Interview with Veteran Writers

TIR Staff

Interview with Cole Becher, author of "Charybdis" (43/1)

Interview with Katherine Schifani, author of "Pistol Whip"

Katherine Schifani

In March 2015, TIR intern Erin Marshall interviewed Kate Schifani, whose essay "Pistol Whip" won our 2014 Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans.

EM: Could you discuss why you decided to write about your military experiences?

KS: I’ve always been writing ever since I was a little kid. It started when I was still there [in Iraq], and it was kind of a way to send things out to my friends and family to let them know I was still alive. I would just summarize what was going on. Halfway through my deployment, I started getting e-mails from friends of friends. When I got back, I started to think more seriously about what I was trying to do with writing. [MORE...]

Interview with Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead

Anthony SwoffordAnthony Swofford is the author of the memoirs Jarhead and Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails and the novel Exit A. In 2014 he served as the judge of TIR’s Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans, naming Katherine Schifani the first-place winner and awarding second place to Brian Van Reet. In April 2015 he visited Iowa City for a screening of the film made from Jarhead and a reading alongside Schifani and Van Reet. TIR managing editor Lynne Nugent caught up with him between events.

LN: Your memoir Jarhead begins in 1990. Brian Van Reet’s story is set in 2003, and Katherine Schifani’s essay takes place in 2010. Given that all three narratives concern U.S. conflicts in the Middle East, but yours are separated from theirs by thirteen to twenty years, what did you find to be the similarities and differences in how these stories were recounted either in form or in content? 

AS: Reading all of the finalists for the contest, the thing I was struck by was the feeling that, as the character of me says in that movie we just watched, “All wars are different; all wars are the same.” The people who end up in the army, especially in our all-volunteer army, are usually the same kinds of people: they’re often from lower socio-economic classes, often it’s a step toward college, and they’re often very athletic and very determined and very hard workers. To be a writer you have to be a hard worker because you have to sit alone in that room and do this thing that is ridiculous and crazy and self-indulgent. And so I think that as far as those qualities, compared to the writer I was when I first started writing Jarhead, the individuals writing now are kind of the same. [MORE...]