Army veterans Ryan Lanham and Ross Atkinson felt a different call to duty while they attended Colorado State University. They spearheaded the CSU Veterans Writing Workshop. The goal was to give anyone affected by military life a safe place and an opportunity to find their voice and write about their diverse experiences.
Lanham earned his MFA in creative writing from CSU in 2021, and Atkinson is a Ph.D. student in CSU’s School of Education. The CSU Veterans Writing Workshop welcomes active military, veterans and military families and affiliates to free weekly creative writing sessions.
“What I saw was a circle of strangers who were willing to let down whatever guards they have and be vulnerable in this space and write down things that have a deep kind of emotional truth and resonance,” Lanham said. “I love it. I love the participants’ writing. I love helping others tell their stories.”
Lanham’s “top goal was to publish a book with a diverse set of voices from people who have been affected by military life.”
Mission accomplished. In Spring 2020, in the shadow of the pandemic, Charlie Mike, the title of the workshop’s book, was published. Charlie Mike comes from the military use of the NATO phonetic alphabet designations from the letters C and M, which, for service members, mean “continue mission.”
Military Appreciation Month is the perfect time for a celebratory reading of the writers published in Charlie Mike by the CSU Veterans Writing Project. Join nine of the writers from 5-7:30 p.m. on May 18 at Gray’s Peak Atrium, Front Range Community College in Fort Collins.
‘Written honestly and brilliantly’
“I am thrilled to see the first participants of CSU Veterans Writing Workshop read their powerful writing,” said Ross Atkinson, Veterans Writing Workshop founder and current leader. “We will hear from soldiers and their families who served in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. This reading is a celebration of the work and words of our brave participants who have written honestly and brilliantly about their experiences of military life.”
The Veterans Writing Workshop is supported by CSU’s School of Education, the Writing Center in the Department of English and the Adult Learner and Veterans Service office, and it will continue in September on campus. The workshop is open to anyone impacted by the military in any capacity.
While copies of the book are limited, Atkinson said it is expected to be available digitally by the fall. For more information about the workshop or reading, contact Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.