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Reading to Celebrate 2nd Anthology from Common Ground

finding home readingOn September 18th, veterans at the Common Ground Veterans Residence at Montrose enjoyed a reading by their fellow residents. James Barnett and Dennis O'Toole (U.S. Marine Corps), John Matushefske and Tom Stewart (U.S. Army) read stories published in Afterwords: Finding Home, the second anthology of writing from the Common Ground Veterans Residence.

"It's been a truly awesome experience watching the veterans read their writing in front of their peers," said Bryant Keyes, Clinical Coordinator at Common Ground. "You can see the camaraderie form between the readers and the audience because of their shared experiences." Dennis O'Toole said, addressing his peers, "I know you guys all have stories. If you come to this workshop, you'll learn how to get those stories out of you and put them down on paper. You may not think you can do it––but you can."

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VWW Authors Read at Stand Up for Women Veterans

standup for womenOn June 7, 2013, two members of the Veterans Writing Workshop (VWW) read their writing to an appreciative audience of women veterans. The occasion was Stand Up for Women Veterans, a special event at Westchester Community College sponsored by Family Services of Westchester, Westchester Community College, and the Women's Research and Education Fund.

Jeni Thompson (US Air Force and New Jersey Air National Guard), and Mary Westmoreland (U.S. Army) read their stories published in Afterwords, the anthology of writing from the Veterans Writing Workshop.

Response to the readings was positive and enthusiastic. Many women veterans requested information about the Veterans Writing Workshop and approached the writers afterward to express their gratitude.

"So many young veterans today actually came over to tell me that I spoke for them," said Westmoreland. "Even though they served decades later they could relate. Some actually thanked me for having been there then to do what I did. It was quite humbling."

"Women veterans have their own stories," said David Surface in his opening remarks, "And those stories need to be told. The Veterans Writing Workshop is here to help you do that."

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Veteran Writers Visit Riverdale Country School

riverdale country school and vetsOn February 1, 2013, members of the Veterans Writing Workshop (VWW) paid a visit to Riverdale Country School in the Bronx. Their mission: to use writing as a way of starting a dialogue between students and veterans.

Veteran authors Rod Carlson and Jeremy Warneke, along with VWW director David Surface met with 90 students from the Riverdale 9th grade class.

"We felt it was important for the students to have first-hand contact with veterans who are an important part of their community," said Andy Housiaux, Riverdale teacher. "Working with the Veterans Writing Workshop has been a terrific way of doing that."

"Meeting with the veterans was a very rewarding experience for me," said Katie M., a Riverdale student. "It was easy to ask questions because of how easygoing and open the veterans were. I feel lucky to have had this opportunity."

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Veterans Share Their Stories With the Public in NYC.

On June 7, 2012, Fordham University hosted a public reading and reception at their Lincoln Center campus in Manhattan to celebrate the release of the third anthology of writing from the Veterans Writing Workshop, Afterwords: The Way Home.

The well-attended reading received much media attention; crews from WNYC and Fox News recorded the reading and interviewed veteran-writers about their participation in the program.

"Writing about the war is a method of remembering," said veteran and workshop member Paul Wasserman. "It's how you can remember that full experience."

Marine and workshop member Randy Clinton expressed hopes that the Veterans Writing Workshop can improve understanding between veterans and non-veterans.

"Guys go away from home and spend four years in the military---there's a whole way that changes people. There's a culture and a camaraderie to that," said Clinton. "Hopefully as people listen to us read about it, or as they read in the book for themselves, they'll understand a little more."

To read the article, hear the radio broadcast, and view the video on WNYC, click here.

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Veterans Writing Workshop on WCBS TV!

LincolnCtrReadingOn Memorial Day, 2012, WCBS News aired a feature story on the Veterans Writing Workshop, focusing on the spring workshop at Fordham's Lincoln Center campus.

WCBS new crews interviewed veterans and workshop members Paul Wasserman and Ralph DeMatthews as well as program founder and instructor David Surface, asking all three about the value that writing has for veterans.

To view the news story on WCBS, click here.

