Monday, November 9, 2009

One Writer's Journey

I just read for the second time Five Pages a Day: A Writer’s Journey by Peg Kehret. Peg Kehret may not be as well known as some of the “biggies,” like J.K. Rowling or Lloyd Alexander, but she’s had a very satisfying career as a writer. She’s written about 40 books for children/young teens and a dozen nonfiction books on various topics. In fact, the Library of Congress called her home to identify which Peg Kehret she was and which books she wrote because clearly there was more than one Peg Kehret because of the great variety in these books. Surely no one person would have written them. But she had. And they all have a part in her story.

She begins with her first writing venture, the Dog Newspaper, when she was 10. She asked everyone in her neighborhood to tell about their dogs, but since they had very little to say, she ended up writing about her own dog, B.J., who did have an interesting story. He had been found as the only surviving puppy in a litter by her uncle’s unit in Germany during World War I and the soldiers kept the puppy until the end of the war, when they decided to pool their money to get the dog to the U.S. (They had named him B.J., because it was a Big Job to take care of him.) Then they had a drawing and Peg’s uncle won the drawing. Although Peg felt her first issue was a great success, sadly, her venture barely made it to a fourth issue.

I love hearing stories of writers when they were children. I’m so impressed when I hear of writers who wrote their first book when they were 8 or 10 or even 16. In fact, I like that I wrote poetry in high school. I probably would cringe to read it now, but I love that I loved words when I was young and that I knew they could be used to express feelings and to create images that recreated those feelings in others.

Peg did have some great writing opportunities when she was younger and by describing them, she also gives would-be writers some ideas for their own writing. She proofread a newspaper and wrote commercials for a radio station when she was in high school, but married at 18 instead of going to college. It took her a while to get back to writing but that rediscovery for her provides many lessons as well. She started taking community classes but when her husband was transferred out of state, she learned that she couldn’t afford the out-of-state tuition for more classes. So she decided, since she already knew she wanted to be a writer, to spend the next year writing, until she could qualify as a resident and go back to school.

Here she enters into really fun and useful part of her book, how she slowly began to earn money with her writing, but then, I think every single chapter and all her stories about her writing failures and successes are useful, both to writers and to the editors who work with writers. I particularly appreciate that her apprenticeship before writing her first book took involved her writing for several magazines and also writing in response to several contests, where she won a car and a trip to Hawaii, among other things. But more than winning things—although they were useful to her young family and validating to her as a writer—was that they helped instill a discipline that invited creativity.

I’m going to stop here and simply say that about 10 copies of this book are available on Amazon for $2 plus shipping. Peg’s style is incredibly readable and I think writers at all stages will enjoy her story.


Annette Lyon said...

Okay, you sold me. I'm heading over to amazon. I need to read this book!

Gale Sears said...

I agree! Thanks Val for the great tip. I loved that she wrote about her dog. Now, that's a perfect story!

Michele Ashman Bell said...

I am always in awe of you and your vast knowledge of books and writing and literature in general. This sounds like a worthwhile book. I'm definitely getting myself a copy.

Jennie said...

Great blog.