Roy Peter Clark is reading and writing about writing

Roy Peter Clark will speak at noon Nov. 17 in the Poynter Institute Haiman Amphitheater.
Roy Peter Clark will speak at noon Nov. 17 in the Poynter Institute Haiman Amphitheater.
Published Nov. 8, 2018

Roy Peter Clark

Clark has taught writing at the Poynter Institute, which owns the Times, since 1979. He is the author of 18 books on reading, writing, journalism and language, including Writing Tools, How to Write Short and The Glamour of Grammar.

What's on your nightstand?

I don't read in bed, so on my nightstand I have a phone, a box of tissues, a flashlight and a bag of cough drops. There is a little table next to my recliner with a copy of Florida Soul by my Tampa pal John Capouya. It is a great book that will complicate the way you view the history and musical culture of the Sunshine State. It was from the chapter on Ray Charles that I learned that in 1950 the Genius wrote and performed The St. Pete Florida Blues. It has launched a plan to make the tune an official song of the city. Stay tuned.

I have (also) been revising a new book called Murder Your Darlings, a tribute to the best writing books ever written. Yes, I am writing a writing book about writing books. My goal is to squeeze the essential wisdom of 100 books about writing, reading, language and storytelling. These include the American Heritage Dictionary, which has great illustrations. I read dictionaries just for fun. Don't hate me because my mind is beautiful, Hamlet, which more than any other play reveals Shakespeare's philosophy about writing for the stage, and then there is Click, Clack, Moo, about a herd of cows that discover an old typewriter in the barn and, with it, their First Amendment rights. Along with Caps for Sale, it's my favorite kids' book of all time.

You have spoken at almost every book festival for the Times. What do you have planned for this year?

I love the festival and have looked for ways to include writing workshops into the mix. Reading, writing, talking about how meaning is created — these are the essentials of literacy. As usual, I have a few surprises up my sleeve — poetry, music, who knows, maybe even a dance contest.

Piper Castillo, Times staff writer