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MAY 2015






Life After the Foreign Service: It’s All Write

Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA Retiree VP.


or (703) 437-7881

From where does this lan-

guage come?

“To write concise, well

organized, grammatically cor-

rect, effective and persuasive

English in a limited amount of


If you said it is one of the 13

dimensions the Department

of State Board of Examiners

uses in its Foreign Service Oral

Assessment checklist, you

would be correct. For Foreign

Service candidates, at least,

the ability to write well is per-

ceived as essential.

I’ll go out on a limb. Com-

pared to the U.S. population at

large, Foreign Service retirees

tend to be good writers. Over

our Foreign Service careers

many of us wrote and edited

prodigiously.Written com-

munication skills were vital.

In general, Foreign Service

retirees still possess the writ-

ing bug.

According to the Career

Transition Center, the “Writing

after Retirement” panel is one

of the Job Search Program’s

most popular offerings. Panel-

ists speak to such topics as

fiction/non-fiction writing,

strengthening writing skills,

getting published, grant

proposal writing and blogging.

Post-Foreign Service writ-

ing opportunities are more

diverse and less constraining

than, say, the country human

rights report or mission pro-

gram plan. Plus, as a retiree

you may now possess two

ingredients possibly missing

before: motivation and time.

Post-retirement writing

comes in many forms. In his

February 2010

Foreign Service


article,“Writing As a

Second Career,”David T. Jones

highlighted writing opportuni-

ties within the State Depart-

ment—includingWhen Actu-

ally Employed work. David

cites community and profes-

sional association newslet-

ters as examples of impact

writing: Write about what you

know, what you care about. As

David notes,“it doesn’t have

to be a book,” although since

retirement he has written four

of them.

Hobbies and research

interests offer plenty of

opportunities to contribute to

periodicals. Since retirement, I

have written four cover stories

for the

American Philatelist.

And as many of you know,

retired FSOs already craft

a substantial share of the

content in each issue of


Foreign Service Journal.

Back to books. If you’re a

Civil War history buff, look to

former FSOs Steve Muller and

Gene Schmiel for inspiration.

Steve recently wrote

Troy, New

York, and the Building of the

USS Monitor

and Gene wrote

Citizen General: Jacob Dolson

Cox and the Civil War Era.


how about Civil War fiction?

Try Chris Datta’s meticu-

lously researched slave story

Touched with Fire


Put a book out there on

virtually any subject and you

can be featured in the



annual book roundup issue,

“In Their OwnWrite,” and can

be invited to sell your book at

the annual AFSA Book Market.

For those interested in

memoir writing, consider the

Association for Diplomatic

Studies and Training oral

history program. More than

1,800 of your colleagues

already have.

The transcript ADST

creates can be crafted into

a memoir or autobiography.

And it gets published online:

Books and journal articles

seem overwhelming? Take

your writing skills elsewhere.

A local issue needs to be

addressed?Write a letter to

your local newspaper, your

mayor or county representa-

tive. Upset with some stupid-

ity in Richmond, Annapolis or

Tallahassee, or on Capitol Hill?

Don’t hold it in; advocate!

And while you’re at it, write

your legislators to support

the professional, active-duty

Foreign Service.


AFSA Creates Online

Memorial Tribute Page

The American

Foreign Service

Association has

created an online

memorial page as

a way to honor col-

leagues who have

passed away.

The online AFSA

Memorial Tribute

will offer a place

to honor all Foreign Service

members—those who died

while on active duty as well as

those who died after retire-

ment—and to recognize their

service, regardless of the

circumstances of their deaths.

The names of nearly 2,000

Foreign Service members

(active-duty and retired) have

already been included on the

AFSAMemorial Tribute site.

We now encourage you

to share your memories

and stories of your FS col-

leagues, family members and

friends, and join

us in honoring and

remembering those

who served in the

U.S. Foreign Ser-

vice. Biographical

information and pic-

tures of deceased

colleagues can

be submitted by

sending informa-

tion to


the subject line Online AFSA

Memorial Tribute.

To visit the online AFSA

Memorial Tribute site please

go to:

Note: To log in for the first

time, use your primary email

address and your last name

in all lowercase letters for

the password. Please be sure

to update your address and

other contact information as

needed. If you have questions,

please email