Last updated: March 27, 2015      



Syracuse Veterans' Writing Group

  • About the Group
  • Members
  • Meeting Materials
  • Members' Writing
  • Videos
  • Resources

"There's a reason soldiers make good writers. Under all the stress, they've got to remain composed, have discipline, pay attention to detail, make situational observations as if your life depended on it - and then communicate effectively with your fellow troops."  —Andrew Carroll, founder of the Legacy Project

Welcome to the Syracuse Veteran's Writing Group website.  

The Syracuse Veterans' Writing group is open to all veterans and their supporters  The focus of our group is on writing nonfiction accounts or "true stories" of life in and out of the military.
Veterans of all ages, branches of the military, and conflicts are welcome. You need not have any prior experience with writing, just a desire to write your stories and share them with others.

Our group meets once a month on Saturdays 10 a.m.-12 noon on the Syracuse University campus in the Writing Center, 1st floor, H.B. Crouse.  Refreshments are provided, and the atmosphere is casual and relaxed.  The bulk of our meeting time is focused on sharing and commenting on group members' writing.   There is no cost or fee associated with the writing group.  Just bring a notebook and pen or and be prepared to do some writing.

Writing group sessions focus on:

Learning key techniques for nonfiction writing
Drafting your stories
Sharing your stories and offering feedback to other group members
Encouraging each other as writers.
Polishing and preparing your work for publication.

The group is co-led by Eileen E. Schell, a writing teacher and writing group leader for over 20 years and Ivy Kleinbart, a poet and writing teacher at Syracuse University.

The group meets once a month on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. in the Writing Center, 101 H.B. Crouse on the Syracuse University Campus. The meeting dates are announced a few weeks in advance via the Facebook group (Syracuse Veterans' Writing Group) or via email. Please email Eileen E. Schell to get on the email list or join the Facebook group.

Meditation with the Syracuse Veterans' Writing Group
The Syracuse Veterans' Writing Group also sponsors a monthly open meditation session for veterans and their supporters that takes place from 9:15-9:45 a.m. the same day and same place as the monthly writing group meeting. Our meditation leader is Dr. Diane Grimes, a Syracuse University faculty member in Communication and Rhetorical Studies and mindful communication expert. Dr. Grimes has extensive experience teaching classes on meditation and mindfulness and leading meditation sessions for all levels. She especially welcomes beginners to meditation as well as those who have tried it before and want to deepen their meditation practice. Come and join Dr. Grimes and learn how meditation might help you manage stress, anxiety, symptoms of PTSD, and also increase your concentration for writing.

Free parking is available in Quad 1:

SVWG in the news: "Syracuse Veterans' Writing Group holds retreat for budding writers"

Syracuse University Magazine featured our group in "War Stories."

The New York Times mentioned SVWG in their article "Warrior Voices."

"Soldiers' Stories": The group was recently featured in a The Eagle article.

The Vets' Writing group was mentioned in a recent Daily Orange article on the rising number of student veterans at SU.

Email or call the Writing Program at 315-443-1083 to sign up and hear more details about meeting times and meeting locations.

Member Bios



Dawson J.W. Brown, born in 1955, in Gloversville, New York, grew up in the Elmira, New York area. He graduated from Elmira Free Academy in 1973. He then served in active duty in the United States Navy from June of 1973 to June of 1977. Following Boot Camp in Orlando, Florida, he trained at Treasure Island, California as an Electronic Warfare Technician, and received his duty assignment aboard the U.S.S. Sacramento AOE I. He completed two WESTPAC tours, visiting countries including Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Iran, and Pakistan. For Dawson, the Navy really was a vehicle to "see the world" and become a man. He has many vivid memories of his Navy experiences - some treasured and some a bit disturbing. Dawson returned to Elmira after the Navy, and received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Elmira College in 1982. Later that same year, he began his 28 ½ year career with the New York State Department of Correctional Services as a Stationary Engineer in Watertown Correctional Facility. He worked the 11-7 shift in the powerhouse for nearly 6 years. He earned his Master's Degree in Elementary Education from S.U.N.Y. Potsdam. while working full-time. He then taught Adult Basic Education I at Watertown Correctional Facility for a time, until he took a promotional position as a Senior Stationary Engineer at Cape Vincent Correctional Facility in 1988. He was promoted again in 1989 to Plant Superintendent C at Riverview Correctional Facility. In 1994, he was promoted to Plant Superintendent B at Auburn Correctional Facility (the State's oldest maximum security prison), where he worked until 1999 when he was offered a promotion to Deputy Superintendent of Administration at Gowanda Correctional Facility. In 2000, he became part of the start-up team for the State's newest maximum security prison, Five Points Correctional Facility, as the Deputy Superintendent of Administration. In 2005, he returned to Auburn Correctional Facility as Deputy Superintendent of Administration, where he served. until 2007, when he became First Deputy Superintendent at the famous Sing-Sing Correctional Facility. He soon took over as Acting Superintendent (warden) of Sing-Sing. He held that position until July, 2009, when he became Superintendent at Groveland Correctional Facility. He retired from State service in March of 2011, and is now making the most of his retirement - golfing, reading, playing chess, enjoying time with family and friends, and exploring his interest in writing. He joined the Syracuse University Veteran Writers' Group to assist him in developing and sharing memorable stories from his days "in the service" and in corrections. He resides in Syracuse with his wife Pat, and two sons, Alexander and Cameron

