September 27, 2015
September 27, 2015
September 21, 2015
I couldn’t stop sobbing after I received a cardinal print from Gold Star mother Beth Karlson of Wisconsin.
Beth’s oldest son, Army SGT Warren S. Hansen, was KIA 11/15/2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Beth and I met on Facebook about five years ago. We have never met in person. After reading my second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, Beth started leaving photos of cardinals on my FB timeline. A cardinal plays an important role in the novel. In a flashback scene in the story, Grandpa Grubbs tells a young Johnnie, “That’s not just any bird, young lady. That’s an angel bird, flown straight down from heaven.”
About an hour after receiving Beth’s gift, I called her on the telephone to thank her. That’s when she told me she’s had the print about fifteen years. She said one day after reading Johnnie for the second time, she walked by the print and thought, that belongs to Kathleen. When I asked her if Warren had passed by the print while he was still alive, she said, “All the time.”
To receive a gift from a woman who lost a son in combat…well, you can imagine what this means.
September 13, 2015
At some point in our lives, we all have to fess up to our own prejudices. I did not grow up in a racist home, but somewhere along the way as a child, I picked up some of those views. I am not proud of some of the things I did in my youth, and recently I shared some of my memories with newspaper columnist Wendel Sloan.
Wendel Sloan is Director of Media Relations at Eastern New Mexico University. His weekly column appears in the Clovis News Journal and the Portales News Tribune.
September 3, 2015
To read the full list of winners, click on Readers’ Favorite website.
In her poignant memoir, Losing Tim, iconic writing instructor Janet Burroway writes about the death of her son, a former Army ranger and government contractor. “Every suicide is a suicide bomber. The intent may be absolutely other—a yearning for peace, the need to escape, even a device to spare family. Nevertheless, the shrapnel flies.”
A few years ago, I was struck by shrapnel, and I’ve been carrying a heavy chunk of it inside me ever since.
We’re all aware of the startling statistic, twenty-two veteran suicides a day, but the statistic never hit a personal note until the violent suicide of a Marine Corps friend. In the wake of that tragedy, my friend left behind two teenaged daughters and a slew of Marine friends who wondered what we could have said or done that might have made a difference to a friend who had become so disillusioned with his civilian life he ended it with a gunshot.
His suicide came shortly after the release of my memoir, Eyes Right: Confessions from a Woman Marine. For several months, I’d been answering a number of emails and Facebook requests from veterans who were eager for writing advice. Everyone has a story, and every story matters, whether that story is written for self-reflection, a family legacy, or for publication.
But after my friend’s suicide, I stopped the cutting and pasting of advice snippets from one email to another and began to develop On Point, the first writing guide for veterans and their families. Frankly, I was searching for a way to make a difference—for a way to reduce that 22-a-day statistic that sent shrapnel flying into the hearts and psyches of twenty-two families and countless friends every, single, day.
It’s no secret that getting an appointment with a health professional at a VA can sometimes take so long that a veteran gives up. It’s also no secret that transitioning from the military into civilian life is more difficult for some. But could a writing guide, I wondered, written by a veteran for fellow veterans and families, fill a gap? After all, most mental health professionals use writing, and other forms of art, in their programs for cognitive processing therapy.
My gut said yes, and here’s why. Writing about our military experiences, even if we decide to turn our true stories into fiction, helps us develop a deeper understanding about our life, our decisions, and the motives behind our decisions because meaningful writing comes from identifying meaningful patterns. Meaningful writing requires a self-awakening. When we write, we’re training ourselves to search deeply for motive behind choices, whether we’re writing about ourselves in a memoir or essay or about the characters within our military short story or novel.
In On Point, Brooke King, a soldier who served in Iraq and who admittedly suffers from post-traumatic stress, shares how writing helps. “It helps to make sense of what is happening to you,” she said. “In Cognitive Processing Therapy, a veteran with PTSD is asked to confront their traumas head-on by writing down the incident, and then connect the feeling associated with it. I didn’t think writing was helping at first, but I kept doing it because it was the only way I knew how to express myself.”
Over time, she said, the nightmares decreased, and the feelings of guilt and shame lessened. “I began to understand that surviving the war was a blessing and not a curse.” Today, King is the author of a chapbook of poetry about her war experiences. Additionally, she has published a short story in the military anthology, Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand (Press 53, 2013), and in my anthology, Red, White, and True: Stories from Veterans and Families, WWII to Present (Potomac Books, 2014).
When I first shared the premise for On Point with friends and fellow writers, most assumed On Point would be a guide exclusively for the military veteran with a war story. Not so. Not every military story is a war story. I never saw combat in the 1980s, but my story of overcoming self-limitations, gender bias, and abuses of power still found its way into the world.
