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Veterans and Writers Come Together to Share Stories and Discuss Literature, War and Media

ODU's Writers in Community has organized a panel of veterans and writers to discuss the effect of literature and media on war - and vice versa - and share their own anecdotes of war. The panel will be held today at 2 p.m. in the University Village Bookstore.

Writers in Community is a non-profit program dedicated to helping the diverse communities of Hampton Roads by cultivating literacy and creativity. A branch of the Old Dominion University Creative Writing Program, Writers in Community works in cooperation with local organizations to reach out to children and adults who can benefit from the opportunity to express themselves artistically. By introducing people to the pleasures of reading and writing, Writers in Community promotes literacy, self-esteem, and self-expression.

Participants in today's panel discussion include:

Stephan Currence. Currence understands forgotten wars and stories that can't be told. He served as a Special Forces Intelligence Officer during Operation Safe Border, the Ecuador-Peru crisis, and in the Balkans conflict of the 1990s. With the 902nd in Croatia, Currence supported the transition of Croatian territory occupied by Serbia, and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He is a former commander of B Company, 308th Military Intelligence Battalion, a unit charged with protecting the Army's forces, secrets and technologies. An ROTC graduate of Salisbury State University, Currence has also earned an MS in Strategic Military Intelligence Analysis from the Joint Military Intelligence College. His oldest son Nick is a freshman at ODU.

Norton Girault. Girault served on cruisers and destroyers in World War II and in the Korean War. After retiring from the Navy as a captain, he taught English at Norfolk State University for 15 years. His stories, poems and essays have been published in Crescent Review, MSS, Snake Nation Review, Timbuktu, Long Story, and other magazines. He's been a scholar at Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and a guest at Yaddo Writers' Colony. A vital member of the Hampton Roads literary community, he has participated in Old Dominion University writing courses for many years.

Joyce Hoffmann. Hoffmann is an award-winning journalist whose most recent book, "On Their Own, Women Journalists and the American Experience in Vietnam," celebrates the long overlooked coverage of America's 20-year involvement in Southeast Asia. She holds a Ph.D. from New York University, and coordinates the journalism program in the English Department at ODU. In 2008, she served as public editor of the Virginian-Pilot.

Bill Matthews. Born in Youngstown, Ohio and raised in the Ocean View section of Norfolk, Matthews is a veteran of Vietnam. As a Marine, he was wounded in battle on hill 484 at Mutters Ridge, overlooking the Ashau Valley, by the same mortar round that killed his close friend. For his brave service during his tour of duty in Vietnam, Matthews was awarded three Purple Hearts. Later, as an employee of the U.S. Postal Service, Matthews served as Postmaster of both Norfolk and Suffolk. He holds both a BS and an MS from Old Dominion University.

Major Steve Mount. Major Mount, a Marine helicopter pilot, has been deployed three times in support of Operations Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom. In 2004, he was shot down over Iraq, and lost his right eye, which has been replaced by a prosthetic. He is a graduate of the University of California, Riverside, and he holds a Master's degree in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School. For his brave service, Mount has been awarded a Purple Heart, an Air Medal (Combat "V", with Gold Star and numeral "7"), and a Navy Achievement Medal (with Gold Star).

Ernest L. Rhodes. A native of West Virginia, Rhodes joined the Navy in April 1942, four months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He served as an officer at sea and in the Pacific theater of World War II before leaving the Navy to continue his education. In 1960, Rhodes moved to Norfolk and began a distinguished career at ODU, where he taught literature courses for 20 years. He holds a doctorate in English and American Literature from the University of Kentucky, and a master's degree in Dramatic Art, Playwriting from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He is married to Carolyn Rhodes, a former ODU professor who helped secure funding for ODU's Women's Studies.

Edith White. White served in the Navy in World War II, having joined under the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVE) program after graduating from Vassar College. White worked first as a code-breaker in Washington, D.C., and later at New York's Sampson Naval Hospital. In 1950, she settled in Norfolk with her husband. White was the librarian at Norfolk Academy for more than 20 years. She is a great supporter of the arts in Tidewater, and an accomplished storyteller and poet in her own right. Last year ODU launched a retrospective exhibition of her watercolor paintings at Perry Library.

For a full schedule of events and list of participants, visit http://www.lib.odu.edu/litfest/32nd/index.htm.

Follow a live blog about the literary festival at www.altdaily.com.

The Old Dominion University Literary Festival is funded in part by the Norfolk Commission on Arts and Humanities.

This article was posted on: October 6, 2009

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