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Proud to Be in Proud to Be: Volume 3

Last week I received my contributor’s copy of PROUD TO BE: Writing by American Warriors, Volume 3. 20141202_110742 cover volume 3

I am so proud to be included in this volume, edited by Susan Swartwout of Southeast Missouri State University Press in collaboration with the Missouri Humanities Council and Warrior Arts Alliance.

Proud to Be is a way for veterans, and families of veterans to share their personal experiences through essays, warrior interviews, fiction, and even photographs.

Apparently, this year there were a record number of submissions for the Warrior Arts Anthology.

The anthology is dedicated to the writing veterans, military-service personnel and family members.

My First Place win for Photography graces pages 66 and is titled “jimmie (pier). My photo was judged by Bradley Phillips, professor of photography, Southeast Missouri State University. A second photo and an interview with Jimmie was accepted for inclusion into the anthology, as well. I was extremely blessed to win this award, for the second year in a row.

jimmie (pier)

jimmie (pier)

But more than that, all the contributions in this book touch on raw accounts of life, war, warriors, emotions, and more. And deserve to be read, and noticed.

So if you get the chance, pick up a copy of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, volume 3 for a veteran, a family member, or a friend for Christmas. It’s a great gift.

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A Photography Award, a Warrior Veteran, and Proud to Be

Last week I spent traveling through Arkansas for an upcoming story for AAA Southern Traveler and AAA Midwest Traveler. Along the way, I tasted food of all kinds – BBQ, pancakes, the most tender porkchops I’d ever eaten, and some good old-fashioned German chocolate pie with pecans (pronounced pe-cons not pee-cans according to Arkansonians) (did I say that right?).

But nothing surprised me as much as the letter that I received from the Missouri Humanities Council when I arrived home after a week of being on the road.

As I opened the envelope, I thought that it might be the contract for my November 8 workshop with veterans titled “Using Photographs to Tell a Story” at the Central Library in downtown St. Louis. I was mistaken.

Unfolding the letter, a rush of adrenalin overcome me. I let out a shrill scream. I think I scared my husband!

I was awarded First Place from the Missouri Humanities Council for my winning photograph of Jimmie, a Vietnam Vet, fishing on the pier at Sunset Beach, North Carolina. The photograph will be featured in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors; Volume 3. The judge was Bradley Phillips, professor of photography at Southeast Missouri State University.

This is the second time I’ve won First Place in this category from the Council. Last year I received the award for my inspirational photograph of Russell, my husband, penning his thoughts in a journal located at the Kindred Spirit Bench in North Carolina. The judge last year was Destinee Oitzinger, Art Director of the National Veterans Art Museum.

I am honored and thankful for this wonderful opportunity. I’ve also discovered that Sunset Beach is soon becoming MY Kindred Spirit….a peaceful respite….a quiet oasis….my love affair and good luck charm….

Below are the two award-winning photographs….

James “Jimmie” McInnis is a three-time Vietnam Vet, and recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart who I met at the Sunset Beach pier in North Carolina. As a hero in action, he unthinkingly pulled four men from an ammo dump that was blown up by a v-device in Vung Tau. Jimmie is a testament to all people everywhere that love this country.

DSC_1606 Jimmie (pier) black and white - by Sheree K. Nielsen copyr

DSCN0300 Russell, flag, Kindred Spirit blkwht copyr

Community News, an award, and a pinch of inspiration

I’ll make this one short and sweet.

In November, I won an award from the Missouri Humanities Council and the Warrior Arts Alliance for a photo taken of my husband on Bird Island, North Carolina titled “Dear Kindred Spirit”.

The Kindred Spirit Bench is becoming my safe place, my inspiration, the ying to my yang….you know what I mean.

Here’s the story behind the photo and the award.  Hope you enjoy.  The photo is on display at the St. Peters Cultural Art Center, St. Peters, Missouri.

Comm News 12-4-13 Sheree copy

Thank you Missouri Humanities Council and Warrior Arts Alliance!

Thank you Missouri Humanities Council and Warrior Arts Alliance for telling the story of my photo “Dear Kindred Spirit” on your website.  And thank you for the First Place Award in Photography – I can’t wait to meet all the veterans and families at the book launch on November 15 for “Proud to Be: Writings by American Warriors Volume II” at the University of Missouri St. Louis.

Hope you like the story behind the photo.  Click on the link below and scroll down to the 7th page.

P2B_Cover

MO Humanities Council Proud to Be Vol 2 backstory

Every Picture Tells a Story

Students have given photography permisson

Students have given photography permission

Last August, Deborah Marshall, of Warrior Arts Alliance and Missouri Humanities Council, asked me to lead a workshop for veterans with PTSD at the Jefferson Barracks VA Hospital, in St. Louis.  I have to admit, I had a wonderful time teaching the importance of the photography role in writing, to the veterans.

This October, I was fortunate to lead two more workshops, titled “Every Picture Tells a Story” at the same location.

In the first class, I talked about capturing images on film as a child.  I built a pinhole camera way back then, and I’ve been taking pictures ever since. When I first picked up the pen, I found that photography helped me recreate the feeling of being ‘in the moment’, sort of like I traveled back in time.

