Peace Corps Writers — November 2004

Ads
Marian and I have decided to run occasional ads on Peace Corps Writers in hopes of generating funds to support our activities and to be able to increase the monetary amounts of the awards we present each year. We will only carry ads that are suitable for the site — i.e. for books and other items that would be of interest to RPCVs. Our first ad, for The Peace Book, can be seen just to the left.
     Peace Corps writers interested in getting the word out about their books via an ad should contact publisher Marian Haley Beil.

Second on-line workshop completed
The second 10-week workshop for RPCV writers offered by Peace Corps Writers finished in early November. Eight RPCVs took the class. We will post their evaluations of the course in the coming weeks.
     At the moment, we are considering offering another class beginning in March, but only if there is sufficient interest from RPCV writers. If you are interested, email Marian.

Peace Corps Writers at the Miami Book Fair International
The Miami Book Fair International hosted a panel of Peace Corps authors at its 21st annual event. Among 250 authors from around the world, the Peace Corps presentation was well attended by about 100 people, most of whom — interestingly enough — were not RPCVs, but people curious about the Peace Corps.
     Sarah Erdman (Ivory Coast 1998–00) read from and discussed her book, Nine Hills to Nambokaha: Two Years in an African Village, and Bob Shacochis (Eastern Caribbean 1975–76) read from his novel, Swimming in the Volcano. Leita Kaldi (Senegal 1993-96) moderated the panel.
     Peace Corps Writers co-sponsored a booth with the Peace Corps that was manned by RPCVs of South Florida. Peace Corps/WorldWise School distributed copies of their new book Uncommon Journeys, several RPCV writers sold their books and Peace Corps recruitment materials were available.

Final Words
Cheer up — no one is reading your book
The New York Times reported on October 17th that the five books of fiction selected as finalists for the National Book Award annual prize had sold between 700 and 900 copies apiece. In fact, Christine Schutt’s first novel, Florida, had only sold 150 copies. As the Times wrote, “In an age when entire industries have sprung up around awards to publicize and commercialize various corners of the culture, a prize that finds merit in the obscure has much to be said for it.”
     Well, what can be “more obscure” than novels about the Peace Corps? Let’s hope one of our own is on the list next year.

Everyone wants to write
From time to time I get emails from non RPCVs who have come across “How to Write A Novel in 100 Days or Less” that is on this website and they drop me a note regarding the exercise. This one came recently under the email subject line of: “I would like to write a book.”

    Hello, my name is Tara and I am 11 years old. Everyone says that I am quite talented with my writing skills, and that I should think about writing a book. I know I am just 11, but I am learning in school right now about setting a personal goal for yourself, and my personal goal is to write a book. I have experience from school, and I know I am capable of it. Seeing that I am eleven and know what everyone my age likes to read, I think I could make up a pretty good story that kids would enjoy. I have already started writing my book, and have been following your day-by-day steps, which I find very helpful. My book is about orca whales, which I am a HUGE fan of, and have had a passion for ever since I was two years of age. My book has a main climax, and an understandable one. I was wondering if you could give me some advice about writing a novel, so I may be more successful during the process. I have just started my book, (only on the seventh page) and with school it is hard to make fast progress happen, but I think I can still do it. I was also hoping maybe you would like to publish my book when it gets finished, and make any necessary changes. I have a great support system working at home and at school, with my family, friends, and teachers giving me lots of confidence. They believe in me, and I do too. I would appreciate it if you could e-mail me back to let me know if you think I can do it. I receive lots of encouragement from everyone, and I hope that I can finish what I have started. This is a big dream for me, that I hope someday, I can accomplish. I have told everyone I am going to write a novel, and I don't want to let myself, or them down. Thank you for your time, it is greatly appreciated.
    Tara

Well, if Tara can do it, so can we. See what other RPCVs has just written and published and what people are saying about Peace Corps writers.

In this issue —

  • We talk to Thurston Clarke (Tunisia 1968) who has written ten books. His new one is: Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech That Changed America. It is an important book in this political season and tells an amazing story.
  • Our Viet Nam tale comes from John Krauskopf (Iran 1965–67) who spent Christmas of 1969 on the Mekong River.
  • They called Bonnie Lee Black (Gabon 1996–98) the Martha Stewart of Gabon and rightly so. In “A Writer Writes” is Bonnie Lee’s humorous account of how she earned such praise.
  • Besides all this, there are reviews, details on new books by RPCVs, and some “Literary Talk” on what many of you have been doing.

So, on with the reading.

— John Coyne
Editor