Christopher Paul Curtis
youve seen him. Hesthe big guy with a head full of dark
skinny braids. And hes writing at a table in the kids
section of the downtown Windsor public library.
energy just felt right in the library," explains Christopher Paul
Curtis, author of award-winning The Watsons Go to Birmingham
1963 and Bud, Not Buddy.
comfortable sitting there. Its too quiet upstairs in my house.
I need a bit of distraction and hustle and bustle, so I go to the
library and sit down, and after awhile, its like Im
taking dictation from the voices of my characters. Im almost
in a trance. I laugh, Im having a jolly good time."
admits that his work leans towards the semi autobiographical. "I
think writers pull in so many different things that happen to them
or other people."
in The Watsons called "Nazi Para-chutes Attack America and Get Shot
Down by Byron Watson and his Flamethrower of Death" is based on
Curtiss childhood fascination with fire. And, his little sister
really did "save" him by spitting on matches lit by his mother who
wanted to teach him a lesson.
born and raised in Flint, Michigan, moved with his wife Kay, a nurse
he met in Hamilton, to Windsor in 1985. Kay recognized Curtiss
gift for writing during their long distance courtship when he wrote
her almost daily. Seven years ago, Kay told him she would support
him if he took a year off to write.
book was originally called "The Watsons Go to Florida," but after
hearing a poem about the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in
1963 in which four black girls died, Curtis decided to change the
I had the Watsons arrive in Florida to visit relatives, the book
didnt have anywhere to go," he says. "With the Watsons travelling
to see relatives in Birmingham in the summer before the bombing,
the book suddenly had a focus. It made the book."
Curtis submitted the book to a couple of publishing contests. He
didnt win but he did receive a publishing offer.
goes in slow motion when you get published," says Curtis. "I was
working in a warehouse in Flint at the time. After a year and a
half the critics got a hold of the book and then I started getting
speaking engagements. I made more giving one speech than I would
in a week at the warehouse, so I quit."
was named a Newberry Honor Book and a Corretta Scott King Honor
Book in 1996. His next book, "Bud, Not Buddy," about a street-wise
ten-year-old Flint boy who decides to walk to grand Rapids to find
his father, whom hes never met but is sure is musician Herman
E. Calloway, was the first-place winner of both awards in 2000.
who says that while he wasnt a book worm as a kid, "I was
always reading magazines, especially Mad and National
days, hes graduated to reading books and enjoys among others,
the novels of Toni Morrison and the books of Jim Thompson, a crime
writer from the fifties, who wrote "The Grifters."
third book will be published later this year.
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