Writing Transitions

The challenges for soldiers returning home from a war zone can be overwhelming, and now veterans in the Washington area are tapping their creativity to help them transition back to civilian life.

"Learning how to put emotion on paper, with control and intellectual vigor, can be therapeutic," says Jehanne Dubrow, who teaches one of the free workshops for active-duty and retired service members at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, Md. Dubrow is a poet and assistant English professor at Washington College in Maryland.

The workshops encourage healing through writing. Dubrow's curriculum focuses on the power of images, the five senses and memories. Students share their work with the class to gather feedback and inspire a dialogue with their peers.

For almost all the participants, the course is their first experience with creative writing. Dubrow encourages her students to spend 15 minutes every day writing in a journal. She places no restrictions on the subject matter, noting what's most important is to simply start writing. Watching them discover the gift of writing is very powerful, she says.

Dubrow will be teaching one of two creative writing workshops offered in the spring. For more information, visit The Writer's Center's website at

-Norah Swanson

'Tis the Season

Though the public has been rather Scrooge-like lately in its praise of government employees, there still are plenty of businesses thanking federal servants for their hard work year-round through special deals. Here are just a few of the possibilities you might want to check out as you're doing your holiday shopping. For more options, see our discounts page at

Looking for an iPad this holiday season? The Apple Store for Government offers discounts, and it's not only for work-related purchases. Call 1-877-EPP-MEMBER for more details.

The Federal Discount Lodging Directory ( just might help your dreams of a ski trip to Switzerland or a beach retreat in Hawaii take flight. The site features searchable listings of hotels worldwide that offer federal employees special per diem rates.

Gift baskets
If you're a member of the military, then take advantage of this 15 percent discount offer on soaps, flowers, wine and other goodies through GiftTree .com. To receive the deal, just use the promotional code MILITARY67 at checkout.

memberships Need a jump-start on your New Year's fitness resolutions? Treat yourself to a discount membership at a local gym. Washington Sports Club, for instance, was offering feds $17 off monthly memberships as of early November.

-Amelia Gruber

Making Math Cool

President Obama in September launched Change the Equation, a collaborative effort of more than 100 companies to promote STEM education. That would be science, technology, engineering and math. The challenge comes in response to a nationwide phobia-nearly three in 10 Americans believe they stink at math, according to a Change the Equation survey of 1,000 U.S. adults. The problem is even worse among the younger population-more than half of 18- to 36-year-olds say they can't do math. Observers caution this trend could leave key government jobs empty.

"If people aren't thinking about careers in science, technology, engineering and math, government's actually going to have a very difficult time filling roles, as is the private sector," says Tim McManus, vice president for education and outreach at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. "Part of the solution to ensuring there is a broader level of interest is they have to be exposed to the cool things people do with those backgrounds."

Students will participate in science and math curricula, but they're going to want to know how it applies to their lives, McManus notes. And that means dreaming big, whether it's becoming a NASA astronaut, or developing the hard skills required for business- focused positions.

-Emily Long

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