Frank Hobitz enlisted in the U.S. Navy upon graduation from H.S. at age 17. He received Navy training in aviation electronics maintenance. Frank was also starting pitcher for Navy Station Baseball Teams at Memphis, Alameda, and Moffet Field and competed against College, Military, and Minor League Baseball Teams. He volunteered for duty during the Korean War with VF23, USS Essex. He was appointed VF23 Electronics Crew Chief and supervised 12 Electronics Technicians in Electronics Equipment maintenance of 15 combat jet aircraft. In addition to serving in the military, he received a BA in Economics from the University of New Hampshire, an MBA from Northeastern University and studied labor relations at Holy Cross College as well as pursuing studies at Syracuse University with the CBIT School, earning certificates in Project Management, Database Management, SQL, and Powerbuilder. Frank had a long career in the corporate world, with experience in non-profit, Manufacturing, Government, Recruiting, Executive Search, and Outplacement. His position responsibilities included CFO/Controller, Project Manager, Consultant, IT Management, and Cost Accounting Management. He also served as an Executive/Career Coach, with Certification as a Career Development Consultant (NACDC), Director Consulting Services, Jameson Associates; Senior Consultant, Career Advancement Group; President Innovative Career Strategies, Inc. /The Career.

Jennifer A. Jeffery served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1990-1998. She was a Machinery Technician Third Class (E4) at search and rescue small boat stations in Michigan, Maryland, Virginia and Florida. Her primary work involved search and rescue and law enforcement. Jennifer works as an academic advisor for an on-line career transition and information technology education program for veterans through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. She is also working part-time on her B.A. in Geography at Syracuse. She has been fascinated with stories and writing since grade school. Some of her other interests include hiking, dogs, painting, fishing, gardening, cooking and social justice.

Born to migrating military parents, Robert Marcuson settled into his birth city, San Jose, California, for the last month of fifth grade and did not move again until he was drafted. With the 3/60th Infantry of the 9th Division and the Mobile Riverine Force, he served in Vietnam in the Mekong Delta during the 1968 Tet Offensive and was wounded by friendly fire. He left the Army a Specialist E-4, August 23, 1968 after two years and one day of service, not that he was counting. He received his B.A. in Anthropology (cultural) from Colorado College in 1975, then studied Russian Language for three intensive summers (1977, 78, 79) at Middlebury College, Vermont, followed by a semester with the Pushkin Language Institute, Moscow 1982, and another six weeks of Political, Economic and Military Russian at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, 1983. Other pursuits include reading, gardening, gathering firewood; he plays a pretty good game of chess and considers himself adept with a chain saw.

Peter (Pete) McShane served as a U.S. Army Special Forces medic during the Vietnam War, 1967-1968. His rank at separation was Specialist 5. A graduate of Syracuse University with an M.B.A, he had a career in banking and finance, much of it as a consultant to small businesses, saving them from their creditors and themselves. Since 2006, he has taken craft classes and workshops in fiction and creative non-fiction at the Syracuse YMCA’s Downtown Writers Center. Pete is putting the finishing touches on a memoir about his life as a Green Beret Medic and its aftereffects. He has completed a collection of short stories, a novella, and a number of personal essays. His work has been published in Ginger Piglet, the Syracuse University Writing Program’s Intertext Magazine, The New York Times “Warrior Voices,” the Syracuse Peace Council Newsletter, and can be found on the Syracuse Veterans' Writing Group website. His other interests include reading, music, woodworking, and metalworking.

Andrew Miller grew up in Barrington, a Chicago suburb, and graduated with his B.A. in International Business from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2006. He received his commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army through the ROTC program, and served as a field artillery officer in Ft. Sill Oklahoma, South Korea, and Ft. Campbell, KY. He deployed to eastern Afghanistan from 2008-2009 as a fire support officer for the 506th Infantry, the "Currahees" of the 101st Airborne Division, for which he is extremely proud. After his first tour, he was promoted to the rank of captain and studied military intelligence at Ft. Huachuca, AZ. Andrew returned to Afghanistan as the squadron intelligence officer for 6-6 Cavalry, 10th Mountain Division, in 2010-2011. He received his honorable discharge in 2012, and has been writing ever since. His other interests include motorcycles, urban chicken farming, painting, photography, reading, and cooking.

