Monday, April 30, 2012

Veterans' Writing Project

Last week, I completed a six-session writing seminar called the Veterans' Writing Project.  Attendance was open to military veterans in my local area, and the seminar was taught by the librarian and twoAdvanced Placement English teachers from a local high school.

On any given night, there were about six of us in attendance.  We all had different stories to tell, different backgrounds, and served during different eras--from the Vietnam War to the Global War on Terror.  However, we found that certain experiences in the military are universal regardless of rank or branch of service, some examples being:  Boot Camp, the gas chamber, the fog and friction of war, MREs, the weapons range, and, of course, HUAW (hurry up and wait).
While I have accumulated over 1,000 hours of continuing education since medical school, this was the first time that I attended a class of instruction that was not a CME course, and my first formal English class since college.  The information was valuable, but the friends I made were even more so.  And it definitely helped to jump start the writing of my military memoirs--just the story of my experience during Operation Unified Assistance in Indonesia is up to 15,000 words and counting!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Review of George R.R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons

Mr. Martin once again demonstrates his brilliance in A Dance with Dragons, the latest installment of his A Song of Ice and Fire series and the sequel to A Feast for Crows.  At about 1,000 pages in length, the hardcover version is a weighty tome--literally and figuratively--it is simultaneously hard to put down and hard to hold up.
Mr. Martin continues his literary device of having each chapter be told from the point of view of a single character.  In Feast, Martin did not have room to continue the stories of several of the characters from his previous books; in Dance, he remedies this situation by going back in the timeline to tell their stories.  About half way through, he brings all the stories to the “present day.”

The genius of Mr. Martin’s writing lies in his ability to make the point of view of the character in question so compelling that the reader cannot help but root for that character as he reads--even for the loathsome ones.  Heroes become villains, and villains become sympathetic characters.  And, as usual, no good deed a character does seems to go unpunished--nothing is sacred, and no one is safe.

My only criticism:  I had to wait too long for Dance, and it ended too soon for me despite its length.  But, if there is one personal lesson that I have learned from creating the Songs of Eretz, it is this:  carefully crafted writing and fantasy world building take time--but are worth the wait.