On Point is a guide for writing the military story. If you are serving in the military today, or have ever served, On Point is for you. If you are, or have been, a member of a military family, On Point is for you. In Red, White, and True, I included a number of true stories from spouses and grown children, and their essays are just as compelling as the essays from Iraq War veterans. And if you are the parent of a military son or daughter, you, too, have stories about how military service has affected you; at times you have probably felt pride, worry, fear, betrayal, resentment, anger, and other strong emotions.
On Point may have been born out of grief over losing my Marine Corps friend, but over time, the book grew as a wish to inspire a cross-generational sharing of the military experience–and where needed, a healing.
– 30 –
Tracy Crow is a former Marine Corps officer and an award-winning military journalist. While assistant professor of journalism and creative writing, her essays and short stories were published widely and nominated for three Pushcart Prizes. She is the author of the first writing text developed for military veterans and their families, On Point: A Guide to Writing the Military Story (Potomac Books, 2015); the award-winning memoir, Eyes Right: Confessions from a Woman Marine (Nebraska, 2012); Red, White, and True: Stories from Veterans and Families, WWII to Present (Potomac Books, 2014); and An Unlawful Order under her pen name, Carver Greene. She can be reached through her website.
August 28, 2015
Those Who Wait
It’s mid-February, 1945.
I imagine her – sitting in a chair by the window.
The cold sun sinks behind the trees outside but she does not turn on the lights. The dark holds no comfort, but it does hide her icy tears. In the gloaming, pictures of her two oldest sons sit on top of the console radio a few feet away. She leans forward and twists one of the knobs. The tubes glow. Before the announcer can say much, she turns it off again. She covers her face and rocks back and forth in her seat. Life was never easy for her – but it had been fun. Now fun tastes wrong. So does love. So does hate, for that matter. They told her to keep her routine – but that doesn’t seem right either. So she sits in that chair every day – waiting.
The condolence letter from President Roosevelt made my Uncle DG’s death official – but not real. He didn’t die in battle – he was run over by a truck somewhere far away with an unpronounceable name. They buried him where he died. There was a war to win before they could send him back to my grandmother.
Nanny’s grief was still new, when her second son, my eighteen-year-old father, entered the war. All she knew was that he was with the Fifth Marine Division – and the Fifth Marines were engaged in a fierce fight with the Japanese on a little island known as Iwo Jima. Newspapers reported heavy losses – thousands killed – many more thousands wounded. With one child dead and another in harm’s way, all Nanny could do was wait – and fret.
So it is again. Anxious families display blue star flags in their windows. They check computers for emails from children who are half-a-world away in towns with unpronounceable names. They program cell phones with ringtones – and leap to answer that special one or swallow back tears when an unfamiliar tune sounds.
They remember cuddling apple-cheeked babies with gummy smiles – or chasing wobbly bicycles on first-day-without-training-wheels rides. They touch prom night pictures with the tips of their fingers and tell stories about the day their children graduated from high school or college. But, sometimes, fear taints the best memories like snow obliterating tender shoots. Will their precious boys and girls be the same when they return? Will the darkness of war blunt their sparkle? Will they come home at all? Torn between devouring and ignoring the news, they wait and wait – and wait.
Not long ago, a man that I have never met messaged to say that his son had died in Iraq. For him, the wait was over. I stared at the IM, wondering what to say. Whatever the reason, however it happens — to lose a child is to lose a dream. I wanted to reach out to him, but sensed comfort wasn’t appropriate. His agony was a bonfire that needed to burn itself out. He just didn’t want to be alone. I waited – an anonymous node on the internet — thinking about my grandmother, sitting in her chair – waiting for her boys to come home.
Award-winning author Joyce Faulkner is the daughter and niece and wife of veterans. She writes about things that move her about life. She is a past president of Military Writers Society of America and is the cofounder of The Red Engine Press. To read more about Joyce’s work, please visit her website at www.JoyceFaulkner.com
Posted August 21, 2015
In a conversational tone, author Susan Reichert, Editor-In-Chief of Southern Writers Magazine, speaks directly into the fear most of us face at some point in our lives. Be it the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, or addictions that can threaten to tear even the strongest families apart, Susan’s empowering message in her new book, Storms In Life, is that we can go to God in prayer. The book is formatted in ten brief chapters, each interspersed with a short prayer, followed by a scripture suggestion for further reading.
By setting up several realistic scenarios we all dread, the author draws the reader in. In Chapter 7, a police officer knocks on your door in the middle of the night. This can’t be good. How do you keep standing when the worst news of your life threatens to take you down with it?
