When I first wrote about my experience in the Marines as a college student, the work was unreadable. The fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction I produced for my undergraduate workshops scarcely transcended the angry thoughts in my head to amount to more than angry rants on the page. I was upset about my experience in the military, to say the least, especially while serving in Afghanistan. That experience stayed with me because nothing about it had been resolved. I spent seven months in Afghanistan in 2010, but the work that my friends and I did on the deployment seemed to amount to nothing then. In the years after, we struggled to see evidence that it ever would. In a way that's best described as Kafkaesque, I was deeply haunted by the War in Afghanistan and the footprint I left behind. The rants I wrote in class took shape after hours of creative writing workshops. My characters finally had lives and thoughts of their own. My sentences felt natural rather than aching with the effort of a student. My figurative language began to make literal sense. After completing a workshop in trauma writing, I was convinced that creative writing as a practice was about making a complex work of art with moving parts before it was about achieving emotional catharsis, but Afghanistan was ingrained in my body and I needed it out. I could not stop thinking or writing about it. I wondered if there was something I could do as an artist to escape the haunting that seemed to follow me throughout my waking life. I had already worked on The Militia House as a shorter project when I set out to expand it into a novel, but I had not yet considered some of the bigger picture issues in terms of character and theme. Obviously, the book was going to be anti-war, but I needed a character and a character arc that would resonate. I thought I had something important to say, but I wondered how I could ground the experience for the reader and how I could […]
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