Peace Corps Writers
Talking with Monique Maria Schmidt (page 2)
 Talking with
Monique Maria Schmidt
page 1
page 2
page 3

In terms of writing the book, what was the process? For example, did you use a journal or those letters home?
The process of writing this book was fairly complicated. I reread my journals and letters I had written and the letters others had written me. I looked at the poems I had written in Africa and tried to mesh them with the ones I was writing at graduate school. It was tricky because the environment changed my writing. The material from Africa was more rhythmical and spiritual. My writing in grad school became more “crafted.” Also, I didn’t want to write a standard “narrative.” I wanted the form of the book to capture the emotional intensity of the experience while trying to present life as it was for me . . . some actual living, some reflective journaling, and some letter writing. The form really made the writing process challenging . . . a lot of small pieces of paper arranged and rearranged and then rearranged again.
How many drafts did you write (roughly) of the book?
Ohhhh . . . the drafts!!! Each time I thought it was finished, it wasn’t. It has been in four or five forms
How did you find your editor?
   I looked for small presses, and I also looked at the Peace Corps Writer web page for editors accepting Peace Corps material. Clover Park Press was the one which accepted my manuscript.
Do you have an agent?

Have you read any other books written by RPCVs? If so, which ones did you like, or think are like your book?
I’ve read the book of short stories written by various Volunteers, and I think, content-wise, we have similar stories. I’ve also read Marnie Mueller’s Green Fires, and I admire the fact that she writes a very lively, human, yet political, story.
Do you think that RPCV writers have another way of looking (and writing) about the world because of their experiences as Volunteers?
I don’t know about other writers, but for me, the answer is definitely yes. The two years I spent in Africa definitely changed the way I look at the world. I think a lot of my writing centers on people because that is one of the important lessons I took away from Peace Corps . . . the importance of good people, of strong communities. I also end up writing a lot about misperceptions . . . of myself by myself and others and of others by myself and others. Additionally, being an RPCV makes me aware of the effort needed for successful cross-cultural communication, within and outside one’s “home” culture; so a common theme in my writing is “belonging/not belonging.”
     Also, being in the Peace Corps made me realize the importance of stories in creating understanding and maintaining connections, on personal and national levels. Basically, I think good writing tries to present the “truth” of an experience, or accurately portray the humanity that can sometimes be overlooked in a fast-paced world, and my experiences in Africa made me more aware of the importance of finding the “truth” and appreciating humanity.
Do you have plans for more travel?
At this moment, no, but my life has never been predictable.
You have just finished a masters in creative writing. Was getting that degree helpful to you in your writing?
Grad school was very fundamental in my being able to write the book. It was three years spent focused on writing which gave me great opportunities to try different formats and styles while receiving feedback on what worked and what didn’t work. It was also very beneficial to be around people whose main focus was writing. Additionally, I was able to take classes that discussed literacy and women’s international issues which helped me understand my Peace Corps experience better.
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