Peace Corps Writers

March 2000

Go to Current Issue to discover all the new articles in this issue of

In Resources you will find our Bibliography of Peace Corps writers and other resources including links that might be of interest.

In the Archives you will find back issues of Peace Corps Writers, and all of our award winners.

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Creative writing program for Peace Corps writers
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and the Peace Corps have created a Masters International/MFA program for creative writers who want to serve in the Peace Corps, or who have been Peace Corps Volunteers. This is the first such program for Peace Corps writers and was spearheaded by Richard Wiley (Korea 1967–69), UNLV English professor and the director of the MFA program.
     “Our MFA program is committed to the idea that living in a foreign country for a period of time is invaluable to a writer,” says Wiley. “This venture with the Peace Corps gives our students another avenue for completing their overseas requirement while at the same time providing a worthy service.
     “RPCVs who have completed their Peace Corps tour and want to pursue an MFA in creative writing will be able to use that experience to fulfill the same requirement, if they meet the criteria to be accepted into the MFA program.”
     The Peace Corps track of the MFA program will be available to students beginning this fall. Generally, the MFA program is a three-year program, with students required to spend one semester living in a non-English-speaking country. Students choosing the Peace Corps track, however, would spend two years at UNLV and two years in the Peace Corps.
     If you wish any additional material on this MFA program at UNLV, call Richard Wiley at 702.895.3471. Tell him Coyne sent you.

New summer writing workshop for RPCVs
The Mid-Atlantic Creative Nonfiction Summer Writers’ Conference at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland this year will feature a special workshop for Peace Corps writers. Led by Mike Tidwell (Zaire 1985–87) the focus will be on personal essays and travel memoirs. Tidwell’s most recent book, Amazon Stranger, is about his quest to locate a real-life Tarzan figure living in the Amazon rain forest. His first book, The Ponds of Kalambayi, is a memoir of his two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Tidwell is a frequent contributor to The Washington Post Sunday Travel Section, where his essays have earned him two Lowell Thomas Awards, the highest prize in American travel journalism.
     Other writers at this summer’s Goucher Writing Workshop will be William Least Heat Moon, author of Blue Highways and Edmund Morris, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning biography The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, and the recently published authorized biography, Dutch. The workshop is scheduled for August 8–13. For more information, call 1.800.697.4646.

Awards for Peace Corps writers
Books published by Peace Corps writers in 1999 are eligible for three awards given by

The Awards are:

  • Outstanding Fiction Award, named for the novelist and former Ethiopia Volunteer, Maria Thomas.
  • Outstanding Non-Fiction Award, named to honor journalist Paul Cowan, who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador.
  • Outstanding collection of poetry by a PCV, RPCV or Peace Corps staff member.

     Books may be nominated by their authors, or their readers. All nominations must be received by May 1, 2000. Send nominations to me at:

A fourth award, the Peace Corps Experience Award will be given for the best one-page description of life in the Peace Corps. It may be a personal essay, short story, poem, letter, song lyrics, or cartoon. The subject matter may be any aspect of the Peace Corps experience: daily life, assignment, travel, host country nationals, other Volunteers, readjustment after the Peace Corps. The requirements are that the submission(s) have a title and be presented on one side of an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper.
     The competition is open to all Peace Corps Volunteers and staff, past and present. All entries must be received by May 1, 2000. Please include your country and years of service, current address, and telephone number.
     The winning entry will be published in the July, 2000 issue of Send Experience Award entries to:

    John Coyne
    99 Reed Avenue
    Pelham Manor, New York 10803

New at
A new feature has been added to the “Resources” section of the site. Now available is a list of the names all writers whose names appear in the the “Bibliography of Peace Corps Writers” ordered by country
in which they served. Each name is linked to its listing in the bibliography.
     For those who long to read from the printed page, we are adding a “Printer Friendly Version” of many of our articles. Look for the icon:

About this issue —

Africa Shaped Him
When Paul Theroux was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa at the beginning of his career an incident occurred that set him on his course as a novelist and travel writer. He writes in the preface to On The Edge of the Great Rift:

    I remember a particular day in Mozambique, in a terrible little country town, getting a haircut from a Portuguese barber. He had come to the African bush from rural Portugal to be a barber. . . . This barber did not speak English, I did not speak Portuguese, yet when I addressed his African servant in Chinyanja, his own language, the Portuguese man said in Portuguese, “Ask the bwana what his Africans are like.” And that was how we held a conversation — the barber spoke Portuguese to the African, who translated it into Chinyanja for me; and I replied in Chinyanja, which the African kept translating into Portuguese for the barber. The barber kept saying — and the African kept translating — things like, “I can’t stand the blacks — they’re so stupid and bad-tempered. But there’s no work for me in Portugal.” It was grotesque, it was outrageous, it was the shabbiest, darkest kind of imperialism. I could not believe my good luck. In many parts of Africa in the early 1960s it was the nineteenth century, and I was filled with the urgency to write about it.

     In this issue of our on-line newsletter, we look at the Peace Corps years of Paul Theroux and why he was separated from the agency months before he completed his tour.

What else is new?
We have received over 250 “Letters Home” in response to our request for submissions for a possible book and beginning in this issue we will start publishing the letters in our “Letter Home column. The first letter comes from a Volunteer currently serving Bulgaria, Eric Friedman.
     Also in this issue, we visit Bossa Nova Central: Ipanema, Rio De Janeiro in “Travel Right,” catch up on the latest literary gossip in “Literary Talk,” and read a few reviews of recently published books by RPCVs. We have also added to our list of “Friendly Editors” a “Friendly Publisher.” You can find all of that and more in this issue of our newsletter for and about Peace Corps writers by going to “In this Issue.”

— John Coyne, editor

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