In June of 2009, and returning in October, the WGI conducted their second series of workshops with twenty-eight wounded veterans. Taking place at the San Antonio Public Library, soldiers and marines who had served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam worked side-by-side with screenwriters, poets, television writers, playwrights and novelists. The goal was simple: to write. The vets were encouraged to tackle any subject matter in any form and style of their choosing — no limitations were given.

Captain Ravi Venkataramani of the US Army spoke of his experience: “The workshop was great. The mentors were very encouraging, but they didn’t shy from offering constructive criticism. Everyone in our group came away with something.” WGAE Foundation President and “Oz” creator Tom Fontana said the weekend left him “moved, amused, inspired and humbled. “There is so much untapped talent across the country. I can’t wait to see what the vets come up with.”

The October return was covered by the New York Times.

Over half of the twenty-eight military veterans returned from the June workshop. Many of those returning members had been meeting in the interim, led by Austin mentors Vive Griffith, Ben Snyder and Jon Morthland, . Seven new veterans joined the group, having heard about the workshop from friends and colleagues.

During the first session, returning participants became reacquainted and new participants got a chance to discuss what kind of writing interested them. This covered a wide range, from poetry to screenplays, theatrical plays to novels, autobiographies to a book of Christian devotionals.

Over the following two days, guided by their professional mentors, the groups worked on a variety of writing exercises to help nurture and hone their skills. Some read the works they’d been writing over the past few months.Everyone bonded over the struggle to write truthfully. By the end of the weekend, all participants, mentors and veterans, came away with a feeling of progress.

As veteran Robert Negrete said on the final day, “It is a relief to be among other writers. I really feel like I fit in here.”


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