Literary Type — January 2005

    Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962–64) recently sold one of his gay detective novels, Third Man Out to the movies. Filming started on January 21. Lipez’s central character, Strachey, is being play by Chad Allen, who played the oldest son on the TV show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Allen was also an autistic boy on St. Elsewhere, and has appeared recently in NYPD Blue. “I’m told,” Lipez writes, “that Chad Allen can act, which, of course, is more than I can do!” But that’s okay. Lipez can write!

    The extremely funny Peter Lefcourt (Togo 1962–64) has a novel coming out in February entitled The Manhattan Beach Project. It is a satire about a desperate third-place network that starts a skunkworks in Manhattan Beach, California, to develop, in secret, extreme reality TV shows and winds up producing a big hit about a ruthless Uzbek warlord. Peace Corps Writers will be interviewing Peter for the March issue.

    Poet John Isles (Estonia 1962–64) who lives in Alameda, California and teaches high school English in Union City, California has won a $20,000 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant for his first book of poetry, Ark. John did not begin to write poetry until he was in the Peace Corps and living on the island of Saaremaa where he taught English as a Second Language. John is one of 45 writers around the country to receive a Literature Fellowship from the NEA. More than 1,590 writers in 2004 applied for the fellowships.

    P.F. Kluge (Micronesia 1967–69) teaches American literature and fiction writing at Kenyon College, one semester a year, and spends the rest of the year traveling and writing. He is a contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler and Island magazines, and over the last few years, he has published some wonderful pieces in small literary magazines. “Breakfast in Ohio” came out in the Spring 2004 issue of The Antioch Review [volume 62, number]. Coming out in the upcoming Winter 2005 issue of the Review is Kluge’s essay, “Remembering Saipan” based on his Peace Corps experience.
         Kluge wanted to go to Turkey or Ethiopia, but he was picked for — as the Peace Corps propaganda put it then — “Peace Corps Goes to Paradise.” The “paradise” was Micronesia, the U.S. administered United Nations Trusteeship which covered the northern Marianas, including Saipan and Tinian, as well as the scattered Caroline and Marshall Islands. Well, it wasn’t paradise, but Kluge has been going back again and again and writing about the place where he was young.
         In a special issue of The Kenyon Review (Summer/Fall 2003, Vol 25, No. 3/4) titled “Culture and Place” Kluge wrote about growing up in New Jersey as a first generation German in the years following World War II when he spoke German at home and went to school with a German accent that caught the attention of the school’s speech therapist who thought he had a learning disability and made him endlessly repeat, “washing machine.”
         Southwest Review published “God, the Disc Jockey” (Vol. 88, No. 4) on how music has influenced his life going back to Buddy Holly’s “True Love Ways” recorded shortly before Holly’s death in a plane crash forty plus years ago.
         Besides these publications, the 20th Anniversary Special Issue of National Geographic Traveler that came out in October, 2004, has his article on Tasmania, the last spot before Antarctica.
         Besides all this, he has a novel coming out in March from XOXOX Press of Gambier, Ohio. The novel Final Exam is set on a college campus, not only Kenyon College. As Fred recently wrote me: “The novel has been a struggle. I wanted to revisit, without repeating, some of the themes and some of the territory I addressed in Alma Mater, (published in 1993), a non-fiction account of a year in the life of Kenyon College. I decided to write a thoughtful thriller — if that can be, in which the villain’s intent is not to murder this or that person but to slay, and transform, a certain college. Though there are crimes committed, suspects considered, solutions offered, the book is unconventional. And . . . from where I sit . . . engaging.”

    Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963–65) has an essay about his mother in Granta 88, an issue that is all about mothers.
         Theroux’s next novel, Blinding Lights, will be published here in June, and earlier in England from Hamish Hamilton. The novel is about a writer, a one-book wonder, who wrote a cult classic about his travels through dozens of countries without benefit of passport. With his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend Ava in tow, he sets out for Ecuador’s jungle in search of a rare hallucinogenic drug and the cure for his writer’s block.

    Gene Stone’s (Niger 1974–76) The Bush Survival Bible got a tremendous push from Dwight Garner’s “TBR: Inside the List” column in The New York Times Book Review when Gene’s book appeared on the Times extended paperback advice, how-to and miscellaneous list at No. 7 on Sunday, December 12, 2004.

    HarperCollins in the United States and John Murray in the United Kingdom will be publishing Peter Hessler’s (China 1996–98) next book in January/February 2006. The book is a study of five people caught in a strange cultural no-man’s-land between their Chinese and American identities. It examines the ways Chinese and American identities mingle in a girl working in a factory making products for the U.S. market; an archeologist studying ancient Chinese writing whose American links once got him in trouble during the Cultural Revolution; a Chinese Muslim in Washington; and others.

