Richard Peck (born April 10, 1934) is an American novelist known for his prolific contributions to modern young adult literature. He was awarded the Newbery Medal in 2001 for his novel A Year Down Yonder.
Richard Wayne Peck was born April 3, 1934 in Decatur, Illinois, a typical midsized mid-western town, the son of Virginia Grey Peck and Wayne Peck. His mother was a Wesleyan University graduate in home economics and his father owned a service station. He has a sister, Cheryl, who is an administrator at a college in Springfield, Illinois. He attended elementary and high schools in Decatur.
Peck began his career as a high school teacher, but, much to his dismay, was transferred to a junior high school to teach English. After a while, he decided to cut his career short and write. However, these observations about junior high school students proved excellent material for his books. He said, "Ironically, it was my students who taught me to be a writer, though I was hired to teach them."
Peck studied at DePauw University, earning a bachelor's degree in English in 1956. He belonged to the Delta Chi fraternity and spent his junior year abroad at the University of Exeter. After college, he was drafted into the US Army as a chaplain's Assistant and spent two years serving in Stuttgart, Germany. In a 2003 interview he commented, "I think your view of the world goes on...for the rest of your life...as the world you saw as you emerged into it as an adult."
After his military service ended, he completed a master's degree at Southern Illinois University in 2003 and taught junior high and high school English. He left teaching in 1971 to write his first novel, Don't Look and It Won't Hurt. He has written a book each year since then, totaling 39 books in 39 years.
Peck is a private person "who is fastidious about what he allows others to know about himself. He knows, respects, and honors personal boundaries in ways that are refreshing for someone who grew up in the sixties and seventies, when every little personal thing was fair game." He currently lives in New York and divides his time between writing and traveling. Peck is an adjunct professor with Louisiana State University's School of Library and Information Sciences.
"The only way you can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you." -Richard Peck, at a PEN panel in NYC, Feb. 8, 2010."Ironically, it was my students who taught me to be a writer, though I had been hired to teach them," he said in a speech published in Arkansas Libraries."They taught me that a novel must entertain first before it can be anything else. I learned that there is no such thing as a 'grade reading level'; a young person's 'reading level' and attention span will rise and fall according to his degree of interest. I learned that if you do not have a happy ending for the young, you had better do some fast talking."
Peck writes exclusively on a typewriter, described here in 'Publishers Weekly:
When the author is not traveling, he works at an L-shaped desk, which affords a sunny window. He writes everything on an electric typewriter because "it has to be a book from the first day," he explains. He has no daily routine because of all the traveling he does, but follows a very disciplined writing process. He writes each page six times, then places it in a three-ring binder with a DePauw University cover ("a talisman," he calls this memento from his alma mater). When he feels that he has gotten a page just right, he takes out another 20 words. "After a year, I've come to the end. Then I'll take this first chapter, and without rereading it, I'll throw it away and write the chapter that goes at the beginning. Because the first chapter is the last chapter in disguise." He always hands in a completed manuscript, and his editor is his first reader.
Although Peck finds a way to connect to readers around the world, he refuses to embrace new technology. He still types his material on a typewriter. He has also written two books that have a tech-savvy setting.
Peck believes each book should be a question, not an answer. He also believes that before anything else can happen a book needs to be entertaining. He is the author of many award-winning novels.
His collected papers written between 1972 and 1991 reside at The University of Southern Mississippi.
1970: Sounds and Silencttytes: Poems For Now
1971: Mindscapes: Poems for the Real World
1973: Leap Into Reality: Essays For Now
1976: Pictures That Storm Inside My Head (poetry anthology, editor)
2004: Past Perfect, Present Tense (short story collection)
1972: Don't Look and It Won't Hurt
1973: Dreamland Lake
1973: Through a Brief Darkness
1974: Representing Super Doll ISBN 9780380004164
1976: Are You in the House Alone?
1976: The Ghost Belonged to Me ISBN 0-670-33767-6
1977: Ghosts I Have Been
1977: Monster Night at Grandma's House
1978: Father Figure
1979: Secrets of the Shopping Mall
1981: Close Enough to Touch
1981: New York Time
1983: The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp
1983: This Family of Women
1985: Remembering the Good Times
1986: Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death
1987: Princess Ashley
1987: Write a Tale of Terror
1988: Those Summer Girls I Never Met
1989: Voices After Midnight
1991: Unfinished Portrait of Jessica
1993: Bel-Air Bambi and the Mall Rats
1995: Lost in Cyberspace!
1995: The Last Safe Place on Earth
1996: The Great Interactive Dream Machine: Another Adventure in Cyberspace
1998: London Holiday
1998: A Long Way from Chicago
1998: Strays Like Us
2000: A Year Down Yonder
2001: Fair Weather
2003: The River Between Us
2004: The Teacher's Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts
2006: Here Lies The Librarian
2007: On the Wings of Heroes
2009: "A Season of Gifts"
1971: The Creative Word
1974: Transitions: a Literary Paper Casebook
1974: Urban Studies: a Research Paper Casebook
1991: Anonymously Yours (autobiography)
1994: Love and Death at the Mall: Teaching and Writing for the Literate Young
2002: Invitations to the World: Teaching and Writing for the Young
2007: Escape! The Story Of The Great Houdini
Works adapted into movies
1976: The Ghost Belonged to Me
1977: Are You in the House Alone?
1978: Child of Glass (The Ghost Belonged to Me)
1980: Father Figure
1991: Gas Food Lodging (Don't Look and It Won't Hurt)