Local veteran writers mentored by Hollywood writers

24 Jun 2011 | Sgt. Marcy Sanchez

Veterans throughout San Diego County have found a way to speak their minds through a writer’s group mentored by Hollywood professionals.

The Veterans Writing Group – San Diego County consists of writers of all ages and backgrounds who come together to receive lectures and workshops from professional writers.

The idea started when the Writers’ Guild Foundation, an organization that educates and inspires writers, hosted a military veterans writing workshop last year. The workshop was held to help veterans improve their skills as writers, producers, screenwriters, journalists and novelists. Since April 2008, the foundation has held weekend-long writing workshops in which professional writers mentor veterans and active duty military personnel, encouraging them to express themselves in writing.

“Most movies and TV shows about the military aren’t written by veterans,” said John Maki, veteran and co-founder of the VWG. “That is why the Writers’ Guild is interested in getting veterans involved in the writing and film process to depict a more factual account of the military.”

The workshop not only presented veterans with an opportunity to develop their talents but also the opportunity to network with professionals.

“We realized that we had to continue events like this,” said Gail Chatfield, author and co-founder of the group. “It was an interesting weekend. They helped us with writing techniques, character development and more.”

Veterans were impressed with what they saw and decided to form a group with goals similar to the workshop, Maki said. “We wanted to meet on a more regular basis.”

Veterans formed the VWG, with support from the Writer’s Guild Foundation, to contribute to the community of veterans in the area and expose them to experts for advice and mentoring in writing.

VWG invites successful writers, publishers, agents and others to provide insight in their areas of expertise.

“We have top-notch people that feel they have to give back to veterans and military members so they come by and offer their skills and talents,” Chatfield said.

Some noted guests include Generation Kill author and Rolling Stone magazine journalist Evan Wright, Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, from the television show Reno 911!

Guest speakers lecture and on some occasions give exercises to improve veterans’ writing skills and creativity.

Veterans ranging from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom attend the meetings and do not always focus on military experiences.

“It’s interesting to see how everyone has a different take on life,” Chatfield said. “Members of the group write memoirs, graphic fiction, and a whole mix of elements of literature. There’s a variety of stories to tell, not just military.”

The VWG meets every third Saturday of the month at the Mission Branch Library in Oceanside and are open to veterans and active-duty service members at no charge.

“Some of the quietest members have such insightful and meaningful work,” Chatfield said. “Veterans deserve a voice. They’re an important part of history.”For more information on the Veterans Writing Group-San Diego County, visit www.facebook.com/#!/VWGSDCounty