Remembering Richard Peck


by Gloria G. Adams


It’s January again, and my turn to write for our blog. I thought about so many things that you often think about as a writer in January: setting writing goals, taking workshops, attending conferences, making a list of all the books you want to write this year or how you’re going to finish writing that one that tugs the most at your mind and heart strings.


Then I thought a list of inspirational writing quotes might be appropriate. And when I think about inspirational writing quotes, I always think about Richard Peck.


Richard Peck was one of the pioneers of young adult literature, whose books I discovered when I first started working in the library. He won many awards, including the Newbery Award, and the prestigious Margaret A. Edwards award for his “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.”

I was fortunate enough to attend a few conferences where I heard him speak. He had piercing blue eyes and a compelling presence that commanded everyone’s attention. I was even lucky enough to meet him and share lunch and conversation with him at a writing festival in which I participated while working as a librarian.

 But even more than his talent as a writer and speaker was his heart for young readers. He had taught English to middle-schoolers before he began his writing career in 1971, where he witnessed first-hand some of the negative consequences of peer pressure. His message resonates through his books: “You only grow up when you’ve walked away from those people. In all my novels, you have to declare your independence from your peers before you can take that first real step toward yourself.”

 When he read us some of the letters he’d received from his readers, you could tell he had touched many lives through his books and really made a difference. He passed away in 2018, but what a legacy he left us!

 We writers all have authors we admire, respect, and by whom we are inspired; the one at the top of my list is Richard Peck.

 Here are some of my favorite Richard Peck quotes:

 “The only way you can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you.”


“Because nobody but a reader ever became a writer.”


“I'm a writer because I never had a teacher who said, "Write what you know." If I'd been limited to writing what I know, I would have produced one unpublishable haiku. Beatrix Potter was never a rabbit. J. K. Rowling did not attend Hogwarts School.”


“[A young adult novel] ends not with happily ever after, but at a new beginning, with the sense of a lot of life yet to be lived.”


“Learn five new words a day…You want to use words to create new worlds… If you are going to be a writer, you need to collect words.”


“If you cannot find yourself on the page very early in life, you will go looking for yourself in all the wrong places.”


“I read because one life isn't enough, and in the page of a book I can be anybody;

I read because the words that build the story become mine, to build my life;

I read not for happy endings but for new beginnings; I'm just beginning myself, and I wouldn't mind a map;

I read because I have friends who don't, and young though they are, they're beginning to run out of material;

I read because every journey begins at the library, and it's time for me to start packing;

I read because one of these days I'm going to get out of this town, and I'm going to go everywhere and meet everybody, and I want to be ready.”

 ― Richard Peck, from Anonymously Yours

For more information on Richard Peck: