Author Interviews

Talking with published writers about their PC service, current life, writing their books, their advice for other writers — and what is in the works.

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Talking with poet Bill Preston (Thailand)
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“The Pope’s Astronomer” Guy Consolmagno (Kenya)
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Paul Theroux (Malawi) interviewed in Conde Nast Traveler
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Talking with Nancy Heil Knor (Belize), author of WOVEN
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Tony D’Souza (Ivory Coast, Madagascar) talks with Bill Owens (Jamaica)
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Forbes Magazine — “Communicating Successfully Across Borders: A Q&A With Craig Storti” (Morocco)
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Peter Hessler (China) Discovers Egypt
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Fiction that matters — An Interview with Mark Jacobs (Paraguay)
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Talking with Ambassador Vicki Huddleston (Peru)
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Talking with Madeline Uraneck (Lesotho)

Talking with poet Bill Preston (Thailand)

  The poems in Strange Beauty of the World invite readers to reflect on the ways the past impinges on the present, how events long ago continue to inform who we are now; to consider acts taken and not taken, and the way actions have unintended consequences; to bear witness to cruelty and injustice; to summon the creative imagination to resist the mundane, challenge the rehearsed response. In particular, they pay homage to beauty, and its weird, wonderful diversity and expression. As with many aspects of his life, Bill Preston never started out to be a poet. Nor does he really think of himself as one: Strange Beauty of the World is his sole collection of poems, and he currently has no plan to write another. Not that planning has ever been his particular strong point. In fact, Bill never planned on joining the Peace Corps, choosing to serve in VISTA first, . . .

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“The Pope’s Astronomer” Guy Consolmagno (Kenya)

    Brother Guy Consolmagno (Kenya 1983-85) was appointed Director of the Vatican Astronomical Observatory by Pope Francis in 2015. His books include Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist and Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?: and Other Questions from the Astronomers’ In-box at the Vatican Observatory. He is known as “The Pope’s Astronomer.” In a radio interview on NPR recently he spoke of his Peace Corps experience and astronomy: Interviewer: And then you went into the Peace Corps and you’ve said that you couldn’t see the point of studying stars when people were dying of hunger. So I want to ask you how you saw the point of studying stars differently when you went back to astronomy after Kenya? Br. Consolmango: Well, I joined the Peace Corps with the attitude I’ll go wherever they ask me to go because they know better than me where they can use me. And after . . .

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Paul Theroux (Malawi) interviewed in Conde Nast Traveler

    The January/February issue of Conde Nast Traveler has an interview with Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) done by Francesca Babb entitled “The Globetrotter” and the headline: “The novelist and master of travel writing, who made his name journeying from the U.S. to Japan and back by train for The Great Railway Bazaar, hit the open road for his latest book.” (The interview is on page 113 of the thick issue subtitled: THE GOLD LIST 2020.) Theroux’s new book is On the Plain of Snakes A Mexican Road Trip. The interviewer, however, doesn’t so much focus on the new book as ask Paul about his life and travels. While his time in the Peace Corps doesn’t come up, there are nevertheless interesting questions and replies. A few exchanges . . .   What is the greatest train route on earth? “Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. It was built after the . . .

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Talking with Nancy Heil Knor (Belize), author of WOVEN

    Nancy, where and when did you serve in the Peace Corps? I had the privilege of serving in the village of San Pedro Columbia in Belize, Central America, from 1989–1991. I loved it! The village is inhabited by K’ekchi Mayan families who are mostly subsistence farmers. When I lived there, the population was about 1,000 people; it was one of the larger Mayan villages in the southernmost district of Belize. What was your Peace Corps project assignment? Originally, I was sent to the village to teach the villagers how to plant carrots in order to increase their intake of Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps prevent vision loss — something that many of the K’ekchi experience. The project, which was called Relevant Education for Agricultural Production (REAP), was a district-wide initiative, but, unfortunately, we Volunteers found it difficult to implement. Most of us were trained as teachers and had . . .

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Tony D’Souza (Ivory Coast, Madagascar) talks with Bill Owens (Jamaica)

    Talking with Bill Owens (Jamaica 1964–65) By Tony D’Souza (Ivory Coast 2000–02, Madagascar 2002–03) Bill Owens (Jamaica 1964-1965) took iconic photos of the Hells Angels beating concertgoers with pool cue sticks at the Rolling Stones’ performance during the Altamont Speedway Free Festival four months after Woodstock on December 6, 1969. Altamont, which included violence almost all day and one stabbing death, is considered by historians as the end of the Summer of Love and the overall 1960s youth ethos. This series of photos include panoramas of the massive, unruly crowd, Grace Slick and Carlos Santana on stage with the press of humanity so close in, they’re clearly performing under duress. Of that day, Owens has written: I got a call from a friend, she said the Associated Press wanted to hire me for a day to cover a rock and roll concert. I road my motorcycle to the . . .

