By Pamela Tuck
Illustrations by Eric Velasquez
As Fast As Words Could Fly is the inspirational story of Mason Steele, an African American boy living in Greenville, North Carolina in the 1960s. Mason relies on his inner confidence and his typing skills to face challenges and break racial barriers after he begins attending a “whites-only” high school. Based on the author’s father’s experiences in the 1960s, As Fast As Words Could Fly is an inspiring testament to the power of hard work, determination, and the belief in yourself to overcome life’s challenges. In this BookTalk, author Pamela M. Tuck and illustrator Eric Velasquez share their thoughts on the inspiration behind As Fast As Words Could Fly, the art of writing and illustrating, and of course, typewriters.
Author Pamela M. Tuck
How do you balance your life as a writer and a mother of eleven children? Do your children inspire your writing?
Pamela M. Tuck: Being a mother requires some level of organization and discipline, and even more so in a large family. I’m also a former home schooling mother, which gave me the advantage of learning how to give more structure to our busy days. Even though we didn’t always follow a schedule, it was there as a guide and kept us focused on what needed to be done. In my roles as mother and educator, I realized that having personal breaks and rewards gave my children and me the incentives we needed to complete each task. Allotting writing time was a refreshing treat for me. My children not only inspire my writing, they inspire me to keep writing. They may not always appear as characters in my stories, but their unique personalities help shape some of my characters. Their eagerness for me to finish a story keeps me writing more to satisfy their anticipations. I consider my husband, Joel, as the fire behind my writing, but my children definitely keep the flame lit.
Do your kids know what a typewriter is?
PMT: They do now! I have to share their first “awakening moment” about typewriters. I purchased a manual typewriter to take with me to school visits and book events. When the typewriter arrived and I opened the box, one of the first questions was, “Where’s the screen?” They’ve been enlightened to the fact that not only was there no screen, there was no auto-correction, no wrap-around text, and no file storage. In simple terms: If you want to use a manual typewriter for your next research report, you better be accurate with spelling and typing.
Who would win in a typing contest: you or your dad?
PMT: In all fairness, I type more now than my dad does, so I would probably win. However, if given a chance to brush up on his typing, and if the contest limited us to using manual typewriters, I think my dad would give me a fierce challenge. In the end, he would still be the winner because he wouldn’t have cramped fingers . . . but I just might.
Illustrator Eric Velasquez
What drew you to want to illustrate As Fast As Words Could Fly?
Eric Velasquez: I loved the story. I really admired the character of Mason. I was drawn to his inner strength.
Are the illustrations of Mason based on Pamela Tuck’s father?
EV: Yes, however I posed myself as her father making adjustments to capture her father’s essence.
What message or theme do you hope modern-day readers will get from the story of Mason Steele?
PMT: I want the spirit of hope and aspiration to resonate with readers after reading about Mason. I want readers to be inspired to face their challenges in life and not limit themselves in what they can accomplish based on the opinions of others. My motto for the book and for readers is: Unleash your dreams and let them fly!
EV: The message I hope the modern day reader will get from Mason’s story is, not to be driven off your path by the ignorance and misunderstanding of others. Continue to strive for excellence, and do not be afraid to win. Unfortunately too many young people have fallen prey to the fear of achieving their dream.
About This Title
Interest Level:Grades 2 - 7
Reading Level:Grades 3 - 4
United States History, Identity/Self Esteem/Confidence, Overcoming Obstacles, History, Heroism, Dreams & Aspirations, Discrimination, Conflict resolution, Civil Rights Movement, Childhood Experiences and Memories, African/African American Interest, Informational Text, Integrity/Honesty , Leadership, Optimism/Enthusiasm, Persistence/Grit, Respect/Citizenship, Self Control/Self Regulation
New Voices Award Winners & Honors Collection, Martin Luther King Jr./Civil Rights Collection, Black History Collection, Grades 3-6, High-Low Books for Preteens (Grades 4-6), Appendix B Diverse Collection Grades 3-6, African American English Collection Grades 3-6, Historical Fiction Grades 3-6, Responsibility/Leadership, Persistence and Determination Collection, Respect and Self-Respect Collection, Storyline Online Collection , Social Activism Collection, Social Activism Collection Grades 3-5, Black History Month Bestselling Books Collection
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