Thank you to all who tuned in live to view the program “Marines Return to Vietnam” via the Dole Institute of Politics. Given 2020, and my father’s allergic reaction to modern technology, this was the first time I got to ‘see’ my father since December (2019).
For anyone who may have missed the program or who wants to view it again and/or share it with others, the Dole Institute has created a permanent recording of it on their Youtube channel. I have embedded the video below or you can visit the link directly at: Marines Return to Vietnam (on Youtube).
As always, if you would like to read more about John Musgrave, get updates about his upcoming memoir (first quarter 2012), or contact him, visit his personal site at JohnMusgraveVeteran.com.
This Thursday, Sept 10, I’ll be part of a panel discussion about the trip I took with my father, John Musgrave, for his first return to Vietnam in over 50 years. The program can be accessed and watched live at 3:00 CST via the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at KU. It will also be made available via their Youtube Channel to view asynchronously. Though the talk will be moderated, we’ll also be taking questions from the live-stream. I don’t anticipate speaking much, but a selection of my photographs from the trip will be part of the presentation.
The talk is well timed, as I have a short narrative nonfiction piece coming out in the Summer 2020 Issue of New Letters (arriving soon). The piece, “Secondhand,” is about the ways being raised by a combat veteran influenced me both explicitly and subconsciously. It focuses on three periods of my life when the interaction between his past and my future felt most tangible. And, perhaps also, most dire.
If you get a chance, stop by the stream and ask a question. I assure you you will not be disappointed, though you may experience deep emotions.
For this site, I’ve tried to keep my writing and primatology lives distinct except where they overlap in my prose. However, every so often I get a heavy dose of brand new visitors who have stumbled on one of my stories (usually ape-related) out in the wild.
“No Machine“ just led a flood of new visitors here over the past 48 hours. While I might be a little too late to catch that particular wave, I want to ensure that this site is ready for any future ones. It’s a fault of mine that I have not been confident enough in my writing to believe that it would resonate with so wide an audience for so long after its publication date. But here we are, years after I sent that little story into the world, and people are still reading and sharing. I’m encouraged and inspired by my readers who continue to gift me their time and attention.
But my writing is just one step. If you’re inclined, I invite you to take another (or two) with me. I have created a separate page of this site where you can, if moved, find worthy primatological organizations to support. If you enjoyed my story— any of them— and are interested in the nonhuman people I describe, or just apes in general, please visit the Ape Resources tab of this site. The apes and animals I write about deserve every ounce of support I can send their way.
To the readers: Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring. Continue to do good and be well.
Some time ago– perhaps an embarrassing amount– I mentioned I was preparing to move my desk half-way across the country. Well, mission accomplished. The side-effects of this (new job, new environment, new pandemic, etc) didn’t exactly spur my writing efforts.
I am happy to announce that I have a new essay forthcoming inNew Letters literary journal. While the publication date isn’t set in stone yet, the current hope is the September 2020 issue.
This piece consolidates a lot of my thinking since visiting Vietnam with my father. I am still at work on drafting these thoughts and more into a book-length project in collaboration with my father. My hope is that it could become a supplement– sequel is the wrong word– to his upcoming memoir (coming in early 2021 if things stay as planned, so be on the lookout).
Hope you are all hanging in there. Be well. Do good.
Sandwiched between a 48-hr form rejection and a 328 day form rejection, this little alumni spotlight came out from one of my various Alma Maters. When I noted the context of its publication on Social Media, sort of half humble-bragging my butt off, they threw my own words right back at me.
“That’s part of the game. If I could give any young writers advice, I’d say, ‘Just dive in, just do it, take your lumps.'”
I stand by that quote and also all my lumps. Do as I say AND as I do. Shoot your shot, writers. Always.
If I’m being totally honest, I certainly didn’t expect the most memorable experiences of my Iceland Writers Retreat to occur indoors. In my defense, the reasoning seemed obvious at the time — it’s the “I” of IWR — but I still hesitate to admit it now. I was so impressed with the sharp minds and incredible writers at IWR that I don’t want to embody the quip, so often misattributed to Twain, about what happens when fools open their mouths. And yet, here we are.
The promise of the Icelandic landscape initially drew me in. In part, this can be attributed to the total dearth of photographs of hotel conference rooms in Iceland’s tourism adverts. Though, probably more of it has to do with the fact that I am only semi-domesticated. That I feel so much more myself with grass underfoot and foliage overhead in place of carpet and fluorescents. I’m happy to say that this part of me was not left wanting as we traveled the Golden Circle on my first day of the retreat. From Geysir to Gullfoss and Thingvellir, my eyes (and camera) feasted. And then, each clear night thereafter, I got to watch the northern lights dance until my toes threatened to secede from my feet…Read the full post.
It has been an active 2019. Mostly from the “life” standpoint. On the writing front, the only thing worth reporting is that I’m preparing to move my desk halfway across the country.
