Peace Corps Writers — January 2002

    RPCV writers win major children’s book awards

THE LAND BY MILDRED D. TAYLOR (Ethiopia 1965-67) was awarded the 2002 Coretta Scott King Award on January 21, 2002 at the American Library Association’s midwinter meeting. This award for African-American authors, commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and honors his widow, Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination in continuing the work for peace and world brotherhood.
     The Land chronicles the triumphs and struggles of Paul-Edward Logan, son of a white owner and an enslaved African-Indian women. Set in Mississippi during the 1800s, the book introduces readers to the grandfather of Cassie Logan, the hero of Taylor’s 1976 Newbery Award winner, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
     Millie, as she was known as a PCV, started to write while a Volunteer. She taught English and history in the town of Yirgalem in southern Ethiopia. It was in Ethiopia, she has written, where she observed black pride and independence, and this reminded her of stories her father had told her — which she has turned into award winning fiction. Millie has received critical acclaim for her original interpretation of the black experience. In 1997, Millie was the recipient of the ALAN Award which honors those who have made outstanding contributions to the field of adolescent literature. It is presented by The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents, a special interest group of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Caldecott honoree
The 2002 Caldecott Awards, which honor the illustrators of the most distinguished American picture books of the year, were also announced at the American Library Association meeting. The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins illustrated by Brian Selznick, and written by Barbara Kerley (Nepal 1981–83), was named a 2002 Honor Book. Published by Scholastic Press, the book is tells the true story of a Victorian sculptor who built the world’s first life-size dinosaur models.
     In April 2002, Barbara’s third children’s book, A Cool Drink of Water, will be published by National Geographic Children’s Books. It is a simple, lyrical text about drinking water around the world. It will be illustrated with National Geographic’s photographs.

40 + One
By now you should have received word that the National Peace Corps Association has rescheduled the 40th Anniversary conference. Now dubbed the “40+1”, the conference will be held at a Washington, D.C. hotel and all the workshops, bookstore, etc. will take place within that hotel. The dates for the Conference are June 20–23.

Writers’ workshops at Conference
Peace Corps Writers will reschedule the same series of workshops we had previously planned. We are starting over with assignments for writers to panels. If you will be registering for the conference and would like to be on a panel, please email me at: and tell me what panel you would like to be on. We will try to honor all requests, if possible. The workshops have been tentatively set for Friday, June 21st 1–5 pm and Saturday, June 22nd 9–3 pm. The panels are:

      The Peace Corps Novel as Literature
      Poetry from the Peace Corps Experience
      Publishing Translations
      Travel Now, Write Later
      Write! Edit! Publish!
      Writing about the Environment
      Writing Children’s Books
      Writing On-Line
      Writing Your Peace Corps Story
      Working with Words
      How to Write A Novel in 100 Days or Less

    The bookstore
    When we have information on what bookstore will be selling books at the conference, we will let writers know so that they can arrange for a signings.

    Reading Out Loud
    Joe Kovacs has kindly agreed to again handle the readings at the conference. If you wish to read from your writings about your Peace Corps experience, please let Joe know. Joe has a new email account with a title that’s very fitting for his role in the conference planning:

    Peace Corps Writers awards
    The Peace Corps Writers Awards for outstanding books published by RPCVs, PCVs, and Peace Corps staff during 2001 will be presented at the NPCA conference in Washington, D.C., Please recommend your candidates for the following categories:

      Paul Cowan Non-Fiction Award
      Maria Thomas Fiction Award
      The Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award (for best 1-page evocation of the Peace Corps experience)
      Award for Best Poetry
      Award for Best Travel Writing
      Award for Best Children’s Writing

    Please send in your nominations to:
         Awards for the winners of competition for the outstanding books from 2000 will also be presented at the conference.

    New at our site
    We have added a page of links to sites by PCVs and RPCVs about their Peace Corps countries and service. Please write our webmaster if you know of sites that should be added. Thanks.

    In other news
    Peace Corps directorship
    Gaddi H. Vasquez was confirmed on Friday, January 25, 2002, as the sixteenth director of the Peace Corps. His confirmation was one of 30 made by unanimous voice vote in a nearly empty Senate chamber. wishes Mr. Vasquez success during his tour as director of the agency.

    Legendary Peace Corps writer dies
    We have just learned that Meridan Bennett (Peace Corps staff: 1962–66) died last March in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Med Bennett was the first, and only, country director in Cyprus, and then an evaluator for the Peace Corps. He did evaluations of the programs in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Nepal and Pakistan. Bennett was one of the early “thinkers” of the agency and, with David Hapgood, published one of the first critical books on the Peace Corps, Agents of Change: A Close Look at the Peace Corps, published in 1968. published an article written by Bennett in 1965 entitled “The Real Job of the Peace Corps — One Man’s View” in our “To Preserve and to Learn” column.
         Like many of the great men and women who were part of the early days of Peace Corps, Med passed through the agency, gave his ideas and vision, left a lasting contribution on how the Volunteers should work overseas, and then moved on with his life. He was 73.

    In this Issue
    A Literary Life
    Many PCVs who served in Morocco, or ended up there for one reason or the other, sought out the writer and composer, Paul Bowles, who through his life, made “being an expatriate” romantic and possible for others who followed — including not a few PCVs. Bowles lived in Morocco for over forty years, dying there in 1999. Many have read his book The Sheltering Sky, published in 1949, or seen the movie. Author of several other novels, poetry, short story collections, and nonfiction inclucing travel books, he was also a well-known composer of classical music, film scores, and theatrical music.
         In September 1993, we published in our newsletter, RPCV Writers & Readers, a piece by a young RPCV, Sarah Streed (Morocco 1984–86) entitled, “Sitting in Paul Bowles’ Chair” telling of a visit she had made to Bowles in Tangiers when she was a Volunteer. In this issue, in our “A Writer Writes” column, we are pleased to publish an essay about Paul Bowles by David Espey, a returned Volunteer from Morocco (1962–64), who came to know Bowles after his Peace Corps service when he returned to Morocco on a Fulbright grant. Espey is the director of the English Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Letter Home
    This issue’s “Letter Home” is from Eugenia Hepworth Jenson (Ukraine 1995–97). Her letter home, written as a prose poem, is based on a true story.

    Also . . .
    This issue also has a lengthy list of new books by RPCVs, reviews of recently published books, “Literary Talk,” and much more. Take a few minutes now (you don’t have anything better to do than get-up-to-speed on what Peace Corps writers are doing, saying, and writing) and treat yourself to some wonderful prose and information.

    John Coyne