The Missouri Humanities Council is committed to exploring new opportunities for making the humanities accessible and meaningful to diverse audiences though collaboration and innovation. Current special projects include:
Veterans’ Creative Writing Workshops
It is well established that self-expression through creative writing has considerable potential that can be useful in a variety of stressful and challenging situations, such as coping with PTSD or adjusting from life in the military back to civilian life. Because the armed forces and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are seeking additional resources to help provide special programs for personnel in transition and/or undergoing treatment at VA facilities, representatives of the VA and the U.S. Army in Missouri approached the Missouri Writers’ Guild for assistance in developing creative writing workshops for these men and women. The Writers’ Guild in turn approached MHC to partner in these efforts. We felt that it was important to assist in making these programs possible, in part because of the therapeutic benefits, but also because any written materials generated by our veterans contributes to the documentation of the experiences and perspectives of individuals who have shaped our history through their military service.
In collaboration with the Occupational Therapy Unit of the Veterans Affairs medical facility at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, MHC and the Writers Guild initiated a cooperative effort to organize and present creative writing programs to serve Missouri veterans. A plan was developed for a pilot project involving a series of creative writing workshops in which the Writers’ Guild provided volunteer workshop leaders and mentors, the VA provided the space and communications and MHC provided laptops (mostly refurbished and/or donated).
The creative writing workshop pilot project, which commenced in August 2011 at the Jefferson Barracks VA facility, was successfully completed with 12 sessions addressing poetry, journaling, fiction and non-fiction, serving a combined total of 56 participants. Feedback was very positive, both from the veterans themselves and the VA staff and doctors at Jefferson Barracks. Building on this initial success, the partnership is continuing. The Writers’ Guild has spun off an independent non-profit organization, The Warriors Arts Alliance, to focus on maintaining and expanding the program. The success of the pilot series of workshops was such that the doctors on the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) unit at Jefferson Barracks are now recommending to their patients that they take part in the program. The next series of workshops began in February, 2012.
In addition to providing logistical support for the workshops, MHC is serving as an advisory and underwriting partner with the VA and the Warriors Arts Alliance in producing an anthology of writing by veterans and active military personnel. Funds raised by the sale of this volume, which will be published by Southeast Missouri State University in the fall of 2012, will be utilized in extending the creative writing workshop program around the state.
The Veterans’ Creative Writing Workshops Program is made possible in part by the Veterans United Foundation.