Have you ever had an idea for something, but you weren’t sure you knew how to pull it off? Of course you have. You’re a writer. Everything we do begins with a blank slate: an empty bar napkin, an un-scribbled scrap of paper, a blank computer screen. And yet you do. It begins with three digits and a pen, a keystroke, the courage to press pencil to page. And from this, something that once lived only as a scattered connections of neurons and cells that fire in a familiar pattern becomes something real. One line turns to many. Pages become chapters. Chapters become manuscripts.
But, what then? Is it good? Where can it be strengthened? Is the narrative clear enough? Is the story doing what I want it to do? To answer these questions, we rely on others. Each one of us has at least one person who will weigh the merits of the project. A reader you trust to give honest feedback. And if we’re lucky enough to carry the thing even further, there will be others.
Danger Close Alaska was once just an idea — my idea that veterans in Alaska deserved the same opportunity for writing mentorship as their Lower 48 counterparts. But I knew I could never make it happen on my own. So I got help. From 49 Writers and the Alaska Humanities Forum, specifically. And in 2016, we did the damn thing. Then again in 2017. And now, I’m happy to say, we’re doing it a third year in a row. “That ain’t nothing,” as one of my now-retired troops and friend Paul is wont to say on occasion.
We’re trying something new this year. Instead of one big event, we’re stretching it out. An hour and a half, once a month, for the next six months. And we’re designing Danger Close 2018 to attract all levels of writing experience across the veteran and civilian communities. We’re going to get back to the oldest method of building community: getting together to break bread. We’ll eat, drink if we’re so inclined, talk about the theme of the session, read some short selections then launch on a generative writing prompt. This Thursday, we’re going to start with my least favorite emotion: fear. Specifically, how to put it on the page effectively.
Have you published a book? If the answer is yes, we want you. Never written a thing in your life but always wanted to try it out? We want you. Veteran or a family member? Great. Show up. Civilian? Awesome. See you there. Can only make one? No prob! Want to do them all? Right on — make it happen.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you never go from idea to action, you’ll never be able to truly tell whether it was possible or not. You won’t have the opportunity to reach that critical step at which we ask for the help of others in order to complete it. I’m here to say, it’s worth taking the shot. Because you just never know what might happen. Three years in a row we’ve made Danger Close happen, and we’ve done it together by adding that last critical ingredient — you, dear reader. Come on out this Thursday, and let’s see what’s possible together.
Matthew Komatsu is a veteran, writer, graduate of UAA’s MFA in Creative Writing program, and winner of the 2017 Alaska Literary Award for nonfiction. Follow his writing at www.matthewkomatsu.com or on Twitter (@matthew_komatsu) but please understand that nothing he writes here, there, or anywhere else represents official policy or position.