Friday, August 18, 2023

Once upon a time...


Once upon a time, I had the good fortune to learn from the late 

and oh, so wise award-winning author and teacher Richard Peck.

When it comes to crafting story, he taught me, 

“In the beginning is the end, in the end is the beginning.”

It matters little what my character seeks –

a problem’s solution,

a need’s fulfillment,

the realization of a dream,

the granting of a wish.

Somewhere within the story’s requisite inevitable yet surprising 

satisfactory resolution lies its start.


Mr. Peck’s sage advice has become a mantra of sorts, one I gladly 

repeat to myself as well as my writers and students when we find 

ourselves facing unreachable endings to our stories.

His words provide the perfect Rx.

Revisiting a story’s beginning allows us to reconnect with our 

characters to finally see their narrative arcs, to remind ourselves 

what our story is about, to remember our story’s promise to the 


The beginning and end need to be of a piece so the story works as 

an harmonious whole.


Even better, though, especially for picture book writers, revisiting

 a story’s beginning words – those we chose when we launched our 

story, often reveals hidden nuggets that await discovery and 


A word ripe for word play or repetition.

A phrase worthy of a refrain.

A reader-grabbing sentiment, revealing the story’s heart.

For example, in my There Goes Lowell’s Party! (Holiday House), 

with his faith in his family’s love and resourcefulness to over-

come all obstacles confirmed, Lowell confidently casts all doubt 

aside and declares: “Here comes my party!

In my Fancy That (Holiday House), Pippin Biddle honors his 

“Though far, I am near, cheering you on!” promise to his sisters to 

save them from the Poor House, prompting the sisters to in time

exclaim, “Though far, you were near, cheering us on!”

My chosen story structure in Chicken Soup By Heart (Simon & 

Schuster) – a story within a story – begins and ends with, “Here it 

is, from start to finish, how such a nice boychik saved the Chicken 

Soup Queen.”


Of course, and fortunately, Richard Peck taught me far more than 

the craft of writing. He modeled for writers, published or not, 

dedication to craft and dogged pursuit of one’s dreams.

Yes, our stories’ ends must hold their original beginnings and vice-


But his multitude of singular characters showed me what all of our 

story characters come to learn if they are different for the Journey:  

like all ends, THE END inevitably births new and surprising

 satisfactory Once upon a times!


Thanks to Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone for hosting today’s Poetry 


Here’s to Happy-Ever-After endings – my favorite kind!


Esther Hershenhorn

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