Festival Includes Veterans Workshop

Festival: Workshop Targeted Specifically for Veterans


By Anna Wempe

Writing has a two-fold power: to make others understand and to make oneself understand. For those who have fought overseas, served in the military, or have military families, this is especially true and necessary. At this year’s South Dakota Festival of Books, the South Dakota Humanities Council offers a workshop to help veterans and their families write their stories.

On Friday, Sept. 26 a Veterans’ Writing Group/Book Discussion will be held from 1-3 p.m.
at Siouxland Public Library, Meeting Room A featuring U.S. Marine Corps veteran Phil Klay. Klay will discuss his war experiences, his writing process and his book, Redeployment, with veterans as part of the “Standing Together” program offered through the National Endowment for the Humanities. The event is open to Veterans, service members, or anyone with a story to share about military life. Writers of all experience levels are welcome to attend the Friday workshop. Klay, who spent a year in Iraq as a Public Affairs Officer before returning to study creative writing, will share his story and talk about how he funneled it onto paper, along with tips and advice on how to do the same.

Several other programs will be of interest to Veterans and other audience members who are interested in war-related history and storytelling. At 3 p.m. on Friday at the Holiday Inn Palisades I, “A Reveille for Sioux Falls: A WWII Army Air Forces Technical School Changes a South Dakota City” relates an incident of soldiers and trainees making a difference on local soil—both on an economic and social level. This account of the birth of the technical school emphasizes the shift of Sioux Falls from a typical, agrarian South Dakota town into the hub of South Dakota air-travel, medicine, and ethnic diversity. Lynwood E. Oyes will read an excerpt from his book, answer questions, and discuss stepping into WWII-era South Dakota.

The next book that steps into history steps into a much darker section of World War II. “Reading and Writing the Holocaust: The Commandant of Lubizec” tells the gritty and graphic story set in the fictional prison camp of Lubizec and looks into the face of ordinary evil. Though fiction, Patrick Hicks uses a historical view and tone to add credence to the soul of the story. The author’s discussion will mostly center on researching, writing, and coming to terms with the brutality of his subject and getting inside the mind of a genocidal commandant. Hicks’ event will be held Saturday, Sept. 27 at 9 a.m. at the Multi-Cultural Center, 515 Main Ave.

Also on Saturday, Phil Klay returns to further discuss the warrior’s experiences in battle and with “From the Front Lines of War: Exploring Themes of Violence, Survival, Grief and Fear” at 10 a.m. at the Holiday Inn City Centre. Although this talk lies in a similar vein to Klay’s previous talk, he will focus more on the depth and despair of feeling evoked by exposure on the front lines. Klay’s personal understanding of and sensitivity to this topic gives it a depth and an impact that those who have not personally experienced similar situations could not inspire.

David Volk also writes stories of combat and the front lines, but his books target a slightly different audience. His latest book, My Grandpa’s War, presents the problems and feelings of a Vietnam veteran through the eyes of his granddaughter. Though Volk wrote the book for children, the sentiments and ultimate healing of the character applies to veterans of any age as well as their families. Volk will speak about his book on Saturday at 12 p.m. at the Siouxland Public Library, Mtg. Room B.

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