Christopher Paul Curtis Transcription
Christopher Paul Curtis: Well, I'd been working in a factory. I'd worked there for thirteen years and I really disliked my job. And I discovered that if I took... The job I had was putting doors on cars and there were two of us that'd do it, I'd do one, my partner would do the next one, and we'd do every other job for ten hours a day. So you're standing up for ten hours. So, in our eighteen-year-old wisdom, we decided that it would be easier if he did thirty in a row, then I did thirty in a row. You work twice as hard, twice as fast, but we discovered that then that way we would have a half hour out of every hour to sit down and do whatever we wanted to do. And that was when I found out that if I wrote, it was like a burden was being lifted off of me. I hated the factory, and I would sit there, and I would write, and I'd forget about being in the factory. I developed discipline, I think. I learned how to move things around when I wrote, and I'd do this every day and it was a great feeling. So then after a while, I'd left the factory, and I was working a lot of little menial jobs. I was a lawnmower, I worked as a garbage man, I worked for the U.S. Census Bureau, and I was unloading trucks in a warehouse. And my wife told me, "You know you've done this too long, I know you can do more," so we arranged for me to take a year off of work so I could try and write a book. So I'd go to the children's section of the Windsor Public Library and I would sit.
Jo Reed: Now, how did you end up in the children's section?
Christopher Paul Curtis: I don't know. I started in other areas and the children's section felt comfortable to me. When I was writing The Watsons Go to Birmingham, I didn't think of it as a children's book. I never said to myself, okay this is a children's book. But the narrator that came to me was ten years old, and I just ran with him. But I thought it was kind of like an adult story being narrated by a ten-year-old. Then I'd go everyday to the library. In a rare burst of good sense, and believe me, it's very rare, I said to myself, right at the beginning of this, I said, you have to look at this as a job. I was unloading trucks in the warehouse, didn't like the job, didn't like my boss, but I went every single day. Gave her the respect she deserved. I was my own boss now, so I had to give myself the same respect. And I went every day, and I would write for four or five hours, and whether or not I wanted to, I'd go. And it was very fortunate for me that I did, because otherwise, you know, I've discovered since then writing is a lot like physical activity, that you fall out of shape for it, and if you take periods off, it takes you a long time to get back in shape. So I did that for a year, and at the end of the year sent it out.