The West Slope Veterans Alliance is offering a new writers’ workshop series, open to veterans and their families.
The first workshop will be held for free this Wednesday at the WSVC Resource Center in Glenwood Springs from 6-7:30 pm. Additional workshops are scheduled for February 1st, February 15th and March 1st, with further dates to be determined in the future based on attendance and feedback.
The workshops will be led by experienced published authors and journalists and are designed to provide an encouraging and creative space for veterinarians and their families. Participants are invited to come ready to share their written work—up to five pages—by bringing writing samples—in any genre: memoir, poetry, fiction, essay, and nonfiction.
Attendees can showcase their work and receive helpful advice and positive feedback from fellow vets and writing experts. Veterans who do not have a writing sample ready are still invited to attend workshops and participate in the writing experience.
The idea for this novice writer’s workshop series was started by Fred Venrick, a Vietnam Veteran who has worked with veterans in the Valley for over 20 years.
Venrick serves on the Veterans Services Committee at Elks Lodge in Aspen and has been instrumental in leading Elks’ many initiatives in support of Western Slope veterans.
From working and coordinating with Huts for Vets and Challenge Aspen to Colorado Veterans Against Foreign Wars and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Venrick said he has a clear connection to the veterans community—especially the Vietnam group—and is committed to continuing Offer support in any way possible.
Venrick was one of the first veterans to help form WSVC, a nonprofit organization that provides outreach and resources to veterans and their families in the Roaring Fork Valley, Eagle Valley and Colorado River Valley.
He noted that, among many other supportive events, WSVC hosts a weekly coffee and donut gathering in Glenwood Springs, during which veterans can meet and chat openly.
“We’ve found that as a veteran — who used to be very stoic — talking about it really helps, and has the support of the VA and others associated with PTSD,” Venrick said.
He went on to express how the new Writers’ Workshop takes the concept a step further by allowing veterans to put their feelings and stories on paper and share those thoughts with a group of veterans.
“We think it’s therapeutic — we don’t expect anything — but I think, at least in my limited experience, sometimes if you write things down, it clears the mind in a lot of ways,” Venrick said. “It’s just a good therapy to get you out of your anxiety.”
Venrick’s idea for a writer’s workshop has been around for a long time, he said, explaining that it stemmed from his wife’s work with local writers’ groups over the years.
Venrick’s wife, Catherine O’Connell, is a fiction author and author of several mystery novels and currently sits on the board of Aspen Words. Before the organization became Aspen Words, it was called the Aspen Writers Foundation—O’Connell used to lead and moderate the foundation’s weekly writers’ panel.
Several veterans regularly attend during these meetings, O’Connell said, acknowledging her own positive reactions expressed through collective literary experiences.
“In addition to being creative, it can be cathartic — you know, people can bring in stream-of-consciousness writing, poetry, a one-page novel, a few-page novel — because there are so many people who have stories they want to share, but don’t have any outlets,” O’Connell said. “So Fred had been thinking and hearing about it for years and he came up with this idea to do it specifically for veterans and/or their families.”
For Wednesday’s first-ever writers’ workshop, O’Connell volunteered to be one of the moderators, along with Colorado Mountain College’s Tom Busch and valley reporter Bernie Grauer, who will primarily lead the workshop, Venrick explained.
Venrick, the workshop’s creative consultant, added that Ken Williams will also be at Wednesday’s meetup. Williams has self-published work and will be there to talk about his experience doing so, Venrick said.
“As we go along, we’ll probably — for people who are interested in self-publishing or all that, marketing their work or anything to do with writing — we’ll have some experts out there talking about it, guiding them Just do what you can,” Vinrick said. “But we start with this workshop, and when we look at the turnout and ask them if they like the question, we also go into that area.”
Both Venrick and O’Connell said they expect the new writers’ workshop series to be a work in progress and eventually want it to be a twice-monthly ongoing effort.
“We feel like it’s going to take time to build. You know, the veterans are kind of apathetic, not that trusting in a lot of ways,” Venrick said. “But, because it’s working with Cathy’s team, we’re convinced of that, so we’re hoping this will really work out — I don’t see why it can’t — and we’ll go from there.”
The first Veterinary Writers Workshop will be held Wednesday evening at the WSVC Resource Center located at 801 Colorado Avenue in Glenwood Springs.For more information, please visit westernslopeveterans.org Or contact Venrick directly at 970-925-5145.