UW Tacoma Writing Studies lecturer Dr. Abby Murray is hosting a series of creative writing workshops at Anthem Coffee open to spouses, friends and family of members of military members — active and veteran. The series — which had its first workshop April 17 — goes on for three more Tuesdays: April 24, May 1 and May 8 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
The free workshops invite writers of all genres and levels of experience to sit down, write and enjoy the company of others. The first workshop had several UWT students — former and current — as well as local veterans from Joint Base Lewis-McChord including retired U.S. Army veteran and poet Carl “Papa” Palmer.
Jenny Miller — a writing major graduate from UWT, retired member of the Army and Army spouse — spoke on how important it was having workshops that bring people together such as this.
“We need to create more connections,” Miller said. “We have a wide variety of people here, and a wide variety of viewpoints, and yet we are all here together to write and enjoy poetry.”
Murray — who is the wife of an Army major — focuses on poetry of soldiers and veterans as well as war literature in her research. She has previously instructed workshops for veterans and active members of the military both here at UWT and at JBLM.
“I’ve taught workshops like these for years, as [my husband] and I have moved around the country,” Murray said. “Before Tacoma, I ran a literary nonprofit organization that put free poetry workshops in schools, libraries, Boys & Girls Clubs, and veterans centers in New York.”
This work and the community it builds has become essential to Murray.
“I feel I can actually hear and see people when they are writing and discussing writing. I can hear myself think, Murray said. “If I didn’t write or offer workshops, I’d have a hell of a harder time finding my community.”
One of the goals of these workshops is to analyze different forms of poetry and writings, mixing in works from active and retired military personnel, as well as their family members’ viewpoints. Multiple techniques are used to create the basis of writing stories, from focusing on one specific memory, to allegory and simile, to “flash memoir,” where writers try to describe a personal event in as few words as possible while keeping the overall meaning of the story.
Tyler LaMay, a UWT junior and creative writing studies major, mentioned the usefulness of creative writing and creative writing workshops.
“Writing with others is important,” LaMay said. “I think any opportunity for a writer to flex their muscles is an opportunity worth taking.”
While this is a series of workshops, each one is seperate from the other, allowing everyone to be on the same level. Regarding creative writing and those interested but unsure of themselves or their work, Murray offered this advice:
“Writing is meant to be heard, and our voices are meant to be heard.”