• Although they were born in the United States and were American citizens, during World War II Yoshiko Uchida and Keiko (“Kay”) Uchida, her sister, were interned at the American concentration camp at Topaz, Utah, because of their Japanese ancestry. Before being moved to Topaz, they were first forced to live in a horse stall that had been painted so hurriedly by the United States soldiers that young Yoshiko could see the corpses of spiders and other bugs under the whitewash. Kay became ill and was forced to stay in bed and use a large tin can when she needed to go to the bathroom. She worried that everyone would hear what she was doing — the horse stall “apartments” were not conducive to privacy. Therefore, while Kay used the can, Yoshiko rustled newspapers and made a lot of noise to cover up the bathroom noises that her sister was making.
• On The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mel Cooley, played by Richard Deacon, was always being insulted by Buddy Sorrell, played by Morey Amsterdam. This got to Mr. Deacon after a while, so he talked to series creator Carl Reiner and asked him to write a response for his character to give to Buddy. Mr. Reiner tried a few ideas, but none seemed to work, so he asked Mr. Deacon what his reaction was to Buddy. Mr. Deacon answered “Yecch!” and that became his character’s response to Buddy.
• Elie Wiesel, author of Night, became an American citizen partly as a result of an accident. While crossing Times Square, he was hit by a taxi and forced to use a wheelchair for a year. His French visa was about to expire, and to renew it he needed to go to France, something that was difficult for him to do because of his injury. An American immigration official suggested that he solve the program by becoming an American citizen, and Mr. Wiesel did exactly that.
• When Jack Gantos, author of the Newbery Honor book Joey Pigza Loses Control, was doing time in prison for smuggling and selling drugs, he faced a problem. Prison guards would not allow prisoners to keep journals. To solve that problem, Mr. Gantos used a copy of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov as his journal. He wrote in between the printed lines of the book.
• Richard P. Feynman, a Noble Prize winner in 1965, almost did not write the paper that won him the prize. Mr. Feynman preferred to talk rather than write, and his non-autobiographical books tend to be transcriptions of his lectures or notes for his lectures. While he was working on describing quantum processes, he invented what are known as “Feynman Diagrams.” The diagrams became popular quickly, but Mr. Feynman waited a year to write a technical paper describing his diagrams. However, he did finally write “Space-Time Approach to Quantum Electrodynamics” because he stayed at the home of his friends Bert and Mulaika Corben. Mulaika was both liberated and forceful, and she locked him in a room until he had finished writing the paper.
• Will Hobbs, author of such children’s books as Bearstone, has a unique way of getting himself to write when he is procrastinating too much. He winds up a toy pterodactyl and forces himself to begin writing before the pterodactyl stops walking.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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