Progress Report: September 2021

I hope you have been doing well! In today's post, I'll catch you up on the progress of the Veteran Artist Residencies nonprofit project.

If you're wondering why you haven't seen an email in a while, it's because friends of the nonprofit get these updates on a quarterly basis (give or take). Patrons (donating $20/month) receive these emails weekly (like clockwork). You can sign up to become a patron here.

We've got some exciting news about our first veteran artist and the weekly content starting up in October. But before we get into that, I wanted to share links to the article we've released since our last progress report:

Chapter 3: Waking Up On the Appalachian Trail: Another chapter and audiobook chapter with pictures from the thru-hike.

Create! The Tao of Einstein: In this article, I share some of the reasoning and inspiration behind my latest writing project. Who knew theoretical physics and mysticism had so much in common?

On Tangentially Speaking: In this article, I share some of the background story of what led to the podcast interview with Chris Ryan. I also share resources and more background information on the topics discussed during the interview.

Can Writing Actually Help Veterans Process Wartime Trauma? (Part 1): I dig into the science to see if writing really is therapeutic for veterans and start sharing my experience with writing.

Chapter 4: Waking Up On the Appalachian Trail: Another chapter and audiobook chapter with pictures from the thru-hike.

Veteran Spotlight: Kacy Tellessen: Kacy Tellessen's Marine company suffered an 80% casualty rate in Iraq. By the end of their deployment, Kacy's unit had been reduced to four-man foot patrols through the violent streets of Iraq.

Kacy had a hard time adjusting to life after the service, and found himself in front of a mirror with a .45 pressed up against his skull. Before pulling the trigger, he decided to write a note to his wife and kids so they could understand why he had to leave. The note, which morphed into a series of stories, led Tellessen on a ten year journey (including earning a degree in creative writing) that culminated in the publication of Freaks of a Feather: A Marine Grunt's Memoir. It's really good.

Kacy shares a 1,500 word passage from the book with patrons to the blog.

How Writing Helped Me Process the War (Part 2): This is a continuation of the "Can Writing Really Help Veterans" article. I go into a little more depth of how I think writing helped me process the war.

Meet Our First Veteran Writer!

Drum roll, please. We're excited to announce Shairi Engle as our first resident artist.

Shairi Engle will be the Veteran Artist Residencies first veteran artist.

In 2019, Shairi won the Bridge Award for her screenplay, Tampons, Dead Dogs, and Other Disposable Things. The competition is hosted by the nonprofit Arts in the Armed Forces, an organization co-founded by famous actor and U.S.M.C veteran, Adam Driver. The competition attracts some big names as judges, considerable press, and sizable cash prizes, so it's majorly competitive and quite the honor to win.

Shairi's writing has been described by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Tony Kushner, as tough, disturbing, enraging, consistently surprising, smart, very funny, moving and revelatory. So we're beyond excited to provide a space for her to create.

Shairi plans to come up from San Diego in January for a two-month residency to work on a manuscript about her time in the service.

What To Expect From the Blog As Shairi's Stay Approaches

Patrons will learn more about Shairi and her story because we'll be sharing her creative process on this blog in video and podcast format.

Because Shairi's stay is only two months, her and I plan to do as much of the prep work as possible starting in October. She's obviously knows the craft already, so I think my contribution will be in showing her the systems I used to manage and hold together a full length manuscript.

Here's what we're planning for you: Starting around October Shairi and I will begin meeting for Zoom calls to start this conversation. We'll cover topics ranging from story arc, outlining, theme development, character development, writing tips and all of that fun stuff.

These videos will be shared with patrons. And once Shairi's on site, we'll start sharing some podcast-like audio as we discuss her process and work out any bugs in the writing process.

And if Shairi is open to it, she might even share some early drafts of her manuscript.


So far we've raised enough for one full five-month artist residency, so we have plenty of funds to support Shairi's two month residency. So that's amazing!

And that means we've raised 25% of our fundraising goal for the entire life cycle of this project 🎉🎉🎉

Thank you so much to everyone of you that have donated!

If we can get twenty readers to sign up to our blog right now, we'll have enough funds raised by the end of Shairi's stay to immediately begin hosting our next veteran artist.  

In the meantime, I'll be networking within the veteran community to find our next writer.

Volunteer Opportunities

Right now, I have Jesse Hankes as my point man for gathering intel. He's currently compiling contact information for MFA programs across the country. This is so we can send out a mass email to let any veteran writers know about this opportunity.

Jesse also served as a personal Private Investigator and helped me get in contact with who we had hoped might be the U.S. Army Ranger that gave me his Ranger Tab to carry to Springer Mountain back in 2009. It was the wrong Ryan, unfortunately. If you read Waking Up On the Appalachian Trail, you know the back story.

I can also use help getting the word out about the artist residency opportunity. And if anyone is interested in writing and finding grant opportunities, please reach out to

You can also send a message if you find a good grant opportunity you think we might want to apply for.

And if anyone reading this enjoys coding, the Veteran Artist Residencies website is open source and ready for your GitHub pull requests. I have a couple open issues and can add more if anyone has interest in participating in this way.

That's it for today's post. Be kind to one another, folks. We're all we got.

N. B. Hankes

N. B. Hankes

Founder and best selling author of "Waking Up On the Appalachian Trail."
Humboldt County, California