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VWW on WFUV's Fordham Conversations, Saturday May 5th and podcast.

at WFUV interviewFrom Robin Shannon, Assistant News and Public Affairs Director, WFUV:

"Someone once said that no man fights the same war as another. If that's true, than the Veterans Writing Workshop is a way for those who have been through battle to express themselves and share their experiences. On today's Fordham Conversations, I talk with David Surface, the Founder and instructor of the Veterans Writing Workshop which is sponsored by Fordham University. We also hear from Vietnam Vet Rod Carlson and Korean War Vet Vincent Speranza. Both have shared their war experiences in the anthology Afterwords: From War and Home. "

Tune in Saturday, May 5th, 2012 at 7am on 90.7 WFUV.

After Saturday's broadcast, you may listen via podcast through this link.

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First workshop in New York City attracts young veterans.

On Thursday, February 23, Fordham University opened the doors of its Lincoln Center campus for the first time to the Veterans Writing Workshop.

"It's our first program in New York City," said David Surface, the program's founder and instructor, "And the first time we've had such a strong response from younger veterans."

One of the young veterans who showed up to take part in the workshop was Randy Clinton, a U.S. Marine sergeant, formerly deployed to Garmsir, Afghanistan on the Pakistan border. He was surprised and pleased to find a program that would challenge him to grow as a writer.

"I've been out of college for about eight years and wanted to do everything I could to get ready for school after I'm discharged," says Clinton, "So I signed up. I was amazed when I learned we were going to be writing short stories for an anthology. It's so much more than I thought it would be."

Army Staff Sergeant Paul Wasserman, who served in Iraq from 2007 to 2008 and intends to spend the summer writing a novel about his wartime experiences, also found the workshop suited his needs. "I signed up to get my writing into shape," says Wasserman. "The workshop has been great preparation."

Michael Gillan, Associate Vice President of Fordham and Co-Chair of the Fordham Vets Task Group was on hand to welcome the veterans and later expressed his thoughts about the importance of giving veterans a time and a place to write about their experiences.

"Coming home is not just stepping off the plane, taking off the uniform. It's more complex than that," says Gillan. "Programs like the Veterans Writing Workshop, and the reflection and communication involved can help that process."

Clinton summed up the feelings of the participants; "I'm so glad to be part of this thing."

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Spring 2012 workshops for veterans.

As part of our ongoing partnership with Fordham University's Veterans Initiative, we are pleased to announce two new writing workshops for veterans; one at Fordham's Lincoln Center campus in Manhattan starting February 23 and ending May 3, and another at Fordham's Westchester campus in West Harrison, NY, starting February 27 until May 7. As always, these workshops will culminate with the publication of a print anthology of participants' writing and are free of charge to all U.S. veterans.

To register, contact us at info@veteranswritingworkshop.org or call (866) 933-7780.    

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Veterans come together to read at White Plains Public Library

reading at white plains libraryOn February 6, the Veterans Writing Workshop held a special event at the White Plains Public Library. Two different groups---one from Fordham Westchester University and the other from the Common Ground Veterans Residence at Montrose---came together for the first time to read from their two print anthologies, AfterWords: From War and Home and AfterWords: On Common Ground.

Veterans Writing Workshop founder and instructor David Surface welcomed listeners and praised the veterans not only for their dedication to writing but to each other.

"What's really remarkable," said Surface, "is how from the very beginning each of these groups started talking about how to get more veterans involved. They recognized that writing is something that has real benefits for veterans. And you're seeing the results of that here tonight."

"I was very impressed," said one audience member. "The stories were wonderful and touching. I'm a writer and I understand how therapeutic writing can be. These men have learned that too, and they express themselves magnificently."

Click here to read the front-page story about the reading from The Journal News.

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Reading for fellow veterans at Thanksgiving celebration

thanksgiving celebrationOn November 23, the men at the Common Ground Veterans Residence in Montrose enjoyed a special "first course" at their annual Thanksgiving meal when writers and fellow-veterans from the Veterans Writing Workshop at Fordham-Westchester arrived to read from their first print anthology, AfterWords: From War and Home.

The event was made even more special because it was the first time that members of the Fordham-Westchester workshop and the members of the workshop at the Common Ground Veterans Residence had the opportunity to meet. After the reading, veterans from both groups paired off to discuss their writing and offer advice and encouragement to one another.

"When I spoke to the fellows who wrote the first book, a sense of hope and pride came over me," said Robert Benedetto, Montrose resident and workshop member. "I wanted to accomplish this writing project and have our own book to read to others."

"I was amazed by the stories the guys shared with us," said Montrose resident Edwardo Padilla. "Those stories really inspired me to continue writing."

The feeling of respect and gratitude between the two writing groups was mutual.

