Raw manuscript: Fred Rivera’s Once Upon a Time


I have had the privilege of editing Fred Rivera’s manuscript of Viet Nam entitled Raw Man.

Since I sleep with the judge, Fred’s entry will not be eligible for any of the prize money offered for our contest which ends June first: Once Upon a Time. (Scroll down on our home page to find the link to enter our contest.)

But I would ask–I do ask–that upon reading this prologue you click on the link to the Kickstarter campaign that will allow this manuscript to be published.  We have created a three-minute video which Edward James Olmos was good enough to narrate for us. I wept when I first saw our completed video.  So did Fred Rivera. So did Edward James Olmos. Perhaps you can claim the distinction of being the first to view the video without weeping. Lemme know.

Here is the prologue to


by Fred Rivera

The sink in the men’s restroom at the Long Beach VA hospital took an overdose of Percocet this morning. I was shaking so violently that half the bottle fell in. I salvaged what I could. I only hope that those pills help take away any pain that the sink might be experiencing today. As for me, they stopped working some time ago.

I am in chronic pain and spikes like I am having today bring out the worst in me. They insidiously remind me of the time I spent in the jungle of Viet Nam.

The VA gives me 100 percent disability for the pain and suffering resulting from me getting blown off my track in 1969, and for inescapable, intrusive and recurring thoughts of war. PTSD can hit you out of nowhere and it came roaring out today.

My father is dying of cancer and I’m trying to be with him as much as possible. He is surprisingly reflective considering all the drugs they have him on. My war ended nearly 30 years ago and Dad’s over 50 but I’m discovering psychological wounds linger longer than some physical ones do. Dad still has nightmares from his time in WW Two.

After I OD’d the sink, I came struggling out of the bathroom to see dad’s newspaper splayed open to the crossword page. As I sat on the foot of the bed, the paper was upside down as he filled in the blanks. Five down was a three-letter word for armed conflict. Transfixed with terror, twenty seven years after I got on the flight home, I saw that Nam War was raw man spelled backwards.

I’m pretty raw today.




26 thoughts on “Raw manuscript: Fred Rivera’s Once Upon a Time

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    Fred Rivera’s prologue “Raw Man” reopened my own mental wounds of Vietnam which are less than a tenth of a percent of his own. Unlike Mr. Rivera, I never experienced that hell in country, but came within a week’s time of meeting that fate. In fact I never wore the uniform of any country being disqualified for service after passing my selective service test to be drafted and inducted by conscription. His story is the saddest element of my generation. I have written this first paragraph therefore as discloser to my own prejudice having had nightmares of dying in Vietnam from the age of 11 continuing to today.

    As for Mr. Rivera’s writing I find that his content is as raw and bluntly honest as his title of Raw Man suggest. There is power therefore in this opening which is compelling as we are honored, because real life, real experience is too seldom shared about the ugliest parts of our brothers’ and sisters’ lives. After reading Fred’s concisely surgically constructed and inner man thoughts, you don’t feel an intimate compassion for him, then you lack a heart.

    Spell it backwards as “Raw Man” about the Nam War, but going forward if Mr. Rivera’s book is of the quality of his prologue it should be considered for a National Book Review and/or Pulitzer. Will Fred Rivera’s novel give us his generation’s version of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller? Read on to find out. I know I will be.

  2. Parisianne Modert says:

    I wanted to reply separately that I hope all of you will both donate to the cause Mr. Rivera has laid at our feet and read his soon to be released novel.

    • Thornton says:

      Thanks Parisianne. Your own generous contribution helped push us over our first milestone. We have broken the $1,000 barrier. I can only hope that others who see the video will feel equally compelled to donate to see this gets published. You have joined other regulars Stefanie Allison and Mike Stang, Dante Pucetti, Don Maker, Elizabeth Sloan, and Russ Shor in starting the ball rolling, and of course we are getting help from people who have never come to our site, but are inspired by Fred’s prologue and video to get involved.

      We can do this!

