An update on Letters Home from the Peace Corps
    Many thanks for your letters. I have now received about 350. They are terrific letters. Thank you for writing home during your Peace Corps service. Thank you for writing so well. And thank you for sending them to me. (For more about this project) If you haven’t sent copies of one or two of your Peace Corps letters to us yet, one suggestion about making your selection: look for ones that detail a dramatic incident or a telling moment in your Peace Corps experience. I find that reading about a single incident is most completing.
         In this issue of PeaceCorpsWriters. org we have a letter from Errin Byrd (Mali 1997–99) who served as a Business Advising Volunteer in West Africa. She is currently a recruiter in the Seattle Peace Corps Recruiting Office. And she is a wonderful writer.

    And The Nominates Are . . .
    In the last issue of our on-line newsletter we asked you for nominates for our annual Awards. As of now, we have received these candidates:

    For the Outstanding Non-Fiction Award, named to honor journalist Paul Cowen, who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador:

      A Field Guide to Pigs by John Pukite (Central Africa Republic 1988–90)

      Talking with Michener by Lawrence Grobel (Ghana 1968–71)

    For the Outstanding Fiction Award, named to honor Maria Thomas, who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia.

      Saviors by Paul Eggers (Malaysia 1976-78)

    Keep your nominations coming.

    So You Want To Be A Writer
    We are adding postscripts to “How To Write A Novel in 100 Days or Less.” In this issue we feature “Terms A Writer Should Know” when trying to publish. We hope these postscripts will be helpful to new writers as well as published authors.

    A Christmas Story in May
    It’s not often that I find a Christmas Story in May, but this one came to me thanks to Joel Waters (Lithuania 1993–95). It is a true story of what happened to Douglas Wells (Estonia 1992–96, UNV 96–98). The tale goes something like this way.

    In 1943, on the Estonian island of Hiiumaa, a village church bell was buried to save it from the Nazis. (They were melting metal for ammunition.) The bell remained hidden throughout 50 years of Soviet occupation until an old Estonian persuaded a very reluctant Peace Corps Volunteer, Doug Wells, to search for it with his metal detector (now don’t you all wish you had taken a metal detector overseas in your luggage?). I won’t tell you what happened, you’ll have to read “A Writer Writes” for the whole story, but lets just say that Doug’s adventure in 1994 was turned into an Estonia popular song, “Kas Sa Raagis Inglise Keelt?” For two weeks, the song was #1 on the Estonian pop charts. Today there's talk of a film and Estonian history books retell the story of the Christmas Bell and the young American Peace Corps Volunteer.

    Peace Corps History
    In the early days of the Peace Corps there was a Placement Test given to all applicants. Actually it was two tests. A 30-minute General Aptitude Test and a 30-minute Modern Language Aptitude Test. The areas of testing were in Verbal Aptitude, Agriculture, English, Health Sciences, Mechanical Skills, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, World History, Literature, United States History and Institutions, and Modern Language Aptitude. One-hour achievement tests in French and Spanish were also offered during the second hour. The instruction pamphlet that accompanied the tests said that the results would be used “to help find the most appropriate assignment for each applicant.”
         For those who missed the opportunity to take the tests, which were given — as best I can remember — from 1961 until around 1967, I am including a few of the questions. Lets see if you could still get into the Peace Corps.

    Finally  . . .
    Besides all of this, there are book reviews, “Literary Talk,” and a short quiz of our own: “Who wrote this paragraph in a Peace Corps novel?” Email us your answer, and we‘ll publish the winner(s) in the next issue of

      The sun glowed savagely hot in a colorless sky the next Monday morning as Lew Corleigh loaded the jeep wagon for his weekly outcountry trip. He heaved bundles of textbooks over the open tailgate and stacked mail, CARE packages and medicines beside them. Sweat beaded his arms and shoulders as he rolled three fifty-five-gallon drums of kerosene up a ramp and into position. Finally he loaded two cartons of yellow manila envelopes, the termination instruction kits for some sixty Group V volunteers….who would be ending their service in July and returning to the United States. Lew thought of his own termination envelope being prepared in the Peace Corps office above him and he calculated the remaining time as he did every morning: eighty-five days to go.

    Your Final Answer Is? Send it to

    And now on with your reading of the May issue of

    — John Coyne, editor

    P.S. And many, many thanks to all of you who have contributed to our own Roundtable of support for this site.