Peace Corps Worldwide celebrates the Peace Corps experience by publishing stories from around the world by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), and Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), to share with all who have a desire for international understanding.
A worldwide association, with a membership of prominent literary writers and editors.
Jere Spotting Mom at Yearly Headstand Debacle--Fort Myers Beach, 2016
I'm a writer. That's all I've ever wanted.
Photo credit: Marion Ettlinger
I have published nine novels: The Book of Phoebe; Lament for a Silver-Eyed Woman; The Port of Missing Men; Masters of Illusion: A Novel of the Great Circus Fire (presently under film option with Amazon Studios), An American Killing, and the Poppy Rice Mysteries (Love Her Madly, She’s Not There, and She Smiled Sweetly). My memoir, Girls of Tender Age, is a favorite of book clubs. (The paperback edition has a good guide.) I collaborated with my son, Jere Smith, on Dirty Water: A Red Sox Mystery, which centers on the 2007 World Champions, a team that showed Sox fans: Yes, we can do it again.
Please click on WORKS-IN-PROGRESS atop this page to check out what I'm writing now.
I was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut and have lived in Connecticut all my life except for the two years I served as a Peace Corps volunteer on Mt. Cameroon, an active volcano rising nearly 14,000 feet above the equatorial sea. I have a fun family and a labradoodle named Saltalamacchia, also fun. “Salty,” my first dog.
My grandparents on my father’s side immigrated from the north of Italy, and on my mother’s, Quebec. My fondest childhood memories are of sweltering summers blue-crabbing with my French-speaking grandfather from 5 a.m. until 5 p.m., my grandfather wearing a worn three-piece suit and cap, and me, my underpants. When I told my Italian grandfather that I would be going to Cameroon as a Peace Corps volunteer he told me there were very good grapes grown in Africa.
My brother was autistic, a savant, who would not allow singing, laughing, sneezing, electronic sound (including television, radio and anything that produced music), and the flushing of the toilet except when he was asleep and he never seemed to be asleep. He had a library of over two thousand books all on WWII. As his adjutant, I attained a vast pool of knowledge on such things as identifying fighter bombers from their silhouettes and why we dropped the atomic bomb. “To win the war,” Tyler told me. “But it didn’t work so we dropped another one. Victory at last.”
The relationship with my brother was one of three influences on my writing; the second, my father’s bedtime poetry and prose following the Our Father and Hail Mary. “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look upon my works ye mighty and despair!” The third influence was the shelf of classic children’s literature my mother kept stocked with such gems as The Swiss Family Robinson, Bambi, Tom the Water-Boy, Silver Pennies, King Arthur and the Round Table, The Child’s Odyssey. Somehow, The Bedside Esquire (1936) found its way to the shelf and I read the extraordinary short fiction within, including Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Gallico’s Keeping Cool in Conneaut, Salinger’s For Esmé with Love and Squalor, Hecht’s Snowfall in Childhood, and my favorite, Latins Make Lousy Lovers, by Anonymous who turned out to be Helen Lawrenson, the only woman with a piece in the collection. (Sheesh.) Also in the collection was an excerpt from the novel, Christ in Concrete, by Pietro Di Donato, which so bowled me over that I decided then and there that I would be a writer, too, just like all the writers who wrote fiction for Esquire Magazine in 1936.
After Peace Corps service, I taught, worked as a librarian and got my first freelance writing job with Reader’s Digest. The Digest editor assigned me sports and games for How to Do Just about Anything, a book which sold 50 million copies world-wide. Reader’s Digest made a vast fortune on that book alone, while the writers earned $25 to $75 dollars per article. I learned economy of language writing such pieces as “How to Play Tennis” in fifty words.
In 2010, I was awarded the Diana Bennett Fellowship at the Black Mountain Institute at UNLV, where I wrote my most recent novel, The Honoured Guest: Anne Alger Craven, Witness to Sumter, in Her Words.
My work has been reprinted in several foreign languages. I have taught fiction and memoir writing at many venues including the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT, and on the Aran Islands through the University of Ireland, Galway, and online via this website.
I have just completed a second memoir, First, You Get Pissed, and am seeking new representation.
Presently, I spend time in Fall River, MA, where I took the tour of the Lizzie Borden house. By the time the tour had ended, I knew who killed Lizzie’s parents and it surely wasn’t Lizzie. I am figuring out the appropriate structure for the book I am about to write.
Salty, my first dog--aka, Boy in a Dog Suit--who watches over me while I write.