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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Multi-genre writer RPCV Carolyn V. Hamilton (Suriname)
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Talking with Robin Varnum (Afghanistan)
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Talking with poet Katie Speicher (Senegal)
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Talking to Ted Wells (Ethiopia) author of POWER, CHAOS & CONSENSUS
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Talking with Carl Murry (Pakistan) about THE G-K PROJECT
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Talking with Robert (Bud) Abbott (Nigeria)
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THE ADVOCACY — a ‘novel’ approach to civil engineering by Melissa Fischer (Ghana)
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Talking With Paul Aertker (Mauritania)
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Allen Mendenhall interviews Melissa Fischer (Ghana), author of THE ADVOCACY
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Melissa Fischer (Ghana) interviewed — THE ADVOCACY

Multi-genre writer RPCV Carolyn V. Hamilton (Suriname)

  Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.   Recently, we interviewed  Carolyn V. Hamilton Proctor (Suriname 1999-01) a multi-genre author, with books published in mystery, romance, memoir, and non-fiction as well as adult coloring books about her writing, and recently released, Elisabeth Samson, Forbidden Bride, a poignant and powerful historical drama.     Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, and a graduate of Antioch University Seattle, she spent over 30 years in the real world of “Mad Men.” She is also a Success Coach for memoir writers, and manages the FB group, Aspiring Memoir Writers. She currently lives way up in the Andes in the World Heritage City of Cuenca, Ecuador. Besides writing and mentoring, Border Collies, chocolate-covered raisins, art journaling and painting in watercolor are favorite activities. Carolyn V. Hamilton is proud to have served 2 years in the Peace Corps (which inspired her first novel) . . .

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Talking with Robin Varnum (Afghanistan)

  In June, Robin Varnum published her Peace Corps memoir Afghanistan at a Time of Peace. Peace Corps Worldwide asked Robin about her service, and about the writing and promoting of her book. • Robin, where and when did you serve with the Peace Corps: I served in the Peace Corps in Afghanistan (1971-1973), and  taught English (grades 8-12) in a girls school. Where did you live and work? I lived in Ghazni, a small city around 85 miles southwest of Kabul. I taught at Lycée Jahan Malika, the only girls school in either the city or the province of Ghazni. At the time, it served around 400 girls from kindergarten through 12thgrade. What kind of work did you do? I taught English. Although I did not understand initially why my students needed to learn English, I soon saw that a knowledge of English could open doors for students with serious ambitions. It was necessary, for example, for those who wished . . .

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Talking with poet Katie Speicher (Senegal)

  In her literary debut, Katie Speicher invites readers to join her in Senegal with her poems on beauty, strength, questioning, nostalgia, heartbreak, and contentment. Her poems have sprung from her Peace Corps service and from reaching deep into memory. Here Katie tells about herself and her writing. • Katie — where and when did you serve in the Peace Corps? Senegal 2016-2018 What was your Peace Corp project assignment? Agroforestry Specialist Tell us about where you lived and worked. I lived in Koumbidia Soce, a Mandinka village of about 700 people in the Kaffrine region of Senegal. What were your living conditions? I lived with a host family. I had my own hut within a family compound. At the time I was there we had no electricity, and water was pulled everyday from a well. During my service electricity went up in the village, but my family did not . . .

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Talking to Ted Wells (Ethiopia) author of POWER, CHAOS & CONSENSUS

  Ted, where are you from in the States? I was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in a small town called Sharon 20 miles south of the city. I started a 5 year degree in Architecture at the University of Oregon in Eugene, but finished it at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where I met my wife-to-be, Helen, who was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, but had moved to Colorado just before I arrived. Why the Peace Corps? I was strongly opposed to the Vietnam War and would have emigrated to Canada with my wife of ten months had we not both been accepted into the Peace Corps immediately after I graduated from university. Thankfully, my Draft Board accepted this as an alternative to Vietnam. Why Ethiopia? We would have accepted any assignment anywhere in the Peace Corps, but Community Development work in Ethiopia was the only choice . . .

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Talking with Carl Murry (Pakistan) about THE G-K PROJECT

Carl talks about his new book • Carl, where and when did you serve in the Peace Corps? I served in East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh, from 1962 to 1964. I also served as Associate Peace Corps Director for agriculture, education and appropriate technology in Swaziland from 1978 to 1981, and served as a trainer for CAST, CREST, and pre service training in the 1980s. What was your Peace Corps project assignment? Training agriculture extension agents in the Ganges-Kobadak Irrigation project. The assignment evolved into developing farmer Clubs to support new and improved agriculture practices in their areas, starting a technical library, publishing a monthly newsletter, Recognizing “Master” farmers and being the team leader. What kind of work did you do? Initially we set up irrigation committees to distribute water from the tertiary canals to small, highly fragmented fields. This required a high level of cooperation. Each committee discussed . . .

