Operation Homecoming Encourages Soldiers to Reflect and Write

Posted: June 28, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

Earlier this month, author Richard Bausch, professor of English, gave one of the first writing workshops of Operation Homecoming at Fort Drum in New York. Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Operation Homecoming is a series of writing workshops offered at 20 military installations throughout the country. Participating writers include Tom Clancy, Tobias Wolff, and Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down.

Bausch visited the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division with nonfiction writer McKay Jenkins. Each author taught a two-hour workshop-Bausch focusing on fiction, McKay nonfiction-for soldiers and their family members.

In his talk, Bausch gave advice to the aspiring writers on how to rev up their imaginations. He also offered the audience 10 writing “commandments,” one of which is “Writing is not an indulgence. Indulgences are what you give up to write.”

For more inspiration and for military personnel unable to attend a workshop, the NEA has created a CD titled Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, which features interviews with several of the participating authors, as well as excerpts of wartime fiction, poetry, letters, and memoirs. Narrated by NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, the CD features actor Edward Gero, assistant professor of theater, reading soldiers’ letters home.

Operation Homecoming will preserve personal accounts of the wartime experiences of our troops and their loved ones,” said Gioia at the project’s launch. “Some of these writings will focus on a singularly challenging moment in life, while others may provide vivid accounts of historical events that rise to the occasion of literature. American letters will be richer for their addition.”

Bausch is the author of nine novels and five collections of short stories. He served in the U.S. Air Force between 1966 and 1969 and went on to receive a BA from George Mason and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa. He holds the Heritage Chair in Writing at Mason and was recently recognized with the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story.

As part of the project, the NEA is also soliciting submissions from active military personnel and their families for an anthology to be published next year. For more information, visit www.operationhomecoming.org.

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