Archive - August 2015

1
Michael Meyer (China 1995-97) in Poets & Writers
2
Purgatory Garden, new novel by Peter Lefcourt (Togo 1962-64)
3
A Writer Writes: Simone Zelitch (Hungary 1991-93) My Freedom Summer Peace Corps Novel
4
Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #11
5
Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #10
6
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, KJV)
7
Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel # 9
8
Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #8
9
Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #7
10
Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #6

Michael Meyer (China 1995-97) in Poets & Writers

There is a long, long section in the Sept/Oct 2015 issue of Poets & Writers that focuses on MFA programs for creative writing. In an article entitled “The Mature MFA Going Back to School as an Older Student”  written by Shannon Reed, she mentions Michael Meyer (China 1995-97), author of The Last Days of Old Beijing (2008), and writes that “Everyone I interviewed for this article emphasized that it’s especially important for older students to be clear about their intentions.” She then quotes Michael, “In your personal statement, tell us who you are and why you want to earn an MFA . . .. Wanting a fresh start after a terrible breakup is not a compelling reason. Join the Peace Corps instead.” [Com’on, Mike, you know better than that. If you went to Manchuria or Walli Jalla, Senegal, you could write a novel about that lost love, publish it, and be ahead of . . .

Read More

Purgatory Garden, new novel by Peter Lefcourt (Togo 1962-64)

Peter Lefcourt (Togo 1962–64), winner of the 2006 Maria Thomas Award in 2006 for his novel The Manhattan Beach Project, has a new novel out this August entitled, Purgatory Garden. In the novel Sammy Dee is a mid-level Long Island mafioso in witness protection. Didier Onyekachukwu was the corrupt minister of finance of the former Upper Volta. Both men find themselves in middle age, living in the Southern California version of genteel poverty in a down-market condo complex called Paradise Gardens. Enter Marcy Gray, a “mature” actress barely getting by on a meager SAG pension. She is looking for a guy to help her through the duration and, frankly, at this point her standards are not as high as they should be; she’d settle for someone who doesn’t pick his teeth at the table and who drives at night. Occasional sex and some travel wouldn’t hurt. Her search has narrowed to . . .

Read More

A Writer Writes: Simone Zelitch (Hungary 1991-93) My Freedom Summer Peace Corps Novel

A Writer Writes My Freedom Summer Peace Corps Novel by Simone Zelitch (Hungary 1991-93) Over twenty years after my time in Peace Corps Hungary, I’ve finally published my Peace Corps novel.  No, it doesn’t take place at the University of Veszprem in 1991; it’s set in Mississippi. Waveland (The Head and the Hand, 2015) centers on a hapless, earnest, white volunteer during Freedom Summer. The book is about good intentions, culture shock, and eventual maturity. It’s about the stupid mistakes all outsiders make when we jump into deep water without knowing how to swim. In the summer of 1964, when the Freedom Movement decided to invite white volunteers to Mississippi, some called it a “domestic Peace Corps”. These young people from the North would staff libraries and daycare centers, teach literacy classes, and join on-going voter-registration drives in a campaign that culminated in a challenge to the all-white Mississippi delegation . . .

Read More

Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #11

The # 11-Key Step: This extra step is like the 19th hole for golfers. You’re back in the bar at the club house going over your score and declaring if you had made a couple of putts on the front nine, or if that wedge on the par- 5 hadn’t  checked up below the hole on 17…. why instead of 87, you could have posted a 72 or 73. That’s golf. That’s writing a novel. So, with your first draft finished, push back from the computer and pour yourself a drink and think: “Now who’s going to play my protagonist in the movie they’ll make of my book?” Let your mind wander….. will it be??????

