Wednesday, June 26, 2013

An Interview with author Pamela M. Tuck

Today I’m pleased to welcome Pamela M. Tuck to Shelf-employed.  Pamela’s new book titled, As Fast as Words Could Fly is illustrated by Eric Velasquez and published by Lee & Low Books.  Pamela M. Tuck is Lee & Low’s “New Voices Award” winner.

Thank you so much Lisa, for the “warm” welcome.

Congratulations, Pamela, and thanks so much for stopping by on your blog tour for As Fast as Words Could Fly.

The pleasure is mine. I appreciate the congrats and your gracious hospitality. :)

Your book is a powerful, fictional account of Mason Steele, a black teenager with a gift for typing, who is part of a group of students entering a formerly all-white high school in 1960s, North Carolina.  

Lisa: You note that As Fast as Words Could Fly is based on the experiences of your father, Moses Teel, Jr.  (I love the photo of the two of you in the Author’s Note - how proud he must be!)  The fictional Mason Steele is greatly influenced by his father.  May I assume that your father instilled the same sense of community activism and passion in you? 

Pamela: Yes. My grandfather was committed to ensuring equal opportunities, not just for his family, but for everyone. That commitment filtered down to his children and grandchildren. My father would often remind me of how the opportunities that I enjoyed did not come freely. Ordinary people, like him, had to pay a very dear price for me to be able to enjoy my rights and freedoms.  I remember when I was very young, my father told me it was better to give rather than to receive. He demonstrated this advice over and over again by helping the less fortunate and giving them a second chance at missed opportunities. As I ventured into my “role” of carrying out the mission of equality and justice, I found the reward of giving hope to someone or putting a smile on a face extremely gratifying. My goal is to make a positive difference, whether physically or through my writing.

Lisa: “‘Mason Steele, from Belvoir High, has broken all previous records with a typing speed of sixty-five words per minute.’
     No one cheered.  Mason just stared straight ahead.
     Mr. Bullock accepted the typing championship plaque for Belvoir High.  Not a single person in the audience applauded.”

Even without the illustrations, this passage paints the most powerful picture in the book. The silence is just deafening.  Did you collaborate with award-winning illustrator Eric Velasquez on the book’s illustrations? 

Pamela: No, I didn’t collaborate with Eric directly. However, I did provide photos of my family, my grandmother’s kitchen, and relevant photos of Greenville, NC’s schools, students, typing classes, etc. from the 1960s era. I am so pleased with how well Eric captured my family’s spirit of determination and pride. I know my grandfather would have been proud to see how dynamic his character is portrayed through Eric’s paintings.

Lisa: There is a librarian in your book.  In 2012, librarians appeared in no less than three Civil Rights Era books for children, Glory Be (Scholastic), The Mighty Miss Malone (Random House), and The Lions of Little Rock (Penguin), and they encompassed a range of human dispositions from helpful to hurtful. The librarian in As Fast as Words Could Fly, is somewhere in the middle.  Was there an actual librarian that played a pivotal role in your family’s history? 

Pamela: The librarian in As Fast As Words Could Fly portrays the actual librarian who impacted my father’s journey during that time. Although he was faced with resistance at first, the librarian he worked with indirectly acknowledged his skill. Instead of staying with him after school, she gave him his assignment and left him to work independently. Her unspoken trust empowered my father with confidence.

Lisa:  What lesson do you believe that As Fast as Words Could Fly has for today’s young people? Are you hopeful for the future? 

Pamela: The lesson I would love for young people to get from my story is, never limit yourself on what you can accomplish based on the opinions of others. No matter how impossible a task may seem, it can be conquered by hard work, perseverance, and belief in yourself.
As far as the future, I’m like Mason . . . I “remember” where we came from, as a people and as a nation. We have made substantial progress toward accepting diversity, and that within itself gives hope. 

Thanks so much to Pam Tuck, and to Amanda from Lee & Low Books.

Preview As Fast as Words Could Fly at Lee & Low's site.

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