War Lit Wrap-Up at #AWP15

#AWP15 was a whirlwind in the best possible ways, as I found myself in a family of more than 30 war lit authors, veteran authors, veteran bloggers, and veteran teachers. In contrast to Seattle’s AWP, which was great for connecting with my PacNW crew but horrible for women war lit authors, this year felt like one, gigantic bear hug.

Author, veteran, and former West Point Professor (now at Rutgers) Peter Molin organized this war lit authors dinner. A pretty happy bunch, eh? Peter blogs at Time Now and it’s worth the read. He’ll be posting a discussion of the #AWP15 war lit panels soon. Bonus: the adorable blond at front/center is Siobhan Fallon (You Know When the Men Are Gone), who came all the way from Abu Dhabi to be on a panel with me and who also blogged about war lit.

A few other folks have been blogging about their experiences, and author Christopher Meeks published his summary of the war lit panels he attended in great detail. Conversations touched on authenticity, authority, trauma, beauty, imagination, research, craft, and radical empathy. Read his full blog post here

An incredible bunch, left to right: James A. Moad II (who has been instrumental in getting Veteran Voices Month written into the MN State Legislature), nonfiction writer Brandon Lingle whose pub list reads like a dream come true, the one and only Benjamin Busch (Dust to Dust, The Wire, Generation Kill), Jesse Goolsby (whose novel I’d Walk with My Friends if I Could Find Them hits stands this June), and the ever-gracious Brian Turner.

It’s hard not to get a little glossy-eyed looking a photo of fellas like this. Flashes of War could have gone wrong in so many ways. Having people like these five gentlemen in my life means that it did not. In fact, their openness and kind praise has helped me feel more connected and welcomed by the veteran community than I ever would have imagined. I’m lucky, and can only hope the work I’m doing on the novel now will live up to the expectations of these people who I have so come to adore. And speaking of adore…

The “Women Writing War” panel organized by author Emily Tedrowe made a great showing and had about 80 folks in the audience. My sincerest regret is that there weren’t any female veterans on our panel. But our conversation was not intended to represent those voices, rather, to contemplate what it means to be a woman writing about war. We touched on interactions with the public, as well as ideas of identity and authority. Female veteran writers such as Jerri Bell (O Dark Thirty editor), Kayla Williams (Love My Rifle More than You), and Teresa Fazio were in the audience. I would have given up my seat, my microphone, and my best set of shoes to hear their thoughts on this topic.

Over the years, I’ve learned that the true spirit of AWP is to further the conversation–whether we’re talking about similes and sensory detail, about independent presses, or about war lit and authenticity. Indeed, the two panels I served on were sparked because of gaps in previous years’ proposals. In coming years, I suspect we’ll see a panel of women veteran authors and a panel of male military spouses, and perhaps even a panel of publishers revealing the hard truths and critical questions they have to field when publishing war lit in particular.

Meantime, if you’re inspired by what’s happening in this crucial field of literature, please enjoy any of the above links for more information about the movers and shakers of war lit right now. These are people who’ve paved the way for me, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

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