As the newest addition to the Ballast and Blue Balloon Books acquisitions team, Camma Duhamell has brought a fresh perspective and unmatched energy to our search for the next great titles to add to our growing catalogue.

Camma joins us from Indiana, where she previously received her Bachelor of Arts in Technical and Professional Writing and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in English Language and Literature at Indiana University.

We took a moment to pull Camma away from reviewing your manuscripts to let our authors get to know the editor behind the screen.

Tell us about your background and where you hope to take your career in the field of publishing.

I’ve always loved books, and I’m eager to immerse myself further in the industry. My grandmother was an educator and a librarian for over forty years, and she taught me to read when I was three. Since then, I’ve been a voracious reader as well as a writer. Over the next several years, I hope to advance into more senior roles at the company and gain more expertise in the software that is integral to the back end of production. Nothing beats getting my hands on titles and watching them shape into exactly what they were meant to be. It’s a huge honor to help authors realize their dreams of publishing—and even more so to polish the actual texts that they’ve poured their hearts into. Editing is the perfect career for me.

Do you have plans to publish your own work?

Surprisingly, I don’t do much creative writing of my own at this point in time. I pushed myself to study it a little in my undergrad because it’s an area I’ve never focused much on, but I haven’t yet found a groove with nonanalytical writing. That’s the real sweet spot for me; I’ve always loved essays, which I think has made me a bit of a freak to my classmates, but anyone who gets to know me quickly realizes that I can go into a deep dive on any subject, regardless of whether I’ve ever found it interesting before. My first dream as a kid was to become an author though, so I see it happening one day. I’d like to get more life experience so I have a wiser perspective that allows me to create something worth others reading. There’s a lot of vulnerability involved in letting other people read your work, and I want to feel secure that I can distinguish myself from what’s great out there already.

What is the best part of your relatively new role as an acquisitions editor for Ballast and Blue Balloon Books?

When I get down to the nitty gritty of the actual job, my favorite part is the people. I’m a social butterfly at heart, and I love hearing the backstories of each author and helping them uncover their goals for publishing. It’s fulfilling to be a part of making them come to life. Being the first point of contact for a first-time author means that I have the gentle responsibility of establishing trust and providing valuable information, so it makes me feel important and needed. It’s a great job! Of course, you love both, but do you prefer working on Ballast titles or Blue Balloon titles? I think it won’t be surprising to hear that I particularly love working with our Blue Balloon authors. The passion that everyone carries through the process from their first interactions with us is infectious. As a mom, I want the books I read to my daughter to be meaningful and educational (as well as fun), and I can’t count the number of authors who come to us with brilliant ideas about how to add value to the many titles that are already out there. They’re always innovating and discovering new niches that haven’t been tapped, and I think that’s beautiful. This isn’t to mention the perhaps most exciting aspect of working on Blue Balloon books, which is watching the illustrations take shape! Aside from the privilege of witnessing all the talent from our illustrators bloom on the page, I love the glee authors experience when they suggest changes to their sketches and their visions are finally realized.

Describe your dream project to be a part of.

I am a shameless romantic fantasy reader, and I would die to work on a (very long) detailed, epic adventure with well-developed characters and a thrilling plot. Obviously, this has become a very popular genre that has found success in social media marketing, so I’ve seen a lot of what’s out there in my free time. I think I would actually squeal if a project like this came my way. I will never get tired of strong female characters overcoming the odds and finding true love without depending on it to achieve their goals. I’ve been reading stories like this since I was a kid.

It’s no secret that you relentlessly pursued this position—even when we weren’t hiring! Unsurprisingly, you completely won us over, and we are so lucky to have you. What advice do you have for recent grads pursuing a career in publishing?

The squeaky wheel gets the grease! I’m grateful that I’ve been able to integrate so well, and that’s in no small part thanks to the huge welcome and support I’ve received from Ballast team members Savannah, Lauren, and Kat. Publishing is a notoriously difficult industry to break into, and unfortunately, some of it will always come down to luck—whether your resume makes it out of the slush pile, if the right eyes are on it on the right day, the circumstances of your interview, etc.

