Peace Corps Writers
January 2003

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Six hundred and counting
Most people know a little Tennyson, but everybody remembers that “into the valley of Death / Rode the six hundred!”
     There were
six hundred Confederate prisoners of war who left Fort Delaware in 1864, bound for Hilton Head, South Carolina, and the pages of the history books.
     It’s been
six hundred years (okay, six hundred and two, but who’s counting?) since Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type, which later made possible the printing press, and (Thanks, Jack!) spared the world six centuries of severe writer’s cramp.
     Researchers believe that dogs are capable of understanding about
six hundred human words (although they pretend to understand fewer than that).
     Barry Bonds has hit
six hundred home runs.
     And now, and most important of all . . . out of the 166,000 RPCVs the Peace Corps has produced in a little more than forty years, the number who have achieved the status of published novelists, poets, essayists, travel writers, anthologists, biographers, memoirists, critics, historians, anthropologists, ethicists, self-help experts, how-to gurus, and every other sort of published writers, has reached the number of
six hundred! Actually, it’s six hundred and two, and we definitely are counting!
     Congratulations to all, and to the Peace Corps itself, for this handsome and continuing fulfillment of the Peace Corps’s Third Goal!

Peace Corps Writers awards
Do you have a favorite book written by a Peace Corps writer that was published during 2002? Nominations are now being accepted by Peace Corps Writers for its awards for best books of the year written by PCVs, RPCVs, and Peace Corps staff. 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 short description of the Peace Corps experience)
  • Award for Best Poetry Book
  • Award for Best Travel Writing
  • Award for Best Children’s Writing

Send in your nominations to:

State Department book of essays
The Bush administration has recruited prominent American writers to contribute to a State Department 6-page booklet of fifteen essays, and to give readings around the globe in a campaign started after 9/11 to use culture to further American diplomatic interests. The participants include four Pulitzer Prize winners, the American poet laureate and two Arab-Americans. All were asked to write about what it means to be an American writer. The essays — “Writers on America” — can be read at the State Department website, but the book will not be published in the United States because it is information aimed at foreign audiences.
     What’s important here (besides the book) is that an RPCV writer dreamed up the idea.
     “This book originated as an intriguing suggestion by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay 1978–80),” says George Clack, the State Department editor who produced the anthology. (Mark is an U.S. foreign service officer and a working novelist.)
     According to Clack, “If we were to ask a contemporary group of American poets, novelists, critics, and historians what it means to be an American writer, Jacobs proposed, the results could illuminate in an interesting way certain America values — freedom, diversity, democracy — that may not be well understood in all parts of the world.”
     Mark has a piece in the anthology, “Both Sides of the Border,” based on his Peace Corps experience. Mark’s next novel, his fourth, is entitled A Handful of Kings, and is set in Madrid, where he served as cultural affairs officer.

Writers and writers who read wanted
A national woman’s magazine has asked us to find short fiction for their publication that reaches over 4 million readers. The fiction editor is looking for positive short stories of less than 4,000 words that focus on women, families, and relationships. Stories must have positive, upbeat endings. Please send an email with the opening page and a very brief summary of the plot to If the story looks as if it is possible for the publication, we will forward it to the fiction editor.

And . . .

We regularly receive requests for Peace Corps writers to read at community events, libraries, and schools. If you are interested, please send your name, address, phone number to Marian Haley Beil at

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