National Endowment for the Arts Announces New Series Of Operation Homecoming Writing Workshops
For first time, VA medical centers and military hospitals host Operation Homecoming writing workshops
For immediate release
Washington, DC — U.S. Armed Forces active duty troops and veterans of both current and past conflicts will have an in-depth opportunity to reflect on their service through the National Endowment for the Arts’ groundbreaking initiative Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience. For the first time, Operation Homecoming will invite veterans as well as active duty troops to participate in progressive, four-to-six-week writing workshops at 25 sites around the country. The new phase of Operation Homecoming is the first instance in which the NEA will hold writing workshops at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers, military hospitals, and affiliated centers in communities around the country. St. Louis VA Medical Center in Missouri and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, served as pilot sites for the new phase of the program, and both facilities will host workshops this summer.
Nationally acclaimed writers, such as Andrew Carroll, Tobias Wolff, Jeff Shaara, and Marilyn Nelson, will lead sessions. In an extraordinary opportunity to build closer ties between local and military communities, local literary organizations and writers will partner with many of the workshop sites. The NEA collaborated with the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as the Department of Defense to develop current Operation Homecoming activities. Operation Homecoming is made possible with support from The Boeing Company.
“Operation Homecoming is an important program in both human and historical terms,” said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. “In human terms, it brings the transformative power of writing to men and women who have undergone enormously challenging experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. In historical terms, it gives voice to the troops who have served in this war.”
“I commend the NEA for providing a positive outlet for our service members to share their experiences,” said Dr. James Peake, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. “These workshops serve to highlight and improve veterans’ writing talents by putting on paper reminders to all of us of their heroism.”
As evidence of the literary achievement of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, the Arts Endowment has added three new faculty members who served in the conflicts: playwright Ryan Kelly, poet Brian Turner, and journalist Nathaniel Fick. Matthew Eck, author of the novel The Farther Shore and an Army veteran who served in Somalia and Bosnia; Vietnam War veteran Robert Timberg, editor of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine and author of The Nightingale’s Song; and Kristin Henderson, a military spouse and author of While They’re at War, are other new faculty members.
To facilitate the multi-week workshops, the NEA has partnered with the Southern Arts Federation to offer each participant free materials to aid the writing process, including a guide for writers. The guide was edited by project consultant Andrew Carroll, a noted expert on wartime correspondence and editor of the Operation Homecoming anthology. The guide offers advice on writing and samples of notable wartime writing by veterans, civilians, and Operation Homecoming contributors. Participants also will receive a CD of audio recordings of war literature from the Civil War to the Vietnam War. Each participant also will receive a copy of the documentary film Muse of Fire, which chronicles the Operation Homecoming writing process with participants and their writing instructors. Workshop host sites will receive copies of the Operation Homecoming anthology for use as reference materials during the workshops.
Since 2004, the NEA Operation Homecoming writing program has preserved the stories of U.S. military personnel and their families. With support from The Boeing Company, Operation Homecoming has brought 59 writing workshops to troops at 27 domestic and overseas military installations from Camp Pendleton in California to USS Carl Vinson in the Persian Gulf and Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. Among the original workshop teachers are distinguished writers Wolff, Shaara, Nelson, Richard Bausch, Bobbie Ann Mason, Joe Haldeman, and Mark Bowden. In tandem with the workshops, the Arts Endowment offered an open call for writing submissions to active military personnel and their families. This ongoing call has resulted in more than 1,200 submissions and 12,000 pages of writings. Almost 100 of the submissions to the NEA were featured in the anthology Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families (Random House, 2006). Operation Homecoming was named one of the “Best of 2006” in nonfiction by The Washington Post Book World. The University of Chicago Press will release an expanded paperback version on Memorial Day 2008. The Operation Homecoming archives collected during Phase I of the program (April 2004 to April 2008) will be preserved in both the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. Submissions from the newly launched Phase II also will be preserved.
Workshop sites and participation
The 2008 Operation Homecoming writing workshops are free and open to active duty troops and veterans, with a focus on those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military families may participate as allowed by host facilities. The initial workshops will be held in the following cities, with more workshops to be announced:
For more information on registration, dates and locations, visit www.operationhomecoming.org. The website contains other educational resources on writing, from essays on the craft of writing to sample audio clips from the Operation Homecoming CD.
NEA partnerships with military communities
Operation Homecoming is the largest of several landmark partnerships between the NEA and the Department of Defense. The projects include the NEA’s national reading program The Big Read in communities with military bases; the Great American Voices Military Base Tour, which brought professional performances of opera and musical theater to 39 military bases nationwide; and Shakespeare in American Communities Military Base Tour, professional theater performances at 18 military bases. The Boeing Company sponsored The Big Read and Great American Voices military community projects. For more information on these and other NEA programs, visit www.arts.gov.
Operation Homecoming is administered by the Southern Arts Federation and is made possible with support from The Boeing Company.
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