Peace Corps Writers
November 2003

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In This Issue has links to the new articles in this issue of Peace Corps Writers.

Resources has the Bibliography of Peace Corps Writers and other resources for both readers and writers.

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Peace Corps Writers at the Miami International Book Fair — a report
Helene Dudley (Colombia 1968–70, Albania 1997, Slovakia 1997–99) reports that through the efforts of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Florida Inc. (RPCVSF), ten Peace Corps authors participated in the Nov 7–9th Miami International Book Fair, the largest book fair in the nation:

Craig Carrozzi (Colombia 1978–80)
Pat Edmiston (Peru 1962–64)
Eloise Hanner (Afghanistan 1971–73)
John Kennedy (Ghana 1965–68)
Dawn Khalil (Botswana 1990–92)
Mary Kilgour (Philippines 1962–64),
Marnie Mueller (Ecuador 1963–65)
Andrew Oerke (PC Staff 1966–71)
Robert Roberg (Peru 1966–68)
Carolyn Welsh (Honduras 1962–64)

     The RPCVSF Book Fair booth typically focuses on recruitment, and the presence of the authors this year enhanced that effort. Letters from Afghanistan by Eloise Hanner and Letters from Botswana by Dawn Khalil, provided potential recruits with two first-person accounts of the Peace Corps experience.
     The Book Fair booth also raised funds to support several projects including the work of 2003 Shriver Award Winner, Sue Patterson and the RPCVSF Book Project, a program initiated in 1986, which continues to send books to assist Peace Corps Volunteers in stocking English language libraries in countries from Haiti to Kenya to Romania.
     Leita Kaldi (Senegal 1993–96) of RPCVSF is already working with the Fair organizers to expand the writers’ participation by including a panel of Peace Corps authors in the 2004 Book Fair.

How to write a Peace Corps book
Peace Corps Writers is contemplating starting an “on-line” course on how to write a Peace Corps book. This course would run from 8–10 weeks and cost up to $400. The classroom fee would pay for the writing instructor, books and materials sent to the students, web design costs, and special “guest writers” who would visit on-line.
     The course would be structured with assignments (focused on the individual’s book), regular feedback through emails and a chat room. The course would function, more or less, like any writing course at the college and workshop level.
     The course would be conducted in this way. Lecture material (from the instructor) would be posted on a weekly basis. The class would have the entire week to view the lecture and post their assignments. Each student would also have a private online “notebook” in which to correspond privately with the writing instructor. We could also have a common area in which students could critique one another’s work and share ideas. A weekly live chat room is also planned for a general discussion about works-in-progress, the publishing world, literary agents, and how to submit a manuscript for publication.
     Our desire is to provide a writing course to RPCV writers, who can not get together in a classroom because of geographical, physical, and scheduling restrictions, a chance to share and learn from each other. The course would only be for RPCVs (and PCVs) seriously interested in writing a creative non-fiction book about their Peace Corps experience. Class size would be limited to 8–10 writers.
     Marian Haley Beil and myself would offer this course in early 2004 if there is sufficient interest from the Peace Corps writing community. If you are interested, please email me at

“Site of the Month” — us!
Foreign Service Journal has selected as their November “site of the month.” We thank the magazine for recognizing our website and encouraging all RPCVs in the Foreign Service — writers as well as readers — to check out our bimonthly e-zine wherever they are in the world.
     We also invite all RPCVs writers — wherever you are — to think of us when you have an essay, story, or poetry you'd like to have considered for publication.

A reading recommendation
While I’m not often in the business of praising books by non-RPCVs (we have too many good books ourselves), I would like to draw attention to a book by a good friend of Peace Corps Writers, Sara Nelson, So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading [G.P. Putnam’s Sons]. Sara is a senior contributing editor of Glamour and the publishing columnist for The New York Observer. A former editor at Self, and Book Publishing Report, she has written for The New York Times as well as The Wall Street Journal, and she had been a champion of many writers who served in the Peace Corps.
     Her book is the chronicle of reading a book a week for a year, and how that reading intermingles with her family, her life, and the “real” world. It’s a delightful book for all of us who care about books. Buy a copy.

Where to study writing next summer
For anyone thinking of taking a writing course next summer, we highly recommend Western Michigan University’s Prague Summer Program in Creative Writing and Photography. The dates are July 3–30, 2004. In addition to classes in fiction, poetry, script writing, creative non-fiction, and photography, there is the opportunity to take a course in one of the following: Central European Studies, Jewish Studies, forms of Genres, Czech Literature, Literary Publishing, and American Literature from a European Perspective. All classes will be held at the Charles University Faculty of Arts on Jana Palacha Square. For more information, contact:

In this issue
“Travel Right” recommends
Adding a new wrinkle to our “Travel Right” feature, we will be publishing recommendations made by you of places that are back of the beyond, quaint, peacecorpsish, and unknown and unvisited by most tourists. Based on your accumulated travel knowledge from your Peace Corps years as well as all the traveling you have done since coming home, we hope to let our readers know about that small town, cozy hotel or evocative sight that you found and love. In this issue, John Woods (Ethiopia 1965–68) starts us off in wonderful style. Please email us with your recommendations. (Next year at this time we will award a prize for the best “Travel Right” recommendation.)

Also —
Tom Bissell early-terminated from Uzbekistan after several months as a PCV. Haunted by his “failure,” Tom decided in 2001 to return Uzbekistan — this time to investigate the devastated Aral Sea where rivers were diverted and drained to fertilize the Central Asian desert in order to grow cotton. His article appeared in Harper’s, and from that he continued writing and produced Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia, published in September by Pantheon. We talked to Tom recently about his brief Peace Corps tour, his book, and his writing career.
     “A Letter from . . .” comes from Melissa Chestnut-Tangerman (Kenya 1982–85). Melissa was a rural women’s extension Volunteer and read this letter at the Journals of Peace readings in 1987. It is a powerful letter and publisher Marian Haley Beil suggested that we reprint it for those of you who have not had a chance to read the Journals of Peace readings that we are publishing on line.
     In addition, we have seven book reviews, twelve new books by RPCVs, more Journals of Peace essays, and our “Writer Writes” column comes from Peg Clement (Tunisia 1975–77) who wrote how “Peace Corps Was” in anticipation of her group’s first reunion last August.
     Read on.

— John Coyne

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