Writing workshop scheduled for veterans

Published 8:31 pm Monday, January 10, 2022

A workshop is planned to give back to those who put their lives on the line for their country.

The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts is hosting a two-day Veterans Writing Workshop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 22 and 23 at the Center.

This 16-hour workshop will give veterans or active-duty service members the chance to learn more about putting their experiences into writing. This project is a partnership with the nationally recognized Veterans Writing Project, a 501c3 nonprofit founded by veterans and their family members.

James Matthews, a retired Air Force and DC Air National Guard Chief Master Sergeant with more than 27 years of military service, will lead the workshop. He has worked with the program since 2021 and holds a Master of Arts in writing from Johns Hopkins University and teaches fiction at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

According to Matthews, the idea is not for participants to write only about their experiences but also to tell creative stories. Ben Franklin once wrote, “either write something worth reading or do something worth writing,” and according to Matthews, veterans can do both. He drew parallels to other writers, including Ernest Hemingway, that used experiences to tell stories that may not be war-related.

“I want to drive home that it’s great to write military stories, but they don’t have to stop there,” said Matthews.

This project comes as part of the Center’s initiative, Healing Through the Arts. This workshop is not to replace actual therapy for those who need it but serves as a creative outlet to process feelings in a room of people who have similar experiences that many civilians do not understand.

“The goal is about telling and processing stories,” said Lorelei Costa Morrow, executive director and CEO at Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. “It’s creating a safe place of trust and respect. We believe there is a new wave of great literature coming, and much of that will be written by veterans and their families.”

The event is free due to a sponsorship from Bank of America, Community Action Coalition of Virginia and the Cypress Chapel Ruritan Club and is limited to 25 participants. To learn more or register, visit suffolkcenter.org/vwp.