Archive - September 2009

1
Better Than A Dan Brown Novel
2
Bad Books Written By Good RPCVs
3
Rob Davidson (Grenada 1990-92) Wins New Fiction Prize
4
Self-Publish Your Peace Corps Story Or Not?
5
A PCV Death In Tanzania
6
Everyone Needs an Editor [Not just me]
7
Review: Award Winner The Baker's Boy By Barry Kitterman
8
Taking It On The Chin: Handling Literary Critics
9
The Rules For Writing A Peace Corps Book
10
RPCV Mystery Writer Phillip Margolin Speaking In Central Oregon

Better Than A Dan Brown Novel

Here’s what iUniverse’s  “product description” says of novel Tanga, written by Eric Madeen, an RPCV from Gabon and  currently an associate professor of English at Tokyo City University. After reading this “product description” you can’t say RPCVs lack imagination! TANGA is a novel of forbidden love set in a rain forest village in the heart of Africa. It seamlessly merges adventure, romance, and the psycho-thriller while deconstructing Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, with David undergoing the Kurtz syndrome — to a lesser degree, of course. Like Kurtz, David enters the heart of “blackest” Africa as a white man, and as a Peace Corps volunteer of genuine idealism, he finds himself both “corrupted by” and also empathizing with the Africans he becomes involved with, and tempted to “go native.” In sum, TANGA is an irresistible love story. From the moment David sees Assam naked in the stream, right up through his final . . .

Read More

Bad Books Written By Good RPCVs

If the Peace Corps did anything, it turned us into readers and we are better for it. But being a reader doesn’t make us writers. That’s the rub. Having a great (or not so great) Peace Corps experience doesn’t turn us into writers, either, though it might help when it comes to the story told. Being an English major doesn’t make one a writer, and it can even hurt an RPCV writer, having read (and then trying to write like) one of those great writers from lit classes. What I’ve seen editing PeaceCorpsWriters are a lot of self-published books that have very limited value and aren’t well written. For example, some RPCVs think that they can collect all those letters home, slap them together, add a few grainy black-and-white-photos, and have a book. Rarely, are those Letters Home worth reading by anyone outside of the family. The other Peace Corps . . .

Read More

Rob Davidson (Grenada 1990-92) Wins New Fiction Prize

Rob Davidson (Grenada 1990-92), who served with his wife on the island of Carriacou, and who went onto earn his doctoral candidate in American literature at Purdue University, is the author of a collection of stories entitled Field Observations that won the Peace Corps Writers Maria Thomas Award a few years back, and he has a new honor to his credit. Camber Press just announced the winner of the first annual Camber Press Fiction Chapbook Award. It is Rob Davidson’s entry entitled “Criminals” chosen by writer Ron Carlson from among a group of unidentified submissions. Davidson, a resident of Chico, California, sets his story on the small Caribbean island of Carriacou. Our distant, academic narrator takes us to this island where goats outnumber people two to one. Natives practice grudges, judgments, stubbornness, and things are never as simple as right or wrong. More accurately, they’re about how one resolves issues within the . . .

Read More

Self-Publish Your Peace Corps Story Or Not?

I have been writing the occasional blog about self-published books, mostly as a way of encourage people to write them, and while encouraging them to write, to suggest–urge–that they get a good editor (or 2) to work on their prose and poetry. Writing good prose is not easy and it takes a lot of work just to write one good sentence, let alone two good sentences. Lauri Anderson (Nigeria 1965-67) a creative writing professor as well as a novelist dropped me a note recently that I think adds to my discussion about self-published books. Here is what Lauri has to say: “I have read a few fine books that were self-published.  An RPCV friend at the University of Michigan Flint self-published a novel that I read from cover to cover and enjoyed.  One of my favorite travel books was self-published.  For every one such well-written self-published book there are hundreds of mediocre . . .

Read More

A PCV Death In Tanzania

In the fall of 1964, just back from Ethiopia and working for the Division of Volunteer Support, I met Peverley Dennett and Bill Kinsey during their training program at Syracuse University. Bill had been assigned to Malawi and Peppy [as Peverley was called] to Tanzania. In those early years of Peace Corps Training groups were often trained together on college campuses, but that decision was changed because too many Trainees from different projects were meeting up and falling in love. The Peace Corps might be the “greatest job you’ll ever love” but the Peace Corps didn’t want you “falling in love” during Training.] Bill and Peverley were two young goodlooking kids just out of college. Bill, as I recall, had a bright smile, blond hair cut into a crew cut, an All-American looks. Peverley was sweet and shy and very pretty. They were the picture of what Peace Corps Volunteers . . .

