Literary Type — May 2000

    Want to publish your Peace Corps book — cheaply? Here’s a way.
         Charlie Lamson (Bulgaria 1993–95) works for Chapbooks.com, a new internet-based company that provides a low-cost way to publish small (5" x 7 1/2") paperbacks. His company uses automated type-setting and layout to create professionally designed books. Chapbooks.com allows the writer to review and edit their work continuously over the web for free before ordering hard copies of their work. The cost is $5–$7 per copy, depending on the length of the text, with discounts for large orders. The minimum order is 30 copies. The books are available in a choice of styles.
         This is a great deal for limited edition printings. Perfect for passing on your Peace Corps stories and photos. Contact Lamson at 617/ 262-0206 or email him at Charlie@Chapbooks.com.

    The March/April, 2000 issue of Book, The Magazine for the Reading Life carried a piece on Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963–65) who lives most of the time on the island of Oahu in Hawaii where he is a beekeeper. He has more than two million of them. His eighty hives contain approximately thirty thousand bees each. Theroux started the business four years ago producing Oceanic Ranch Pure Hawaiian Honey. “I got the idea from Sherlock Homes,” Theroux told the magazine. “When he retired from being a detective, Watson visits him in Sussex and says, ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘This is the fruit of my life, how I am going to spend the rest of my life,’ Homes says. I’ve always had that in my mind, to be a bee keeper.”
         Theroux was featured in the Travel section of USAToday on Friday, May 19th in a Q & A on his thoughts about being a traveler — not a tourist. It also promoted his new book of essays, Fresh Air Fiend.

    Following a family tradition, Jason Carter (South Africa 1998–2000) is writing a book with National Geographic’s support (they will also publish it) based on his recent Peace Corps experience in South Africa. Jason’s great-grand mother, Lillian Carter (India 1967–69) wrote Away From Home: Letters to My Family, published by Simon & Schuster in 1977.

    This summer at Fishtrap — Rich Wandschneider’s (Turkey 1969–71) writer’s retreat in Wallowa Lake, Oregon — will featire Workshops from July 10–13, and a Gathering from July 14–16. The Workshops are limited to twelve participants each with admittance on a first come, first served basis (no jurying of manuscripts).
         The Workshop week includes four evenings of open mikes, and participation brings the possibility of publication in the annual Fishtrap Anthology.
         The Gathering provides a time and a place for writers and others in the trade — editors, publishers, librarians, booksellers, readers — to get together and talk about what is being written and what should be written in the West. It is different from other writing conferences because the nuts and bolts of publishing are not the issues. People gather to listen to writers read and to talk about the work.
         For more information, email Rich Wandschneider at rich@fishtrap.org or call 541/426-3623. Or visit their website — www.fishtrap.org.

    In case you missed in the March issue of our on-line newsletter, the Mid-Atlantic Creative Nonfiction Summer Writers’ Conference at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland this year will feature a special workshop for Peace Corps Writers.
         Led by Mike Tidwell (Zaire 1985–87), the focus will be on personal essays and travel memoirs. Tidwell’s most recent book, Amazon Stranger, is about his quest to locate a real-life Tarzan figure living in the Amazon rain forest. His first book, The Ponds of Kalambayi, is a memoir of his two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Tidwell is a frequent contributor to The Washington Post Sunday Travel Section, where his essays have earned him two Lowell Thomas awards, the highest prize in American travel journalism.
         Other writers at this summer’s Goucher Writing Workshop will be William Least Heat Moon, author of Blue Highways and Edmund Morris, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning biography The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, and the recently published authorized Reagan biography, Dutch.
         The workshop is scheduled for August 8–13. For more information, call 1.800.697.4646.

    The Washington Monthly filed for nonprofit status in April. Founded by Charlie Peters (PC/W Staff 1961–67), this 22,000-circulation political magazine has been the incubator for new ideas and new journalism. Two former editors — Nicholas Lemann and James Fallows — are attempting to re-establish the magazine as a nonprofit and search for funds to keep it going. Peters, now 73, who writes the “Tilting at Windmills” column for the monthly, and has published several books, has given them his blessing. For the Peace Corps, Peters was chief of the evaluation division in Shriver’s Peace Corps.

    Jeff Westbrook (Peru 1973–74) published his first novel, La Comida, in December 1998. What makes this novel unique is that Jeff published it on-line with Electron Press (www.electronpress.com). You can get a brief synopsis of the novel by going to the “publication index” section. Additionally, a 3,500 word excerpt from LA COMIDA is also available (free) at the web site. The novel itself costs $4 and can be downloaded into Palm Pilot format as well as onto the computer or floppy disk. Westbrook studied at the University of California at Irvine writing program and is also an accomplished artist. One of his painting was used as the cover art for La Comida, and several of his other paintings are featured in the February 1999 edition of Electron Press’ online magazine.

    Hostelling International has on-going storytelling gatherings, each known as a “Traveler’s Circle” in several cities in the U.S. Tthey are a free, informal way for travelers and local community members to share stories of a larger world. Mark Laxer is working with Hostelling International and the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA)— to get more RPCVs involved in the storytelling gatherings. RPCVs are welcome to visit Traveler’s Circles websites for Washington DC (www.killyourtv.com/travelcircle), and Austin TX (members.tripod.com/tcaustin), and in San Francisco, send email to sftc@excite.com.
         Hostelling International’s mission is to help folks gain an understanding of the world. It operates (in more than 70 countries) nearly 4500 hostels — inexpensive dorm-style lodges with self-service kitchens, dining and common areas. Visit www.hiayh.org to locate hostels and to learn more about this non-profit organization.

    Here’s a short piece that I heard on NPR’s All Things Considered. It is by Bill Miles (Niger 1977–79), who teaches political science at Northeastern University in Boston and has, as he says:

“An African House Problem.”

      I’ve packed my bags to settle a horse problem in Niger, and this time I’m taking my ten year old son along.
           For nearly fifteen years I’ve been maintaining my relationship with Yekuwa, a remote Muslim village in West Africa, through a beautiful dark brown horse I purchased there back in 1986. It’s my third African horse but the one I’d always intended to come back to.
           Before leaving Yekuwa, I drew up an agreement with the chief giving him full use of the horse and absolving him of any liability should it fall ill or die. In return, I’d have a horse whenever I turned up again. But I never seemed to get back.      A year ago, after a decade of silence, I received a letter in the same Hausa language that I once spoke so fluently, but now have trouble even reading. The letter conveyed sad news and a scenario none of us had anticipated: the chief had predeceased the horse. His heirs were now anxious to inherit the beast, but there was a rumor afloat: didn’t the horse really belong to that White Man in America?
           So I mailed off a couple of copies of the yellowing contract with a plea for patience: please hold on to the horse a little while longer. The letter duly arrived one month later — but three days too late. The dead chief’s heirs had taken the horse to market, and are now — despite the judgment of a higher authority — squabbling over the proceeds. To complicate matters, it seems that the chief had years before traded in my young steed for a horse of another color — royal white. Through it all, other villagers have faithfully maintained my property rights in absentia, refusing to take a cut in the windfall.
           It’s too complicated for me to settle long distance. So I’m returning, with my future heir in tow.
           But why am I really going? friends ask. Obviously, it’s not for the money.
           Only my rabbi seems to understand. “You’ve left part of your neshuma there,” he declares, when I wonder aloud how the Talmud would untangle the ownership knot.
           And he’s right, my rabbi. There is a part of my soul, still wandering horseback south of the Sahara. Maybe I don’t need a horse there after all, just to prove that somehow I still belong. But my son will never fully know me until we make this journey together, and he watches me straighten out our little African horse problem.