Dear Mr. Peck…

Dear Mr. Peck,

Whenever I’m asked if there was a particular author who inspired me, I name you. I had the great fortune of listening to your keynote presentation at the Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference back in 2005. To this day, it is still the best presentation I’ve ever attended. You were incredible.

There’s never been a writer born who wasn’t a reader first. I’ll never forget you saying that. I share that piece of advice at all of my school visits. What we write is about our characters taking steps toward change, so that they are somebody different on the last page than they were on the first. No words have helped me grow more as a writer and storyteller. Mr. Peck, how important was your talk? I’m not sure I’d be a published author if it weren’t for your presentation.

I was just beginning work on my first novel, Because of Mr. Terupt, when I sat in your audience that day. Because of Mr. Terupt is a fifth-grade school story told from the viewpoints of seven distinct kids. At the time, my story opened with my character, Jessica. I had her character and first day of school nailed and I thought I was all set until you said, “You’re only as good as your first sentence.” That piece of advice was a game changer. Right then and there I opened my writing notebook and wrote down Peter. I knew he was the voice I needed to start my story. I wrote down his first sentence. It’s our bad luck to have teachers in this world, but since we’re stuck with them, the best we can do is hope to get a brand-new one instead of a mean old fart. Fast forward to almost two years later and I was at an SCBWI conference where there was a first-pages panel. My opening with Peter was among those selected and shared, and the editors sitting on the panel offering critiques loved it and gave me permission to send them my manuscript. My journey took off.

Mr. Peck, thank you. Not only have you made a difference in the lives of countless young readers, but you made a difference in mine—and I’m sure I’m not the only writer who would say that.

With admiration and deep appreciation,

Rob Buyea