When I first came back from the Peace Corps and was living and working (and writing) in New York, I invited a young book editor out for dinner and she said to me, “I’ll go to dinner with you, John, but I won’t read your Peace Corps novel.”
Well, we have been married thirty plus years now and she still hasn’t read my Peace Corps novel!
It has always been difficult to find anyone who will read a book about the Peace Corps as many of you know from having finished your own book.
When I first started to track “Peace Corps writers,” and publish with Marian Haley Beil Peace Corps Writers & Readers, I thought the publishing world had had enough Peace Corps first-person-experiences and I am as surprised as anyone that there continues to be published every year very important and well written accounts of life in the developing world written by RPCVs.
We have had about 200,000 former Volunteers and it is only through the written word by RPCVs that the majority of Americans will learn anything at all of societies and cultures that are distance and distinct from whom we are in America. But my hope continues that through the prose and poetry of former PCVs we can educate Americans about the world.
We have a higher percentage of writers in the Peace Corps–then say the army–because we are a ‘literary group’ with 98% of all Volunteers having joined the Peace Corps after college.
Still the Peace Corps is not combat or war. If a PCV writer is lucky, or perhaps unlucky, he or she will get caught up in a coup in their host country and have something exciting to write home about. But most of us lived ordinary lives in the developing world and it is only the gifted writer who can take that ordinary experience and turn it into memorable prose.
Is there such a thing as a Peace Corps community of writers? Yes there is, thanks to the Internet and emails and the shared experienced of being a Volunteer. There is a trust Peace Corps writers have for each other. We come out of a common experience, and though we might have served in different regions of the world, and in different decades, the core experience of being an American off on our own in a foreign land pulls us together like a secret handshake.
As this website Peace Corps Worldwide comes near the end of our first year on the Internet, Marian and I would like to extend a virtual handshake to all of you — writers and not — out there in cyberspace. We thank you for your support and faithfulness to this website; and we thank all the bloggers who get up every day and say to themselves, “now what do I have to say?’ And do it all for free.
We couldn’t have done it without you.