Ginger Peterman joined the U.S. Army in 2007. She received orders for a fifteen-month tour in Iraq immediately after reporting to her permanent duty station, Fort Drum, NY, home of the 10th Mountain Division. She separated from the military in December 2009 and will graduate in December 2013 with a B.S. in Bioengineering from the LC Smith College of Engineering and Computer Scienc and also with a minor in Writing and Rhetoric from the College of Arts and Sciences. She is an active member of Team Red White and Blue, Team Rubicon, and K9sForWarriors, which focus on veteran re-integration into society and healing from PTSD with social interaction, physical activity, disaster relief assistance, writing, and service dogs. Ginger also enjoys crocheting, trail running, hiking, camping, and spending quality time with her young son, Charlie Mike. Infantry personnel use the phonetic alphabet "charlie-mike" to represent the phrase "continue movement," which is a motto Ginger truly believes in.

Lee B. Savidge is a third generation soldier who retired in 2005 with active and part time military service totaling 27 years. After graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Lee joined the US Air Force during the Viet Nam War. After the war Lee worked a series of civilian engineering jobs for large corporations including Hess, Carrier, Niagara Mohawk and SRCTec. While at Carrier, Lee earned his MBA degree at Syracuse University. In 1982 Lee joined the New York State Air National Guard at Hancock Field, Syracuse, New York, and worked in the Bio-Environmental Engineering section of the 174th Fighter Wing Clinic. In 1983 Lee cross-trained to Aerospace Warning and Control and transferred to the 113th Tactical Control Squadron, a mobile radar unit at Hancock Field. Lee deployed with the 113th to many remote locations including the Bahamas, Italy and Portugal in support of drug interdiction and NATO programs. In 1993 the 113th was dissolved and Lee transferred to the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Rome, New York. In 1999 Lee cross-trained to Intelligence and worked for two years at Rome Research Laboratory’s Secret Compartmented Information Facility. In 2001 Lee returned to NEADS and served in support of NORAD operations during the September 11th attacks and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ralph Willsey enlisted in the US Army in the infantry on 9/14/2004, Left 9/21/2010 as a Specialist/E-4, Operation Iraqi Freedom during years 2006-2007. He also served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn 2009-2010. Ralph is currently a student at Onondaga Community College studying criminal justice. His interests are reading, backpacking, and table-top gaming.


Group Leaders

Eileen E. Schell, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric at Syracuse University where she teaches undergraduate and graduate writing classes. She did her graduate work at University of Washington and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the author of five academic books/edited collections, and she teaches courses in writing, rhetoric, and creative nonfiction. She has worked with veterans off and on since 1986 when as a college student she helped a WWII bomber pilot edit his memoirs. For the past decade, Eileen has run a nonfiction writing group at the Nottingham Senior Living Community in Jamesville, NY where she has worked with a number of veterans from WWII. She co-founded the Syracuse Veterans' Writing Group in March 2010 with colleague Ivy Kleinbart. The group is founded in honor of Eileen's uncle Brady L. Smith who served in Vietnam for 26 months as a helicopter pilot. In addition to writing and reading, Eileen’s interests are running, hiking, backpacking (especially in her home state of Washington), and vegetable gardening.

Ivy Kleinbart
teaches academic writing and creative nonfiction at Syracuse University. She received an MA in English in 2009 and an MFA in creative writing in 2007. Her work has appeared in Bateau and NoTell Motel.

* Not all group members have provided biographies.








Members' Writing


Monkeys, Bats, Jungles and Humidity by Dawson J. W. Brown

Thoughts On Veterans’ Memories by Dawson J. W. Brown

The Day That Changed My Life Forever by Larry Gene Clark, III, Guest Writer

Exhaust by Derek Davey

The Piper of al Asad by Derek Davey

Therapy Dog by Derek Davey

Able To See Everything In Front Of Us by Elizabeth Hall

August Revolution, 1968 by Robert Marcuson

Catch 17—Inspection by Robert Marcuson

Eagles and Ambiguity by Robert Marcuson

February 7 by Robert Marcuson

Fort Carson Snowman by Robert Marcuson

Al by Peter K. McShane

Minefield by Peter K. McShane

Dispensary by Peter K. McShane

Why I Write by Peter K. McShane

On The Dole by Peter K. McShane

April 2, 2011 by Ginger Star Peterman (Gunnip)

Poem by Ginger Star Peterman (Gunnip)

Mastering PTSD by Ginger Star Peterman

Surprise Attack by Lee B. Savidge

Survivability Test by Lee B. Savidge

Writer As Witness by Lee B. Savidge

Beacon Strike by Don Western

Demons by Ralph Willsey

Tattoos by Ralph Willsey









Click the images below to view videos.


Dawson Brown



Peter McShane



Ralph Willsey