    In 1982 Charlie Ipcar (Ethiopia 1965–67) organized the Portland (ME) Folk Club and then the folk group Roll & Go (in honor of sea music collector Joanna Colcord) specializing in traditional and contemporary songs of the sea, all accessed from their website: RollandGoSeaSongs.com.
         Last year, Charlie released his first CD, Uncommon Sailor Songs, songs he composed or adapted from poems. They are available from his website: home.gwi.net/~ipbar.

    Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996–97) author of Chasing the Sea, a travel narrative, and God Lives in St. Petersburg, a collection of short stories published this January by Pantheon, had a “Letter from Vietnam” entitled, War Wounds: A Father and Son Return to Vietnam in the December 2004 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

    The agent for Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon 1965-67) has sold two of her Poppy Rice mysteries, Love Her Madly (Poppy I) and She Smiled Sweetly (Poppy III) to Robert Hale Publishers, a small independant press in England. Her novel She’s Not There (Poppy II) is coming out in March from Pinnacle.
         Mary-Ann has also just sold her memoir of growing up in Hartford, CT. Mary-Ann writes to Literary Type:

    My neighborhood was representative of small town America; in one square mile we had our school, church, branch of the library (my refuge), drugstore, 5 & 10, grocery store and tavern. A trip on the bus to downtown Hartford was not unlike an excursion to a distant planet — your mother took you there to buy your Easter outfit. In this mix, add my autistic brother, a savant who grew up during a time when no one ever heard of autism (pretty hard to imagine since today it’s all the rage). The story goes that when my mother sat with a doctor in Boston at the children’s hospital she listened patiently to his speech about how important it was to accept the fact that her child was retarded. When the doctor finished, my mother asked, “How can he be retarded? He’s reading Winston Churchill’s, Arms and the Covenant.” . . . My rather rambunctious tiny corner of the country was tipped over on its ear when I was nine; my fifth-grade friend and classmate was snatched off the street, her body found the next morning in a back yard five down from mine. She’d been raped and strangled. I pretty much suppressed this tragedy and its aftermath until I was asked, a few years ago, by the book editor of the Hartford Courant if I would write an essay for a literary supplement she was planning: “Something like, How Hartford Impacted My Life as a Writer.” (Then she said, “Or whatever you feel like writing, Mary-Ann.”) So I listed snips of memories starting with my uncle accidentally shooting himself while working the Colt line, and so on. But then, an image appeared in front of me, the face of my old pal, Irene. I ended my essay with a few words about the tragic loss we all had suffered. After the supplement came out, the Courant editor called me to tell me that Irene’s brother was on her line and wanted to speak to me. Oh.
         Among other things, Freddie told me that he didn’t think anyone remembered his sister and the fact that I was out there actually thinking about her was a great comfort to him. That image I had of Irene refused to dissipate and I started writing . . . . This past September I finished Girls of Tender Age.

         Mary-Ann also reports that she recently won a $5000 grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism to support the creation of her next book.

    Another Connecticut RPCV writer to receive a grant from the Commission on Culture and Tourism is Tom Hazuka (Chile 1978–80.) Hazuka received a $2,500 grant. He teaches English at Central Connecticut State University and has published two novels and a series of short stories. The Road to the Island, published in 1998, is set in Connecticut and is about a marathoner who gets killed and the son who seeks his father’s killer of his father. In 2000, he published In the City of the Disappeared, set in Chile during the dictatorship of August Pinochet. The protagonist is a PCV.

    Writing from Salida, Colorado for an op-ed in The New York Times on Saturday, December 25, 2004, novelist Kent Haruf (Turkey 1965–67) recalls, in a charming and touching essay entitled “A Life on the Plains,” his father who was born in 1905, and raised in the badlands of North Dakota, the sixth of 13 children.

    Children’s book author Karen Lynn Williams (Malawi 1980–84) and Catherine Stock will be teaching a workshop in Rignac, France on “Writing for Children” this coming Summer. The 2-week course will run from Saturday July 2 to Saturday July 16, and will cover all aspects of writing and illustrating books for children.
         Rignac is a tiny village in the Lot region in southwestern France with plenty of trails for hiking and nearby rivers for canoeing, opportunities for shopping in village markets and exploring castles and caves as well as sampling French cuisine.
         Course fees are $600 US for the two weeks. Housing in nearby rustic farm houses and meals will cost approximately $1200 US. A deposit of $150 US is necessary so that rooms can be reserved in the area.
         Karen and Catherine have collaborated on a number of picture books, including the award-winning Galimoto, as well as Painted Dreams and Tap-Tap. Karen wrote When Africa Was Home based on her experiences in the Peace Corps with her husband and two children. They have also published separately picture books, chapter books and young adult novels.
         For more information check www.CatherineStock.com or contact Karen Williams at Williams.Writes@verizon.net or 412-422-1165.

    Joan Richter (PC/Staff Spouse Kenya 1965–67) has a new short story in The Ellery Queen Centenary, just published. Joan’s story is entitled, “Love and Death in Africa.”
         Joan was a student of Fred Dannay, one of the cousins who wrote as “Ellery Queen” and Dannay recognized early on Joan’s talents as a mystery writer.