However, I can say that a part of what enabled me to get to where I am today was persistence and continuing to develop valuable skills related to the position I applied for. I worked my way up through the ranks of the literary journal at my university, combed through job postings for skills I would need to develop and found ways to grow them online and through other work experience, and basically badgered (politely!) my current coworkers until I got their attention.

My main advice: get whatever experience you can, however you can, and network with people in publishing through LinkedIn until you form foundational relationships that can lead to opportunities you can work up from. I wish every new grad out there luck because I know from firsthand experience that things are difficult, but if you’re determined, excited, and open to learn and grow, something will come to you when the time is right!

Editor isn’t the only title you hold! Tell us about the little one who calls you “Mom.”

Gwen is the most brilliant, beautiful, kind, and ferocious little goblin on the planet. Every mom feels that way about their child, of course, but there’s a lot to back up my claim. She loves books and always has, and it’s been a priority from day one to read to her every bedtime (at least). She also succeeds in a way that I struggled with as a child—she has so many friends! Everyone loves her, and nearly every time I pick her up from school, there’s a line of kids asking for a hug. Gwen’s current obsession is Elsa, but she has a long history of hyperfixations—first Minnie Mouse, then Spiderman, and I think Tinkerbell is on the horizon. I’m so proud to be her mom, and it’s largely thanks to her that I’ve been able to push through challenges to get an education and go after my dream career. She is my inspiration.

Does she help review your Blue Balloon submissions? Is she a tough critic?

That’s proprietary information! Of course, I would never share it with her. Just kidding—we have read several of the Blue Balloon titles together (but not yet early drafts of current submissions), and I have to say that she hasn’t yet developed an eye for criticism. Sometimes the books she falls in love with surprise me, and we usually end up reading the same ones for several days in a row. I expect that as time goes on, she’ll surpass me in media literacy, and that almost makes me look forward to becoming a geezer.

You recently took up a new hobby. How’s your aim these days?

Not bad! I did start archery about a month ago, and I’m on the cusp of joining a club that holds regular outdoor competitions in addition to their lessons at an indoor range. This is yet another method of wish fulfillment I indulge in, and my friends are jokingly referring to me as Katniss Everdeen. When The Hunger Games came out, I was a massive fan (and have become so again with the resurgence since the film release of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes) and actually bought a bow from a garage sale. I never used it, partly due to it being a left-handed one, so it became a somewhat threatening piece of decoration in my childhood bedroom. I love shooting now though, and I’ve been dragging my companions along. They’ve only broken one arrow so far, and the injuries have been minor. I’ll touch base when I’ve become the next Robin Hood.

What else might we find you doing on a weekend?

It’s a struggle not to pick up more hobbies that I don’t have time for, but a few that have snuck their way in include Dungeons & Dragons, reading, knitting, crocheting, diamond painting, shopping, and other miscellaneous crafts. I come from a long line of crafty women, and while I don’t intend to be pushy about it, I’ll turn Gwen into one of us too one day. The issue is that I end up with a lot of half-finished projects as my focus turns to the next activity, so I’m working on (and failing at) doing one at a time.

Most recently, I gained the self-control to avoid buying a press to bind my own books and completed some plastic lanyards to send to my friend in Japan. I didn’t realize this was solely an American tradition, but apparently, it’s a huge camp activity! Now on to the blanket I’ve been working on since New Year’s and the sweater that’s been sitting neglected since 2021. I’m also working on my degree, and I love speaking Japanese whenever I can. I studied for six years in school, and I have distant hopes of getting a PhD in a language-related area of study at some point if the right opportunity ever comes to pass.

Finally, what’s the best part of your job that has nothing to do with your wonderful authors and their books?

Just like with authors, it’s definitely the people. The work culture here is insanely fun. Chatting with everyone on Teams throughout the day reminds me of my early internet days on Skype with friends. Despite being in a remote workplace, I feel so connected to everyone I work with. It’s clear that I’m in a community of incredibly smart and competent people who bring lots of fascinating personalities and professional experiences to bear, and that’s all I could ask for!

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