Peace Corps Writers: Front Page 3/06

    Peace Corps Writers awards
    Do you have a favorite book written by a Peace Corps writer that was published during 2005? 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:

    Call for Peace Corps stories: Travelogue anthology of adventure and mayhem
    An anthology of first-person travel stories written by Peace Corps Volunteers and compiled by two RPCVs — Steve McNutt (Gabon 2000–02) and Jacob Fawson (Gabon 2000–02) — both graduate students in Communication Studies and Nonfiction Writing. They are seeking, “funny, harrowing tales of self-deprecation and disaster. Sharply written and witty preferred over ‘how I saved the world.’ Meditative is good — but make us laugh first. Vicarious fun. Think: bathrooms, food, medical, transportation, sex. Above all, think funny. Profits to charity.” Read about the guidelines at: The deadline is June 1, 2006.  You can E-mail them at: stevemcnutt at or jfawson at

    Fulbright & You
    If you want to go overseas again — and not in the Peace Corps — think about a Fulbright Grant. Gary Garrison (Tunisia 1966–69), Assistant Director for Asia and the Middle East at the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, was kind enough to drop us a note about the opportunities for international teaching and research available in the Fulbright Scholar Program. Gary writes, “We value the experience and expertise of former Peace Corps Volunteers who wish to participate in another great international opportunity, the Fulbright Program.” Gary focuses on the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia but there are grants open for many more locations and for creative writers, journalists, as well as teachers and those of you doing country or area specific research. Gary can be reached at: 202-686-4019 or

    And then Sarge said to me . . .
    Patricia Baldi Waak (Brazil 1966–68) was not an early Volunteer in the Peace Corps. In fact, she did not serve under Shriver, but she has had a long connection with Sarge and she was kind enough to send us some of her best recollections of the first director of the Peace Corps.

    DESPITE THE MEMORIES of some of the original creators of the Peace Corps, I was not one of them. I don’t know whether that is a compliment or not, since I am slightly younger but at the same time am accepted as one of the original group. In 1961 I was graduating from high school. Though inspired by John F. Kennedy and his brilliant and visionary brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, I did not enter the Peace Corps until the February of 1966. Sarge was just passing the mantle to Jack Vaughn.
         My work directly with Sarge would come later when I went from George McGovern’s presidential staff to Sarge’s vice-presidential staff during the 1972 McGovern-Shriver Presidential Campaign. Since I was primarily in Washington, D.C. and he was on the road, contact was in group settings. Sarge has always been a great story teller, and there lies some of my favorite memories.
         So in 1975 when the Shriver friends began to mount a Presidential campaign on his behalf, I was ready. I would become the first woman Deputy Campaign Manager, something fairly common these days. And in the beginning I traveled with Sarge and the entourage through the Midwest.
         It was the stories that captured my attention. We often had lengthy discussions crossing the frozen fields of Iowa about the beginning of the social programs he established. Some of these stories have become history. Others have been lost. I want to recount just a couple about the Peace Corps.

    Creating the Peace Corps
    It was two lines in a speech that the new President John F. Kennedy gave in California. He then turned to Sarge to make it happen. Sarge says he told the president that this was a political plum. He should offer the appointment to one of his political friends. According to Sarge, Jack Kennedy told him, “Sarge, you don’t understand. Everyone says this is going to be a lemon. It is much easier to fire a relative than a friend.”

    Women in the Peace Corps
    And of course, it was not a lemon. Sarge said he gathered some of the best minds and together they came up with the concept of the Peace Corps. One thing they worried about was women Volunteers. Remember this was the 1960s. Could they live overseas unprotected? What kind of training would they need? He told me that as it turned out, women were more adaptable, learned the language easier, stayed their full tour of duty more often, were more successful and were extremely well-treated by the host country. I wasn’t surprised, but it was good to hear it from him.

    There are tons of other stories that would be shared over the course of those months of the campaign and the years that I have known him since. I have saved hand-written notes, and my own memories are clear. Four years ago when I ran for Congress in Colorado, he once more sent a contribution with a letter “instructing” me on issues. I am most fortunate to be one of the people who received his wisdom and friendship.

    New recruitment book from the Peace Corps
    This month the Peace Corps issued A Life Inspired: Tales of Peace Corps Service. It was published by the agency’s Office of Communications and is the fourth book in the recent series of Peace Corps-printed publications that highlight the experiences of PCVs. The very first book of this kind was entitled The Peace Corps Reader and published by Quadrangle Books for the Peace Corps in 1966. That book was an expansion of a “monograph series” started by Donovan McClure, then director of Public Affairs for the Peace Corps. McClure had been the CD in Sierra Leone and after returning to PC/W commissioned several Volunteers and staff members to write monographs about the Peace Corps. These monographs were circulated on college campuses in an attempt to reveal more about the “real life” of a PCV. McClure’s successor as Director of Public Affairs, Andy Hays, turned the monograph series into the first edition of The Peace Corps Reader. The editor of these two editions was Mary Hoyt. Paul Reed, the Peace Corps’ art and production director designed the first two volumes.
         In the mid-1990s when I returned to work at the Peace Corps, I reconceived the idea of Peace Corps stories to be used in recruitment and edited three editions: To Touch the World, followed by At Home In The World (1996) and The Great Adventures (1997). Many of these essays came from newsletter Marian Haley Beil and I started in 1989, Peace Corps Writers & Readers. Approximately 125,000 copies were printed of each issue of these recruitment books. The books were free for the asking.
         This new edition is also free, though the Government Printing Office is also selling it as a paperback for $15.95. (I suggest you call 1.800.424.8580, Option # 1, and when they answer, say you are thinking about joining the Peace Corps and would like a free copy of A Life Inspired.) By the way, the GPO has categorized the book as “Inspiration/Travel/Adventure.”

    In this issue
    I’m not sure if this March issue is a lion or a lamb in terms of length and content, but we continue to review the many books written by RPCVs and this issue has five such reviews. In “A Writer Writes” there are two fine pieces of prose. Orin Hargraves (Morocco 1980–83) recalls with warmth and much love the life of a Moroccan woman very dear to many PCVs in his essay, “Maid in Morocco.” Current PCV Jayant Kairam (Cape Verde 2004–06) then tells us how he chewed off more than he could handle in “Let Him Eat Bread.”
         Besides these items, we have a list of newly published books and lots of news in Literary Type. And in honor of the recent St. Patrick’s Day . . . as we say in Irish: Go raibh mile maith agat! A thousand thanks on to you.
         Enjoy your reading.

    John Coyne