TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Jamie Horten sometimes struggles to connect with others. Even other military veterans.
Every veteran’s story is unique, and they, like civilians, struggle at times to understand what other servicemembers endured while in the line of duty, said Horten, a Kingsley native who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq four times while in the Army as an infantryman and artilleryman.
Horten, 34, hopes to bridge such divides during a writing workshop for veterans at Northwestern Michigan College, a project that kicks off Monday.
“Writing has always been a way to release, almost like a liberation, because it can be really hard to get those stories out,” he said.
Horten, a premed student, is one of roughly 10 NMC veterans expected to attend adjunct professor Teresa Scollon’s workshop sessions.
Scollon is the driving force behind the new workshop, a crash course in creative writing for students who served in the military. Narrative, voice, imagery: the workshop will cover those elements of writing and more as Scollon and her aspiring writers practice storytelling.
Scollon said she launched the workshop partially because of a belief that civilians like herself are responsible for understanding the consequences of America’s recent wars in far away lands.
“I’m on the civilian side, and I’ve been walking around for the last 10 years being amazed that we are not more affected on a daily basis,” she said. “This is something affecting some people very much, and others very little at all, and I think it’s incumbent upon us to understand this on a national basis.”
Scollon stressed workshop members can write about anything they want, not just military service.
The focus is the craft of writing. Writing instills therapeutic releases from which anyone can benefit, including a greater ability to form connections with others.
“Writing can be a marvelous tool for tuning the ear, tuning the conversational powers,” Scollon said. “For making sense of experience and integrating experience, for finding a meaning out of it. Part of the workshop focuses on not only generating material, but listening to other people’s material and finding the heart of a story and the emotions of a story.”
The workshop is free to participants who, for now, must be NMC student veterans, regardless of the war in which they served. Scollon said Vietnam veterans can join the workshop alongside younger veterans like Horten.
Horten said he looks forward to the chance to meet older veterans.
“We idolize those guys,” he said. “Our war was completely different. When we do have an opportunity, I think many of us will stop and listen to them.”
Scott Herzberg, NMC’s assistant director of outreach services and the college’s point of contact for military and veterans services, said one in every 20 NMC students is a veteran, and 75 percent of those veterans deployed overseas.
Herzberg said Scollon’s work is one example of NMC’s efforts to repay veterans and their families.
“At some point in time, these men and women signed a blank check to the United States of America for up to and including the cost of their lives,” Herzberg said.
The NMC Foundation funded Scollon’s workshop through this spring and summer. Scollon hopes to extend the project, and someday open the workshop to veterans throughout the Grand Traverse community.
Veterans interested in joining the workshop can email Scollon at firstname.lastname@example.org. They also may stop by a session on Mondays from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., or Thursdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Workshop classes will take place in room 201 of the Osterlin Building.