Recently, publishYOUth spoke with Camille S. Campbell, a talented author, journalist, poet, and blogger! Camille's latest children's book is Her Poems: Women Poets Who Changed the World, and she has wonderful advice for publishing your novel and children's book writing. Camille's writing has also received many awards from organizations such as the New York Times, Penguin Random House, and Scholastic, and she was also an intern for Girls' Life Magazine. Here we spoke with Camille about her writing journey, goals for the future, and advice for building confidence as a young writer!
Can you tell us about your journey with writing? What drives your literary passions?
CC: Ever since I was in first grade, I would write little "books'' and share them with classmates. Seeing their excitement about the stories that I told made me inspired to continue sharing them. The first full-length book that I wrote was The Wishner’s Curse, which I published at fourteen. It’s been amazing seeing so many children in schools read my books and communicating with the enthusiastic teachers who have brought the books into their classrooms. Both writing stories for myself and sharing them with others drives my literary passions.
In 2019, you published your first children’s fantasy novel: The Wishner’s Curse. What drew you to this genre?
CC: I’ve always been a visual writer and some people have mentioned that the action scenes in my book seem a bit like a movie. I love to build rich magical worlds and love adventure books, so whatever age range I write in, I’m drawn to fantasy books. I first began writing fantasy short stories after looking at image writing prompts with castles, magical creatures, and forbidden forests.
As an award-winning teenager with four released books, what was your process with publishing like? What advice would you give to students looking to find publishers and cover artists, refine their work, and bring their novels to print?
CC: Definitely do your research and there’s something right for everyone! I decided to self-publish and am glad to say that it gave me amazing opportunities, such as winning awards, reaching international readers, doing amazing school events, and reaching many people. I’ve also done traditional publishing in anthologies and digital publications. Throughout your life, the types of publishing you might do can change. If you’re interested in self-publishing, I’d recommend doing online research for each aspect of the book: development editors (for fundamental edits), copy editors (more proofreading to ensure that there aren’t grammar errors or typos), cover design, getting ISBNs, ensuring your book is available on all platforms and book promotion. It’s a complex process but a rewarding one! The profoundly talented Kelley McMorris did my cover art and it’s surreal knowing that the artist who did American Girl illustrations and covers of some books I admire, did my cover as well.
Alongside your novelist journey, you were an intern for Girls’ Life Magazine! What was that experience like, and what did it teach you about journalism?
CC: Writing many articles in one week was different from crafting full-length books. Journalism is remarkably fast-paced and jumping onto news stories means producing articles quickly. However, I felt like it increased my writing and editing capabilities—and my graphic design skills which came in handy when I created my picture book Her Poems: Women Poets Who Changed the World. I think being exposed to a variety of genres really helps you grow in different areas. It was such a fun internship with interesting people who were always willing to offer support and collaborate to create entertaining content! I mean, how amazing is it to have an internship where you can interview celebrities over Zoom, collaborate with fellow writers, pitch articles of your choice, and build a comprehensive Muck Rack journalist profile? I’m especially grateful for my amazing mentor Samantha Dorisca, who is such an inspiration to me and still offers me so much support to this day!
Your most recent novel, Her Poems: Women Poets Who Changed the World, is an engaging children’s picture book celebrating women in poetry. What inspired you to write this novel?
CC: There are a lot of books about women scientists, artists, writers and explorers but not many are available to read about women poets. Since I love poetry and have been publishing my poems for several years now, I decided to create the book that I would like to have read when I was younger. After writing the biography part of the book, I chose to add poetry activities to make the book more fun and more useful for teachers and parents. I hope that Her Poems: Women Poets Who Changed the World will continue to inspire many generations of upcoming poets!
What is your biggest tip for children’s book writing?
CC: My best advice is to read books in the genre. For example, if you're planning to write a picture book, check out other books (from your library or even bedtime read-out-loud videos on YouTube) to understand the tone of the stories and understand the reading level of your audience so the words aren't too simple or advanced. Also, I think that when you craft an idea, it should be about the book first and then the age category. Write what flows out of you, and then you can decide which age category it fits in. When I get ideas, I usually can sense what kind of language and what audience I want to tell the story to. Some indicators are the ages of the characters you envision and what books you'd truly compare them to based on a theme. Is the book that you’re writing more like The Girl Who Drank the Moon or Caraval? But most importantly, tell the story from your heart and it will speak to the reader.
What are your writing hopes and goals for the future?
CC: My goals for the future are to continue writing books. I'm working on books in a variety of genres, including a picture book and a young adult book, both of which I'm excited about! Also, I'm revising the third book of my Wishner Prophecy series so that it will be a trilogy. I have many Pinterest boards with projects...
Finally, what advice would you give to youth writers in building confidence in their work, regardless of publication?
CC: I would give the advice that I often give myself. When writing something, you might not see results quickly but you'll continue to grow as a writer. Remember that you ARE a writer, regardless of publications. I advocate for following your dreams at any age, but please remember Leigh Bardugo's genius quote "there is no expiration date on talent". Keep writing scenes in your journal, making Pinterest boards and reading—it will pay off. In a writer's life, not every word they write will be published, nor will even the most famous writers feel completely confident in their abilities. But they have a passion for writing—and you do too. That is such a special thing. Write what you feel most passionate about and that enthusiasm will shine through. Also, remember that you never know what brilliant idea may come to your mind one day if you continue writing.
Special thanks to Camille S. Campbell for her participation in this interview and the writing community! Feel free to follow her writing online, and stay tuned for her future books!