Eight RPCVs–Ethiopia. Uzbekistan. El Salvador. Morocco. The Philippines. Cameroon. Nepal.–traveled a long way to participate in the second Peace Corps Writers’ Retreat October 5-8 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland—at least as measured by the distances between their countries of services and the Chesapeake Bay.
Whatever their actual commutes—one participant came from as far as central Florida—they said the trip was well worth it.
Working with RPCV Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 1991-93), the author of eight books, including the Iowa Short Fiction Award-winning The River of Lost Voices: Stories from Guatemala, the eight participants shared their creative work in a pair of two-and-a-half hour workshop sessions, participated in two craft talks about effective storytelling, wrote pieces in response to writing prompts, and learned how and where to publish their work. A reading by the participants capped off the four-day retreat.
“As someone who completed her service in 2015, it was a great privilege to participate in a writers’ retreat with folks who served in the Peace Corps in the sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties,” said Jade Vazquez, who served in El Salvador. “The retreat was held in a beautiful location on the Chesapeake Bay and was both fun and informative.”
“Proof is in the pudding,” said Larry Berube, who served in Morocco. “I turned the two writing exercises Mark gave the group into two poems. That’s big for me.”
As the organizer of the event, RPCV Matt Losak (Lesotho 1985-87) was a busy and gracious host, doing everything from chauffeuring participants to and from area airports to cooking meals to leading a collective Sunday clean up.
The event was held at Shore Retreats on Broad Creek, a compound of comfortable book-and-art-filled houses in Royal Oak, Maryland, on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay owned by Busy Graham, a long-time supporter of the Peace Corps and Peace Corps writers. Busy spent many years ‘in the Peace Corps’ as a child and growing up. Her parents were early and famous staff family in the first days of the agency.
About the venue, Judy Ballinger, who served in Ethiopia, said, “This place is awesome. It’s well-suited for our workshop gathering, with options for sitting together and also, in good weather, for being outdoors. I found the workshop itself insightful.”
During their free time, some of the participants went canoeing and kayaking on the Chesapeake Bay. Others took long, restorative walks in the countryside.
“What a gorgeous location!” said Bea Hogan, who served in Uzbekistan.