This month’s Center for Women Veterans author is Marine Corps Veteran CJ Scarlet, who served as a photojournalist from 1981 to 1986. She has written five books, including “Raising Badass Kids: The Parents’ Guide to Predator-Proofing Tweens & Teens” (RBK), which will be published in this month.
Scarlet is a danger expert, award-winning author, ghostwriter, and survivor of childhood abuse and teen sexual assault. As an advocate for victims of assault, she ran a child advocacy center and served as director of Victims Issues for the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office.
She has previously worked as roller-skating carhop, forest firefighter, Marine photojournalist, and holds a master’s degree in human violence. Named one of the “Happy 100” people on the planet, her story of triumph over adversity is featured in several bestselling books.
Can you share a brief background of your military experience, including your branch of service, years served, and any notable positions or deployments?
I served in the Marine Corps from 1981 to 1986 as a photojournalist—the coolest job you can have in the military! Every day was filled with new stories to cover, and I got to meet the most amazing people, from grunts to generals to movie stars.
What inspired you to write a book and share your story as a woman Veteran?
Although I am a noted danger expert, when my grandtwins were born I was overwhelmed with nightmares about their personal safety. I wondered how I could protect them and, even more importantly, how I could teach them to protect themselves. My first two books are for parents on kids aged 0-9; my latest book, to be published in November, is for parents of kids aged 10-18. Each of these books covers who the predators are, what the dangers are (bullying/cyberbullying, sexual molestation and assault, online dangers and sex trafficking), and how to teach kids to avoid these dangers and fight their way out of an attack, if needed.
How has your military background influenced your writing style and the themes you explore in your work?
Being a trained photojournalist has made it easy to write nonfiction. In the past, I’ve also written pieces about sexual assault and harassment against service members (women in the military are at a vastly greater risk of being sexually assaulted than those in the civilian population).
How do you hope your book will impact other women Veterans, active duty service members and the general public?
I hope every parent will read my books, which are filled with solid, actionable tips and advice, so they can protect our precious kids.
What role do you think storytelling and literature play in fostering understanding and support for the women Veteran’s community?
Women Veterans have amazing stories to tell and wisdom to share, not only about their military experiences, but about life in general that can benefit the women Veterans’ community.
Can you share a memorable experience or anecdote from your time in the military that has had a lasting impact on your life and writing?
On my very first day on the job at my very first duty station (Camp Pendleton), I stopped a war! Okay, it was just a joint Navy-Marine Corps military exercise, but I stopped it nonetheless by calling for a “cease fire” when I was escorting a news crew that wanted to get a shot of the machine gunners. Hey! How was I supposed to know they were firing blanks?
Are there any fellow women Veteran authors or books that have inspired or resonated with you? If so, could you tell us a bit about them?
My military buddy, Tracy Crow, is also an author, and now an agent for women Veteran authors. I’ve been friends with Tracy for 42 years now and have always been inspired by her integrity, her professionalism, her knowledge and her kindness.
What advice do you have for other women Veterans or active-duty service members who may be considering writing about their experiences?
Everyone is fighting a hard battle others know nothing about, and they have an amazing story to tell.
My favorite quote, by Henry Van Dyke, is (and I’m paraphrasing here): “How silent the woods would be if only the best bird sang.”
Your unique voice matters. Your story matters and can send ripples across the collective unconscious that will inspire others. So, write that book!
How has writing this book helped you?
Once I started writing my books to teach parents how to empower their kids to stay safe, my nightmares ended. Knowing my written words can protect kids and, potentially, even save lives, is a great feeling that I will always carry with me.
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or events you’re involved in that our audience might be interested in?
I didn’t promote my earlier books like I should have, but I’m going all out on this next one, which was published on Nov. 15, 2023. I’ll be doing a national satellite media tour and a ton of podcasts and other media interviews to get the word out.
Are you a woman Veteran author, or do you know of one?
If so, please visit our website to find out more information. If you have further questions, contact the CWV Outreach Program Manager Michelle Terry at 00W@VA.gov.