Peace Corps writers at AWP Conference


Crossing Borders, Spanning Genres

RPCVs at the Associate Writers Program Conference presented a panel on Friday, February 10, 2017, where poets, journalists, and novelists shared their experiences as Peace Corps Volunteers. The panelists discuss how their service affected their writing, their relationship to literature, and their careers.  The panelists were:

Peter Chilson (Niger 1985-87) got his MFA in creative writing from Pennsylvania State University in 1994 and teaches writing and literature at Washington State University. His essays, journalism and short stories have appeared in Foreign Policy, The American ScholarThe North American Review,  AudubonAscent, Creative NonfictionClackamas Literary ReviewGulf CoastRain City ReviewWest AfricaNorth Dakota Quarterly and elsewhere. His reporting has been supported by a Fulbright grant and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. His work has twice appeared in the Best American Travel Writing anthology (the 2003 and 2008 issues) and other collections of creative nonfiction.

Chilson’s book Riding the Demon: On the Road in West Africa (University of Georgia Press 1999) won the Associated Writing Programs Award in creative nonfiction. His second book, Disturbance-Loving Species: A Novella and Stories (Mariner Books 2007), won the Bread Loaf Writers’  Conference Bakless Fiction Prize and the 2008 Peace Corps Writers Maria Thomas Fiction Prize.

Sandra Meek (Botswana 1989-91), Associate Professor of English,  rhetoric and writing at Berry College, was awarded The Dorset Prize, the largest book-publication prize for poetry in the United States, for her third collection of  poems, Biogeography [Tupelo Press, 2008]. The prize consists of a $10,000 cash prize for the author and a guarantee of national and international distribution for the winning entry. Twice, she has been recognized with the Georgia Author of the Year Award for poetry by the Georgia Writers Association, first for Nomadic Foundations (2003) and later for Burn (2006). Nomadic Foundations won the 2003 Peace Corps Writers Award for Best Poetry Book. Sandra’s most recently book of poetry is An Ecology of Elsewhere [Persea, 2016].

Over the years Sandra has published in many of the poetry magazines, including Poetry, AGNI, The Kenyon Review, Conjunctions, Shenandoah, The Iowa Review and Prairie Schooner.

Tyler McMahon (El Salvador 1999-02) received his MFA in fiction from Boise State, where he also taught a course on the history of rock and roll. His stories have appeared in Threepenny Review, Sycamore Review, and Surfer’s Journal, among others, and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is a professor of fiction at Hawaii Pacific University. His books are How the Mistakes Were Made: A Novel [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011] and Kilometer 99: A Novel [St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014], which won the 2015 Peace Corps Writers Maria Thomas Fiction Award.

Susan Rich (Niger 1984-86) is the auther of The Alchemist’s Kitchen [White Pine 2010],  Cures Include Travel [White Pine Press, 2006] and The Cartographer’s Tongue: Poems of the World — the winner of  the 2001 Peace Corps Writers Award for Best Poetry Book — among others. Susan has also received awards from PEN USA, and The Times Literary Supplement. Recent poems have appeared in the Antioch Review, Harvard Review, Poetry International and TriQuarterly.

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