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Forbes Magazine — “Communicating Successfully Across Borders: A Q&A With Craig Storti” (Morocco)

    Craig Storti (Morocco 1970-72) is a nationally known expert in the field of intercultural communications and cross-cultural adaptation. He is Director of Communicating Across Cultures. Internationally known as an expert in intercultural communications and cross-cultural adaptation, he is the author of many books, including Culture Matters, a cross-cultural workbook used by the U.S. government in over 90 countries. He is also the author of a book read by many PCVs, The Art of Crossing Cultures. Craig’s most recent book is Why Travel Matters: A Guide to the Life-Changing Effects of Travel, reviewed on this site.. He has lived nearly a quarter of his life abroad—with extended stays in Moslem, Hindu, and Buddhist cultures—and speaks French, Arabic, and Nepali. In his interview with Forbes Magazine, Laura Brown asked: What does the rest of the business world think of U.S. communication style? And how can U.S.-based businesses communicate productively with their global . . .

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Peter Hessler (China) Discovers Egypt

    Editor John Coyne talks with Peter Hessler (China)   Peter Hessler Discovers Egypt Peter Hessler is a 1992 graduate of Princeton University, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in China from 1996 to 1998. Since that time he has worked in China as a freelance writer for numerous publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, South China Morning Post, and National Geographic. In 2008, he won the National Magazine Award for excellence in reporting, and since 2000 he has been a staff writer at The New Yorker. Hessler has written four books on China. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, which won the 2001 Kiriyama Book Prize, describes Hessler’s experience as an English teacher in Fuling, a small city on the Yangtze River. Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award, explores the intersection . . .

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Fiction that matters — An Interview with Mark Jacobs (Paraguay)

  Fiction that matters—An Interview with Mark Jacobs (Paraguay) Interviewed by Kurt Baumeister, The Oddville Press http://arthousemedia.com/oddville/interview-jacobs.html (Mark Jacobs (MJ) and Kurt Baumeister (KGB) KGB— You’ve published quite a bit of short fiction, some of it in hallowed literary venues like The Atlantic, Shenandoah, and The Kenyon Review. And you’ve won several prizes for this work. But you’ve also published a few straight spy thrillers. Talk about the impulse to work in different subgenres of fiction—I’ve always hesitated to refer to literary or serious fiction as a genre, but many do so let’s go with it—do you get different satisfactions out of writing serious fiction as opposed to what we think of as “popular” work? MJ— It’s good to connect with you, Kurt. I appreciate the question. A few years ago, I was disappointed to get a turn-down on a story from the editor of one of the prestigious literary magazines. He seemed to like the story I’d sent . . .

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Talking with Ambassador Vicki Huddleston (Peru)

  Ambassador Vicki Latham Huddleston (Peru 1964–66) is a retired career Senior Foreign Service Officer who recently published a memoir, Our Woman in Havana: A Diplomat’s Chronicle of America’s Long Struggle with Castro’s Cuba. Over her thirty year career in foreign affairs she has worked for the Department of State, USAID, and the Department of Defense. Her last government assignment was as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from June 2009 through December 2011. Before that she was Chargé d’Affaires ad interim to Ethiopia, United States Ambassador to Mali, Principal Officer of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and U.S. Ambassador to Madagascar. She was Chief of United States Interests Section in Havana from 1999–2002 and was earlier the Deputy and then the Coordinator of the Office of Cuban Affairs. Prior to joining the Department of Defense, she was a visiting scholar . . .

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Talking with Madeline Uraneck (Lesotho)

  Madeline Uraneck (Lesotho 2007-09) is an educator and writer who has visited sixty-four countries through her role as International Education Consultant for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, several Peace Corps assignments, and her passion for world travel. Her writing has appeared in K–12 curriculum materials, educational handbooks on culture and policy, and publications including WorldView Magazine, Hotline, Global Education, WorldWise Schools, and Isthmus, for which she received a Milwaukee Press Club award. • Madeline, tell us a little about yourself. I’m an Okie, raised by liberal parents in oil country and America’s Bible Belt.  My dad said I had to go to college out of state, so I ended up at Grinnell College in Iowa, then University of Wisconsin in Madison, both bastions of the Midwest, to study Psychology then Education. I’ve been in and out of Wisconsin for 50 years now, from the campus demonstrations of the late 60s . . .

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