I’m a Manly Man Who Happens to Love Art, Opera, and Acting

Lit Reactor Online Class

The other day I was planning a BBQ with an old army buddy. Joe was my SAW gunner in Iraq and he said he couldn’t make it to the BBQ because he had a Rugby tournament. He picked a date and I said I couldn’t do it because I was doing a watercolor session with my opera friends. Another friend in the conversation thread said something to question my manliness.

I’m okay with that. I’m going for a more “cultured” image. When I was going to school to be a writer ten years ago I remember walking across the Mount Hood Community College campus and a young girl there asked me what I was going to school for. I told her to be a writer and a teacher. She shrugged and said I looked like the mechanic type.

I guess there aren’t a whole bunch of former infantry combat veterans becoming writing teachers, not yet. I know of more coming, and I’m happy for it. We have a lot to teach and some amazing experiences people can learn from. I found teaching college and leading men in combat isn’t as different as some people would believe. I use the same skill set. You lead by example. You find your students strengths and weaknesses and give them assignments to accordingly. You find out what motivates them. Turning in the assignments and completing the readings become your missions. There are some big differences, some are good (no one shooting at you), and some are bad (you can’t make your students do pushups).

So, I’m a big manly man doing some things that some may not consider manly, and I love it. It took me a long time to get to this point. We used to say in the army that there are two types of infantrymen: smart ones and strong ones. It took me a while to start making money off my brain muscle instead of my back muscles.

So here’s what I have going on this summer. First and foremost I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to lead a workshop by LitReactor. One of the biggest reasons I thought I could really do this writing thing came from reading Chuck Palahnuik books. I love Fight Club, Survivor, Lullaby, I think I have all of them. LitReactor was founded by the team behind his website and he’s on there all the time. To have a workshop through them is kind of like I made it as a writer – whatever the definition of that is. It’s just really an amazing thing and I get to share all that I’ve learned so far about writing through trauma. Trauma doesn’t only come from combat. It really is a matter of perspective and once someone lives through something traumatic I believe one of the best ways to get through it is to write about it. That’s what I did and while I don’t think I’ll ever be the person I was before my trauma, I’m making it and I have a great life. It takes a while to get there. So here’s the link. Please, pass it along if you know someone who could benefit from it:   http://litreactor.com/classes/writing-through-trauma-with-veteran-and-memoirist-sean-davis


Next weekend I’ll be leading some art sessions with combat veterans and their family members at the gallery I hang my art at. We will be using watercolors donated by the opera that I’m working on. The Canticle of The Black Madonna will be holding three art sessions with veterans and after the last one we will hold a reception and hang the veterans’ work for the month of August at Six Days Art Gallery right in the heart of the Albera Arts District here in Portland, Oregon. The opera will also be giving away tickets for opening night to veterans and their family members. My job is to fill all 800 seats of the Newmark Theatre in downtown Portland with veterans and family members. It will be an amazing night. The opera will be open to the public on September 5 and 6. Here’s the promotional video me and few other vets are in:


Finally, I will be rehearsing for the next couple of months in order to be on stage for The Telling Project. This is a new thing for me. I’m usually the writer behind the scenes. I’ve tried to stand in for absent actors during rehearsals of plays and I couldn’t remember the lines even though I wrote them. This should be fun. The Portland production will be on September 10-13 at the Portland Center of Performing Arts. Here’s a link:


Anyway, so that’s how I’ll be spending the summer being “unmanly”. You know, when I read to people, especially when there are a lot of Vietnam Vets in the audience I tell them that the first thing we should talk about with our warriors coming back from the battlefield are their feelings. It’s the one thing we avoid, but the most important. So far no one’s disagreed.




By Sean Davis

Sean Davis is the author of The Wax Bullet War, a Purple Heart Iraq War veteran, and the winner of the Legionnaire of the Year Award from the American Legion in 2015 and the recipient of the Emily Gottfried Emerging Leader, Human Rights award for 2016. His stories, essays, and articles have appeared in the the Ted Talk Book The Misfit’s Manifesto (Simon and Schuster), Forest Avenue Press anthology City of Weird, Sixty Minutes, Story Corps, Flaunt Magazine, The Big Smoke, Human the movie, and much more.

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