Read More

Everyone Needs an Editor [Not just me]

Some of you might have read about Tess Gallagher [the widow of Raymond Carver, and his second wife] who wants to publish 17 of Carver’s original short stories. Carver was a minimalist [A literary style exemplifying economy and restraint], and his most successful collection of stories, and what put ‘minimalist’ on the map, was entitled, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. It was published by Knopf in ’81 and edited by Gordon Lish, the prince of minimalist editors. Gallagher, herself a well known writer and poet, wants to publish her late husband’s stories as they were original written. Carver, who died in ’88 at 50, had tried to set the record straight himself. According to an article in The New York Times [The Arts Section, on Wednesday, October 17, 2007] “He restored and republished five of the stories” and published them in a collection entitled, Where I’m . . .

Read More

Review: Award Winner The Baker's Boy By Barry Kitterman

Poet Ann Neelon teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Murray State University and edits New Madrid magazine. Here she reviews The Baker’s Boy by Barry Kitterman — winner of the 2009 Maria Thomas Peace Corps Writers Award for Fiction. • The Baker’s Boy by Barry Kitterman (Belize 1976–78) Southern Methodist University Press 2008 336 pages $22.50 Reviewed by Ann Neelon (Senegal 1978–79) In reading Barry Kitterman, I find myself rediscovering the pleasures of reading Dostoyevsky — admittedly an extravagant claim in response to a first novel. Like Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot and/or The Possessed, The Baker’s Boy constitutes a powerful work of moral imagination. Brothers Albert and Junie and their cohorts-including Broke-hand, Mouse, Snot, Milkboy, Corky, Cowboy, Whiteboy, Redboy, Bigboy, Leeboy, and Blackboy-are no choir boys, as Tanner Johnson, their teacher at the New Hope School, duly notes (this despite the fact that Albert and . . .

Read More

Taking It On The Chin: Handling Literary Critics

I am amused when first time published writers, usually self published vanity authors, get all testy with me when their writing is criticized, even lambasted, by one of our reviewers on this site, or by yours truly. Having been in this game of writing for some forty years, with 25 plus books published, I have had my fair share (actually, more than my fair share) of bad reviews, put downs, and slam dunks from critics and good friends. This last weekend I came across a wonderful collection of put downs and slam dunks by writers. The book is entitled W.O.W.: Writers On Writing,edited by Jon Winoku and published first in 1986 by Running Press Books of Philadelphia. There are many back-and-forths about Truman Capote who really bought the acid tongues out in other writers. Everyone picked on poor Truman. Here’s a sample of some of the snide remarks that the . . .

Read More

The Rules For Writing A Peace Corps Book

There are no rules. And that is what is so great about writing a book. A friend, a successful writer/editor/creative writing professor and RPCV, has been reading my blogs on “Peace Corps books” and she sent me these wise words on how Peace Corps writers should go about the task of writing a book. Her list: Hopeful Peace Corps writers should take writing courses from reputable instructors to learn the basics and to have the opportunity to workshop their writing among peers. They should also read lots of good How-To books on the craft. There are a gazzillion of them out there. They should avoid at all costs: exclamation points, stereotyping, cliches, and all other proofs of lazy writing. They should plan on revising each chapter or piece at least ten times. Quality writing is all about revision. They should NOT confuse explicit, titillating, borderline-pornographic sex scenes with “intimacy” with . . .

Read More

RPCV Mystery Writer Phillip Margolin Speaking In Central Oregon

Author and former criminal defense attorney Phillip Margolin will speak in Central Oregon. This is a piece that appeared today (September 1, 2009) in The Bulletin by David Jasper. It is an interview with  Phillip Margolin (Liberia 1966-68) one of the  more successful RPCV writers. • “Good afternoon, law offices,” says a receptionist for author Phillip Margolin, focus of Deschutes Public Library’s Celebrate Oregon Author series for the month of September. The Portland-based writer of 14 best-sellers may have stepped away from a 25-year career as an attorney back in 1996, but that didn’t mean he was going to surrender his office. “I just kept my old office,” says Margolin, 65. “I like having a place to come … to. For me, it’s nicer to have an office. There’s just a lot of stuff I do downtown. I work out downtown … take coffee breaks and snacks and lunch.” He’ll . . .

Read More

Copyright © 2019. Peace Corps Worldwide.