Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Interview with author, Josie Cameron

Josephine Cameron has a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame. She has recorded four CDs and her song “Long Track Blues” was recently included in the New York Times bestseller, Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat. Josephine has been writing, performing, and teaching for the past 10 years.

Kris: Thanks to Josie Cameron for joining me on my blog today! Josie and I met at the recent NESCBWI conference. To start with, Josie, can you tell us a bit about your book?

Josie: My book is called Kevin Koslowski, Guitar Zero. Here's the pitch:
Fourth-grader Kevin Koslowski is tired of living in his older brother's rock-star shadow. He's had it with being shut out of Neil's band rehearsals and being treated like a germ in his own house. Determined to prove to the world that he is not just Neilsbrother Koslowski, Kevin starts his own band and plans to win the Three Lakes Elementary School variety show competition. But Kevin can't play an instrument. He can't sing. He doesn't even listen to music. His out-of-character search for the spotlight creates one disaster after another and ultimately drives away his brother, his parents, his classmates, and his best friend. If he wants to make things right, Kevin will have to learn how to be a rock star in his own way.
Kris: I love that it’s about a fourth grader—it sounds hysterical! I can’t wait to read it! Can you share where you are in the process?

Josie: My agent and I are working on getting it out on submission. Hooray!

Kris: You are agented by the fabulous Chris Richman, can you tell us a bit about your agent search?

Josie: You're right, Chris Richman *is* fabulous, and I'm so excited to be working with him! My agent search was pretty targeted and methodical. I spent about a year doing research on agents who specialize in middle grade fiction, and came up with a short list of agents (less than 20) who seemed like they would be a particularly good fit for my style. (Anyone who was into music or humor at least got a second glance.) Then I sent out queries a few at a time. All that preliminary research was well worth it--I had quite a few full requests and found myself in the lucky (but slightly terrifying) position of having to choose between two offers. Querytracker.net was an organizational lifesaver, and websites like http://caseylmccormick.blogspot.com and Verla Kay's Blueboards were great jumping-off points. When people ask me how I got out of the slushpile, my answer is always: RESEARCH!

Kris: Multiple agents interested! What an awesome problem to have! It sounds like you did everything right—those are some great resources! What has it been like to work with an agent over the past few months?

Josie: From a practical standpoint, it's a huge relief to let someone else deal with the logistics of submission. I don't miss checking my email a hundred times a day with butterflies in my stomach! From a personal standpoint, I love working with Chris. He's got a great sense of humor and an eye for story that has helped me improve my book by leaps and bounds. He also gets a gold star for being super organized and communicative.

Kris: Hmm. I have an agent, and I STILL check my email a hundred times a day. ::notes to self, can stop checking email so often:: When did you start writing seriously?

Josie: Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. I used to have a yellow writing desk where I would make books out of my dad's old office paperwork. [note: see Josie's yellow desk to the left.]
I got my hands on Writer's Market when I was 11 and started submitting stories to every magazine that would take work from kids. One day, I got a "bill" in the mail for $75 from a magazine I had submitted to. I was horrified. I hadn't meant to order anything, I just wanted them to print my story! Where was I going to get $75? In agony, I brought the bill to my dad, swearing up and down that I would find a way to pay him back. My dad took one look at the paper, threw his head back, and laughed. It wasn't a bill after all. It was a check! From that moment on, I knew someday I'd be a real author.

Kris: What an awesome story—and how motivating for a kid! Heck, most adults I know would be motivated by getting a check for $75 for their writing! I know you are a musician and teacher, how does that impact your writing?

Josie: Music and teaching inform my writing in more ways than I probably realize. Music reminds me to be efficient with sound and rhythm in my writing. My students keep me well grounded in my subject matter. In fact, the idea for Kevin Koslowski, Guitar Zero came from the variety show fever that all my music students seem to get each spring.

Kris: Do you have a regular writing process?

Josie: I am constantly revising my writing process. I'm one of those people who is compelled to reevaluate, restructure, reinvent. Right now, I'm trying out small but frequent bouts of writing. I'm also testing out Scrivener and working to build a more structured outline for my WIP.

Kris: Ooh, I’ve heard about Scrivener, you’ll have to report back and let us know how it works for you.

For Fun:

Kris: What’s your favorite movie?

Josie: Philadelphia Story. Brilliant dialogue plus Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart. Does it get any better?

Kris: Favorite pop song?

Josie: I don't listen to a lot of pop music, but I have a *very* soft spot in my heart for anything by Phil Collins.

Kris: Do you write with music on or off?

Josie: Off, I pay way too much attention to music.

Kris: Pantser or Plotter?

Josie: Pantser, but trying to retrain myself to be a Plotter.

Thanks so much, Josie, for joining me today! I wish you the best of luck with the book! Come back again when it sells and we’ll have a party! For more on Josie, visit her blog at www.pleasecomeflying.com.


Laura Pauling said...

Wonderful interview! Thanks Kris and Josie! It's amazing how some of the best ideas come from kids themselves!

Josephine Cameron said...

Thanks, Kris! It was great to meet you (and Laura too!) at the conference. I'm laughing at myself right now because at the beginning of this interview, I used the original pitch from my query letter to agents. However, it turns out that through later revisions, Kevin Koslowski has now become a sixth grader. Ah, well. Maybe I'll work a fourth grade protagonist into my next book. :)

Ansha said...

Great interview Kris. *Waves Hi* to Josie. I absolutely love the old movies with the rapid-fire dialogue and subtle jokes. So that makes me ask, as a writer, do your stories come to you as dialogue? Thanks Josie, and Kris!

Michelle Teacress said...

Great interview, Kris. And good luck to Josie in all she does. :)