Above is a little teaser for a small retrospective post about my excellent time at Icelandwritersretreat.comwith a couple of my photos for good measure. Check it out.
And so begins a new year. This household rang in the event by working on various Powerpoints or story drafts until about 10 PM and then headed to bed like the responsible adults we pretend to be in front of our parents’ friends. (I was still reading by the time the totally unnecessary fireworks went off. So, you know, I’m not a total square…)
This month is a busy one. My show, Convergence: Challenging Anthropocentrism opens on the 4th. Details for the reception can be found at Convergence: Opening. If you’re in the neighborhood for Tulsa’s First Friday, come on down and chat me and my co-curator up. For those that can’t make it, the exhibition will be up all month long. There will also be some cool programming after MLK Day. Such as:
Animal People— Lecture I will give a lecture on how my work with apes, and my education by animals, led me to writing. Science just couldn’t encompass all the truths I found in nature.
HumanNature— Photography and Writing Workshop For those who would like a more active event, I’ll also be leading a workshop wherein we explore the urban landscape and the ways nature rebels against our efforts to exile it from our human centers. Through photography, we will train presence, which will then be used to generate short written pieces questioning the human/nature binary.
Mural Design and Creation— Yatika Starr Fields My co-curator, Yatika, will be leading a mural workshop throughout the week. He, along with participants, will create a permanent mural exploring the themes of the show. Join in on this collaborative work and leave a (literal) lasting mark on the McKeon Center for Creativity.
The Development of Complex Tool Use Among Chimpanzees— Lastly, perhaps the real treat of the whole month, join us for a lecture with the smart, incredible, illustrious, beautiful, [superlative] [superlative] [superlative] Stephanie Musgrave to discuss her research on the development and transmission of chimpanzee tool use in Central Africa. I’m biased but I can’t recommend enough letting this woman learn you something.
I have a lot to be grateful for, always, but especially in the last month. And, as there is no lack of need for more gratitude in this world, I will take this opportunity to quickly and insufficiently outline mine here.
I recently traveled to Vietnam with my Father (johnmusgraveveteran.com) where, for the first time in 51 years almost to the day, we visited the sites of his war. It was a complicated experience, and my mind is still buzzing with the swarm of implications, emotions, and sensory details of it all. In the next little bit, I hope to find some clarity that will enable me to share this journey and what it meant/means.
Since returning, my upcoming multi-disciplinary art show, Convergence, has finished its call for artists and selected an incredible variety of works to exhibit. I cannot thank the artists who submitted work enough. It was humbling and invigorating to see the many ways people are engaging with both the perceived human/animal divide and the very real effects of the Anthropocene.
And just this past weekend, for Veterans Day/Armistice Day, my Father and I were humbled to put on a workshop/reading/conversation for veterans and their families. It was an intimate and powerful experience. I thank everyone who came out, shared their stories, and listened to our perspectives on how to use writing to convey experiences that can often be difficult to translate into words for the benefit of both the veteran and those who love them.
Both these events were made possible by the support of the Center forCreativity and I look forward to doing more work with them in the future.
Lastly, my Father and I were interviewed for Words on Air, by the OSU Center for Poets and Writers. We each read a bit of our work and spoke, briefly, on what patriotism and service looks like to us and how racism is antithetical to both (though no less common for it). I’m excited to share it with you as soon as it is live.
Thanks to everyone who made these events possible. And thanks to you for being interested.
The spring and summer of 2018 have been more focused on creating and submitting proposals for events and projects as they have been about actual writing. And as such, I’ve had little to show, publication-wise, for the year, but I’ve been able to create and participate in more events with my community here in Tulsa. That may not inflate my sense of writer-legitimacy, but I think it soothes the soul by bringing meaningful work to audiences who may or may not otherwise have access to it.
That said, another of the projects I’ve been preparing for has been announced and this one is near to my heart.
After Action Reports is a joint reading/workshop for veterans and their families that I will be facilitating with my father, John Musgrave (recently featured in the Ken Burns Documentary The Vietnam War). This reading comes from two sources: my father’s writing (available here), which has always been a means of healing and processing for him after returning from Vietnam; and my strange relationship to his war, having grown up both utterly disconnected from it and yet intimately shaped by it. After Action Reports hopes to offer tools for how to make writing a viable tool for for veterans and their families, through the combined perspectives of a Marine Infantryman and his adult, civilian son.
In the March 2018 issue of The Sun, the editors gave me the opportunity to respond to some reader correspondence. You may read it HERE. I am very grateful to them for it. Although this is not a new experience, I was still surprised by this particular response to “Eclipse.” How strange, I thought, that someone could read my pain and react with such aggression toward me for it. But this week we’ve seen the teenage survivors of another school shooting receiving an even more venomous reaction to their pain.
I want to believe that those who see pain and think attack are outliers. I want to believe we are better than this.