This month we are delighted to feature Alton Carter in our Local Author Spotlight. Alton Carter is a former foster child and police officer. He was the first person in his family to graduate from high school and college.
Now the director of youth ministries for the First United Methodist Church of Stillwater, Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State University alum has dedicated his life to working with young people and inspiring adults to be all that they can be.
In April of 2015, his debut book, The Boy Who Carried Bricks, was published by The RoadRunner Press. The book is a true recount of Carter’s hard-scrabble life growing up on the plains and in the small towns of Oklahoma. The nonfiction title won the 2016 Oklahoma Book Award. His latest Children’s books titled The Boy Who Dreamed Big and The Boy Who Went to the Library tell the story of how a foster child was inspired by his elementary school teacher to use his imagination to overcome his obstacles.
Q: What inspired you to write “The Boy Who Carried Bricks”?
A: I wrote The Boy Who Carried Bricks because I hoped my story would inspire children living in foster care. When I was a child, I felt as though I were on an island all by myself. I want my story to encourage children during difficult times. I want kids to know that within them is the power to become whatever they dream of and remind them they are not alone.
Q: Did you have any hesitation about revealing so much about the difficulty of your childhood?
A: I had several reservations revealing my life story. I was worried my family would get upset and I was right. I also worried no one would read the book.
Q: In “The Boy Who Carried Bricks” you call yourself an optimist, where do you think that optimism came from?
A: I think I got my optimism from several people but the person who had the biggest impact would be my grandfather, Thomas Carter. He had a tough life but always tried his hardest to make any negative situation positive. He was the strongest person I know and I can only hope that someday I will be half the man he was. Next would be Brenda Thompson and John Talley. Both of these individuals were amazing role models when I was young and honestly into my adulthood, who taught me to try and make the best of every situation.
Q: When a neighbor gave you “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and encouraged you to read it. Did that change how you felt about reading?
A: Reading Huckleberry Finn was a struggle for me but honestly I am extremely glad I read the book with someone who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I spent most of my life wanting to do anything but read because it was extremely difficult. Around the age of 19, I found out that my struggles associated with reading were due to being dyslexic. Today, reading is still a challenge but I enjoy it very much.
Q: When you were growing up, did you ever think about becoming a writer?
A: I never once thought I would become a writer.
Q: In “The Boy Who Carried Bricks,” you mention that you were the first of your family to make it past the 9th grade and you also describe telling your first girlfriend’s mother that you wanted to go to college. What were your goals for going to college and beyond?
A: I wanted to go to college to prove to myself that I could do it. I wanted to be the first in my family to graduate and show that even kids who grew up in a horrible situation could still reach their goals. Wanting to do and be more than my family was a huge motivation.
Q: “The Boy Who Carried Bricks” was published in 2015, since then you have written and published other books, can you share a little bit about each and what motivated you to write them?
Aging Out is a continuation of The Boy Who Carried Bricks that tells my story after high school and into adulthood. This book reveals the hardships of becoming an adult after growing up in foster care. It also gives readers a glimpse of my constant battle with my childhood trauma and insecurity. So many foster children are pushed out of care after turning 18 and have nowhere to turn for help and guidance. This book reveals those issues.
The Boy Who Dreamed Big is a children’s book that was written to inspire children to dream big and believe you can be whatever you want. As a young child, I am not sure I ever allowed myself to dream of all the things I could do and be because I didn’t know there were so many choices. I want all children no matter where you come from to know the sky is the limit.
The Boy Who Went to the Library was written to inspire children to read and visit the library. Children who are unable to experience much of the world due to financial hardships can learn and see so much through books.
The Boy Who Survived is a book that contains many of my life experiences that are not written about in The Boy Who Carried Bricks and Aging Out. I also share my passion for poetry as there is one of my poems at the end of every chapter. Writing poetry was one of the ways I dealt with my feelings through the years. I still have poems I wrote as a child.
Editor’s Note: In 2015, Carter founded the Alton Carter Inspire Foundation with the goal of assisting young people who have lived in foster care, group homes, or DHS juvenile facilities in securing a college degree. A percentage of the book’s sales from The Boy Who Carried Bricks goes to this cause.
Carter makes his home in central Oklahoma, with his wife, Kristin, and their five children, Kelton, Colin, Alliyah, Angilina, and Curtis.