Guest Blogger

Each month, we ask distinguished authors or illustrators to write an original post that reveals insights about their process and craft. Enjoy!

Guest Blogger: Richard Peck is delighted to welcome award-winning author Richard Peck as our featured guest blogger.

Each month, we ask one distinguished author or illustrator to write an original post that reveals insights about their process and craft. Enjoy!

“The Creative Writing Class”

by Richard Peck

Richard Peck, Photo by Sonya Sones, 2011

Listen to Richard Peck introduce and read an excerpt from Secrets at Sea.

I’m a writer because I never had the Creative Writing Class. You know the one I mean, the one that exhorts, “Write what you know. Write from your own experience.” If I’d been limited to writing what I know, I’d have produced one unpublishable haiku in the past forty years.

Thank heaven nobody asked me to express myself before I had a self to express. Besides, boys brim with secret lives they have no intention of revealing. Fiction doesn’t start with the self. It begins with research. Every book begins in the library with the hope that it will end there.

We write in imitation of writers better than we are. Nobody but a reader ever became a writer. But where is the Creative Writing Class that mandates a stiff reading list? It would reduce class size dramatically.

Listen to Richard Peck share the story behind A Year Down Yonder (Penguin 2002).

A story is always about something that never happened to the author. J.K. Rowling did not attend Hogwarts School. Beatrix Potter was never a rabbit. Still, the idea that we writers have to live it first dies hard.

The other day I was giving an impassioned pitch for a novel of mine in a high school classroom. The book, my best, is called The River Between Us (Dial, 2003), and it’s set in the Civil War. At the end of the session, the teacher said, “Do you write only from your own experience?” I have a creepy feeling she teaches creative writing.

I’m off to the library in search of subject matter that is not me. And there, somewhere along those shelves, I’ll find it.


This material may not be used without the express written consent of Richard Peck.

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4 Responses to Guest Blogger: Richard Peck

  1. Gibbs Davis October 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    Richard Peck is an author, officer, and a gentleman. He is one of the most authentic voices in children’s literature and I can only hope aspiring authors, readers and everyone else will listen to every word that comes out of his mouth. I am his #1 fan.

  2. Liz Phillips October 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    Thank you! Thank you for your frankness about creative writing and how you do NOT write from what you have personally experienced. I teach seventh grade, and with a hundred students, if I have to read what they know, I would be bored to tears! With few exceptions, papers that stand out are the ones written by student writers who do not follow that advice. Even though Appalachian literature has an audience, it can get tired. Also, the literacy specialist in my applauds you for clearly stating that strong readers enter into the writing equation. In the midst of a trend that separates reading and writing, it is refreshing to read your comments. I cannot wait to get to school tomorrow, so I can show your blog to my seventh-graders.

  3. Carri Leete October 5, 2011 at 1:45 pm #


    Love Richard Peck’s work. A Year Down Yonder is my favorite!

  4. jordyn kirby October 19, 2015 at 8:46 am #

    I love your book THE RIVER BETWEEN US! It is a great and adventurous story! Thank you very much for being so creative!

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