'Camp Prodigy' - Twists and Turns that Break the Mold

"Camp Prodigy" by Caroline Palmer.

Caroline Palmer wanted to draw inspiration from their own life, so they wrote "Camp Prodigy" about two nonbinary kids navigating anxiety and identity while at camp.

What was your inspiration behind "Camp Prodigy?"

Contemporary fiction, especially for middle grade audiences, is becoming more and more popular these days. But I wanted to come up with a story that stood out as being unique to me, so I tried to draw inspiration from my own life. Throughout middle and high school, I played viola in my school orchestra. Likewise, I’m nonbinary, just as "Camp Prodigy’s" main characters Tate and Eli are. I took these two facts and threw them together to kick-start my brainstorming.

What does Reading Rainbow mean to you?

I’d consider Reading Rainbow to be about the joy of seeing yourself reflected in a book. There’s something uniquely special about it. TV shows and movies are dipping their toes into the waters of queer representation with a variety of results, some great and some "blah." Still, books feel different. Writing is typically more of a solo act, so the representation you get from a book is that much more personal, less focused on being universally approved-of. It’s honest, however blatant or implied the representation is, and pride really is about being honest with yourself.

Why do you feel representation of a variety of people is so important when it comes to writing books?

There are many reasons, but I’ll settle on two! For those who feel reflected in a story, it’s very affirming. This character was important enough to write about; the author loved them enough to spend hours thinking about them. And for those who can find themselves reflected in many, many books without even having to try, it’s a teaching moment. Insight into someone else’s life. There’s a lot of value to that, and there’s nothing better than a story at making you feel compassion for someone you may have written-off before.

Tell us a little more about "Camp Prodigy" and why you decided to write it.

This book wasn’t actually something I expected to write at first. Generally, I gravitate toward sci-fi, fantasy, and the like. But people were showing interest in how I’d write a contemporary fiction story, so I decided to give it a try, and it was a lot of fun!

Part of the reason "Camp Prodigy" turned out the way it did is that I didn’t necessarily want to write a coming-out story. Of course, Tate does end up coming out in the book, but I didn’t want that to be the crux of the plot. The theme I ended up with was a pleasant surprise, my sincere thoughts on trying to communicate, real self-confidence, and relying on those who love you. All are related to the act of coming out, but there’s a lot of room to explore in different directions.

What can fans expect from your book?

Interesting and engaging character relationships, an ensemble cast, some humor, and hopefully a few twists and turns that break the mold! I put a lot of heart into this story, and every character was lovable to me in their own weird ways. If I’m lucky, you’ll be compelled to read "Camp Prodigy" again as soon as you’re done!

What's up next for you in the bookish world?

I have another pitch in the works already, and many more ideas floating around in my brain. Hopefully, more books will be coming soon! Till then, I’ve been regularly updating my webcomic, Talent de Lune, since 2016, so there’s a lot of content to read through if you indulge the early chapters where my art isn’t as polished.

Buy the book here.


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