Read More

Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #10

The # 10 Key Step: Imposing a structure on your book. When I was writing my first published novel, The Piercing, I imposed a structure on the plot that complemented the religious overtones of the book. As a specific time frame for my story I chose the 40 days of Lent. I then divided the book into 40 chapters, one for each day. This structure enabled me to pace the story while always having an overview of where the plot was going. You will be surprised that even an artificial structure, like a scaffolding to a building, will help you write your book. You can discard the building blocks later, if you want, but the device will help you write your novel. For example, if you want to write a novel that takes place all within twenty-four hours, you have that security of a structure to pace the story but . . .

Read More

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, KJV)

Director Carrie Hessler- Radelet did not quote the King James Bible when she introduced the Peace Corps new Faith Based Initiative at Calvin College last February. She did announce that the purpose was to “connect with faith-based NGOs and networks in the United States, and also to better support communities of faith overseas” Here, again, is the link to her remarks: http://www.calvin.edu/chimes/2015/02/12/peace-corps-director-opens-up-on-faith-development-and-changes-in-the-peace-corps/ How will Peace Corps implement its Faith Based Imitative when there is no agreement among religions on how to translate Faith into practice? Description of what is planned: statement-of-work-faith-based-advisor-15-0122-22 Two main categories of questions need to be answered, I think: How will the religious and legal environment in host countries impact this Faith Based Initiative? Will the demands of the Faith Based Initiative burden further overseas staff, 90% of whom are Host Country Nationals, responsible for the training, site selection and support of Volunteers? I welcome comments and . . .

Read More

Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel # 9

The # 9 Key Step: The chapters of your book need to gain momentum and each chapter needs to be “larger” than the previous one. Think of your chapters as rooms in a building in which each space that one enters is larger than the previous one, and you, as the author, are leading a tour. The readers must sense that as they read they are making progress: learning, and understanding more and more about the characters and the situation. Remember also that characters do not operate in a vacuum. Their actions usually involve other people, and these interactions are what make up scenes. A single scene or a telling description can be a building block for constructing a unified story line. That means that you plot and your characters have to grow and evolve. This happens in two ways: their actions and their outlook on life. Readers develop an . . .

Read More

Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #8

The # 8 Key Step: Commit yourself to a point of view early in your planning and stay with it. This enables your-and your readers-to get a footing in your story. “Point of view” is a term that refers to the relationship between the storyteller, the story and the reader. A story can be told from three different points of view–first person, second person or third person. Our natural inclination is to have a narrator who tells his or her own story in the first person. Think of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. A first person storyteller can also tell someone else’s story, as did Nick Caraway in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Other writers use the third-person point of view. There are various kinds of third person narrators. Two examples are. An omniscient storyteller who goes everywhere, knows everything, reveals what is in the minds of . . .

Read More

Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #7

The #7 Key Step: Find a batch of 4 x 6 index cards and write each one of your characters at the top of the card. Next, think about the role each character plays in your story, and what kind of person each is: age, education, place of birth, appearance, mannerisms, personality. Some characters will be major ones during the action of the story; others will play only bit parts. Regardless, the details of their personalities and lives are critical to adding interest to your story. You must remember, however, that every character must have a reason for being. If they do not, they will slow the book down and worst of all, bore the reader. Using this same index-card technique, Alfred Hitchcock would write down information about each scene of his film, one scene to a card. By the time he was ready to shoot, he had a completely . . .

Read More

Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #6

The # 6 Key Step: Playing God. If you want to write a novel, you must act like God. You begin to play God by creating a main character. You need a strong protagonist, someone who draws the reader into the story. This is the person with whom your reader will identify. You want your reader to care about your protagonists. You may have a main character who is a villain, but he or she is not the protagonist of your story. The protagonist is the hero or heroine carries the narrative to the climax of the novel. You have to decide. To help you decide, always ask yourself these critical questions: Which option would be most interesting to the reader? Will the reader care? These questions are the real litmus test of character development and plotting. To be successful, you need to make hard choices. You need to be . . .

Read More

Copyright © 2016. Peace Corps Worldwide.