We are thrilled to welcome Helen Kampion to Cynsations as a reporter covering the New England area.
Helen is very active in the children’s-YA literature community and we’re excited about the posts she will contribute!
Welcome, Helen! You’ll be covering the New England youth literary scene. Could you give us a general sense of the types of posts that we should expect to see from you?
First of all, I’m so pleased to be part of the Cynsations team. Such a great group of talented and creative writers!
New England has a rich history of literature, local publishers, and national award-winning authors. With such vast opportunities for stories, I hope to improve diversity and inclusion in the larger kidlit community with my posts.
I look forward to interviewing debut authors. I think readers like to see an author’s journey to their first book- the ups and downs. Their perseverance will inspire readers not to give up.
I would also love to include folks from the other side of publishing who write, like agents and editors. They will have a different perspective and valuable insight.
From the slush pile will be another topic. These Cinderella stories will provide hope, especially for un-agented writers. And who doesn’t like a good underdog story?
As we all know, writing can be a very lonely job. Having a place for writers, a place of community where writers can write or learn or just hang out can be very productive. I’ll be spreading the word about such places.
I think the blend of a business side and creative side is perfect for a career in writing—kind of right side/left side brain usage.
My business side (MBA) is logical and deals with all the details of writing like tracking expenses, submissions, the ins and outs of plot twists, and story threads. My rational part also understands the publishing market and how and why some decisions are made. This comes in handy when I sigh and pound the table at another rejection!
My creative side (MFA) allows me to write what I want, whether it’s silly, dark, rhyme, verse, or prose. The world is my keyboard. The stories may never be published, but I can imagine and create to my heart’s content. This is a good balance to following the rules set by my other side.
What is your involvement in the children’s-YA writing and literature community?
Currently I’m the Treasurer for The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance (NCBLA) (thencbla.org) where we are very fortunate to have noted authors like Katherine Paterson, Stephen Kellogg, and Nikki Grimes as board members. I am also a member of the longest running SCBWI critique group located in Concord, Massachusetts.
Pre-Covid days, I helped set up marketing events for local authors in the Boston area at Barnes and Noble, An Unlikely Bookstore, and The Blue Bunny. In addition, I worked as a bookseller at the Barefoot Books retail store in Concord, Massachusetts for four years.
I’ve also been a NESCBWI co-registrar, teacher at 826 Boston (non-profit youth writing center) and Barefoot Books, manuscript reader for two mainstream publishing companies, designer and facilitator of children’s book clubs at local libraries, and founder of the In a Nutshell Short Story Award at Vermont College.
Being involved has allowed me to meet a slew of authors, glean valuable insight into writing and publishing, as well as be part of a wonderful community.
As an avid reader, what two children’s-YA books are closest to your heart, those you’d lovingly place in the hands of kids in your family and community? What makes them so special?
My love of reading came from my teacher reading Charlotte’s Web to the class. I can vividly remember getting to a cliff hanger scene on a Friday and anxiously waiting for Monday to come. I never thought of going to a library to find out what happened. It was a long weekend of waiting. That teacher changed my whole life by showing me the power of losing myself in words.
Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry (Rand McNally, 1947) appealed to my love of horses as a young girl. It also showed me the value of hard work to get what you want, and how letting something you love go is the often the right decision. This was also the first book where I cried.
When I think of the places I’ve traveled, the things I’ve learned, the emotions I’ve explored by reading, I wish I could give that teacher a big hug and an even bigger thank you.
For today’s kids, two of my favorite picture books are Newspaper Hats by Phil Cummings, illustrated by Owen Swan (Charlesbridge, 2016) and the nonfiction book, The Leaf Detective, by Heather Lang, illustrated by Jana Christy (Calkins Creek, 2021).
Newspaper Hats deals with a grandfather’s memory loss in a kind and gentle way. Never an easy subject for a child to understand, this book eases the reader into reality.
The Leaf Detective profiles Meg Lowman, a scientist, who worked tirelessly to help save the rain forest. The book highlights ecology, science, and women in STEM. Important areas for today’s readers.
Helen Kampion writes poetry, picture books, and middle grade novels. She has published stories in magazines and written nonfiction articles for The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance (NCBLA, thencbla.org) where she serves as Treasurer.
In addition to an MBA from Boston University, Helen holds an MFA from Vermont College in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She also founded the “In a Nutshell Short Story Award” at VCFA to encourage tight, focused writing.
As an Army child, Helen was born in England and lived in Germany, Japan, California, Virginia, and Florida. She now lives with her husband and two cats (her “mews”) in Massachusetts. When she is not scribbling away, you will find her curled up with a book, a cat, and a nice hot cup of tea.
Gayleen Rabakukk teaches creative writing classes for the Austin Public Library Foundation, is an active member of the children’s literature community and former assistant regional advisor for Austin SCBWI. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Stephani Martinell Eaton holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts where she won the Candlewick Picture Book Award and the Marion Dane Bauer Award for middle grade fiction. She is represented by Lori Steel at Raven Quill Literary Agency. Connect with her at stephanimartinelleaton.com.