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Peace Corps Experience: Write and Publish Your Memoir Paperback – March 7, 2012
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Excerpt from Peace Corps Worldwide Review by Leita Kaldi Davis
It is vitally important to write about your Peace Corps experience, not only for your own gratification, but for posterity, because the countries we served in are changing rapidly, and a Volunteer's experience gives great insight into far-flung places at different points in history.
From the Author
William Burroughs once said that there are two kinds of writers; those who write and those who talk about writing. The writers, he said, are like bullfighters while the talkers are more bullshitters. Bullfighting is more my line.
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Although you may have spoken of your stories and experiences to family, school groups and other interested parties, a memoir allows you to share your experience with a wider audience and these written memories will still be available for time to come. It becomes part of that larger mosaic of experiences of Volunteers, who went overseas and, indeed, did change the world. A memoir hones in on a significant period of your life, allowing you to reflect on the experiences and people who changed your life. It is not an autobiography, but a selectively told story, based on personal experiences. Who better to write about these experiences than the Peace Corps Volunteers themselves?
Lihosit has an easy and folksy style, at times somewhat whimsical. He also takes his role as coach and mentor seriously and can be very direct, but in a good-natured way. "If you wish to change history, write a novel instead." He understands the pressures that most writers are under and advises them to take that needed break by putting the project away for a while. He reminds us that there are no hard and fast deadlines; the key is to get started and that is where the fun begins.
Everyone will develop his or her own style in beginning this project. Lihosit likes butcher paper and colored crayons. He advises the writer to collect letters, memorabilia, photos, emails, and blogs. And not to forget the not so obvious: passports, shot records, training materials, and the group photo album. It is also wise to conduct a bit of research on the history of the country to put these memories in context. He suggests writing style manuals to aid in making the memoir memorable and a pleasure to read and not merely a listing of dates.
He follows with practical advice with chapters: Polish, Format, Cover Design, Publication, Promotion, each describing in detail aspects of publishing such as fonts, parts of the book, paper quality and color, layout, print-on-demand, cover art, and promotion. Helpful hints include something as specific as enlarging the size of the font on the cover title so that it is legible on booksellers' websites.
Lihosit gives special mention to our own John Coyne and Marian Haley Beil for their extraordinary work on Peace Corps Worldwide, and recommends the author submit a review copy to Coyne for inclusion in the Peace Corps Worldwide website. My Colorado colleague, Jane Albritton, editor of the four volume Peace Corps at 50 series, enthusiastically encourages Volunteers in the foreword to share these memories, which are both individual and at the same time representative of a cultural memory. With Lihosit as your accomplished guide, it is time to write.
The Herald: September 1, 2012
Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975-77)
!Universe, $23.95, 127 pages, 2012
Review by Leita Kaldi Davis
Leita Kaldi Davis worked for the United Nations and UNESCO, for Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard University. She worked with Roma (Gypsies) for fifteen years, became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal at the age of 55, then went to work for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti for five years. She retired in Florida in 2002. She wrote a memoir of Senegal, Roller Skating in the Desert, (amazon.com/Publishamerica) and is working on a memoir of Haiti.
As Jane Albritton writes in her Foreword to Lawrence Lihosit's Peace Corps Experience: Write and Publish Your Memoir, "This book is no idle gift, but a gift-wrapped challenge." Albritton should know, as Series Editor of the daunting, but brilliantly successful Peace Corps at 50 project.
The point of Lihosit's book is that it is vitally important to write about your Peace Corps experience, not only for your own gratification, but for posterity, because the countries we served in are changing rapidly, and a Volunteer's experience gives great insight into far-flung places at different points in history.
"The history of Peace Corps is not a set of dry dates and names of Washington men in suits, but a grand parade of testimonials by courageous men and women who served their nation and the world unarmed, whose aim was simply to lend a hand. Join the parade."
Lihosit's book is a manual for writing the best memoir possible. He takes you through the process page by page, from "Chapter One: Why Write?," through chapters on "How to Begin," "Polish," "Format," "Cover Design," "Publication," "Promotion," adding several helpful appendices.
Any writer knows that muses are elusive, and you need all the help you can get to create a book. I've been studying the art of the memoir for years, through workshops, research and personal struggle. You never stop learning, a reminder brought home to me by many new tips I gleaned from Lihosit's book: how to avoid libel suits, why cream color paper is better than white, the best fonts to use for print-on-demand (POD) publication, how to deal with POD publishers, what "Fair Use" means when quoting other sources.
Lihosit cites many successful Peace Corps memoirs as examples of what works, such as Heat, Sand and Friends, by Allen W. Fletcher, who used a crop cycle as the basic structure for his story. He lauds Tony D'Souza's original cover design for his novel, Whiteman; and Mike Tidwell's faithful chronology in The Ponds of Kalambayi: A Peace Corps Memoir.
Lihosit is a prolific writer, with a dozen books to his credit. He "reluctantly" served in the U.S. Army Reserves, and "enthusiastically" volunteered for the Peace Corps. He worked as an urban planner in exciting places, from Alaska to Argentina. He has been very active with the RPCV community, especially its writers, and he championed the creation of a permanent Peace Corps Experience collection at the Library of Congress.
Reading Lihosit's book was a pleasure, not a dry exercise. He is knowledgeable, accessible and charming. Prurient reader that I am, I love to look at authors' faces, and I missed seeing a picture of this "old as dirt" author on the jacket. But never mind, in my writing life, he has become my new best friend.
Lihosit shares the valuable knowledge he has gained as the author of numerous books, many self-published, with would be writers. Lihosit takes the budding author by the hand, places a crayon in it, sits him in front of a roll of butcher paper and stays with him through pen and computer until that author can hold in that same hand a beautiful published copy of his own memoir.
The book is targeted to Peace Corps Volunteers and many of the references are specific to that experience. However,
the overall guidelines would work well for anyone who wishes to write about a personal journey or a special time and place. This is a book that will not only be found in libraries and writers' workshops, but propped up against laptops in coffee houses!
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Lihosit's crisp, comprehensive guide will be useful to anyone who decides to write a memoir.Read more