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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Robert Newton Peck Visit

About Peck

I was a little busy this week.  We hosted Robert Newton Peck, author of A Day No Pigs Would Die, and 65 other books.  He spoke to our 8th graders on Wednesday, then at the high school on Thursday.  I recorded both assemblies.  Wednesday evening several of us had dinner with him and his wife, Sam. 

Between final arrangements, being a host, video, and "normal" activities, it has been busy.

Some things I learned:
  1. Rob (he told me to call him this) turns 80 years old today - February 17).  He still plays tennis, recites his first poem from when he was nine years old, and recalls much of his writings verbatim.  I'm 45, so I potentially have a lot of time left to do some things...I'm not so old that I need to think my body is wearing out.  I need to get off my ---- ummm, couch and move.
  2. His new book, HOW To Write Fiction Like A Pro, will make anyone believe they can write. 
  3. Never write about ideas, feelings, or emotions.  Write about things, people, and stuff.  You don't read a good book -- you see it.  Could the same hold true with blogs?
  4. He and I were often the only males in a crowd of women.  Rob's favorite teacher was Mrs. Kelly, who taught him in 1st-6th grade.  But he alluded to educational progress being hampered because there are either too few males or too many females.  The balance is off, and the kids may be missing important role models from both male and female.  [Before anyone says, "What a sexist comment, man, etc." his point was simply that kids need both in good measure.  His father died when Rob was 13, and he speaks from deep experience.]
  5. Mr. Rogers (yes, Fred Rogers) was Rob's best man at his wedding.  The attended college together.  When we were talking with our middle school students, they did not know who Mr. Rogers was.  Today's middle school students were born in 1994-1997.  Although there are reruns on some PBS channels, most students don't watch PBS for any reason.  How does that make you feel?
My favorite part of the week was on Thursday afternoon, just before we left the high school.  He kissed the ladies on the cheek and thanked them for inviting him to come to Dalton.  Then he reached out to shake my hand, pulled me in close, hugged me, and said, "You know, I count you among my friends now.  You better keep in touch."  I think I will.  I think I will.

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At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ric, I am a retired eighth grade English teacher in Menasha, Wisconsin. I taught A Day No Pigs Would Die to my students for over 25 years. The book changed my life and became the focal point of my teaching career. I met Mr. Peck twice during that time but my students and I wrote to him every year, and every year he responded.
I love my "freedom" now, but I miss teaching the book and seeing the students' reaction to it. They always loved it! My book club is reading this book at my request, and we are discussing it this week at my house. I went on-line to find out the latest on Mr. Peck. I enjoyed reading your blog and could empathize with every word. I am excited to discuss this book with MY peers who range in age from 50 to 80. Thanks for the kind words about my "old" friend. Pat Sandlin


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