Peace Corps Writers
Talking with . . .

Quality of Care

Read Terez's review of Quality of Care

We writers today live in a Brave New World, one where publishing has been synergized, conglomerated, mainstreamed and mass produced to an ever-dwindling readership. At the same time, it’s a world where an aspiring novelist can nowPrinter friendly version email queries to his/her hit list of agents — found and researched online, receive quick replies and share the news moments later with a large group of sympathetic writers. Online forums are the perfect writers’ enclave — they ease solitude and allow you to connect and network with like-minded people at the click of a mouse. Best of all, you can wear your torn sweats and fuzzy slippers and no one will know. It was at one such writers’ forum that I met RPCV Elizabeth Letts (Morocco 1983 – 86) in the fall of 2003. She’d just sold her first novel and had signed a contract for the second. Through her, I’ve been able to vicariously experience the peaks and valleys of getting published in today’s competitive publishing climate.
     Quality of Care, Elizabeth’s debut novel, tells the story of an obstetrician who, unable to save the life of a childhood friend in an emergency, returns to the place of her past, commencing a journey of self-discovery and ultimate redemption. The novel, chosen as a featured alternate selection for Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club and Rhapsody Book Club, was also a pre-pub selection of the week at various public libraries and online book clubs. I got in touch with Elizabeth recently — via cyberspace, of course — to see if she could share some of her recent experiences.
Elizabeth, let’s start with your Peace Corps days. Where were you posted and what did you do?
I was in Morocco from 1983–1986. The first two years, I did TEFL, and the last year and a half, I worked for a project called The Morocco Literacy Project, which was a research project, jointly sponsored by Peace Corps and The University of Pennsylvania School of Education.
What came next in your life?
After Peace Corps, I continued with a Master’s and taught English as a Second Language for several years, primarily in community college. Then I had a complete about-face, attending the Yale School of Nursing, in a program for non-nurse college graduates that allowed me to complete an RN, Master’s Degree, and certification as a nurse-midwife.
Did you do any writing while in the Peace Corps?
Well, yes, and no. Part of my motivation to join the Peace Corps was the desire to broaden my experience in order to “find something to write about.” I packed a portable manual typewriter, and I did try to write . . . a lot of short fiction . . . but it was all terrible, and I just don’t think I was ready to write fiction then. The one really important thing I did do while I was in the Peace Corps was to read extensively — all the long boring books that you think you should read but never quite get around to doing. I’m so grateful for that time, and for the well-thumbed Peace Corps library of books that circulated from hand to hand throughout the country.
On to your novel, Quality of Care. What inspired you to write it?
When you deliver babies for a living, people often say what a happy job it must be, and the truth is, it is very happy almost all the time, but when it is sad it is absolutely devastating. Since babies don’t arrive during office hours, obstetricians are some of the most dedicated people in medicine. They give up nights and weekends and rarely get a full night’s sleep — but even so, more than half of all obstetricians have been sued for malpractice at least once in their careers. So I became interested in the psychology of that person.
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