By Scott Gealy and Beverly Hoistad
Nebraska’s Warrior Writing Project and Nebraska Writing Project
The kernel of an idea for Nebraska’s Warrior Writers was sown at a national conference almost a year ago and germinated with casual airport conversation on the journey home to Lincoln, Nebraska. The people who dream big at Humanities Nebraska, Chris Sommerich and Erika Hamilton, began visualizing how Missouri’s writing project could be adapted for Nebraska veterans and applied for grant money.
Following funding approval, the seed began to root, as representatives from the Human Services Federation, the Nebraska Writing Project, Humanities Nebraska, and the Veterans’ Administration met to decide how best to publicize, staff, and implement what was tentatively described as the Nebraska writing project for veterans and active military.
Workshops officially began in September at the V.A. in Lincoln and have been attended by veterans from both Lincoln and Omaha. Workshops focus on strategies and skills to develop writers, regardless of expertise or experience. The instructors integrate model texts for writers to look more directly at how good writing is built, and provide opportunities for writing practice and immediate feedback. Two book-length texts used for the preliminary six-week leg of the workshop were Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower and Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Instructional focus has included idea acquisition, revision and editing, and publishing, while developing a strong bond as a community of writers willing to share a variety of works in progress, from poetry to fiction to memoir. While the number of participants as varied a little from week to week, the workshop has cultivated a strong core of committed writers. Each week the group had poets and prose writers, storytellers, historians, essayists, and songwriters.
The last day of the fall workshop was Saturday Oct. 25th, when participants shared work developed during the previous six weeks and fellow group members proudly provided final feedback and support. One saying at the Nebraska Writing Project is that a sign of an effective final day read-around is a few tears. There were tears, but members gratefully dried them and made plans to meet the following month for a new set of stories.
Participants and leaders will meet monthly until the next set of six workshops funded by Humanities Nebraska begins January 17th at the VA in Lincoln. A subsequent workshop is planned for the fall in Omaha. If you are interested in signing up, know a veteran who might be, or would simply like more information, email Beverly at Beverly Hoistad.