Full article on www.publishersweekly.com.
Some of my fellow SCBWIers (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) have had the good fortune to attend one of Richard Peck's workshops. Years later, they can't stop raving about him--and for good reason.
A prolific writer and speaker, Peck has written over 18 novels for young readers, including the Newbery Award-winning A Year Down Yonder. He is also the winner of the 1990 Margaret A. Edwards Award, a prestigious award sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association of the American Library Association in cooperation with School Library Journal; the 1990 National Council of Teachers of English/ALAN Award for outstanding contributions to young adult literature; and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award.
One of my favorite quotes from the Publishers Weekly article addresses a topic I often encounter when meeting new writers:
"Nobody wants to read your diary. I think that’s a problem with a lot of young people who want to write—they think they have a life story to share with us. J.K. Rowling didn’t attend Hogwarts and Beatrix Potter was never a rabbit, but it’s awfully hard for young writers to understand that the world is not waiting for their life story."
Richard Peck’s "Ten Commandments of Writing for the Young":
- Do not commit autobiography—use other people's memories, not your own. (He writes in the first person to eliminate himself.)
- Don't begin the story too early—avoid too much background. Instead, start with the human voice (all readers are lonely) and action.
- Do not allow adult characters to take over—especially the mother. A wise adult is okay, but the main character must solve the problem.
- Avoid sentimentality. Childhood is a jungle, not a garden. You can't both protect and portray characters. We're writing the biographies of the survivors. If it's too sweet, there's no triumph.
- Don't patronize anybody—don't write "down" and don't give advice. Raise questions. What do you wonder? No unsolicited advice. No happily ever after.
- Don't attempt to recreate the wheel unaided. To write, you must read.
- Do market research till it comes out your ears. Get publishers' catalogues, read award-winners.
- Don't communicate with young readers by e-mail. Snail mail letters.
- If you see an adverb, shoot it. Replace adverbs with better verbs; they are the mark of an amateur.
- Use good vocabulary. Don't write if you don't know the meaning of "fustian."
For more tidbits from Richard Peck's workshop, read Sue Cowing and Lynne Wikoff's review.