Emotional storms are just as real as physical storms. When my youngest son deployed to a war zone last year, I found myself almost crippled with fear. Fear can paralyze us and keep us from enjoying life. Susan takes us to a place where we must surrender the control. Of course none of us are ever really in control, but we like to think we are. So when things go wrong, we sometimes have a tendency to think the world is coming to an end.
This slim volume is never preachy. If anything, I found Susan’s book comforting. Storms In Life is a nice addition to your daily meditations or the perfect devotional book to keep on your nightstand when fear and anxiety creep into your thoughts and threaten to rob you of sleep.
Death is something we all face. Lives can change in an instant. There are going to be storms in life, both physical and emotional, but it’s how we “batten down the hatches” and prepare ourselves with prayer and scripture that we are able to wait out the storms that threaten to blow our hearts apart.
I highly recommend Susan’s book to anyone who is searching for a way to boss back fear without letting it control our lives.
Susan Reichert is the co-publisher of Southern Writers Magazine and Editor-in-Chief. She also is the leader of Collierville Christian Writers Group (CCWriters Group). Susan and her husband Greg live in Tennessee. They are the parents of four grown daughters, have grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Three of my poems from the book Because I Fly (McGraw-Hill 2002, edited by Helmut H. Reda), are on display in this new exhibit which asks the question, “Why do we fly?” Most writers dream of getting their books on bestseller lists or made into movies, but how many authors see their work featured in a museum?
Aviators, Poets and Dreamers runs from July 18th through Labor Day. The exhibit will then travel to libraries across Long Island. A photo of my husband seated in an A-10 cockpit (circa 1980) appears with my poem, “A Little Boy’s Dream,” penned in 1986 when we lived in Alaska.
To read more about the exhibit, please click here.
Cradle of Aviation Museum
Charles Lindbergh Blvd.
Garden City, NY 11530
General (516) 572-4111
Reservations (516) 572-4066
Posted June 27, 2015
Click each photo to enlarge the image.
Posted June 13, 2015
“A Little Boy’s Dream”
Updated August 1, 2015
“The Author’s Corner® on Public Radio show celebrates new books with brief authentic readings by authors. Enjoy best-selling authors and emerging stars in this fresh nationwide series available free to air on 500 “NPR” stations nationwide, from Maine to Guam.” Click the photo to listen to me read a brief passage from my latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately.
Posted May 20, 2015
The following passage is from my second novel, Johnnie Come Lately. (Reader discretion advised).
Johnnie was about to rave on Granny’s baked beans
when Callie Ann piped up, “Hey, D.J., tell everybody what
happened this morning when you went to buy cigarettes.”
D.J. looked up from his plate. He put his fork down and
cleared his throat.
“So, I’m standing in line at the 7-Eleven. The guy in front
of me pays for his stuff and says to this young female
cashier,‘Happy Memorial Day.’ Man, I thought that chick
was going to come over the counter. She shoves the guy’s change at him and
snarls, ‘What’s so fucking happy about Memorial Day?’ ”
Before anyone could say something, D.J. picked up his
plastic fork and stabbed at a pile of baked beans. “Sorry about
the F-bomb,” he apologized. “I’m just reporting what I heard.”
Johnnie took a deep breath and reached for Brother’s head.
As usual, he was at her side, waiting for a scrap to fall. She
needed to hold onto the one member of the family who wouldn’t judge her.
Wouldn’t judge any of them.
Running her fingers through his soft fur, she said what
needed to be said.
“Well, considering that my father died in war, I have to agree
with that young lady at the 7-Eleven. There’s absolutely nothing
happy about Memorial Day. It’s a day set aside to honor the
represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.
“I’m frustrated by people all over the country who view the day as anything but a day to remember our WAR DEAD. I hate hearing “Happy Memorial Day.” Jennie Haskamp, United States Marine Corp Veteran, for Washington Post.
Posted May 16, 2015
Johnnie Come Lately’s fictional setting takes place in Portion, Texas, modeled after Grapevine. Anyone familiar with the area will recognize certain locations along historic Main Street, such as the Palace Theater and the corner bank building at Worth and Main. The cemetery along Dooley Street plays prominently in the story, as does the nearby lake.
Johnnie Come Lately deals with the repercussions of a heat-of-the-moment confession, a son’s enlistment during wartime, and many other issues that American families deal with day to day. At the heart of the story is a woman whose mama has been missing for several years and the family secrets surrounding her disappearance.
Kathleen M. Rodgers is a former freelance writer for Family Circle Magazine, Military Times, and many other national and regional publications. Her first novel, The Final Salute (Deer Hawk Publications) has been featured in USA Today, The Associated Press, and soared to #1 on Amazon’s Top Rated War Fiction. Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately (Camel Press), has been featured in Southern Writers Magazine, Stars & Stripes, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and The Authors Corner on Public Radio.
She is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.