Snoopy, currently starring in Snoopy & Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie, knows a thing or two about writing and about the writing life.
Here are some of the topics the bookish beagle ponders in the first edition of his wise and humourous collected works, Snoopy Stars as The World Famous Literary Ace (Ravette Books, 1988):
beginning a story
simile and metaphor.
It’s as good a list you’ll find in any text book about writing.
The book is a slim volume: just 123 of Charles M. Schulz’s cartoon strips. Snoopy, as aspiring author, featured in many, many more.
One-fifth of the 123 strips are about correspondence between the writer and prospective publishers. Not surprisingly, the theme of the correspondence is rejection. You laugh as you read because you know there’s truth behind the humour, hopes and dreams behind the pathos.
Why so many strips about rejection slips? Because that’s the fate of writing. And, perhaps, Charles M.Schulz had his fair share of knockbacks all those years ago.
Feedback is another major theme of the book. Mostly it’s from the ever-caustic, ever-negative Lucy, never one to pull a punch. But as we writers know, feedback from friends and family – as opposed to colleagues and professionals – must be taken with a grain of salt. (Why, though, would Snoopy entrust Lucy, of all people, with feedback? )
I stumbled across Snoopy’s book about 15 years into my writing career. (I use the term ‘career’ advisedly!) In 1993 a regular freelance gig (writing about being a home-dad) had disappeared due to budget cuts at The Age and I found myself teaching professional writing.
There were some good text books back then, but most of them were American or British, rather than Australian. (There were, of course, no online guides or blogs or ebooks.)
Snoopy’s book is universal in its depiction of the writing life and I had no hesitation is using it in class to make a point.
As well as helping with my attempts at teaching, the book helped with my own writing. It gave me perspective, it gave me hope. It made me smile. You need that, sitting all alone putting one word after another.
After seven years of teaching I found that the more I taught the less I wrote, and the less I wrote the more I had to teach. It was time to pull the plug, but not before my colleague and fine friend, Gina Perry, convinced me to co-write a text book with her (Write To Publish, Allen & Unwin, 1999).
I’m proud of that book but I can’t say it makes you laugh, as Snoopy’s book did when I first read it all those years ago, and again just a few days ago. (After seeing the Peanuts movie with my daughter and grand-daughter.)
Thank you Snoopy. Thank you Charles M.Schulz.
Cartoon strips sourced from peanuts.com
Second-hand copies of Snoopy Stars as The World Famous Literary Ace by Charles M. Schulz (Ravette Books, 1988) available online, from Amazon and elsewhere.