One of the major goals of The Veterans Writing Workshop, which began in the fall 2013, is to establish an on-going writing practice. The workshop, a weekly gathering of veterans and the family of veterans, is held for seven-week sessions in the fall and eight-week sessions in the spring at the Veterans Center in Gloucester, 12 Emerson Avenue. The group is composed of men and women of varying backgrounds and experiences. Some have been writing for a number of years while others have recently discovered the importance of writing. The participants in these sessions have connections with the military either personally or through their families. The group includes officers and enlisted persons from various wars. What has made the creative work of this group possible is the mutual respect that people have shown each other and their willingness to listen with openness and receptivity to other ways of telling. The commonality in the class continues to be that all participants have access to a great deal of general and local knowledge from experience and a deep desire to learn.
In these sessions writers learn by doing; we see how the writing process can change and the various ways writing develops. We value genuine dialog rather than debate. We are writing not just for the record but to experience what it means to think by means of writing. People in the workshop recognize that their writing is still in progress and take pride in seeing the work of the mind and the imagination take shape on the page. The Cave Canem poets have written: “We Carry the Unfinished Business of the Past Forward.” This is one aspect of what drives us to write. We are recovering and relooking at the past in search of knowledge to help us make sense of our experiences. Poems, short stories, essays, and excerpts from other forms of relevant published writings are shared by the group.
The benefits of deep listening in a workshop like this are limitless. Writers are encouraged with thoughtful affirmation from their peers although comments in class after listening to someone’s writing are not required. Every week participants receive comments and suggestions on their writing from the teacher. One-on-one conversations with the teacher are also offered to everyone. During the last class of the fall and spring sessions writers read from their work at the Veterans Center in the company of family and friends. The Veterans Writing Workshop is supported by the Gloucester Office of Veterans Services and the Gloucester Writers Center. Participants sign up with Lucia Amero of the Veterans Office at 978-281-9740, who then forwards their names to the facilitator of the workshop.
Dorothy Shubow Nelson, Facilitator and Teacher, M.A. English
Dorothy Shubow Nelson, poet, writer and editor, has taught writing and literature for over twenty-five years. Formerly Senior Lecturer in English at UMass Boston, and Liberal Arts Faculty member at the Boston Conservatory, she is a regular participant in the workshops of the Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences and serves as an Advisor to the Gloucester Writers Center.