  3. Thornton says:

    And let’s ad KYLE Katz to the list! She sent in a hundred bucks thru the mail rather than on the kickstarter site, but it was all in Pesos so I have to go to Cancun to spend it–oops!–I mean to convert it to dollars and re-direct to Kickstarter.

    Thanks KYLE!

  4. Kristine says:

    After getting goosebumps from the prologue, I’m ready for Fred to take me on the journey of a young man struggling with war and the scars it leaves behind. I’m terrified and thrilled. When do we start?

  5. KYLE Katz says:

    Excellent story teller! When I first met you and Jonathan Freedman introduced us. He said “Look into this man’s eyes. What do you see?” I didn’t now you. But I said it was scary. You said.”Im not surprised”
    I guess you were feeling Raw that day. Now I understand.
    You salvaged what you could.” This line alone tells me your story. The sink had the pain..not you! That was brilliant! Honest heartfelt writing! Being Raw is a conversation. A conversation you get to have with a friend, a father, a mother, brother…. anyone who will listen.You have this conversation with us in your easy, but impactful writing style, which brings us closer to what you must have gone through. You and so many others. I’m feeling some residue of hope through out this prologue and some resolve of Peace. Walk us through this door, i trust you to show us in only a way a Raw Man could salvage what he could In hopes of just mere understanding.Show us…Teach us…Lead us!

  6. Parisianne Modert says:

    If you are reading this and haven’t contributed yet please be generous and do so. My challenge to anyone who has already put their money where this story’s heart is, is to up the ante, double or triple down. This novel deserves to be published for Mr. Rivera’s sacrificial words and needs to be read by the public, so they will understand the agony of his outer and inner war and its raw agony telling. Please give generously from the heart. This is the novel the Korean and Viet Nam generations and each following need to read to understand the long term implications of modern wars.

    To quote my fellow writer Michael Stang, “Whatever this takes, it get’s published.” Mr. Rivera has given us his soul’s time, but now it is our turn. Please give from you heart.

    • Thornton says:

      Thanks Parisianne.
      and thanks to this morning’s most recent contributor and frequent flier here at The Word, Mike Casper, who just put in $125. Others have been equally generous, and of course, those who put in ten dollars the amount was every bit as significant a sacrifice for them.

      Here is what I had to say to Mike:
      “Thanks Mike. There are very few things that can unite people on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but I am pleased that concern for our veterans is only politicized by politicians. Us common folk have no problem getting behind it whether obama bashers or palin pukers.

      Thanks for getting on board, and that is just the beginning! Please share the link on face book and let people know that you yourself kicked in. It gives it more credibility and they are more than likely to donate with that kind of endorsement.

      And you are contributor #50! Pushed us up to 3,500!”

    • Thornton says:

      Thanks mike…DO IT AGAIN! Repetition is everything…repetition is everything…repetition is everyth…

  7. Parisianne Modert says:

    Growing up in a small patriotic town, I remember being told everything, but the truth about war and the aftermath for young men, sensitive and loving, whose ongoing hell received only shame if mentioned. I remember how normal it was to play with army men, plastic guns and pretending there was a battle for the boys in this town. How many honor assemblies were conducted for the sacrificial lambs who came home in body bags with their gift of freedom saving lauded with praise, flags upon their graves placed by people they never met in life. The marching parades, youth in unison, precision weapon exercises from barking commands in fancy uniforms awaiting their turn to become the chosen, the proud. Boys becoming men, democracy against communism, them versus us were the cries heard in countless, supposed western and eastern civilizations rotting within their souls.

    We tell each other that the definition of insanity is the repetition of actions which fail over and over again, yet who still remembers the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 proposed to outlaw war and by the way signed by these United States not to go to war against other signers? Look how the League of Nations was rejected and the mockery of the United Nations denouncements of war. When will we truly take the warning of President Eisenhower, a four star general, who spoke of the dangers of the “Military Industrial Complex”. While condemning independent gun runners since the Revolutionary War; our country praises the production and trade of the instruments of war which at times have been later used against our own troops.

