Dana Gioia announced the initiative in a news conference today at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va.
The program will provide writing workshops led by distinguished authors such as Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down; Tom Clancy, author of The Hunt for Red October; Bobbie Ann Mason, author of In Country; and James McBride, author of The Color of Water. Operation Homecoming will also include a CD containing interviews and readings by military writers and an anthology of new wartime writing contributed by the military and their families. The project is being presented in partnership with the Department of Defense and the Southern Arts Federation, and is made possible by The Boeing Company.
"Operation Homecoming will preserve personal accounts of the wartime experiences of our troops and their loved ones," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. "Some of these writings will focus on a singularly challenging moment in life, while others may provide vivid accounts of historical events that rise to the occasion of literature. American letters will be richer for their addition."
The workshops led by two-person teams of writers, many of them veterans themselves, will be hosted by at least eight military installations around the country and overseas. The Operation Homecoming anthology will collect the stories and reflections of the returning troops in a variety of forms - from fiction, verse, and letters to essay, memoir, and personal journals.
"As a part of Operation Homecoming our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will have the opportunity to write about some of their wartime experiences in a manner that will be both therapeutic and creative," said Charles S. Abell, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. "By reflecting on and documenting their recent experiences, participants will gain new insights by working with a number of renowned authors, and in the process will be writing works of genuine historical value."
Workshops will be held for Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Camp Pendleton, Calif.; for Army soldiers at Fort Drum, N.Y. and Fort Richardson, Alaska; for Air Force airmen at Hurlburt Field, Fla.; and for Navy sailors at Norfolk, Va. and San Diego, Calif.
"Boeing salutes the men and women who serve our country and help preserve peace around the world," said Jim Albaugh, president and chief executive officer, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. "Their wartime experiences - as conveyed in their own words - will be a powerful portrayal of commitment, sacrifice and patriotism. We are honored to help preserve their stories for generations to come."
To provide inspiration and guidance, the NEA is distributing an Operation Homecoming CD containing interviews and readings by well-known writers who have dealt with war. The project's Web address is www.operationhomecoming.org.
The program's roster of writers who will lead workshops includes Richard Bausch, veteran, award-winning fiction writer, and English professor; Mark Bowden, journalist and author of Black Hawk Down; Tom Clancy, popular novelist and military writer; Judith Ortiz Cofer, poet, essayist, novelist, and English professor; Joe Haldeman, veteran, novelist, and writing instructor; Barry Hannah, author, screenwriter, and educator; Victor Davis Hanson, military history writer and author of The Soul of Battle; Andrew Hudgins, poet, essayist, and humanities professor; McKay Jenkins, journalist, author, and educator; Bobbie Ann Mason, novelist, writing instructor, and author of In Country; James McBride, journalist and author of The Color of Water; Marilyn Nelson, poet and English professor; Wyatt Prunty, veteran, poet, and English professor; Dan Rifenburgh, veteran, poet, and educator; Jeff Shaara, author of Gods and Generals; and Tobias Wolff, author, veteran, and English professor.
Writers participating in the CD and the initiative are Shelby Foote, veteran and author of Shiloh and The Civil War: A Narrative; Erin McGraw, author and creative writing instructor; James Salter, former fighter pilot and author of The Hunters; Louis Simpson, veteran, poet, professor, and literary critic; and Richard Wilbur, poet, translator, literary critic, and editor. Other writers promoting the project include James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers and Flyboys; Will D. Campbell, veteran and author; and Andrew Carroll, founder of the Legacy Project which preserves wartime letters and editor of War Letters.
The NEA is issuing an open call for submissions from active military personnel and their families. Items may include essays, letters and other writings related to recent military service. A panel of literary experts assembled by the NEA will review the entries. The best examples will be published next year in an anthology that will be given to military installations, schools, and libraries and sold in bookstores. Authors will receive an honorarium and two copies of the book. A percentage of any proceeds will go to military charities.
The deadline for submissions has been extended to March 31, 2005. They can be sent electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Operation Homecoming, National Endowment for the Arts, Suite 519, 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington D.C. 20506.
Copies of the Operation Homecoming booklet and CD can be ordered free of charge through our Publications section.
For more information, please contact the NEA Office of Communications
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