OK, it's true: The only writing I know with the vaguest "military" connection is the Beatles' song "Happiness Is a Warm Gun." My ignorance of the genre may explain, in part, why I'm intrigued by the William E. Colby Military Writers' Symposium, to be held at Norwich University this Wednesday and Thursday.
The other part is the theme: "Coming Home: The Hopes, Fears and Challenges of Veterans Returning From War." Oof.
In the two-day residency, author participants will share their work and "debate the issues of the past and present," according to a Norwich press release. And that seems to include just about everything.
But the writers won't just be talking among themselves. A panel discussion open to the public on Thursday features these authors:
• James Wright, author of Those Who Have Borne the Battle: A History of America's Wars and Those Who Fought Them (New York Times review here);
• David McIntyre, author of Centerline;
• Col. Jon Coffin (ret. VTANG), one of just six psychologists in the National Guard system
Other symposium participants include this year's Colby winner, Thomas P. McKenna of Stowe, who wrote Kontum: The Battle to Save South Vietnam; and Myke Cole, author of the action series Shadow Ops and a reservist in the Coast Guard (pictured above).
In its 18 years, the Colby symposium has brought more than 100 authors, historians and filmmakers to NU. Seven Days readers are likely familiar with some of them. But this event isn't about celebrity authors and best-sellers. Regardless of one's orientation toward the military and war, the subjects inarguably provide rich fodder for writers, and reads worth wrestling with.
And that makes me want to conclude with a quote from a Pulitzer-nominated writer and Vietnam War vet who is not coming to Norwich this year, Tim O'Brien (The Things They Carried):
"War is hell, but that's not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pit and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead."
The 2013 William E. Colby Military Writers' Symposium at Norwich University in Northfield is this Wednesday and Thursday, April 10 and 11. The panel discussion, free and open to the public, is Thursday, 1-3 p.m. in Plumley Armory. It will also be streamed live here. More info at 485-2886. norwich.edu