Writing about war: A veterans writing workshop

  • Sharing their stories
    Sharing their stories
    W&M undergraduate student Sam Pressler has coordinated the effort to present an ongoing writing workshop series for veterans at the College.

For Sam Pressler, a junior government and finance major at the College of William & Mary, serving veterans is a family tradition.

"My father is not a veteran, but his main charitable causes have been military and veteran related, so a significant part of my life has been dedicated to giving back to veterans," he said.

Pressler has organized a writing workshop for local veterans and their families on Dec. 7 and 8 at William & Mary's Mason School of Business in coordination with the Washington, D.C. - based Veterans Writing Project. For two days, participants will learn to record their accounts for a twofold benefit -- they can share their stories with readers and the writing process can be therapeutic.

The Veterans Writing Project is a non-profit organization that aims to help service members and their families express themselves. The founder, Ron Capps, served 25 years in the Army and Army Reserves and his book, "Writing War: A Guide to Telling Your Own Story," serves as the curriculum for the program. Capps will be coming to Williamsburg to host this month's workshop.

Over the semester, Pressler has managed to fill the class to maximum capacity-25 participants. To do so, he used contacts shared by William & Mary Law School's Veterans Benefits Clinic; reached out to the community through the American Legion, the Wounded Warrior Project, and the Military Transition Unit; and advertised to local schools such as Tidewater Community College and Old Dominion University.

"The interesting aspect of the program is that it's for anyone with any level of ability, so you have some phenomenal variety -- we have a few people attending that are already published writers, while other participants will be learning creative writing for the first time," Pressler said. "Many of these individuals have truly compelling stories about their time in Afghanistan, Iraq, and even Vietnam."

The program has been a challenging undertaking for Pressler to organize, but his goals are coming to fruition. What began as a single student petitioning to bring a creative program for veterans onto campus has become a sustainable project that can continue to serve the community even after Pressler graduates.

Writing by workshop participants will be considered for publication in "O-Dark-Thirty," the Veterans Writing Project's literary magazine, and also may be featured on a website Pressler hopes to create.

If you would like to participate in a future writing workshop, please email sjpressler@email.wm.edu for more information.