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Former teacher wins award for short story

Former South Kitsap teacher Tom Juvik won the 2014 Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families Prize for written work by a veteran for his short story “War on Terror.”

The prize is selected by a panel of experienced writers who also are military veterans.

Juvik, 66, served as an Air Force radio operator in Vietnam during the 1968 Tet Offensive. He is a graduate of Peninsula High School.

A graduate of the University of Washington creative writing program, Juvik retired in 2011 after a 35-year career teaching English and social studies at South Kitsap High School and Cedar Heights Junior High. He began teaching in the district in 1974.

For several years, he sponsored writing clubs and literary magazines at both schools.

The annual prize consists of a $500 cash award and an original alabaster stone canoe carving by noted sculptor Tom Huff.

“War on Terror,” is set in Manchester and involves a Vietnam veteran whose son has volunteered to serve in the Marine Corps following 9/11.

Juvik said his home overlooks Manchester with a view of Seattle and Puget Sound shipping channels, which provides a sort of “crisis setting” for the story in the wake of 9/11.

“One scene in the story involves a ferry ride from Bremerton to see a Seahawks game about year after 9/11 and involves the first time I remember having a Safeboat escort across the Puget Sound,” said Juvik.

“It was eerie.”

He said he started tinkering with the story, then in 2002 he came back to it because it “haunted” him.

“I began writing it in earnest over the course of the last two years,” said Juvik.

Like many war veterans, Juvik said he still has moments where he worries about all the bad things that could happen.

“As beautiful as the view is from our home, I sometimes imagine everything going up in flames,” he said. “So, I guess that’s the inspiration for the main character, who feels helpless to watch over his son who is stationed in Basra. In the end, he comes to understand he can only do what he can do, which is deal with the ordinary household crises that are right in front of him — the things most families face.”

He said winning the award is special for two reasons: the award came from a veteran’s organization and was selected by soldier-writers who served in more recent wars, and resurrecting his writing career after some personal setbacks.

“Getting my work out there in front of readers is very humbling and exciting at the same time,” said Juvik. “Just to know I’m not too old to Rock ’n’ Roll has me jazzed to write some more.”

He feels the reason the story won the award is it is not — strictly speaking — a war story.

“It captures the pressure on families, not just those who have directly served,” Juvik said. “I think the non-draft era soldiers and their families have taken on an inordinate share of the responsibility over the last 30 years for protecting America's interests. We tend not think about the true weight of the war because they have taken that on their shoulders for the rest of us; we do not thank them enough. So, in essence, the story is a family story set in war time.”

Juvik said as his 67th birthday nears, he scrabbling to place a full-length novel he just finished in the hands of book publishers.

He was raised in Tacoma, then moved to Gig Harbor where he graduated from Peninsula High School. He has lived in South Kitsap since 1974, where he spent his first year teaching at Cedar Heights Junior High.

Juvik’s story appears in Issue Eight of Stone Canoe, a journal of arts and literature published annually by Syracuse University. The issue also includes prize-winning work in poetry, nonfiction and fiction.

Juvik’s short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines over the course of the past 30 years, including publications such as Glimmer Train, Seattle Review, Soundings and Steam Ticket.

He also was a recipient of the Writers’ Digest Grand Prize, the Hackney Literary Award for short fiction, and the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference Award for mainstream novel. He also served as a staff writer for The Fox Late Show and Comedy Central’s Almost Live, in addition to writing a column for The News Tribune.

Stone Canoe is available through the Syracuse University Bookstore, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com.

 

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