    “ Festival and Ritual,” from a collection of short pieces called Donkeys, Dervishes and the Borderline: Sketches of an American’s Experience in Pre-revolutionary Iran by Steve Horowitz (Iran 1968–71), appeared in the January 2005 issue of The Glimpse Magazine
    ( www.theglimpse.com). This piece describes the wriiter’s experience witnessing the Shi’a rituals performed in Iran during the month of Moharram. Another piece, “Double Decker Donkey“ is expected to be published in The Glimpse in the near future.
         Steve served for one year in Maragheh, Azarbaidjan, then transferred to the city of Rasht, near the Caspian Sea. Today, Steve is Director of the University English as a Second Language Program at Central Washington University. In addition, and for the last 7 years, he has hosted a weekly world music show, The Blue Planet, on KCWU in Ellensburg, Washington.

    Clearing Customs is a work of fiction by Martha J. Egan (Venezuela 1967–69) that takes on the real issues of the Patriot Act. Martha, owner of Pachamama, a Latin American folk arts store in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been fighting the federal government since the Reagan Administration and its War on Drugs. According to Martha, “Customs officials clearly suspected that small mom-and-pop import operations like mine were fronts for drug smuggling . . . [and] seemed intent on running us out of business.” Then along came the Patriot Act. To fight the harassment, Martha decided to write a novel. “I wrote Clearing Customs because I wanted to make something positive and entertaining out of a grossly unjust experience. I’d like to believe that someone in power will finally see fit to call off his dogs. But that may be like hoping the Easter Bunny is real.” You can read all about it at: PapalotePress.com, and we will review the book in the March issue of Peace Corps Writers.

    Jeffrey Taylor (Morocco 1988–90; PC Staff/Poland 1992, Uzbekistan 1992–93), whose latest book, Angry Wind: Through Muslim Black Africa by Truck, Bus, Boat and Camel is reviewed in this issue, is an Atlantic correspondent and wrote “Russia’s Holy Warriors” in the January/February 2005 issue of Atlantic. The article focuses on the “fervently Orthodox, anti-Islamic, and proudly militaristic” Cossacks who are on the rise in Vladimir Putin’s new Russia.

    On Saturday, January 15, in the New York Times, Thurston Clarke (Tunisia 1968) had an Op Ed on John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration address entitled “Ask How.” Clarke who has just published his book, Ask Not wrote about what makes a great speech, writing, “It is possible that a future president will evoke a similar reaction with an inaugural address . . . . But to accomplish this, he must do more than others have done: simply paraphrase or echo Kennedy. Instead, he will have to deliver an inaugural that so clearly engages his emotions, and so convincingly represents a distillation of the spiritual and philosophical principles guiding his life, that it will, in the end, awaken a deep emotional response from the American people, too.”

    Eric T. Stafne (Senegal 1994–96) will be holding two book signings for his novel The Wretch Unsung to coincide with Peace Corps Week. The signings will take place at the University of Arkansas bookstore on February 28 and March 1 from 2pm to 4pm. Also on display will be memorabilia from his service in Senegal. Eric will also present a seminar entitled Living and Writing the Peace Corps Experience on March 16, also on the University of Arkansas campus.

    After publishing Moon Handbooks Nicaragua, co-authored with Randy Wood (Nicaragua 1998-2000) — the 440-page guidebook that has sold over 12,000 copies — Joshua Berman (Nicaragua 1998–2000) was asked by Avalon Travel Publishing to take over Moon Handbooks Belize, a best-selling guide formerly by Chicki Mallan, who wrote the first five editions. Joshua began his research by crashing Thanksgiving dinner at the Peace Corps Country Director’s home in Belize City, tapping into a country-wide network of kind, friendly, and talented PCVs, several of whom contributed text and photographs to the book.
         Joshua and Randy just submitted the manuscript to their second edition of Nicaragua, which will be out Fall ’05; in the meantime, Joshua is plugging away at his Peace Corps memoir and a book on his fire fighting experience with the National Park Service. Josh has fun links, photos, tips, and random travel stories are available at Stonegrooves.net.

    In November, Algonquin Press will publish a golf novel by Roland Merullo (Micronesia 1978–79) that has a spiritual twist, as many golf novels do. This is the story of a former club pro in heaven who gets called upon to help God with His game. The novel is still untitled.

    George Wallace (Korea 1975–77) has been named the first poet laureate of Suffolk County, Long Island, NY. Wallace is editor of Poetrybay, and recently was selected by Stanford University for its international LOCKSS archiving project. His new book is Burn My Heart In Wet Sand, published in September by Troubador Publishing in England. He is the author of eight other chapbooks of poetry, including the bi-lingual Swimming Through Water, published by La Finestra Editrice in Trento, Italy.

    The story “The Clattering of Bones,” by Clifford Garstang (Korea 1976–77) appeared in Volume 10, Number 1 (Spring 2004) of The Timber Creek Review.