Richard Peck, 1934-2018

A Story of Tribute

I was saddened this morning to hear of Richard Peck’s passing. I met him once, after being blown away by so many of his books, and having just attended an amazing workshop he’d given at an SCBWI conference.

We had a conversation in which he was so smart, talented, and funny, while I was just trying not to babble like too much of an idiot in his presence.

Mr. Peck had been a teacher. Many authors I’ve known have been current and former teachers, but none have been better at explaining how the experience of teaching informs the process of writing for young readers.

He also had the advantage of visiting schools across a wide geography over a long period of time, and could speak to universal truths as well as how things have changed over time.

I didn’t have the expertise to add anything to the conversation, and was too star-struck to think clearly. In response to his insightful assessment of the state of education, I think I must have just quoted some song lyrics.

But whatever nonsense I said, he reacted with interest and bounced my words back at me with layers of nuance and added resonance. This was a rare talent that I’d never experienced before or since.

I’m still trying to figure out what wizardry he used.

Anyway, that’s my Richard Peck story. What’s yours?