Monday, December 15, 2008
FEATURED AUTHOR: Carla Sarratt
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Carla Sarratt currently calls Charlotte, North Carolina her home. After graduating from Wittenberg University, she used her degree to teach high school English for five years. It was in her last year of teaching that she combined her love of literature and her experiences as a high school student and teacher to give birth to the Carter G Woodson High School series.
Four high school freshmen walk the hallways of Carter G. Woodson High School with a different focus in mind. Kendra is focused on making good grades in high school. Lamar’s focus is to make the basketball team and have as much fun as possible in high school. Destiny is focused on maintaining her superiority over everyone around her. New to Charlotte, Steven is focused on shaking off his past.
Freshman year is tough, but these four are intent on finding their way as they navigate the hallways, demands from teachers, tests, extra curricular activities, friendships, and parents. They have to navigate their journey all while maintaining their focus on what’s important to them.
What would you like readers to take away from your book?
While reading my first book Freshman Focus, I want readers to see themselves as students at Carter G. Woodson High School and decide which of my four main characters would be their friend or their enemy.
What is your favorite scene from your book?
My favorite scene is the classroom scene in chapter ten of Freshman Focus. The four main characters are in English class and you get a sense of the friendship dynamic and their individual personalities.
Why did you elect to write for children?
It wasn’t a conscious decision that I made. I just picked up my pencil and began to write. I think it was a natural fit since at the time I was a high school English teacher plus as a teenager, I loved young adult fiction, i.e. Sweet Valley High, and am happy that I am able to contribute to the genre.
What did you learn while writing this book?
I learned a lot of different Black history facts. Each chapter begins with a fact from Black history to honor Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black history.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
It takes a lot to go from a computer document to the final version of the book that you buy at the store or check out from the library.
What is the best lesson you have learned from another children’s book writer?
Since I am self-published, I’ve learned a lot from traditionally published authors who have agents, editors, and publicists to help them prepare the book for publication and market it to the masses.
What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?
The toughest test for me is to actually write when I would rather curl up with a book and read.
What is something readers would be surprised you do?
I don’t do anything out of the ordinary like bungee jump or sky dive, but they might be surprised that I love cartoons and animated movies. Some of my favorites include The Proud Family, Recess, Jimmy Neutron, The Fairly Oddparents, Mighty B, Cars, and all three Shreks.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
I wish I had known to keep writing more books before the first one was published because it is hard to juggle writing, promoting, and reading. I learned that it takes more to promote the book than it does to write it, but you don’t fully realize that until you’re out there doing it so I wish I had been better prepared to promote my books.
How do you reach new readers?
I reach new readers by going on school visits, through my website and work with The Brown Bookshelf, and through word of mouth.
Can you give us five children’s book authors you admire?
Absolutely, as a disclaimer, I admire any writer whose books are on the shelves, but the five authors that I most admire are Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Mildred Taylor, Paula Danziger, and Francine Pascal. All of these are authors I read growing up and even read again as an adult.
If you could have dinner with 3 authors to talk with about their writing (living or deceased) who would you invite and why?
Oooh, I would love to have dinner with Rita Williams Garcia. I interviewed her earlier this year for The Brown Bookshelf but would love to be able to invite her over for dinner and talk more at length. I would definitely include my dear friend Paula Chase who also writes young adult fiction and is a great writing mentor to me. Not to leave men out, I would invite Walter Dean Myers who has been writing books for young adults for over thirty years. I would love to pick his brain about the stories he’s told and how he keeps telling stories that readers love.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a children’s book writer?
Definitely read and research other children’s books as well as the craft of being a children’s author. Don’t give up on writing your book even if it means several rewrites to tell the best story.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
Readers can visit me at my website http://www.carlasarratt.com/ and on Myspace at www.myspace.com/writeon1913.
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
Just Be is the sequel to Freshman Focus that came out in May 2008. It centers around homecoming at Woodson High plus we get to see more of Kendra figuring out boys and the aftermath from a decision that Kendra, Destiny, and Cidney made in Freshman Focus.
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