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Greg Peck

Greg Peck

No, he’s not the actor ... but that doesn’t mean his name is unrecognizable to writing fans throughout Rock County and southern Wisconsin.

First as Sunday editor and later as opinion page editor for The Gazette, Greg Peck became a frequent visitor in the homes of newspaper subscribers. His 37-year journalism career also included stops at the Oconomowoc Enterprise and Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune before he landed in his final destination—Janesville—in 1987. He retired in 2016.

In his career, Peck collected 12 first-place awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association along with a national first for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association. Most recently, he was awarded the Wisconsin Writers Association’s Jade Ring in nonfiction for a story about his father in Korea as part of the writer’s 2020 nonfiction book, “Memories of Marshall.”

In “Memories of Marshall,” Peck presents a compilation of stories about his Wisconsin hometown based on his own recollections of small-town living. Peck’s first book, 2005’s “Death Beyond the Willows,” shared the tragic tale of a young couple killed in a car accident on the night of their wedding.

A 1975 graduate of Marshall High School, Peck earned his journalism degree from UW-Oshkosh in 1979. He also was honored as UW-O’s top journalism graduate that year.

Peck and his wife, Cheryl, have three adult sons—Josh, Adam and Eric—and two grandchildren, Lexi and Remy. The couple also are pet parents to a cairn terrier, Molly, who enjoys joining the Pecks on bike rides throughout Janesville.

Currently, Peck is focusing on a series of short humor pieces with hopes of publishing them in his next book. He has also taken up the hobby of bird photography, and several pieces of his work are available for viewing on the Janesville Area Convention & Visitor’s Bureau website.

To learn more about Peck, follow him on Facebook, purchase one of his books (available locally at Book World, 2451 Milton Ave., Janesville, and online at Amazon.com) or email him at gregmpeck@sbcglobal.net.

1. When did you discover your talent for writing? (You’re assuming I do have talent. A good start!) I wrote sports stories in high school and didn’t know if I could make a living at writing until teacher Jim Winters gave me the honor of top journalism graduate. I figured if he believed in me, I should believe in myself.

2. What was your favorite book as a child? What is your favorite book now? As a child, “Green Eggs and Ham” (by Dr. Seuss) resonated because of the whimsical rhymes, which is odd because I don’t understand and thus seldom read much poetry these days. My favorite books now are “Overboard!” by Michael J. Tougias and “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. These reveal the human desire to survive against all odds.

3. You have a somewhat recognizable name. Was it a benefit or a curse to share the same name as a Hollywood legend? Fifteen years ago, a student office worker at Marquette asked me to spell my name and I said, “Like Gregory Peck, the actor.” The resulting silence revealed an emerging generation gap. My given name was never a curse, but I chose not to play on it and went with Greg as a journalist and author. Everyone called me Greg anyhow, except when Mom got mad at me.

4. Is it just coincidence that you’re both a fishing enthusiast AND a former winner of the Burlington Liar’s Club’s annual championship lie contest? Well, Gregory Peck did go after Moby Dick, but the biggest fish I ever caught would only sink a boat, not destroy it.

5. What prompted you to write your first book, “Death Beyond the Willows”? The Gazette published my “lost heritage” story about the sale of the Peck farm in Marshall, and I got great feedback. That fall, relatives held a 70th memorial service to a bridal couple from Marshall. When I learned the groom grew up across the road from the Peck farm, I was inspired to dig deeper into this story of family tragedy and rural history.

6. You are the former opinion page editor for The Gazette, but you also have a background in news and sports. What led you to pursue a career in journalism? As a teen, I was uncertain about a career but knew I’d never make a living as an athlete. A buddy says I lacked quickness, and that’s true. Sportswriting allowed me to watch sports and get paid. I left sportswriting in pursuit of better newspaper jobs.

8. Both of your books are nonfiction. Have you ever considered writing fiction? I formed a writers critique group after retiring and spent the last two years drafting a murder mystery novel to broaden my writing skills. I learned much, including that when I started it, I knew little about fiction writing. I don’t know if it will ever be published.

9. When it comes to writing, explain your process and any rituals involved. I type fast and tend to write fast. I am a “seat of the pants” writer; I might know how I will start but don’t outline or detail how I will get to the end.

10. If you hadn’t become a writer, what career do you think you would have pursued and why? A photographer. I considered switching to photo journalism in college but struggled to focus older, single-lens reflex cameras on fast action.

12. Share something people would be surprised to find out about you. I still dream about repurchasing my first car, a blue 1972 Mustang. It had a small engine and was a bucket of rust when I sold it, but with mag wheels it was sleek looking, and I loved that car. (It gets a chapter in “Memories of Marshall.”)

14. At the grocery store, what item always goes in your cart whether you need it or not? Milk. Years ago at a newspaper seminar in Virginia, everyone ordered coffee or tea for lunch, but I asked for milk. The lady next to me crinkled her nose and said, “Are you going to drink that like that?” This is the dairy state, my parents were raised on dairy farms, and my wife and I consume two and a half gallons a week.

15. What would you name the autobiography of your life? “The Man of Mediocrity.” I have many interests—writing, photography, bicycling, hiking, fishing, golf, travel, sports—but feel proficient in none.

16. Being a novelist and a journalist are similar but different? What are the benefits/drawbacks to each? A novelist can make things up, but many such writers use a journalist’s research and interviewing skills to build realistic stories. I believe many more journalists than authors earned comfortable livings during my career.

17. Name one thing that was better in the 1960s and one thing that is better now. My answer to both questions is cars. I love the old styles and muscle cars, but I realize vehicles today are of better quality, safer and built to last longer.

18. What is your favorite food, and where is your favorite place to get it? My wife’s beef roast can’t be beat. But if we’re going out, it’s for a fish fry at Benedetti’s (in Beloit) or the Duck Inn (in Delavan).

19. When it comes to writing, what is your ultimate goal? To entertain or interest a reader. If you’re not writing for those reasons, what’s the point?

22. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? Play guitar. I bought one as a teen but felt fumble-fingered, so I never seriously pursued learning to play.

23. If you could get the absolute and total truth to one question, what would it be? Where do all those missing socks wind up, and will they and everything else that goes missing in our house someday fall out of some black hole and smother us?

24. Can you name a popular television show you either have never seen an episode of or that you don’t understand why it is popular? “(Keeping Up With) The Kardashians,” “(Here Comes) Honey Boo Boo” and “Tiger King” come quickly to mind. In my younger years, I wasted too many hours watching stupid shows, and now at 63, I would waste none of my remaining time on this sort of inanity.

25. What advice would you give to aspiring writers? If you are passionate about it, you can learn to be a good writer. I never considered myself a gifted writer but have continued to hone my skills through the years.

Editor’s note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area’s arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person’s artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.

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