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Susan Dixon

I have taught writing in classrooms for decades, mentored beginning writers, and supported stalled writers in finishing their project. I write both non-fiction and fiction and participate in three writing groups. I am always on the lookout for new writers who just need to know they have a story and that their story is worth telling.

Still, the journey

The last three times I have traveled it was to Vietnam. I prepared in all the usual ways—passport, suitcase organization, contingency plans—and I used Rosetta Stone and/or Duolingo to study the language. I had no illusions that I would be able to speak Vietnamese, I just wanted to have a clue, a bit of something to hold onto.

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The POW-MIA Metaphor

My writing group, The Pen and the Sword, considers topics related to any war, but the Vietnam War in particular. Our theme at the moment is After War—the ways in which cultures, communities, individuals leave war behind and transition to peace time. We are discovering, of course, the numerous ways in which war is not left behind, but continues to play a shadow role in decision-making, motivations, and anxieties. With this in mind, then, we wrote about what we remembered (Googling not allowed) about the POW-MIA phenomenon. The following was my response.

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A Place for Interesting Things

I used to think, because this is how I was trained—in high school, in college, in grad school, in life—that I had to have a Theme. If I wanted to host a blog/website/discussion/writing space, it had to have a Focus, a Purpose. I had to stick to a topic so readers or potential writers would know what the space was all about, what I was up to, and how they fit in. I wasted a lot of years thinking this way.

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… After All These Years

You’d think, after giving it more than 50 years, that we, the Vietnam War Generation, would have managed to make some sense of it. Fifty years worth of education, life experience, technical skill, hobbies, travel, social engagement—all those things that add value to lives and dimension to brains—would have given us some distance, some ability to put our experience into the context of world history and allow us to say something insightful. Wise, even. At the very least, not a cliché.

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A scene that (probably) won’t make it into the book

“And what did Catarine say to you?”

“I don’t remember clearly …”

“Because she never makes much sense,” Cristophe interrupted.

“Something about someone who knew me and would teach me. She acted like she already knew who I was. Marie Villiers said I was to pay no attention to her.”

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The Writing Benefits of ‘Flu Brain’

While the flu had hold of me, I couldn’t remember the names of things. It was like my brain had just stopped dealing with minor details as it re-ordered itself. That frightened my daughter who began to ask for instructions on paying bills. I took naps.

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Writing through the flu

In the week between Christmas and New Years I had Plans. I reviewed my 2022 calendar and made notes in the one for 2023. January 2022 had virtually no notes at all except for little To Do lists for a one-week writing retreat I took at an artists foundation outside of town. It was only about 10 miles away but farther than I had been in two years and a nice way to remind myself that I might have chosen not to travel but I could still write. So, I decided in 2023 I would kick up my game and actually finish the complete draft. Finish it enough to send it to an editor by the end of the month. Starting Monday, January 2.

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Seeing in the Dark

It is said that when Druids were in training they would spend hours at a time in stone beehive huts, utterly in the dark, so as to be able to memorize the enormous body of knowledge their culture held. Nothing was written down.

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Show’s over, folks. And didn’t October do
A bang-up job? ….
Maggie Dietz, “November,” in That Kind of Happy (The University of Chicago Press, 2016)

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“Haint” is an Appalachian world for a spirit, a ghost, a haunt. My mother saw one once. This is about when I heard one.

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