"While the Montrose vets were thankful that we came to read for them," said Matt Coffey, "we were the ones who were thankful for their service and sacrifice and for the privilege of breaking bread with them."

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Veterans celebrate publication of anthology at Common Ground Veterans Residence

On January 26, veterans and staff from the Common Ground Veterans Residence at the Montrose VA campus gathered in room 7 in Building 15 to celebrate the publication of AfterWords: On Common Ground and to hear their fellow veterans share their stories.

Members of the first Veterans Writing Workshop from Fordham-Westchester came to support to their fellow veteran-writers and were moved by what they saw and heard.

"As soon as I walked into the room, I could feel respect from everyone there directed at the writers," said Peter Stone, writer and veteran.  "It was obvious that there was a strong bond between the writers themselves.  It was truly heartwarming."

The readers also had a strong sense of the powerful and positive effect their words had on the audience.

"That's what it's all about," said workshop member Robert Benedetto. "You go through hell, you tell your story, then hopefully somebody else can benefit from it." For Benedetto and the other workshop members, the reading was a powerful experience. "The first time I read my story in front of an audience, I felt both uneasy and excited---my heart pounded but it was worth it. We all got good feedback from the crowd and each other."

"I couldn't believe that our group had not only published a book, but we were now sharing our stories like the first group had done," said Edwardo Padilla. "I was deeply moved and I felt like we had all grown as writers and as men."

After the reading, workshop members proudly autographed copies of the new Veterans Writing Workshop anthology AfterWords: On Common Ground for their fellow veterans.

"To see this book and hold it in my hand is an amazing experience," said Marc Yarnes, whose original artwork illustrates several stories. "This really makes me feel like I'm part of something."    

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Publication of first VWW anthology celebrated at Fordham-Westchester

On November 10, Fordham Westchester University played host to a special reading and reception celebrating the publication of the first print anthology by members of the Veterans Writing Workshop, AfterWords: From War and Home.

Michael Gillan, Associate Vice President of the Fordham Westchester campus and Co-Chair of the FordhamVets Task Group was on hand to welcome the audience and praise the group for their hard work and fine writing.

Vietnam veteran and workshop member Dan Griffin riveted listeners with his story The Letters about a Thanksgiving family gathering where his sister forces him to read the letters he wrote to her while in Vietnam. A high point of the evening was when Korean veteran Vince Speranza read his personal account of escaping alone and on foot after being captured by the Red Chinese.

"I've always been interested in writing, but I never believed I had any talent for it," said Griffin, executive director of Vietnam Veterans of America's Westchester chapter. "But since the book came out, people have come up and told me they thought my stories were really good. This workshop really brings the writer out of you."

Click here to see photos from our reading from Veterans' Day photo-essay in The Journal News (starts at photo #7).

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Veterans Writing Workshop Comes to Common Ground Veterans Residence

On September 12, the Veterans Writing Workshop started a ten-week workshop at the Common Ground Veterans Residence in Montrose.

The Common Ground Veterans Residence is a transitional residence for 96 homeless veterans on the Hudson Valley VA campus in Montrose, NY.

Veterans Writing Workshop founder and instructor David Surface asked the group to start by writing about a particular place they remembered that had some kind of strong impact on them.

"These guys really threw themselves into it, heart and soul," said Surface. "Some chose to write about their time in the service, others picked places from other times in their life. It's all about helping them build the confidence they need to tackle harder topics."

"Being in the workshop helped me bring a proper perspective to my experiences," said Ramos-Lopez, who lives at the Montrose Common Ground facility. "Writing has helped me make order of the chaos."

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First Veterans Writing Workshop Launched at Fordham-Westchester

On January 31, 2008, Fordham University's Westchester campus opened its doors to a unique group. For ten Monday nights, veterans from Vietnam, Korea, and World War II came together to write about their experiences and share their stories.

The Veterans Writing Workshop began as an offshoot of the National Endowment of the Arts Big Read Project but quickly grew to take on a life of its own.

"I always hoped that one day I would be a writer," said Vietnam veteran and workshop member Rod Carlson, "And the workshop allowed me to get these stories out that I'd wanted to tell for a long time."

While the veterans were excited to make individual progress as writers, they were equally gratified to be part of a special group and provide each other with support.

"For me, the best thing about the workshop was being part of a group of people who had shared experiences from being in the military and really wanted to help each other," said Carlson. "It was a collaboration, like being part of a brotherhood."

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