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Collateral experiences, not damage

The literary journal Collateral offers free veteran writers workshops at UW Tacoma

Abby Murray, Ph.D., the editor-in-chief of Collateral, held a free reading last January at the University of Washington Tacoma titled “Collateral Reads.” Photo credit: Christina Butcher

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When one experiences life as a soldier, airman, sailor or Marine, he or she doesn't experience it alone. Friends, family members and sometimes even the community experiences the effects of military life along with the servicemember. Those parallel, collateral experiences are most often unacknowledged ... until now, that is. The literary journal Collateral is bringing those stories to life right here in the greater Joint Base Lewis-McChord area.

Collateral is an online literary arts journal affiliated with the University of Washington Tacoma. It "explores the impact of the military and military service in spaces beyond the combat zone," according to the journal's website, The publication started in 2015 when UW Tacoma lecturer Abby Murray, Ph.D., assistant professor Michael Kula, M.F.A, and lecturer JM Miller, M.F.A, banded together to get the project off the ground.

"A friend of a friend in Seattle told me there had been some interest in Tacoma for a journal that explored the lasting impacts of war and military service," said Murray, who serves as the editor-in-chief and poetry editor at Collateral. "I jumped at the opportunity."

Murray, who is also a writing studies and interdisciplinary arts and sciences lecturer at UW Tacoma, moved to the greater JBLM area with her husband, a servicemember at JBLM, in 2015. Under her guidance, the first issue of Collateral was published online in November 2016.

"It took about a year's worth of work before our first issue went live," she said.

In addition to publishing creative writing online, Collateral also hosts public readings, discussion panels and free writing workshops for servicemembers, veterans and connected family members and friends each year.  Murray facilitates the workshops.  

"My workshops are -- I hope -- inspirational, but they are also conversational and very much intended to nurture dialogue and the writing process," Murray said. "It's important to acknowledge the tense relationship between many military and civilian populations. As a person married to a soldier but working for an academic institution, I've witnessed that often toxic divide at work, which is especially unsettling in times of war.

"Our country votes to send people away to risk their lives; we had better understand the gravity of that action. And since literary art is shaped by violence as much as it is shaped by politics, I feel strongly that storytelling and literature are one bridge that connects all humanity, keeping our communication open."

Murray also offers poetry workshops at JBLM each spring and/or summer. The workshops are co-hosted by Armed Forces Community Service (AFCS) and the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention (SHARP) programs.

"I've watched the vets in my writing workshops find strength in taking creative risks, in trying something new or pursuing a passion," Murray said. "My hope is that every person I work with leaves the workshop with a new idea or realization about the way they connect to writing."

While the exact number of creative works by servicemembers and veterans published in Collateral is unknown (due to a blind submission process in which demographic information is hidden at the time of submission), each of Collateral's previous issues has included a diverse mix of writing by servicemembers, veterans and connected friends and family members.

"I strive for these conditions," Murray said. "It creates a conversation that is essential to Collateral's mission. We are interested in the impact of war and military service, which affects us all."

For those interested in contributing to Collateral, the publication is now accepting online submissions for its fourth issue. Visit the website for details.

For more information contact Murray at or visit

Veterans Writing Workshops, noon to 1 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 6 and 13, University of Washington Tacoma, 1900 Commerce St., Office WCG 322, Tacoma

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