National Endowment for the Arts Announces Operation Homecoming Writing Workshops at St. Louis VA Medical Center
October 15, 2008
Washington, D.C. -- Who better to tell the story of the armed forces than the U.S. troops and veterans who have served? That’s the idea behind a new series of writing workshops for veterans hosted by the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in St. Louis, Missouri starting October 23. As will be announced at an event on October 23, this four-week series of workshops takes place Thursday evenings and Friday mornings and will be open to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, as well as veterans of earlier conflicts. The workshops are part of the NEA's Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, a groundbreaking program that documents and preserves the wartime experiences of men and women in uniform and their families. For the first time in 2008, Operation Homecoming writing workshops will be open to veterans as well as active duty troops at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers, military hospitals, and affiliated centers in communities around the country. Operation Homecoming is made possible by 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."
Guest instructor Andrew Carroll will teach the St. Louis VAMC workshops. Andrew Carroll, considered one of the nation’s foremost experts on wartime correspondence, is editor of the Operation Homecoming anthology, along with several bestsellers, including Behind the Lines and War Letters. Carroll is the founder and director of the Legacy Project, an all-volunteer initiative that honors veterans and active-duty troops by seeking out and preserving their wartime letters and e-mails.
To help workshop participants give voice to their experiences, each will receive an Operation Homecoming writer’s guide with samples of wartime writing by veterans and civilians along with 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 anthology Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families (Random House, 2006/University of Chicago Press, 2008) for use as reference materials during the workshops. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own writings to the workshops.
Since 2004, the NEA Operation Homecoming writing program has collected the stories of U.S. military personnel and their families. With support from The Boeing Company, Operation Homecoming has brought more than 60 writing workshops to troops at more than 30 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 Tobias Wolff, Jeff Shaara, Marilyn Nelson, Richard Bausch, Bobbie Ann Mason, Joe Haldeman, and Mark Bowden.
In tandem with the workshops, the Arts Endowment made 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 Operation Homecoming anthology. Operation Homecoming was named one of the "Best of 2006" in nonfiction by The Washington Post Book World. The documentary feature Operation Homecoming, inspired by the NEA anthology and program, was nominated for an Academy Award® and received two EMMY® Awards.
The National Endowment for the Arts is still collecting writing from U.S. troops, veterans, and their immediate family members about their wartime experiences. There are no restrictions upon genre -- poems, letters, personal narratives, stories, memoir, journal writing, and other literary forms are all welcome. 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. Submission guideline information, along with Operation Homecoming writing workshop schedule, writer’s guide, audio clips, and photo galleries of past workshops are available at www.operationhomecoming.org.
Two separate weekly series of Operation Homecoming writing workshops will take place at the Jefferson Barracks Campus of the VA Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The first, four-week writing workshop series will take place on Thursday evenings from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. in Building 50 starting on October 23. The Thursday evening writing workshops will be open to veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. A second, four-week writing workshop series begins on Friday, October 24, 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. in Building 65, and will be open to veterans of both current and past conflicts. The Operation Homecoming writing workshops are free. To register for the workshops, contact Rita Reichert, Community Living Center, VAMC, 314-652-4100 x63286.
A special announcement event will take place on Thursday, October 23 at 11:00 a.m. at Jefferson Barracks. Media must RSVP for the October 23 event by contacting Marcena Gunter, Public Affairs Officer, St. Louis VAMC at 314-289-6379 or Sally Gifford, NEA Communications, 202-682-5606.
Operation Homecoming is presented in coordination with the Department of Defense and the Southern Arts Federation. Operation Homecoming is made possible by The Boeing Company.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest annual national funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency