Welcome to the Aiming Circle!

A soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, "The Old Guard," prepares an M2 Aiming Circle before a live-fire exercise at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., March 13, 2017. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Galimore
In 2009, I was a freelance magazine writer and editor who suddenly found himself preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, along with 3,000 other citizen-soldiers in the Iowa Army National Guard. I'd been freelancing since 2002, when I left my position as editor of a couple of national newsstand magazines published in Des Moines, Iowa. Before that, I'd edited a couple of national business magazines, and community- and metro-sized newspapers. Before that, journalism school.

In order to capture my family's experiences as a deploying citizen-soldier—at the time, my kids were too young to understand what was going on, and I wanted them to have a record of our time apart—I started writing the Red Bull Rising blog. The title refers to the name of my former Army National Guard unit—the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division—as well as a nod to a 1980s techno-thriller by Tom Clancy. As a mil-blogger, my missions were:
  • To explain in plain language the roles, responsibilities, and routines of the U.S. citizen-soldier, with particular focus on the U.S. 34th Inf. "Red Bull" Div.
  • To illuminate ways in which citizen-soldiers past and present—as well as their families—can be remembered, supported, and celebrated.
I wrote funny stories. I wrote about training. I wrote about the emotional, spiritual, legal, and economic roller coaster my family was experiencing. I began to get letters, e-mail, and social media messages from spouses and relatives of other service members, thanking me for giving them new insights.

"Thanks for letting me know what my husband might be going through right now," I remember one spouse telling me. "He's so tired when he gets home from training, we don't have time to talk about some of these things." I found myself doing the same job I'd done at newspapers, at magazines, and even occasionally in the Army—providing observations, insights, and lessons that people can put into practice.

In late 2011, I attended a weekend writing workshop for veterans hosted on the campus of the University of Iowa, Iowa City. At the workshop, I met other people with experiences in the military. Some of us were just starting out. Others of us already had some writing chops, but were interested in expanding our storytelling skills.

At one point at the workshop, after a session on poetry and using metaphor. a facilitator gave us 10 minutes to write anything we wanted. I'd had an experience in Afghanistan that troubled me. Nothing big, but something of which I'd not yet been able to make sense. I found myself writing about that scene. I hadn't written a poem since high school, maybe college, back in the 1980s and '90s. Ten minutes later, I had a poem. A couple of years later, that poem was published.

I kept writing poems.

They kept getting published.

I wrote funny stories. I wrote about training. I wrote about the emotional, spiritual, legal, and economic roller coaster my family and others had experienced.

In 2015, my award-winning collection "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire" became a reality. (You can read more about it here.)

I'm still a journalist and editor, too. In 2016, I helped collect and publish "Reporting for Duty: U.S. Citizen-Soldier Journalism from the Afghan Surge, 2010-2011." (You can read more about it here.)

Through the Red Bull Rising blog, I've been able to amplify and highlight opportunities—workshops, seminars, calls for submissions—for other service members, veterans, and family members who are putting their experiences into words. I've spoken and taught at regional and national workshops. I've volunteered as an editor at non-profit literary journals.

I'm proud to say that I've motivate and helped hundreds of other writer-veterans (and others!) to improve their craft, and to share and publish their work.

In order to take our coverage to the next level, we need your help. In order to ensure more regular and robust coverage of military-themed writing, much of the new coverage will take place via a companion page at Patreon. If you're not already familiar, Patreon is an on-line site that allows people to pledge various amounts—in our case, starting from only $1 a month—in return for an increasing number of resources and rewards.

We'll be pay-for-play, but we'll also be low-cost. Because we know from experience: war poets aren't made out of trees that are made out of money. They just dress like trees.

We think the Aiming Circle represents the first active attempt to provide a clearing-house for "veterans-lit" coverage, serving both aspiring and working practitioners—writers of essays, newspaper opinions, blog posts, fiction, non-fiction, plays, and even poetry.

In the coming weeks, we'll post sample coverage here at the Aiming Circle blog page, absolutely free, to give you a better idea what we're going to provide. We hope you'll visit our Patreon page, and help support us there, too! Here's what you'll see:
  • "Great Moments in Military Writing"!
  • Hardworking craft essays and how-to tips for military writers!
  • Writing prompts and other creative exercises!
  • Market reports and deadline-ticklers for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and book publishing opportunities on military themes!