“What’s the point of keeping it inside?” — Benjamin Busch (Author of Dust to Dust)
He said this to me after I commented that a lot of military writers were “really putting it all out there.” That was in February, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at the annual conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. Randy Brown (AKA “Charlie Sherpa” of Red Bull Rising blog and FOB Haiku fame) invited me to go to this conference to be part of a panel called Citizen-Soldier-Poet: Using Poetry to Bridge the Civil-Military Gap. I ran my mouth about poetry. Got a few laughs. But Busch’s comment stuck with me. It was motivational and somewhat prophetic. Plus, he’s got the hair of a prophet.
With a little distance, I now realize that my writing life (so far) hinges on that conference. BC: Before Conference and AC: After Conference. I met dozens of writers, many working on military themes.
The people I met at that conference are responsible for a lot of cool things that happened this year. They either directly helped me or provided me the motivation that I needed. My local crew at Lake Superior Writers is essential, too. Thank you to Randy Brown and all the writers in my life.
The cool things:
– Published my first book of poetry: Hugging This Rock.
– Short story “The Heart Under the Lake” published in the Going Coastal anthology put out by Lake Superior Writers.
– Awarded a grant by the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council to fund the Bridging the Gap Writing Workshop in Duluth, June 2018. This workshop is my attempt to mend the civil-military gap by helping writers publish stories about military life.
– Attended the Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conference in Duluth in June. Another conference but this time with my local heroes from Northern Wilds (Shawn Perich, Breana Roy, Amber Pratt, Kelsey Roseth, etc.) who have supported my outdoor writing for a decade.
– Working with an editor to shape Outside Duluth e-book into a print volume with the University of MN Press.
– First invitation to sit on a local writer’s panel. (Topic: Getting published in literary journals)
– First invitation to talk to a book club. (Topic: the Going Coastal anthology story)
When I look at the last year using a writing filter, I feel like I could happily spend the rest of my days writing and reading. And thinking and talking about both. I’d throw in some skiing and other outdoor stuff during the breaks.
The rest of this is interesting only to me. Also true of the words prior to this line, I imagine. Here’s the part where I “break it down.”
2017 Writing Goals:
- Finish first draft of memoir and complete editing.
- Establish weekly and monthly goals to support #1.
- Begin work on a writing workshop for veterans to take place in Duluth in late spring 2018.
- Submit Outside Duluth and poetry manuscripts to other publishers.
I didn’t do #1 and #2. Simple. But #3 is a reality that will happen in June of 2018. #4 happened. Outside Duluth has interest from an editor at a publishing house. And that darn poetry manuscript is now a book. Not too shabby at the bottom of the list.
Simplicity may be helpful when it comes to this year’s writing goals, so here we go:
2018 Writing Goals:
- Finish draft of Outside Duluth for publisher
- Finish draft of memoir.
Piece of cake.
I have some other items that are already tentatively on the calendar for 2018.
– First up on 1 March, I’m going to be reading some of my poetry and giving a talk about my military life at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior, Wisconsin. I start flapping my gums at 6:30 that night.
– Another possibility is a trip to the US Air Force Academy in April to talk to a classmate’s history class about my Iraq and Afghanistan experiences.
– In June, Bridging the Gap happens. Pretty excited about this one.
– In September, possibly part of a panel at the 2018 War, Literature & the Arts Conference at the US Air Force Academy.
Most Popular Shmotown Posts of 2017:
(1, 5, and 6 published in 2017; other posts published in previous years. Some weirdo somewhere clicks on #2 and #3 almost every single day…)
- I’ve Got Heritage, Too (Most popular all-time, too)
- General Spaatz Advice to Robin Olds near the end of WWII
- Fremont Peak of the Wind River Range
- Cross-Country in the City: Beginner-Friendly Ski Trails in Duluth
- Disappointment Cleaver
- Guts, Generosity, and Gratitude: AWP 17 Highlights
1 Book Published:
Hugging This Rock: Poems of Earth & Sky, Love & War (Middle West Press, 2017)
24 Pieces Published:
– 2 in print journals
– 2 in online journals
– 1 in anthology
Topics: 3 military flying, 1 outdoors, 1 both
– 1 in online journal
– 1 in anthology
Topics: 1 Lake Superior, 1 military
– 1 in online journal
– 1 in newspaper
– 15 in magazines
Topics: 15 outdoors, 2 military
11 publishers in 2017:
7 print publishers:
– 2 magazines
– 3 book publishers
Middle West Press (Hugging This Rock)
North Star Press (Going Coastal anthology)
– 1 literary journal
– 1 newspaper
4 online publishers:
– 4 literary journals
2017 Reading List:
19 books this year, better than the usual pace of about one/month
For the full list, visit my Goodreads bookshelves.
Highlights: (because, other than Marlantes, I’ve met these authors and editors, and that thrills me)
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
Granola, MN by Susanne Aspley
The Longest Night by Andria Williams
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Writing War by Ron Capps
See Me For Who I Am edited by David Chrisinger
The Road Ahead edited by Adrian Bonenberger
Uniform by Lisa Stice
In the Sun Out of the Wind by Louis Jenkins