Month: July 2017
The Veterans Administration released results of the latest study about veteran suicides. The combination of the release, comments from other veterans and an article about veteran suicides in VA Hospital parking lots saddened me.
Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults.1 Veterans only made up 8% of the 2016 estimated adult population.2
Since 2001, U.S. adult civilian suicides increased 23%, while Veteran suicides increased 32% in the same period.1
This article claimed veterans killed themselves in VA parking lots when they didn’t get assistance. I found two suicides in news articles for the past year in line with the theory.
Lack of treatment isn’t the only thing that contributes to veteran suicides, but it does contribute. A veterans’ group I’m a member of contains less than 7,000 veterans. At least one member weekly writes about frustrations from denied claims or inadequate treatment. In the period of a week, one veteran reached out to the group for support through a rough patch of PTSD. Another veteran spoke about how the lack of treatment by the VA for a shoulder injury caused her to consider suicide. I tried to register my main condition from serving in the Gulf War. The operator wouldn’t set me up with an appointment for review. He told me he couldn’t set up the appointment “in good conscience.” From the veteran side of things, the VA reform hasn’t trickled down yet.
I don’t know what I can do to better support other veterans. I am supportive of the people I know. It just doesn’t feel like that is enough. I don’t have a lot of answers at this point, only questions. One thing I do know. In the service, people who have a similar experience to you surround you. When you separate and return to your hometown, it’s hard to find people to talk to who might understand. There are a lot of disparate non-profit organizations across the country, but when someone is deep in crisis, they need help immediately. They don’t have a couple of weeks to research and determine things like which organization services their need, which organization is real, which organization is a scam. They certainly do not have years to fight a losing battle with the VA system.
Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 Press 1
Two friends recommended 4th Street Fantasy as a good place to discuss writing and connect with other writers. They both described it as a weekend long conversation. I attended with hopeful expectations.
To stay in the hotel or not?
Living locally, I had the option of not staying at the hotel and saving money. The website suggested staying at the hotel because of the conversations that go late into the night. This fit with the theme of a weekend long conversation.
Shortly after checking in, I nipped to the Cub Foods across the street to stock up on fruit and coffee supplies. Much of the food I brought returned with me. Groups of people went out for every meal. Breakfast consisted of quick food from places like Bruegger’s Bagels. Attendees took lunch and dinner at local restaurants. Meal ambassadors ensured first timers like myself dined with a group of people. Anne Totusek kept the ConSuite well stocked with fruit, cheeses, crackers and other food.
Without prior Thursday night arrangements with other writers, I looked forward to the open gaming listed on the website. However, I couldn’t find the gaming. I was a bit disappointed, but I re-purposed the time to go the grocery store and revise.
Holly Black and Ben Dobyns described other types of media and opened dialogs about how to convert Swordspoint to a game, a graphic novel, television, film, and new media. Holly, Ben, and the participants had lively, interesting discussions. Holly’s animated speech extolling the virtues of love for furthering plots was the highlight of the seminar.
The room was excessively cold because twenty of us attended the seminar in a room meant to hold over one hundred people.
Every panel I attended had a nugget of information I didn’t know I needed until I heard it. The panels had a bonus of being highly entertaining. Panelists mentioned several relevant books for those wanting to delve deeper into the topics.
Lessons and Laughs
- “The best way to learn to write a novel is to write a novel.” – Elizabeth Bear
- Being a visual writer means I may have scaffolding to clean up and that my first drafts could lack detail.
- Don’t mess with knife girl or her collective.
- “The beginning teaches you what the book is about. The middle deceives you about that.” – Holly Black
- “Chekhov was just one guy.”
- Life-threatening situations don’t hold readers attention as much as personal struggles do.
Conversations and Extras
Every lunch and dinner continued the discussion from the previous panel and started new discussions. Saturday the attendees from Viable Paradise 19 adopted me for meals and conversation. They talked up Viable Paradise and strongly suggested I should apply when 22 opens. They also warned that not everyone gets accepted the first year they apply for it.
Annaka Kalton shared her mead Saturday night. I shared my mead Friday night.
Fish! ended up being stressful because I tried to do it in the middle of a work day. I rushed to get there, arrived late and left early.
Notes to Self for Next Year
- Bring a sweater.
- Arrange to share mead on the same night if more than one brewer is present.
- Bring sampler shot glasses for the mead sharing.
- Make sure to record all of the books from panels.
- Fully commit to Fish! or don’t go to it.
- Only bring food for Thursday night and Friday morning.
- Bring cash in case someone wants to split a tab.
- Don’t forget the extra coffee for the room.