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PEACE CORPS WRITERS is pleased to announce that In An Uncharted Country by Clifford Garstang  (South Korea 1976–78) has won the 2010 Maria Thomas Fiction Award for the outstanding fiction book published by a Peace Corps writer during 2009. Clifford will receive a framed certificate and a prize of $200.

In An Uncharted Country showcases ordinary men and women in and around Rugglesville, Virginia, as they struggle to find places and identities in their families and the community. This collection of short stories is Garstang’s first published book, and it has also won the Independent Publisher’s IPPY Gold Medal this year for Best Fiction in the Mid Atlantic.

Clifford Garstang grew up in the Midwest and received a BA from Northwestern University. After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, he earned an MA in English and a JD, both from Indiana University, and practiced international law in Singapore, Chicago, and Los Angeles with Sidley Austin, one of the largest law firms in the United States. Subsequently, he earned an MPA in International Development from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and worked for Harvard Law School as a legal reform consultant in Almaty, Kazakhstan. From 1996 to 2001, he was Senior Counsel for East Asia at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., where his work concentrated on China, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Garstang received an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. His work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Cream City Review, The Baltimore Review, Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere and has received Distinguished Mention in the Best American Series. He won the 2006 Confluence Fiction Prize and the 2007 GSU Review Fiction Prize, and has had a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and scholarships to both Sewanee and the Indiana University Writers’ Conference, as well as residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. This summer Clifford is attending the Sewanee Writers’ Conference as a Walter E. Dakin Fellow. garstang-c1

He is the editor of the new literary magazine Prime Number, and currently lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  His stories and book reviews have appeared in numerous publications. You can read more about Cliff and his book at CliffordGarstang.com.

Some of Cliff Garstang’s fondest memories of his time as a Volunteer in South Korea actually involved literature. In addition to his duties as an ESL teacher at the Education College of a provincial university, he also taught literature in the Arts and Sciences college — instead of having to stick to the repetitive nature of the conversation texts, he actually got to explore language in a completely different way. He was also able to direct a couple of plays, which he enjoyed thoroughly because it provided a structured opportunity to interact with students outside the classroom. They did “The Long Christmas Dinner” by Thornton Wilder one year and it was, he has to admit, a failure. It’s a beautiful play, but there’s very little action and depends a great deal on the dialogue, so it was tough for the audience. But during his second year as a PCV he directed his students an adaptation of The Man of Lamancha, focusing on the fight scenes, and that was a huge success.

Cliff  also has one embarrassing admission that relates to literature during his time in Korea. He was thrilled to be able to get books from the Peace Corps office in Seoul and he picked up one that was very long and engrossing. He couldn’t put it down and one morning he “forgot” to go to school so he could stay home and finish it. He asked me not to tell anyone . . . sorry, Cliff. So what was the book?

To order In an Uncharted Country from Amazon, click on the book cover or the bold book title — and Peace Corps Worldwide, an Amazon Associate, will receive a small remittance that helps support these awards.