Why We Write

Why We Write: Craft Essays on Writing War edited by Randy Brown and Steve Leonard (Middle West Press LLC 2019, 246 p)

For military service members, veterans, and families—and all those who write about them!

Tap into PUBLISHING INSPIRATIONS, WRITING MARKETS, and CREATIVE TECHNIQUES with advice from MORE THAN 60 BEST-SELLING, ESTABLISHED, and EMERGING AUTHORS of military, national security, and war topics! Whether you’re writing military-themed genre fiction or literary non-fiction, strategy or policy analysis, history or journalism, or even modern war poetry, Why We Write: Craft Essays on Writing War puts an arsenal of innovation and expertise at your fingertips!

Choose your weapons: Podcasts! Memoirs! Novels! Book reviews! Short stories! Op-Ed essays! And more! Entertaining, informal, and accessible, this first-ever Military Writers Guild-sponsored anthology is ideal for:

  • Individual creatives and scholars
  • Writing workshops
  • Classroom discussions of war literature, literary history, and popular culture
  • Professional development forums

The Military Writers Guild assembled this anthology with a title that is no doubt derived from the World War Two film series, Why We Fight, directed by Frank Capra (It Happened One Night, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It’s a Wonderful Life). The book’s stark cover image of the front rank of three World War II G.I.’s marching in olive drab overcoats, steel pot helmets, and canvas leggings is evidence of this. 


Sixty-one authors include veterans, currently serving military (active, guard, and Reserve), including several from Allied militaries, and a select few civilian authors, such as war correspondents and others who dwell in the military firmament. These authors cover or come from the time of the Vietnam War through the present. They divided the anthology into four broad categories: Calls to Action, Calls to Arms; War Stories; Building Bridges & Platforms; and The Arts of War and Writing. Two stand outs are Max Brooks (The Zombie Survival Guide, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War- which spent four weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, peaking at number nine) and P. W. Singer & August Cole (Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War). The perspectives are quite varied, and it is not all about the military experience. 


If you are considering writing, creating, or have already started and are looking for some inspiration, this book is definitely worth the investment of your time.

With few exceptions, most of these authors either started writing as therapy for their “service-connected” or other life issues, or discovered writing was therapeutic after they started. Many of these authors make a living writing, or some derivative of writing (such as producing a podcast), many within the “military” realm. Some authors describe their journeys from veteran to writer, while others, including the two standouts mentioned above, give us a detailed “How To” look at their creative inspiration and development of groundbreaking concepts for their works. 

American veterans have been writing since the Revolutionary War and have been at the forefront of innovative storytelling, not necessarily on military related subjects (think Walt Whitman, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Heinlein, and J. D. Salinger). When you consider talented writers like Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Heller, and James Jones and Leon Uris, who included military-based works in their writing, it seems like veterans we actually have an advantage over our civilian counterparts with putting pen to paper. If you are currently serving, or a veteran who wants to write, you are in good company. 

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