The History of Peace Corps Writers

In April, 1989, Marian Haley Beil and I published a 4-page newsletter entitled RPCV Writers. I had — as a writer — been tracking other Peace Corps writers, and had already organized a panel discussion about Peace Corps books for the 25th Anniversary RPCV Conference in 1986.

Marian, also an Ethiopia I (1962-64) Volunteer, agreed to help me. She designed, published and circulated the quarterly newsletter.

We saw our newsletter as a way of sharing information about publications, readings, writing grants, and teaching positions for RPCVs. To recognize and promote Peace Corps writers, in 1990, we established annual awards for outstanding writing in a variety of genre. We funded the award prizes and have (so far) given out 143.

In July of 1991 we changed the publication’s name to RPCV Writers & Readers and increased the number of issues to six a year. In November 1998, we published our last issue of RPCV Writers & Readers, which had grown to 20 pages.

Shortly after that, publisher Marian Beil established our online presence: www.PeaceCorpsWriters.org. We continued to promote and recognize Peace Corps writers until 2000 when we broadened the concept of “writing” and asked other RPCVs to contribute blogs to our site. We became www.PeaceCorpsWorldwide.org.

In 2010, we established the Peace Corps Writers imprint to enable Peace Corps writers to publish their books. To date the imprint has published 75 books, 47 of them are about the Peace Corps experience.

At the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps in 2011, with the assistance of Congressman John Garamendi and his wife, Patricia, both PCVs in Ethiopia (1966-68), we celebrated “Peace Corps Writers” with a luncheon at the Library of Congress, and the Library’s creation of a Special Collection: Peace Corps Books.

We had achieved what we had always wanted: a literary genre that might rightfully be called Peace Corps Literature.

And we have realized that there is a good reason for our volunteer efforts all these years — the Third Goal of the Peace Corps.

 

16 Comments

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  • Our community owes both of you a great deal of gratitude for having the insight and determination to support the work of so many who have a story to tell. Hoo-ray to Marian and John.

  • Credibly astounding vital achievement ranging now through three decades since 1986 from at the 25th anniversary Peace Corps Conference through 1989 and the first newsletter Marian Haley Beil and you John Coyne came out with the first newsletters continuing within ten years into an online publication adding in 2010 the publishing house imprint PEACE CORPS WRITERS and although you and Marian operating from both the left and right coasts of the USA are past chirping age you are easily more than two decades younger than our San Francisco poet writer publisher hero Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Press and bookstore who recently celebrated his 99th birthday & you may sometimes feel you could be getting tired, but take deep smiles into you, pep-streamers, coming to you from all the Peace Corps folks who read n’ write walkn’ w/ you pioneers.

  • Thank you All!

    Marian & I appreciate the help we get from you in publishing this newsletter. Help from bloggers, like Joanne Roll, and help from everyone who adds to our history with comments and remembrances. And a special thanks to the many, many book reviewers who over the years have added to the collective history of our experience with their insights. Without you, RPCVs, we would have given up years ago.

  • Thank you so much, John and Marian. Your generosity and encouragement is so appreciated and could never be repaid. I echo Lawrence’s suggestion about a anthology; but it would take a library!

    I remember how much it meant to me when I first read “Peace Corps Writers and Readers.” I’m a reader and I thought I found something important, that I did not even realize I was looking for until I found it.

  • Congratulations, John and Marian, on a superb lifetime achievement!

    Leita Kaldi Davis
    (Senegal 1993-96)

  • Congratulations to you, John and Marian, and Joanne. And Thanks for an indispensable resource and crucial inspiration to all of us! You are the library the Peace Corps doesn’t have. You are the historians we so desperately need! And it is an honor to know you and love you!

    • Alana,

      All the credit goes to John and Marian. Their work is so valuable and crosses decades. I am a recipient, like so many of us, of their generosity, talent, and hard work.

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