Peace Corps Writers: Front page 5/06

    And then Sarge said to me . . .
    Charlene Duline was a health and nutrition PCV in Quiquijana, Peru from 1962–64.  Retired now from the Foreign Service, she lives in Indianapolis, Indiana from whence she writes that she is “deliriously happy” working as a volunteer animal handler at the Indianapolis Zoo. “This is what I was born to do,” she says, “I get to cuddle and talk about snakes, blue-tongue skinks, ferrets, guinea pigs, rabbits, bearded dragons, leopard geckos, giant African millipedes, Madagascan hissing cockroaches, etc. I love it!!” Charlene is also currently working on an animal book.
         She had joined the United Nations after Peace Corps service. Following two years as a United Nations secretary in Dacca, East Pakistan she moved to Paris in October, 1969
    and lived there until 1972. Here is her “Christmas Story” of meeting up with Sarge.

    IT WAS 1969 AND CHRISTMAS was approaching. I was settling into life in Paris, France after moving there two months previously. I saw an article in the newspaper about a Christmas Eve Mass Sargent Shriver, U.S. Ambassador to France, was having in the tiny, ancient Sainte Chappelle church to which he was inviting diplomats, friends and family. It was going to be an intimate and elegant affair, and I decided that I would like to attend. A friend who was a Volunteer in Morocco was coming to spend Christmas with me, and I knew she too would be thrilled to attend. I immediately wrote Ambassador Shriver telling him that we were RPCVs and we would certainly enjoy attending his Christmas Eve Mass.
         A few days later as I returned from shopping, the concierge greeted me at the door with an envelope. She said, “Your ambassador’s chauffeur brought this for you.” I grinned, grabbed the envelope and flew up to my apartment. I ripped open the envelope and there nestled inside was an elegant invitation inviting Janet Ghattas and Charlene Duline to Ambassador and Mrs. Shriver’s Christmas Eve Mass. I swooned.
         On Christmas Eve Sainte Chappelle glowed like a jewel as it basked in candlelight. Small heaters scattered throughout the church kept the worshippers warm. The Mass was simple, but touching and beautiful. Famed opera star Roberta Peters sang. Afterwards there was a receiving line to greet the Shriver family. Janet and I couldn’t decide what to say. As Shriver shook my hand I blurted out that we were RPCVs in Peru and Morocco. He grabbed Janet’s hand and shouted to his wife who stood right next to him, “Eunice! Eunice! Here are some Peace Corps Volunteers!” Eunice took it in stride saying, “Oh, Peace Corps Volunteers are everywhere.” Sarge stopped the receiving line to chat with us. How like him! It was an incredible welcome to Paris.
         A few days later I went to the embassy to cash a check. I was told somebody at the embassy had to vouch for me before I could cash a personal check. I almost said I didn’t know anybody at the embassy, but then I remembered that I did know somebody. I said, “Ambassador Shriver will vouch for me.” And indeed he did. Thereafter, whenever I went to the embassy to cash a check, the cashier called the ambassador’s office and I was always vouched for. Sarge Shriver believes in, and loves his Volunteers!

    Murder your darlings
    There is a new and wonderful book for writers written by a good friend who is NOT an RPCV (even though my wife is convinced I don’t know anyone who wasn’t in the Peace Corps). His name is Ralph Keyes. The book is entitled, The Quote Verifier and it explores several hundred quotations that are often cited but seldom confirmed. To determine the roots of 460 such sayings, Keyes scoured old publications, accessed huge databases, watched vintage movies, consulted myriad scholars, and contacted those actually involved in coining popular quotations. His results routinely confound widespread assumptions about who said what, where, and when.
         For example, “Murder your DARLINGS.” This common admonition to writers (suggesting that they excise the parts of their work that most delight them) is widely misattributed to the likes of Samuel Johnson, Oscar Wilde, George Orwell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, and William Faulkner. Its actual author was Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, who wrote in The Art of Writing (1916), “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”
         The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When by Ralph Keyes is out this month from St. Martin’s Griffin.

    In this issue
    We have a new column — Response — where we will post comments from readers. Often we do hear from people out in cyberspace about our website and the pieces we published, and we decided we should share some of these emails with all of the RPCV community.
         Did you ever wonder how the term “peace corps” came about? We tracked down the author and found out how the agency was named and that story is related in our “To Preserve and to Learn” column. Also in the issue are three new writing opportunities for all those Peace Corps writers out there in cyberspace. Take a look as there might be something for you.
         We have two “A Writer Writes” columns: Los 5 José by Lauren Fitzgerald (Panama 2003–05) and Unfortunately a Woman by Alison Coluccio (Togo 1995). There are also five reviews, a listing of 14 recent books by RPCVs, news of RPCV writers in Literary Type, and an interview with Ellen Urbani Hiltebrand who served in Guatemala and has just published a wonderful memoir entitled, When I Was Elena.

    Again, Marian and I thank you for your support, your ideas, and the prose and poetry you share with us and everyone connected with the Peace Corps, past, present, and future.
         We hope you enjoy this issue.

    John Coyne