DETROIT, MI – When Detroit Free Press photography editor Rodney Curtis tells people about his first book, they assume it’s filled with pictures and that it would fit nicely on their coffee table. They are shocked to find his book has no photographs, except for the one lone author picture, and that the book would be more suited for a bedside table.
Curtis, NPPA's Region 4 associate director, has been writing for years – but until now most of his work has ended up in a folder marked: Rejection Letters. When long-time Detroit Free Press senior writer David Crumm took a buyout to pursue a book publishing career last year, he took a chance on the Curtis and the pair struck up a business partnership. The book Spiritual Wanderer, available from Amazon and other online retailers, was the result of that partnership.
Crumm says that Spiritual Wanderer is a collection of 40 short stories and personal essays that are laced with humor, insight, and a look inside one man’s quest for the perfect frozen coffee.
“Before we unleashed the Spiritual Wanderer on an unsuspecting population, we road tested his dozens of personal stories on an international array of readers," Crumm said.
He isn’t kidding. In his travels as the editor of Read the Spirit, an online magazine and publishing imprint, he has taken Curtis' book to Europe and Asia to judge reader reaction.
“In Taiwan, a tour guide and translator read several chapters while relaxing in a brightly lit Dunkin Donuts near an ancient Buddhist temple. Nodding as she read, she finally placed a finger in the manuscript and asked: ‘And, this is a real man writing this?’"
“When assured that the Wanderer is a real person,” Crumm continues, the translator replied, “I would like to meet this man, if he does exist."
“In the United Kingdom, the book became part of a pilgrimage to centuries-old Iona Abbey on a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean off Scotland. One night in a shadowy old parlor lit mainly by a roaring fire, pilgrims from several lands began passing around the chapter from the book known as Dog Duty. The laughter may still be echoing among the granite and limestone cloisters.”
Curtis began his career in the 1980s interning across Michigan in the Booth newspaper chain. His big break, if you don’t count meeting his wife at the Ann Arbor News, was his three-year stint at the Concord Monitor. He switched over to picture editing for a half-dozen years at the Midland (MI) Daily News before landing back home in Detroit, working first for The News and now the Free Press. Curtis joined NPPA in 1984.
“I can’t believe real writers have to do this kind of stuff on deadline,” Curtis said. “It gives me even more respect for them knowing the pressure that they’re under.”