Queen City Writers interviewed author and middle school language arts teacher Garrett Carter, who developed his passions for writing and teaching as an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati.
QCW: You have said about your upcoming book series that you believe that these books need to be published. Why do you feel so strongly?
Carter: Yes, I am working on a new series of children’s books, each involving a main character who realizes that, while he wants to be an athlete, he has other interests as well. I think many look at African American talent in terms of athleticism. Many African Americans are great at sports, but there are several other areas where we excel. I know African American doctors, lawyers, teachers, and business professionals. So, my books seek to bring awareness to this idea at an early age. I want to tell kids: “Be an athlete if you want, but also have other dreams.” These books are particularly needed in the black community because some kids have accepted the idea that the road to success is through sports. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not anti-sports. Many athletes have used their talents to get scholarships and make great lives for themselves. But as a teacher with experience in both urban and suburban districts, I’ve seen too many students, particularly African Americans, focusing only on sports. I simply want these kids and all kids really, to pursue multiple options.
QCW: Describe your experience growing up in the black community.
Carter: As a child, I feel like I grew up in both white and black communities. I attended a predominately African American church, but lived and went to school in a mainly Caucasian community. Despite stereotypes, my brothers and I grew up in a middle class neighborhood with our college-educated parents who stressed Christian and moral values, and hard work and education. I never remember being asked if I wanted to go to college; I was going to college.
QCW: Despite that positive upbringing, have you had any specific experiences with racism?
Carter: I have. I remember going to the mall with my older brother and mom – I was probably seven or eight years old at the time. My mom purchased her items and we proceeded to the car, but a store security guard came running after us. He demanded to see my mother’s receipt and check her bag. Of course, all was in order as she had paid for her items. No explanation or apology was offered. Once we got home my parents discussed the matter and called the store manager to arrange a meeting, where the security guard was forced to apologize for his conduct. This was an important message for me early on: if you are mistreated, stand up for yourself.
I also remember always being asked in school, “Why do all black people…?” You see, during my K-12 education, there were several times when I was the only African American in class so apparently that made me the national spokesperson. I never took this as racism, but racial curiosity. Many of the questions themselves were rooted in stereotypes so, especially as I became older, I used these moments as teaching opportunities.
QCW: Tell us about your writing.
Carter: It was really during a couple of English composition classes and the different types of writing that we did, that I began to enjoy writing and realized that I had talent. I also changed directions professionally and that influenced my writing. My B.S. is in criminal justice and I wanted to be a lawyer. But when I worked as a long-term substitute I realized that I was meant to be in the classroom, so I earned a Master’s degree in education and my teaching license. I published my first two books, instructional aids for language arts teachers, through CreateSpace, an Amazon company.
I actually wrote my first instructional book at the suggestion of a coworker who was impressed with the classroom projects and activities I had created. For my children’s series, the stories came to me naturally and they were easy to write, but I had to hire an illustrator for pictures and covers. It has been an interesting and time-consuming process sharing the pictures in my head with an illustrator to translate on paper. Both experiences have been rewarding in their own ways. With my children’s series, I’m happy to reach a new, wider audience. I plan to publish the first book in the series later this year.
Garrett Carter is the author of Not an Oxymoron: Standards-Based Fun in the Classroom! and Common Core Creativity: Language Arts Fun in the Classroom!, both available through Amazon. His website for the children’s series is www.garrettcarterbooks.com.
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