Saturday, November 22, 2014


  Beginning with "Awake and Rise"

It was at the U. S. Department of State (State), the summer of 1979, four years after the "Fall of Vietnam," April 30, 1975. 
Top-floor State brass summoned Jim to help with a growing crisis. Urgent appeals from foreign service officers in Southeast Asia told of thousands more former Vietnamese allies--and their families--at risk, barely surviving as refugees. 
Approval to build within State a new U.S. refugee program--almost from the bottom up--had finally come through. Work had to begin at once, or State might lose this critical foreign affairs role to a group of agencies outside State.

Jim faced serious career and personal challenges when the summons came. He did not want more problems to deal with; yet, there must have been a reason why he listened to the needs that day. 

Learning about the enormous project they wanted him to take on--to design and build this new program-- Jim's mind formed one question:

"If  I take on this role that rumor calls a 'career wrecker,' will State keep its word to back me up for what I'll need to make such a program work?"


 Motivation to write this book

What do you do when you say 'yes' to a tough job that affects your country's and your life's history?

In 1969, 10 years before State's top-floor summons, Jim had been present at a White House press conference (Ron Zeigler, press secretary) when reporters' question focused on him, a "lowly budget analyst," amid rumors of  Nixon's "secret plan to end the war in Vietnam";  

...a decade later Americans woke up to reports of post-Vietnam refugees and Cambodian "killing fields" survivors and drowning 'boat people.' 

No one could have guessed that these crises were prologue in the global refugee decade. 

Old White House Press Room 

From the internet: "Until 1969, the Press Corps Offices space was occupied by the White House Gymnasium and Flower Shop. Prior to that, ...a room in the northwest corner of the West Wing."

In those days, members of the press were eager to scoop any sign of Richard Nixon's "secret plan" to end the war in Vietnam. 

Jim's role in preparing a military supplemental led the press to question him about its significance as a signal of the war's end. 

Disclosure: Jim Purcell, my husband, has encouraged my interest in creating and posting on JNP Book blog

I am thankful for people that have offered their enthusiasm and input to his efforts.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Updates and the Nightwriter's Cottage

Book Update: The full manuscript of Jim Purcell's book, The Reawakening and Rise of America's Humanitarian Spirit from the Ashes of Vietnam (subtitle), is finished.  One of my favorite chapters includes "The Things We Tell Ourselves about Our Lives"--a personal background piece about what helped shape the author for the humanitarian challenges he faced; how does a 41-year-old husband, father, and civil servant build a team and change part of the powerful foreign service environment of the U.S. State Department?

A book proposal will be available soon for experienced book agents interested in possible representation to interested publishers; a recent lunch meeting in Washington, DC, the starting point of the story, marked another step forward.  

  Author at Nightwriter's Cottage
Jean Purcell, blogger

November 2014  Jim Purcell stayed for a week at Phyllis Theroux's Nightwriter's Cottage in Ashland, Virginia, just north of Richmond; he worked days and evenings on the final chapters of his manuscript, four books (major sections) of approximately 600 double-spaced pages for the full iteration of that time. I was there as companion and to do internet searches and to read some of his copy. 

When Jim and I first got to Ashland, we met Phyllis and her husband, Ragan Phillips; we talked briefly about the Work, what I now call "the massive manuscript." Before we parted that afternoon, a date had been set for a soiree where Jim would talk before a group about his opus. 

We enjoyed the varied group at the discussion evening; we sensed that their experience had influenced a range of political and personal opinions among them. It seemed that Jim's topic evoked interest from a broad range. I thought that the questions gave a brilliant test run for an author and his story; Jim shared some of his knowledge at the center of a revived American engagement with the world post-Vietnam, and he related some of his professional and personal conclusions, as requested.  

What can happen to an author in one week away from the familiar town, schedules, and ringing phones? More than expected, that's sure, based on our week at Nightwriter's cottage a three-hour drive from home.

About the writer's cottage: Author Phyllis Theroux has been closely affiliated with Politics and Prose bookstore and coffeehouse for many years of her writing life. In the Washington, DC, area, where she once lived, P&P is a popular bookstore where authors speak and take questions...sort of like the night her husband planned for Jim to talk about his book. I think a mutual interest in politics and public policy opened the door for a great evening. 
What started this adventure: I read a Washington Post article by Ron Charles in September 2014 and made a quick application for an October date. A printable reservation form is on the cottage website. I also emailed Ron Charles a thank you for his article. I continue to like the Post more than other leading newspapers due to its close proximity to where we live and to columnists like Ron Charles and other regulars of different views.      

We welcome readers of this blog to sign up using one of the options on this blog; readers can access updates moving forward.