The Head and The Hand Press, the publishing house in Fishtown behind last year's Rust Belt Rising Almanac, debuted combat veteran Adrian Bonenberger's memoir Afghan Post in January.
Now, the press is looking for other veterans to submit their stories to be published online. Bonenberger, who authored the New York Times blog "At War," was submitting much of his work to the online writers' resource Duotrope when The Head and the Hand's Nic Esposito saw the writing.
"We were blown away by the tone and subject matter," Esposito said in a phone conversation with CP. Even though The Head and the Hand typically works with locally-based authors (Bonenberger is a New Yorker), Esposito said the publishing house jumped on top of his work.
"We wanted to tell his story, and he didn't want to go to a company who was going to take it in a faceless way; he wanted something a lot more personable," Espotio said. The Head and the Hand, as a small "artisan's" publishing house, prides itself on its working relationships with its writers.
Afghan Post is an epistolary war memoir, that is, a series of letters to different people back home from Bonenberger's point of view.
"The way Adrian shifts in and out of personalities, it's unbelievable," Esposito said. "In one letter, he's talking to his mom, being kind of condescending, like, 'Mom, come on, you saw something on the news, it's no big deal,' and then in the next he's talking to his buddy and he's saying "Yeah, it's super scary here.'"
Said Bonenberger in a Q&A on The Head and the Hand's website, "From what I've seen, it's the first war memoir deliberately written by a guy who grew up reading war memoirs. It is unique."
"My book explores how undergoing repeated exposure to those [war] situations actually shapes a human's development," he says.
Bonenberger also published journal entries throughout the book, which lends a very introspective and honest sensibility to the writing, Esposito said.
"There is none of that, 'I threw my buddy over my shoulder [dramatic heroism],' he continued. "He's just trying to tell a very true story. It wasn't written just for vets. Telling stories about this [war] helps us all process it."
In that vein, The Head and the Hand is looking to compile similar stories from veterans.
"Adrian's story is just one of many stories," Esposito said. "His big intent is getting soldiers to be able to talk, to be able to write."
Here's how it works if a veteran wants to submit a story, from the publishing house blog: "Email your story or a snapshot or memory of a particular experience (no longer than 200 words) to moc.dnahehtdnadaeheht@sserp, along with your name, title, hometown, service/deployment dates, and a photograph. We'll feature your submissions each week on our blog. Prefer to write a letter? Mail yours to: The Head & The Hand Press,
2011 Frankford Ave.
Philadelphia, PA, 19125."
Check out the Q&A with Adrian here.