Though freelance contracts, I’d find myself photographing a particular location or event – people, beaches, meadows, and even food.  This aided in story development.  The pictures helped me fill in the blanks and recap memories.

I shared a slideshow of photos from my travel assignments from AAA Travel and Missouri Life with the students, and expressed what each photo meant to me.

I stressed the importance of ‘show, don’t tell’, and how we need to tap all of our senses, thoughts and feelings when telling a story.  I urged the students to snap photos of anything – people’s actions, the sunlight on a rose, the soulfulness in a dog’s eyes. They could always go back and write about the images later.

I read from Anne Lamott’s bird by bird, the Polaroids chapter, and relayed the relevance of  ‘the big picture.’  During their first writing assignment in class, my hubby projected a photo on the computer monitor.  With written instructions, I asked the students to convey in writing what they were feeling and doing, the time of day, the season – all the little details pertinent to showing, not telling.

When the exercise was over, the students offered to share stories aloud.  I was amazed by the many interpretations just one photo could convey.  And I was proud.

We discussed the rules of writing, and writing tips.  Then I distributed another exercise, on overuse of words.  We applied this to a second writing exercise.

Once again, I was overjoyed by their answers and creativity.  They got it.  They truly got it.

I distributed a homework exercise in the form of an essay I’d written, accompanied by hubby’s photo of a ten-foot Caribbean reef shark, and asked them to highlight colorful descriptions throughout the essay that created visual images in their mind.  We’d discuss next week.

I looked at the clock, and realized two hours had flown by.  As I packed up my papers, computer, and class aids, the veterans shuffled past hubby and me on their way out the door.  They said they planned on coming back to class next week, eager to learn something new.

On the way to the car, one of the woman approached me and said, “You’re a great facilitator; can’t wait to see you again.  You made class fun.”

Funny thing.  I’d never thought about myself in that way.

So when Rita from the VA left me a voice mail stating most of the students were returning for the second class, I decided to create a new syllabus for “Every Picture Tells a Story – Part Two.”

Stay tuned for next week’s blog post and what we talked about…

Ocean Spirit Photography

DSC_0080 family bench by gate blk wht copyr

Some of you may know, I’m also a freelance photographer for a few major publications.

If you haven’t had a chance, check out our pics by clicking on Ocean Spirit Photography facebook page,  or click ‘like’ on the column to the right of this post.

As a matter of fact, I’m teaching a workshop today called “Every Picture Tells a Story” to veterans with PTSD at the Jefferson Barracks VA Hospital in St. Louis.  I’ll recap last week and today’s class, and post highlights on my blog in a few days.

Hubby and I delved into underwater photography about ten years ago.  Add to that, our experience with landscapes, nature, and people.

We love what we do, and cherish meeting new people along the way.   If you sit and observe your surroundings, you’ll discover the coolest (or scariest) things about individuals.

On assignment on Eleuthera in 2011, we found a picturesque harbor while driving along the ocean road at Tarpum Bay.  While snapping photos of the weathered dock, the seagulls, and an elderly woman scaling fish, I heard a voice from behind.  As I turned around, a local woman clothed in dirty shorts, a tank top, wearing dusty sandals, scowled at me.  Shaking her label-less bottle filled with a caramel-color liquid, she declared, “I’ll have you deported!”

Of course, it was the Bahamas, and what she said really didn’t make sense, but I still have that image of what she was wearing, the location, and her demeanor forever etched in my head.

So, you see, every picture does tell a story.

Please enjoy the Ocean Spirit Photography galleries.  If you like what you see, we’d love to have you as a follower.

Feel free to follow my blog and comment, too.  I love new followers.

“Dear Kindred Spirit” – First Place Award for Photography

Elated, I received a call from fellow writer friend, Debbie Marshall, of the Warrior Arts Alliance and Missouri Humanities Council, to inform me I’d won First Place in the Warriors Anthology competition.  I cried tears of joy.  The winners in the anthology will be honored at a presentation on November 15, at the University of Missouri St. Louis.  Here’s a link to the SEMO Press website with more information.

My photo title “Dear Kindred Spirit” is very personal to me.  This is the back story I included with the photograph.

“My husband Russell Nielsen who served in the Air Force for eight years writes his thoughts in one of many journals that are kept safe by the Kindred Spirit mailbox.  He mentioned that when he was through writing, he thought of all the veterans that served our great nation, and all the people touched by this special place.

The legend of the Kindred Spirit is that an anonymous person close to 40 years ago, placed the mailbox and bench for passersby on Bird Island to leave their thoughts and prayers.  Over the years, hundreds of journals have been filled by people near and far.  Once the journals are full, local Kindred Spirit ‘helpers’ send the writings back to the secret originator.

Recently a flagpole was erected from donations. The flag is changed out on Memorial Day weekend in honor of all the veterans that served our country past and present.

The Kindred Spirit location on Bird Island, North Carolina is only accessible by foot or bicycle.”DSCN0300 Russell, flag, Kindred Spirit blkwht copyr