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James E. McTeer II


jamesJames is the author of Minnow, winner of the 2015 South Carolina First Novel Prize.

Tell us about your career.

I am an elementary school media specialist at Polo Road Elementary School in Richland School District 2 in Columbia. I recently published my first book, so I've also been spending time touring and promoting that effort. I have an English degree from USCB, and a Masters in Library and Information Science from USC.

What do you like about your job?

I get to spend my days among books and stories. Part of my time is spent teaching kids how to access the ever-growing world of information--a skill that is critical now more than ever, for children and adults. I also get to spend time introducing younger students to libraries, to reading, and to the excitement that surrounds both. Each day I get to read to kids, to groups of kids. I learn so much--about people, and books--by telling stories out loud to an audience. Then I get to go home and work on my own creative writing efforts each day. It also turns out that being a media specialist is great practice for talking about and promoting my own book.

How has something you learned in English at USCB helped you in your career?

I came away from the program with the ability to read something, take it apart, understand it, and respond--whether it's fiction, non-fiction, whatever. This sounds simple, in a way, but it is a complicated process, and difficult to do really well. But if you can do that: read, disassemble, respond, you've got a head start in any pursuit. 

Any advice?

Enjoy your time in the program. A professor once said that you don't really feel ready to start the English program until after you graduate. You've just go to live and learn as you go. Immerse yourself in everything the program has to offer, and by the end you'll want to do it all again. Take advantage of having professors at your side. You won't always have someone to guide you and give you advice. Talk to them. Learn from them. Find out what to read next. Finally, think about the future--but not too much. One great advantage to having an English degree is that it's so adaptable. It can lead to so many places, to so many different outcomes. You never know where you might wind up.