Interview with Kate DiCamillo – Newbery Medal Winner
KD: I was working at a book warehouse on the third floor—which was all children’s books. My job was a called “picker.” I went around and pulled books off the shelves and filled orders. I started to read the books I was picking. I started with picture books and moved on to novels. And then I read Christopher Paul Curtis’ novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963; and I loved it. I thought: I want to try and write something like this—something funny and warm and deeply moving.
BAM: What is it like to have written a novel that has become such a staple in American childhood?
KD: Oh, boy. It is just the most unbelievable thing. And what happens now is that I have adults who come through the signing line with their battered copies of Despereaux and say: I read this book when I was a kid. It mattered to me.
I can’t get over it. I feel like the luckiest person in the world.
BAM: How did you handle criticism of your stories? I find it very difficult to put so much work into something just to have someone pick it apart to be rewritten. How did you get over this common problem for authors?
KD: Well, when it is my editor telling me how to rewrite a story, I listen and do what she asks because I have learned that I get a better book in the end. I can’t say I’m happy when I read that editorial letter. It is always a little painful and scary. But I have learned that—bit by bit—I can make the changes and do the work.
BAM: What/Who is your biggest/greatest inspiration, and why?
KD: Anybody who puts a book into someone else’s hands inspires me—teachers, librarians, booksellers, parents.
BAM: Where do your best ideas come from the most?
KD: Sometimes strange and wonderful things will pop into my head. And sometimes I will see something in the world that is the beginning of a story. I always have a notebook with me so that I can write down what I see and hear.
BAM: What event(s) inspired your social themes in The Tale of Despereaux?
KD: Despereaux’s story came about because my best friend’s son (Luke) asked me for the “story of an unlikely hero with exceptionally large ears.” I headed into the telling of the story with the notion of unlikely heroes very much front and center in my brain.
BAM: What was your inspiration for your books?
KD: The origin of each story is unique. I am just always, always paying attention—waiting for the words, or image, or name that will be the beginning of a story.
Two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo returns to her roots with a moving, masterful story of an unforgettable summer friendship.
Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.
Kate DiCamillo was born March 25, 1964 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her first novel, Because of Winn-Dixie was published in 2000. She published her second novel, Tiger Rising, in 2001. The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread (2003), won the 2004 Newbury Medal. In addition to her novels, she published chapter books beginning in 2005.