    Ask yourselves what books you would wish your grandchildren and great grandchildren to read about the Viet Nam war generation. Would you glorify this day and age for what it was only in part or would you wish them to know the truth? Raw Man is a must be published novel, because I believe we wish that our grandchildren and our great grandchildren have no false illusions about the implications and ugliness of war. It is time for citizens of the world to take responsibility for the care of PTSD victims and say no more to war.

    That voice, that compelling voice is bravely given to us within Fred Rivera’s “Raw Man”. How many novels are worthy to be read across the generations? The answer is very few, but by contributing to the beginnings of publishing this needed novel, you are supporting such a novel which generations to come will learn lessons from before their own fate is falsely used and tortured. Please contribute generously and encourage your friends and acquaintances to do the same.

  8. Parisianne Modert says:

    One of the things I have come to love about A Word With You Press Contest is that rules are only guidelines to creating art and art’s purpose. May be this makes me an Art Carney (couldn’t help that one Mr. Editor in puns). Anyway…here is what I propose to the webmaster, webmistress and all you other spiders spinning tales…What if we place Fred’s prologue at the top regards of which prologue comes next?

    I hope I will gain support in this effort. Contest come and go, but deadlines need to be met. Fred’s prologue first and Raw Man published. Who’s with me on this idea?

  9. Thornton says:

    We are past the 50% mark! Thanks to you all…Parisianne Modert and Mike Stang seemed to have entered a bidding war to see who will donate the most. This is amazing to see how the A Word with You Press community has come together to see that Fred Rivera gets published.

  10. Parisianne Modert says:

    Dear Friends,

    The pledge just cleared $6,000., but join the efforts of the many donors if you haven’t yet and raise your contribution if you have. Memorial Day is approaching. What better tribute to those we remember and those who remember them far more personally than to bring Raw Man to the greater world along with its message of courage, struggle and determination to understand what PTSD and the author are really about? The ghosts of fallen comrades, soldiers where their wars never cease, but also the hope for the generations to come that they will live more civilized and sane lives. Donate for your grandchildren and great grandchildren’s sake. Donate for the returned soldiers in VA facilities and those homeless on the streets. Donate for those laying in graves and inscribed on the wall in Washington DC. Isn’t it time to honor by action words in publication rather than mere silent prayer? Give generously to the publication of “Raw Man”, so Fred’s voice can be heard throughout the ages to come. Thank you.

  11. Parisianne Modert says:

    107 Donors have pledged $8045. !!! The joined miracle of publishing “Raw Man” which is what this sorry world needs is so close. Please understand and share with others what this courageous man of profound experiences offers. Success is on our forks, so close it can practically be tasted from the rich aroma of the blunt truth about war and its cruel aftermath. Increase your pledges whatever you can, join the celebration which needs you. Every dollar at this time is crucial for publication to happen, essential for generations to come and a set of lessons begging to be taught.

  12. Michael Stang says:

    Strike up the band!

    How fitting on this Memorial Day 2014, Fred’s book “Raw Man” has captured enough interest and money to have been 100% and then some at Kickstarter. The thing is done. Glory be!

    Congradulations to Fred Rivera for writing “Raw Man” in the first place. Thorn Sully for taking this on and getting it done. And for all those who thought enough of the project to contribute; there is a special place in heaven, and I imagine, in Fred’s heart for you.

  13. Laura Girardeau says:

    This is an artful prologue because from the first sentence, it hints at the style of the rest of the book (I assume): raw, open, hard-hitting, and perhaps ultimately redemptive. We know that Fred won’t waste words, but instead let us right into his experience and healing without beating around the bush. In a few paragraphs, he shows us who the main characters might be, what the central challenges will be, past, current and future. In short, he makes us want to read the book, and therefore, this is a great success!

  14. Shawna A Smart says:

    There is really nothing I can add to the aforementioned commentary so I will just say let’s “didi mao” that manuscript.

    Get it moving there:)

    I lived with a vet for nine years after his release from prison and lost him to alcoholism and DV.

    I will never forget, not him or his wounded spirit, nor MIA.

    I promise.

    Write it friend, and heal.


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