Friday, August 12, 2011

Mondo Peabody: A Profile of Richard Peabody

Here's the third and final installment of our member profiles series. This post originally appeared in the fall issue of the Workshop & Event Guide. The image below is an old photograph of Richard reading at The Writer's Center, of course, but I couldn't resist posting it here.

By Tim Wendel

In our era of increasing specialization, it’s downright refreshing to find someone who not only has a hand in just about everything but excels at it, too. Richard Peabody’s business card has plenty of lines—teacher, editor, publisher, poet, and fiction writer. Through his nationally recognized Gargoyle Magazine, as well as an extensive list of anthologies, he has influenced a generation of Washington area writers, including Julia Slavin, Mary Kay Zuravleff, Dallas Hudgens, Leslie Pietrzyk, and Tom Carson.

Richard grew up in Bethesda (where his father, Richard, Sr., once ran a pet store on Wisconsin Ave.) and went on to receive a B.A. in English from the University of Maryland and an M.A. in Literature from American University. His work is often set in the D.C. area and strongly influenced by the Beat Generation and the experimentalism of the 1960s. In addition, Richard has taught at a number of local schools including Georgetown University, University of Maryland, The Johns Hopkins University, St. John’s College, and The Writer’s Center.

In fact, few have a longer connection with The Writer’s Center. Legend has it, and Richard confirms, that when founder Allen Lefcowitz first raised the possibility of a place where local writers and friends of letters could gather, Richard handed him a five-dollar bill on the spot and became TWC’s first paying member.

Richard also runs Paycock Press, which was first established to put out Gargoyle. But since such beginnings, the press, like its founder, has moved into more and more fields. Peabody’s highly successful anthologies Grace and Gravity and Enhanced Gravity showcase fiction by Washington area women writers. His Mondo series, which was co-edited by Lucinda Ebersole, focused on writing about such American icons as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elvis, and Barbie.

“Some may see D.C. as a literary backwater, but I refuse to accept that,” Peabody says. “I’m from here and I love to champion the people writing here.”

Tim Wendel is the author of nine books—novels and narrative nonfiction—including Castro’s Curveball and High Heat, the latter of which was an editor’s selection by The New York Times. He teaches writing at The Johns Hopkins University. For more information, visit his Web site


NC Weil said...

Richard has been a tireless mentor to dozens if not hundreds of writers, by taking chances on unknowns (tomorrow's JK Rowling is today's unknown) and encouraging work that takes writers and readers clear out to the edges of what language and story can do.

Alma said...

I've been Richard's student twice: once while in Hopkins' writing program and a second time taking his novel writing workshop. He's nurtured so many Washington writers that he should be called the godfather of literary DC. (Btw, my debut novel comes out shortly with Simon & Schuster.) Thank you Richard! (And Tim, also a former prof of mine at Hopkins.)