When Courtney and I went to Jefferson City, we went to the Downtown Toy and Book Store. They had a lot of books to choose from. The YA and children's sections were right next to each other, and I noticed a book entitled As Fast as Words Could Fly.
I'm not usually one for children's books. They're not the sort of thing I write, but this stood out to me for several reasons. First, it's a book about using a typewriter (albeit, in the day when typewriters were king). Second, it's a kid's book about the Civil Rights era, which is never an easy topic to handle. Third, it's a good story!
I decided to contact the author, Ms. Pamela Tuck, and strike up a conversation. She was very receptive and we had several good emails go back and forth. Richard Polt told me that he'd read the book, and then I had an idea: why not do an interview for this blog?
Pamela loved the idea. So, I came up with about a dozen questions and I'm very happy to present them to you now! First, a brief introduction from the author's website.
Pamela Tuck is a native of Greenville, NC. When she was a child, Pamela remembers entertaining her family by recording her own voice and telling “made up silly stories.” She won her first poetry contest in elementary school and continued to write short stories and plays. Most of Pamela's ideas come from her family and life experiences. She says “I have such a rich family history. . . there’s not enough room for it all on paper.”
- Your book was inspired by events in your father's life. Could you tell us a little about your childhood and some of your fondest memories with him?
I grew up as an only child, but the oldest grandchild. My grandfather was a master storyteller and I enjoyed sitting at his feet, listening to all his tales and stories about our family. I think this is where my love of storytelling began. My dad always made me feel as though I could accomplish anything in life. He wouldn’t let me doubt myself, but instead challenged me to try. I’m still a daddy’s girl.
- When did you decide that you wanted to write fiction? Did you always want to be a children's author?
I decided to write fiction in elementary school after winning my first poetry contest. I think I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade. I didn’t decide to write for children until 2005, after being encouraged to do so by my late husband, Joel Tuck.
- When were you initially inspired to write Word Could Fly? Did the idea come all at once, or did it go through several revisions?
My late husband, Joel, found out about Lee & Low Books offering a New Voices Award Contest, and after reading some of their books, he suggested that I write my dad’s story of desegregating the all white school in Greenville, NC. I was a little reluctant at first, but I agreed. Since the story is based on events from my dad’s life, all the elements of the story were already in place. It was just a matter of retelling them in an interesting and informative way. I think I wrote my first draft in about 30 minutes to 1 hour after interviewing my dad. I revised the story until I felt confident enough to send to Lee & Low Books. After being accepted, it underwent several revisions.
- What was your father's reaction to the project?
He was and still is very proud of me. He’s also honored by the recognition his book is receiving.
- Describe your working process. Do you have a routine when writing?
I don’t have a set writing routine, unfortunately. I’m trying to work on that. But being the mother of 11 children makes “routine writing time” almost impossible…so I usually “steal” the time when I can. I write by inspiration. Once a subject interests me, I require complete silence (not an easy task for a large family…but possible) then I sit at my computer and let the inspiration take form. Most of the time, I can get a good story flow in my first draft. However, after doing more research (if necessary) and sharing the story with my family and writing colleagues, I generally know what areas I need to rewrite. Then I repeat the silent writing ritual until I’m satisfied with the story.
- North Carolina is not a state we often hear about in the wider narrative of the Civil Rights movement. Why do you think that is?
Although North Carolina is a southern state, I think not much attention was given to smaller towns, like Greenville, because many of the monumental events took place in larger cities. During the Civil Rights Movement, leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visited the larger cities to host rallies and marches. Residents of the smaller towns and communities would often travel to partake in such events. As my dad mentioned in one of his interviews, he heard Dr. King speak on making a difference in his own community, so when he traveled back to his small town, he was more encouraged to fight for equality because he knew he was taking part in a larger effort.
- How much influence did access to tools of expression (like typewriters) have in changing the status quo for people of color?
The first person who comes to my mind in answering this question is world champion typist, Cortez Peters. He was the founder of the Cortez W. Peters Business School, which debuted in 1934. It was one of the first vocational schools in Washington, DC to prepare African Americans for business and civil services. The opening of his school became a pivotal point in history for African Americans.
- Now let's turn to typing itself. When I was in 7th grade, 2001, it had all shifted to computer keyboards. Was it different for you growing up?
Yes it was a little different for me. When I started high school, typing class was still a part of the curriculum. I was able to experience the thrill of true “keyboarding”, although the typewriters had shifted from manual to electric by that time. Nevertheless, it was still rewarding to measure my progress based on timed typing drills.
- You once told me about using a Royal Quite Deluxe (like the one featured in the book) for events with schoolchildren. How do you introduce them to the machine and what are their responses?
I normally display the typewriter as the centerpiece on my book signing table. I introduce my book first so the students can learn the history behind the typewriter and its reference to my story. I typically get the same response every time. The students are so fascinated by the typewriter and are very anxious to try it out. Most of the time they don’t tap the keys hard enough to make the letters appear on the paper because they’re so used to the soft touch needed for computer keyboards, but after a little time, they enjoy watching their letters jump onto the paper. They usually leave with the remark, “That’s cool.”
- Some writers have a single goal: to teach, provoke, entertain, etc. What are you literary aspirations?
My literary goals are to enlighten, inspire and, encourage my readers to embrace diversity and have the courage to make a difference.
- Can you give us a hint of what your future books will be about?
I have two forthcoming picture book projects: One book is about my immediate family – a humorous spin-off of the Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme: The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, told from my perspective as a young mother of 11 children and some of the antics that go along with it. My second book is another historical fiction picture book based on events from my family’s history.
- What are some other things outside of books that inform your writing? Any particular interests or hobbies?
I enjoy nature, especially in the spring and fall. The calm and peacefulness of nature clears my mind and evokes my imagination. I also love spending time with my family: camping, biking, playing music and singing together. A lot of my story ideas evolve from my family, so spending time with them always informs my writing.
Thank you for spending time with us!
And Thank YOU again for your interest, contact and including me on your blog.
|Pamela's father, Moses Teel, the inspiration for As Fast as Words Could Fly.|
|The actual typewriter Mr. Teel used.|
I strongly encourage you all to support Ms. Tuck and visit her website!
Power to the pen!