Author, Entrepreneur, and Literacy Advocate, Carylee Carrington
Carylee Carrington is an author, entrepreneur, and literacy advocate. She is known to some as the “accidental author,” being a children’s author was not where she believed her life would lead. Though she loves writing, being a children’s author was the furthest thing from her mind.
Her approach to writing children’s books is influenced by the lives of children all around her. Her eldest son inspired the first published book, entitled “Everyone, Just Like Me.” One of her main goals as an author is to encourage children to embrace their differences to understand that everyone is unique in their own special way. In her newest book, “Pretty Hair,” she strives to teach young girls to find their own kind of beauty by showing them there is more than one type of hair that is pretty.
In addition to her authorship, she is also an enormous supporter and advocate for the arts. She has visited schools in Virginia and Georgia, encouraging the love of reading and the art of writing and self-publishing. She has expanded her love for sharing books to other media platforms such as YouTube. In 2019, she created the show, Read With Carylee, where she introduces the audience to children’s book authors, who share their books in their own voice. This helps her continue to bring positive, inspirational books to children, encouraging them to believe in their dreams and be the best version of themselves. She hopes to continue to promote these positive messages so that our children may grow to be strong individuals and lead the charge for a kinder and more loving future. Through “Read with Carylee,” she hopes to continue to support change in the children’s literature genre and push for the further diversification of children’s literature.
One of Carylee’s biggest motivators was her mother, the late Dr. Norma McPherson, who was a literacy coach and life-long educator. With her encouragement and guidance, she set out to bring the love of reading to as many children as she can. Along with her work as an author and literacy advocate, she has been a regular contributor on WJLAs, “Outside The Classroom,” and a board member with Reading Is Fundamental Northern Virginia. She also serves on the board of the Prince William County Arts Council. Her latest book “Pretty Hair” has been listed as one of the top 20 books to diversify children’s bookshelves by PopSugar in 2020, and her first release, “Everyone, Just Like Me,” has been a feature to assist in speaking to children about race.
Carylee has a great passion for young children, and she realizes the power of literacy in educating our future generations.
Hustle and Soul Magazine got an exclusive interview with Carylee.
Please share with us the moment you knew that your writing made an impact and has an influence on others’ lives.
Carylee: There are a couple moments when I realized that my writing was making an impact. The first was seeing how my own son lit up to see that his mom had written a book and it was inspired by him. That of course is my favorite moment. It was not only an author win, but a mom win as well. It still warms my heart every time I think of that moment.
The other moment was truly unexpected. I was promoting my book on social media and got a surprising note from a Facebook friend. She was taking classes at Old Dominion University and noticed that my book, Everyone, Just Like Me, was listed for recommended reading in a class that dealt with developing instructional strategies for social studies classes. My book, was being used to help teachers build their lesson plans for their classes. I never thought that my book would get that kind of recognition. That was a major achievement.
How long on average does it take you to write a book? How do you prepare yourself to begin?
Carylee: I’ve been asked that question many times and honestly, it varies. I actually had the idea for my second book, Pretty Hair, about a year before I wrote, Everyone, Just Like Me, which took me one night. I truly believe that when inspiration strikes, you have just got to be prepared. What helps me these days, is that I almost always have my phone with me. It helps me to take notes, jot down ideas, or as in the case with, Everyone, Just Like Me; I wrote the entire manuscript overnight on my smartphone.
I always encourage those who ask me this question, to always have a book, a note pad or something to write their thoughts down, next to their bed. I find that a lot of inspiration comes from our dreams and it’s good to write them down as soon as you get those thoughts. Another piece of advice I usually give is, to find your special space. Find a place where you can be creative, where your inspiration flows free.
What are some of the books you wrote that have the most meaning to you and why?
Carylee: Pretty Hair has great meaning for me. It started out as a love letter to black girls and their hair, but after finishing my first book, I wanted it to be more inclusive. That turned the entire book around and started more conversations. I had women of all races and cultures coming to me and saying they wish they had Pretty Hair when they were younger. That makes this worth it for me. I want young girls and women to know their beauty, know their value, and not have to rely on what others say. Know you are beautiful, you are worthy, you are enough, just as you are. That is a lesson we all need to learn.
What can we be on the lookout for from you?
Carylee: You can always find me on my YouTube show, Read With Carylee, youtube.com/thereadwithcaryleeshow. I feature other children’s authors; we air new shows weekly and currently have over 100 books and authors who have been featured so far.
Read With Carylee, Inc. is now a nonprofit foundation dedicated to promoting diversity in children’s literature. I am always looking for ways to get more diverse books into the hands of children. My aim is to endorse inclusion, tolerance, and understanding through children’s literature.
What tips would you share to help writers become better?
Carylee: Never stop! If writing is your passion, keep going, keep working on your craft. No one gets better by giving up, you only get better over time.
How can our readers find your latest work?
Carylee: Readers can find my books on my website, www.readwithcarylee.com. Using my website, all books are signed and come directly from me. My books are also available at most online book retailers, Amazon.com, BarnesandNobles.com, Target.com, etc.
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