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Talking with Robert (Bud) Abbott (Nigeria)

  Robert Abbott is author of the new book  Transformation: The 60-second Mind-body Practice Integrating Tai chi and Yoga to Manage Stress and Unlock Your Potential Where and when did you serve in the Peace Corps? I was assigned to serve in Nigeria as a member of Nigeria-19. I did the training in the Virgin Islands in the fall of 1965 and arrived in Nigeria in January 1966. I was assigned to Federal Government College in Warri, in the Mid-West State What was your Peace Corps Assignment? My assignment was to be a teacher in the new Higher School College. I was the first teacher to arrive at the college, so I initially taught biology and chemistry, and was the school nurse and P.E. Instructor. Tell us about where you lived and worked? I lived in the oil town of Warri. The campus was about two miles from the center . . .

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THE ADVOCACY — a ‘novel’ approach to civil engineering by Melissa Fischer (Ghana)

  An interview by Ben Walpole Senior Manager, Content Development ASCE’S NEWS AND INFORMATION HUB American Society of Civil Engineers • Melissa Fischer’s first novel, The Advocacy, published in 2019, mixes all the human drama, emotional stakes, plot twists, and character development that you’d expect from a great work of fiction with a realistic portrayal of a working civil engineer. It’s not often that civil engineering and literature show up in the same sentence. Melissa Fischer, P.E., M.ASCE, is aiming to change that. Fischer, who identifies as nonbinary, is a supervising engineer for the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, but lately they’re probably better known as a novelist. Fischer’s first novel, The Advocacy, published in 2019, mixes all the human drama, emotional stakes, plot twists, and character development that you’d expect from a great work of fiction with a realistic portrayal of a working civil engineer. Fischer discussed the book on a recent . . .

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Talking With Paul Aertker (Mauritania)

  Paul Aertker (ETT Kerr) is a children’s book writer, teacher, and a frequent speaker at elementary and middle schools. He began his teaching career in West Africa with the Peace Corps where he helped establish the town’s first public library. His first series, Crime Travelers, consistently ranks in the top spot in multiple Amazon categories. His newest book, Posthumous, has won the 2018 Foreword Reviews Indie Book of the Year Bronze Award, and the 2018 SCBWI Spark Award for “excellence in independent publishing for children.” The Crime Travelers series has sold more than 25,000 copies per year for the last three years and has been optioned for TV/Film. • Paul, where are you from? I grew up in Louisiana, surrounded by a kaleidoscope of African and Cajun cultures, and went to Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. Why did you decide to join the Peace Corps? As cliché as it might seem, I wanted . . .

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Allen Mendenhall interviews Melissa Fischer (Ghana), author of THE ADVOCACY

  SOUTHERN LITERARY REVIEW A Magazine for Literature of the American South • AM:  I’m glad we have this opportunity, Melissa, to talk about your profound new book, The Advocacy, which is set in 1992 in Obuasi, Ghana, a mining town known for its gold. You lived in this town in 1992 and remained there for a few years while you worked for the Peace Corps. How did your experiences shape and inform the writing of The Advocacy? MF:  Thank you, Allen, for your kind words and for this opportunity to talk about The Advocacy. I lived in Obuasi for two years [1992–94], the normal duration of a Peace Corps tour. The experience touched me on a spiritual level. The richness of that life inspired my dedication to completing the novel over the course of 25 years. I find that a story lives in the telling, not within the premise or plot. For . . .

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Melissa Fischer (Ghana) interviewed — THE ADVOCACY

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Steven Boyd Saum (Ukraine 1994–96)   Kirkus Review by Walter Rutter-Bowman      “I had a sense as a very young child,” says Melissa Fischer (Ghana 1992-94), debut author of The Advocacy, “that I would grow up and write a novel. That was just a form that I loved.” The Advocacy is set in Ghana, where the author served in the Peace Corps. While there, Fischer kept three journals. “One was my personal journal,” they say. “One was a professional journal. And then I kept a journal as if I was speaking to my family and friends—as if I was telling them the story.” That third journal became the first draft of the novel. Fischer, who now lives in Los Angeles and works for the LA County Sanitation Districts, lived in Ghana for two years. A civil engineer, they worked for a water and sanitation agency in a gold mining . . .

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