Christopher Paul Curtis is no stranger to award committees. His first novel, The Watson’s Go To Birmingham–1963, was awarded the Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Honor. His next novel, Bud, Not Buddy, was awarded the Newbery Award and the Coretta Scott King Author Award. And just this past January, his latest novel, Elijah of Buxton, was awarded a Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Author Award.
Born in Flint, Michigan, Mr. Curtis now lives in Ontario, Canada with his wife and family. The Brown Bookshelf is honored to kick off our 28 Days Later Campaign with the wonderfully talented Christopher Paul Curtis!
The Genesis of Elijah of Buxton:
Christopher Paul Curtis had always wanted to write a novel about slavery. However, due to the inherent dehumanization of slaves, writing an accurate novel from the first person point of view of a slave would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible. However, on his way home from Windsor one day, Mr. Curtis noticed a sign for the Buxton Historical Museum. He stopped at the small museum, and was amazed by the amount of land that the ex-slaved had cleared and maintained in order to maintain the settlement. He imagined that a “first child” would have had to have been born at the settlement. And thus Elijah of Buxton was born.
By writing the novel from the point of view of a child that had never experienced slavery, Mr. Curtis was able to show the dichotomy between slavery and freedom. Elijah’s perspective as a free-born child could mimic current society’s views on slavery.
Favorite Novels and Characters:
Christopher Paul Curtis used to say that The Watson’s Go to Birmingham–1963 was his favorite novel, because it got him out of the warehouse. But now, he’s calls Elijah of Buxton his favorite novel.
However, Byron Watson, Kenny’s older brother from The Watson’s Go the Birmingham–1963, is Mr. Curtis’s favorite character. Byron is unpredictable, unreliable, and a borderline juvenile delinquent, but he’s also a lot of fun.
CPC’s 4 rules for aspiring authors (especially for young people just starting to write):
1) Write everyday—the more, the better.
2) Have fun when you write. You’re the creator of your own world when you write.
3) Be very patient. Don’t give up, but don’t be afraid to put something to the side for a while. Sometimes the writing doesn’t go the way you want it to go at first.
4) Ignore all rules. Once you learn how to tell a story, don’t be afraid to break a few rules and try different things.
For all of you Bud, Not Buddy fans, Christopher Paul Curtis has a treat for you. His next novel will be about Deza Malone, the girl with the little dimple in her brown cheek (and the girl that gave Bud Caldwell his first kiss), and should be available in 2009.